Its early 1947 and the U.S. has been struggling over a year to get factories back to producing domestic goods for the new post World War II economy. Car and truck hungry customers are expecting a year’s wait for each new vehicle ordered.
In Lowell , Mass. , the Centralville Laundry is struggling with the daily use of their seven year old pre-war ½ ton panel truck. Unexpected break downs and parts shortages create havoc with necessary daily pickup and delivery of their customer’s laundry.
The laundry business was good. Since the U.S. entered the war in 1941, a large percentage of housewives entered the job market both for financial reasons and keeping the factories producing. For the Centralville Laundry Company, this was great for business. After working eight hours at the factory and managing a family, the last thing the lady of the house needed was to come home to hours of laundry. Home automatic washers were almost unheard of and most of the clothing was washed by hand.
On a March 1947 Saturday night, Jim Nigzus, the laundry owner, spotted the back of a shiny panel truck through an open door of the town’s Chevrolet dealer’s rear storage building. He called the dealer at his home at 9:30 p.m. ‘What have you got in that building? Is it for sale?’
What a surprise! The local furniture dealer had just rejected this new panel truck because it was a 1 ton and not the ½ ton that had been ordered the year before. Jim Nigzus couldn’t believe his eyes. He not only could buy this panel truck, but it was new. He cared less about it being a large body 1 ton. His company needed a panel truck now. The vehicle was bought verbally on the phone and the Centralville Laundry had a new panel truck the next Monday afternoon.
That day began a relationship with this 1 ton that has lasted 55 years and over 500,000 miles! Jim is now retired but keeps the old company panel looking just like in its working days. A coat of company blue paint, some bodywork and new side business logos have helped slow the rust that is so determined to keep attacking this worker of over 40 years on Lowell, Mass. city streets. The truck has its original 17′ split rim wheels and an optional passenger seat. Extra lights were added 50 years ago to make the panel more visible in the evenings while delivering during the shorter winter New England days.
This one ton has had almost no modification and is powered by the proper low oil pressure 216 cubic inch six cylinder in front of the correct non-synchronized 4 speed transmission. The panel truck’s size and extra hauling capacity proved to be an instant advantage over ½ tons in the needs of the early laundry business. As money was limited during these years, families would save a great deal by having their wash delivered wet! The laundry was then line dried by the customer and ironed at home. The heavy weight of ‘wet wash’ deliveries made a 1 ton a success not only on weight capacity but more stops could be made for each run from the laundry building.