Long, long time ago in the early 1960’s my husband, Jeff, had a friend named Frank Willard. He lived on the adjoining ranch to the Stephens family. Mr. Willard was an older man, in his 70’s, when he became friends with the little boy Jeff Stephens. Jeff would walk up the street to play croquet with his friend.
In 1967 Mr. Willard decided to sell his ranch and the Stephens decided to buy it. In those days, as most farm parcels were sold, the house and the equipment usually sold with the farm. So, Jeff’s family took possession of one 1936 Ford flatbed truck. In 1979, Jeff and his brother Dan started farming Stephens Ranch separate from their dad and uncle. Soon it would be time for the older Stephens to retire and as they did the purchase of their land and equipment was made available to the Stephens boys. The old 1936 Ford flatbed truck made its way to Jeff and Dan and was turned into a water truck keeping the dust down on the orchard roads. By this time the old truck was worn and had seen many better days.
Dave Johnson the past owner of our store offered Jeff $100 to buy the 1936 truck. Jeff took the crisp cash and handed over the original pink slip. (This was all unbeknown to me, Cherie Stephens, the history lover and preservationist.)
One day Jeff took me to see the truck that Dave Johnson had restored and told me the story of how it had been Mr. Willard’s, Jeff’s Dads, ours and now the Johnson’s. The truck was beautiful and I couldn’t believe we had owned it, he had sold it for $100 and it was no longer in our family!
In 2000, the Johnson family asked Jeff and me if we would be interested in buying their fruit stand here on Hyw 99. After some discussion there was only ONE question to ask? “Does the truck come with the deal?”
I won’t go into the details but the truck cost a little more than $100 to get back…with the 1936 pink slip. We had some additional work done on the old truck and added the name Mr. Willard to his left front fender in honor of Jeff’s childhood companion and friend.
We enjoy and treasure Mr. Willard and hope you will too.