Back Down the Line

Classic Farm and Tractor Magazine – January/February 2017

By Anthony Lovelace

It is always great to hear from readers. I received a letter in the mail from Mr. John Russel of Indiana concerning the November/December installment of “Back down the line.” In his letter, Mr. Russel said he believed the Cat crawler in the picture was a D-4. Mr. Russell’s family was pretty familiar with Caterpillar crawlers as his grandfather and uncle sold them. His grandfather sold them for approximately 30 years. The Russel farm was also home to a Cat crawler in the late ’50s that was used to pull a five bottom plow. I appreciate Mr. Russel taking the time to write.

This installment includes a couple photos of a Purina Feed dealer. Looking at the two pictures, I knew that the feed store was located in Lafayette, but didn’t know what state. After doing some further research, I believe it was Lafayette, Indiana. According to the obituary in the Lafayette Leader newspaper dated September 17, 1970, Charles W. Shuman Jr. was owner/ operator of the feed store. He passed away on September 13, 1970 at the age of 61. He was born in Columbus, Ohio.

In 1935, he came to Lafayette, and in 1942, purchased the feed store. It does not state how long he owned the feed store. Judging by the truck and cars in the pictures, I would say they were taken sometime in the late 1940s. In the photo above, the first thing that caught my eye was the old truck parked in front. I can make out that it is a Dodge truck and on the door it says Shuman Feed Store, Phone 3448, while the bottom line says 110 Columbia St., Lafayette. Right below the door of the truck are the numbers 7.00-20-3. I have no idea what these numbers mean, but it seems to me they are a tire size maybe. I don’t know why the tire size would be painted on the truck but maybe a reader can enlighten me.

One of the other things that caught my eye was the tarp system over the bed of the truck. I have never seen anything quite like this before. With the truck having stock rack type sides, I wouldn’t think the tarp was to keep rain out but who knows. The stock rack itself is pretty interesting as it looks like it can be taken out in sections by the way it is fastened together; maybe this made it easier to unload the feed when it was delivered. Now most of the feed is delivered without bags in semis.

I also noticed that the red and white checkered pattern, which we all recognize as Purina, is everywhere—on the building and the truck. I just wondered if this was required by Purina or just part of Mr. Shuman’s advertising.

The next thing I noticed in that same picture is the sign painted on the wall by the open door. It says “Feed and Sanitation.” When I think of sanitation, I think of refuse or sewage, not feed. Maybe sanitation had a different meaning back then.

If you look closely at the back of the truck, you can see a gas pump. The building itself looks like an old filling station to me so maybe this pump was a remnant of the days when gasoline instead of feed was sold. The only thing I can make out on the globe of the gas pump is the world “PURE.”

The feed sacks inside the door are Purina Calf Startena. They must be a calf starting ration; I wonder if it was for dairy calves, beef calves or both. The last thing in this picture that I thought was interesting is the object right above the painted “Feed and Sanitation” sign. It looks like it is an old gas light fixture. I couldn’t make out any kind of bulb and when I took a gander at it with my magnifying glass, which seems to be used more and more lately, it looks almost like it has a wick coming out the top. But even if it was some sort of gas light, wouldn’t it still have a glass globe or a place to tank on the bottom to hold the fuel. Again, maybe one of you savvy readers can help me.

The photo below is of the same building, just taken further back. You can barely see the gas pump globe but it is turned in a different direction. I also noticed that the painted sign by the door is missing. But if you look closely, there is a sign above the cars that says “Plant Corn Belt Brand, Improved Hybrids” and the bottom line says “For Sale Here C.W. Shuman.” I know Corn Belt also made feeds, but maybe Mr. Shuman branched out into the seed business. I would love to be able to find that old sign. The other thing I noticed is that on the building, it says Purina Chows, which I guess is a fancy word for feed, and the fact the poultry is listed before livestock. I guess back in those days, just about everybody on the farm had a flock of poultry.

A couple other interesting things in this picture are the Lafayette Life Insurance Co. sign on top of the building in back of the feed store. Down the street behind the Shuman Feed Store sign (hanging over the car) is a sign for a supply company. I can make out what I think is VerWeibe Supply Company. I also noticed the dome of a building that has a clock in it; maybe it’s the county seat or something. At any rate, the Shuman Feed Store was located right downtown, it would seem.

The last thing about this picture I noticed was the condition of the roads. It looks like the city has just recently filled some potholes in the intersection; I guess some things never change.