Old beet truck comes home to Berthoud

By Katie Harris

The Surveyor

The old grain elevator on Third Street and Massachusetts Avenue is widely recognized as a historic landmark in town, but another piece of Berthoud history has unassumingly occupied the structure’s shadow for nearly a decade, all but forgotten.

Photo by Josh Jones – The old beet truck has been brought back to its home in Berthoud after being spotted on a used car lot in Longmont.

A 1961 International red beet truck, in all its rusted glory, was parked under the awning of the grain elevator almost 10 years ago when Josh Jones of Jones Excavating, frustrated by the constant engine problems that come with old vehicles, decided to upgrade.

“My father had bought the truck over 20 years ago to do dirt work with. It was old and rusted, and I had to baby it to get it to work while I saved up money,” said Jones. “It was so old and such a lemon that it eventually became unfeasible to use, so we got a new truck.”

There it sat, sans a left headlight, as the intersection built up around it. The feed store across the street saw multiple ownership changes, town hall moved on from its position a stone’s throw away, and a new business, The Rancher’s Wife, moved into the grain elevator itself, which has been owned by Jones’s grandparents for over 30 years. The beet truck watched the world turn around it, never moving from its place under the awning.

Until one day last spring, a local gentleman named Tom Bashor needed a vehicle to drive in the Berthoud Day parade and, after passing by the old truck, called the Jones family to make an offer. The truck was sold and forgotten about.

A few months later a twist of fate found three-year Berthoud resident Greg Gonzales car shopping with his wife and daughter at Moxie Motors in Longmont.

“I went down there to be the eyes and ears for them while they shopped and while we were there I saw [the beet truck] in the back of the sales lot,” remembered Gonzales. “I knew that was the truck because I have a genetic defect – since I was 3 years old I could tell the difference between a Chevy and a Ford. I knew that truck.”

Gonzales spends a good deal of time at The Rancher’s Wife, one of his wife’s favorite shops, as well as at nearby Ace Hardware and the Berthoud Feed and Farm, and said that truck has always caught his eye.

“I grew up with a fascination for old trucks,” he said. “When we’d go to The Rancher’s Wife I always thought that’s where [the beet truck] was, underneath the silo was beautiful. Perfect. One of those picturesque things.

“When I saw it at the lot there I thought that wasn’t the right place. I could see it ending up in a junkyard somewhere.”

Gonzales asked the salesman at Moxie Motors about the truck, and was informed the owner of the dealership had grown up in Berthoud. Soon Gonzales found himself pitching the idea of returning the old truck to its hometown to Moxie Motors owner Ray Burgio.

“I acquired the truck when a gentleman named Tom Bashor came in needing a vehicle a few weeks prior and had that old truck to trade,” said Burgio. “I traded him a little car for it straight across.”

When Gonzales approached Bashor about the truck’s Berthoud origins, calling it a “perfect piece of American culture,” the car dealer was all too happy to return the truck to the town where he was raised, on one condition.

 

“I called [Jones] and asked him about donating the truck back to its original location. It had to be there, on display for everybody,” said Bashor. “I told him if he’s fine parking it there I don’t mind towing it back and letting my truck stay there forever.”

Bashor said if not for his connection with Berthoud he probably would’ve said no, but he likes the idea of the beet truck remaining at the grain elevator for years to come.

“I want it to be a piece of fixed, old art,” he said. “Maybe in another 50 or 80 years it will still be there.”

Jones said while he never expected to see the truck again, he was more than happy to make a place for it to return to, about 30 feet north of its original home under the awning, due to an expansion of The Rancher’s Wife.

“A lot of people like the old grain elevator, and it seems people got used to the truck being under the awning” he said. “We were happy to bring it back and make a nice spot for it where everyone can still see it.”

According to Burgio, the truck would probably be worth around $2000 to him and his business partner, Kiki Wallace, if they were to sell it, but some things are worth more than money.

“I really do believe in putting good energy in this world, and [the truck] probably has more use being there than me turning a profit on it,” he said. “If you can do some good and not be so selfish then that’s a good thing.”

As for Gonzales, he gives all credit for the truck’s return home to Burgio, saying all he did was plant the seed. He’s just thrilled to see the truck back where it belongs.

“It takes me back to when I was a really little kid. I’d visit my grandparents down in Southern Colorado and we’d go into town to the Country Store and I could reach over the counter and pick out an ice cream cone,” he said. “That whole feeling of being around them and that sense of home are kind of encapsulated in that truck. When I see that truck it brings me back.”

 

 

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