TODDVILLE — The International stake truck, with nary a scratch in its bright red paint and a pristine wooden bed, must have really impressed 8-year-old Carl "Bucky" Rockwood when it arrived in 1925 at his father’s store in Alburnett.
It would certainly please Bucky today. At least, after a full restoration, Jim Mollenhauer of Marion hopes so.
"When Bucky came to me and trusted me with his truck, I made a commitment in my mind, I’ve got to restore this truck for Bucky," Jim says.
As an additional tribute to Bucky, the 1925 International McCormick-Deering Speed Truck (Model S) will be displayed near his old store, now the Alburnett Community Historical Society Museum, early Saturday afternoon during the centennial celebration.
The old Rockwood’s General Store is the ideal spot for the truck. Bucky’s father, Harvey, started the store in 1907 and also sold farm machinery. The story goes that he was required to buy a truck as part of the franchise agreement.
The truck with removable sides stayed in service until 1946 when a cracked engine block forced Bucky to park it.
Rockwood’s General Store continued to be as popular as ever, even after Harvey died in 1960. Bucky hosted most everyone in town at one time or another, whether they stopped to buy barbed wire, another monkey wrench or freshly sliced meat and cheese from the grocery. The old potbellied stove, which warmed the place in winter, served as conversation central all year long.
Jim, 73, became a regular visitor while at Farmers State Bank in Alburnett from 1959 to 1969. (He left to start a branch in Hiawatha, retired in 2008 from Marion and remains on the board of directors.)
"He’d make me a Bucky Special and I’d sit there and chat with anybody who came in."
The sandwich was Dutch loaf and longhorn cheese on buttered bread. And Jim talked to Bucky about everything from cloud formations and the St. Louis Cardinals to Bucky’s concern that whooping cranes would become extinct. He also toured the cluttered store (Bucky never threw anything out), where he came across the truck tucked away in a back corner.
In 1991, Bucky learned he was terminally ill. He visited Jim at the Marion bank to talk about the red truck. "You took a liking to it," he said, to which Jim replied, "I sure did."
"If you come and get it right away, you can have it," said Bucky, a confirmed bachelor.
"That’s why I think I ended up with the truck," says Jim, who took it to his family’s farm. But not before he snapped a photo of camera-shy Bucky standing beside it.
Jim began taking the truck apart before Bucky died in 1999, but didn’t start serious restoration until 2009. He repaired the rusted frame, replaced the entire bed and sides with Iowa white oak and had the cracked engine block replaced with one from a weathered 1922 donor truck from Volga.
While a lot of people helped, the truck was recently at Del Shaw’s rural Toddville garage for light work. Del, who rebuilt the engine using many parts he made from scratch, served as a consultant.
While Jim admits he’s spent more on the truck than it’s probably worth ($6,500 on the engine alone), he wanted it to be done right, from the wood-spoked wheels to the gas tank under the passenger-side dash to gold lettering on the door that says "H.N. Rockwood, Alburnett, Iowa."
"This is exactly how it looked," Jim says. "Even the shape of the letters."
Which is why he’s nicknamed it "Bucky."