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Iowa Family Says ’Goodbye’ as Old Crane Gets New Digs

Wed August 03, 2011 - Midwest Edition
Amy Erickson

LE MARS, Iowa (AP) Turning the pages in a scrapbook filled with memories of an orange, antique crane, Cal and Dixie Kooiker reminisce about the fun that came with it.

The Le Mars couple chuckled as they look at photos of the fully-restored 1947 Schield Bantam crane as it rolled along parade routes throughout the area.

Cal and Dixie never imagined the Craig Centennial, in June, would be the crane’s last local appearance.

In July Cal unexpectedly sold the crane, which he spent more than three years restoring, to a family in Bloomsdale, Mo.

The sale took place at a Historical Construction Equipment Association (HCEA) convention in Illinois, July 8, 9 and 10. Cal is a member of the HCEA.

“What it was is a situation of the right people coming together at the right time,” Cal said. “I never went there anticipating to sell it. They never went there anticipating finding something like that. It just happened.”

While Cal was digging dirt with the crane at the show, which included all kinds of working antique construction equipment, he met Marvin Drury, the eventual buyer.

Cal noticed an elderly gentleman and three other men walking around the crane, looking at it and talking about it that morning, so he decided to talk to them.

While visiting, Drury told Cal the first piece of equipment he had purchased for his family’s excavating company in 1947 was a crane identical to Cal’s.

“He fell in love with it,” Cal explained. “His sons told me ’this is what dad would really love to have in their museum.”’

The Drurys, owners of Bloomsdale Excavating, have their own museum where they display some of the original equipment the company has purchased throughout the years, Cal said.

The first time Drury asked Cal if he would sell his crane, Cal said no.

“I told him I really wasn’t looking to sell it, that the crane was totally restored from basically junk by me, and it kind of had some attachment to our family,” Cal said. “We had wonderful memories of the places that it’s all been.”

He and Dixie estimated the crane has rolled into 15 to 20 towns since 1997, when Cal finished its restoration.

Cal also told Drury about how his crane was the first model brought into production following World War II by the Schield brothers, owners of the Schield Bantam Company, of Waverly.

He also noted that in 2002 the crane, mounted on a fully-restored 1942 World War II 6-by-6 truck, was one of 24 pieces of antique equipment in the United States on display at the ConExpo-Con/AGG show, in Las Vegas, Nev.

Cal also told Drury how his dad, John Kooiker, went everywhere with the crane until his death at age 90.

“I told Marvin Drury that I really wasn’t interested in selling it for those reasons,” Cal said. “The kids grew up with it. It was sort of our company mascot.”

He and his brother, Clayton, own Kooiker Inc., a bridge and culvert construction and excavation company his dad started in 1948.

After turning Drury down, Cal said he thought that was the end of it until the Drury family showed up the next morning.

“They were not putting any pressure on me,” he said. “He asked me again if I would be willing to sell and made me an offer that I sold it to him for.”

Dixie said, although she is sad to see the crane go, the couple couldn’t turn down the “lightning bolt” offer.

Cal, who didn’t wish to give a dollar amount as to the offer, said he had no idea there was a market for the crane or what it was worth.

“My thoughts were that when we discontinue our business, I would probably donate it to the Historical Construction Equipment Museum in Bowling Green, Ohio,” Cal said. “That’s where my thoughts were until this developed.”

Donating it to a museum such as that would have fulfilled his intention to see the crane preserved well, Cal said.

“I didn’t want somebody buying it, leaving it to sit outside and deteriorate or think they could use it on a job or something,” he said. “I wanted it to be available to the public to see what some of that older equipment was like.”

Cal said Drury assured him the crane would definitely be taken care of.

“I’m real pleased that’s where it’s going,” Cal said. “I think it’s great.”

It’s likely not the last time he will see the crane as the Drurys have invited Cal to visit their museum in Bloomsdale, Mo.

But it was still hard to leave the antique crane, with its bird’s eye maple steering wheel and authentic Schield Bantam decal, that he rescued from a junkyard some 17 years ago, Cal said.

Dixie agreed.

“It really gave our family a lot of great experiences in places we got to go, things we got to do and people we got to meet that we would never have been able to do otherwise,” she said.

Despite his cheerful demeanor when speaking about selling the crane, Cal said it was tough to say goodbye.

“The crane will be missed,” he said. “It’s just that it’s kind of a unique thing.”

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