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Volume 8 Issue 2

Firing on all Cylinders: the Creative Center of Scottsdale $5.99 mar-apr 2019 Serving Contracting Firms and the Arizona Community. . . Then & Now

Meep Meep! Beep Beep!: Phoenix’s Roadrunner Truck Stop Blacktop Innovators: Sahuaro Petroleum & Asphalt Jay McCormick “Mack” Sheesley’s Truck Museum John S. M. Hamilton, Jr., AIA: Focused on Design MDI “Rocks” the Trucking Industry

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Reliance Trucking: Phoenix’s “Atomic” Mega-Mover

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Visit us online at Serving Contracting Firms and the Arizona Community… Then & Now Arizona Contractor & Community (ACC) magazine is published bi-monthly (Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr, May/ June, July/Aug, Sept/Oct, and Nov/Dec). ACC is a professional publication designed for the contracting industry, engineers, architects, equipment rentals, suppliers, and others interested in Arizona and its history. Content including text, photographs or illustrations may not be reproduced without the written permission from the publisher. The publisher does not assume responsibility for unsolicited submissions. ACC reserves the right to reject any editorial and advertising material and reserves the right to edit all submitted content material. Arizona Contractor & Community Copyright © 2019 All rights reserved.

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Alison Bailin

Carly Hanson

Article on page 21 + 23

Article on page 36


rom the current state of public relations to hot new restaurant trends to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Alison Bailin has a lot to say…about pretty much everything...all the time. And even more to write about it all. So much so that in addition to her day job working as an award-winning executive at one of Arizona’s most lauded boutique public relations agency – HMA Public Relations – she is also a freelance writer for more than two dozen magazines on business, colorful characters, food, wine, cocktails, beer, travel, tourism, resorts, and events across the region. Bailin got her start in communications in 2004, but began freelance writing regularly in 2008. When not working at her day job or writing, Bailin volunteers in the kitten ICU at the Arizona Humane Society and for the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter. She also serves on the board of directors for Subway Kids & Sports of Arizona and is currently helping to plan the 2019 Public Relations Society of America Western District Conference, which will take place in Arizona in April. She is an unabashed and unashamed television fanatic who dies a little inside whenever anyone brags about “cutting the cord” or calls the love of any show “a guilty pleasure.” To read her musings, visit abseesitall (get it?).


arly Hanson is a marketer by day, and a freelance journalist by night - or whenever she can find an extra moment. Whether she’s writing fiction, news, socialmedia content or blog posts, she has loved putting pen to paper since her primary years. While she was earning her journalism degree at ASU, Carly wrote for the Arizona Contractor & Community blog and print magazine, and several local news outlets. Some of her favorite topics to cover during those years were homelessness in Phoenix, autism awareness, and women’s issues. Since graduating in 2018, her full-time work week consists of writing marketing content for Nexus 21, a technology company in North Scottsdale. Carly describes her position at Nexus as her dream job, especially because Friday happy hour is a weekly tradition at the office. She also likes to return to her storytelling roots in AC&C, and by creative writing at home. Carly lives in Phoenix, where she was born and raised. When she isn’t doing yoga after work, she’s attending concerts with her friends, or playing with her adorably clumsy, short-haired daschund, Buddy. She also goes to the movies almost every week with her father, and her personal favorites are political and crime dramas. For any questions on her work, you can connect with her at carlyhanson96. Mar-Apr 2019

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Back When: Flight of the Phoenix Douglas Towne Meep Meep! Beep Beep!: Phoenix’s Iconic Roadrunner Truck Stop - Douglas Towne Blacktop Innovators: Sahuaro Petroleum & Asphalt Carly Hanson Whiting Bros.: Cheap Gas, a Comfy Bed, and a Memorable Sign - Douglas Towne

Reliance Trucking: Phoenix’s “Atomic” Mega-Mover Douglas Towne


Building On The Past: 1960: Lin Tee Panel Convoy

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Construction Around Arizona: Projects • People • Practices


Architect’s Perspective: John S. M. Hamilton, Jr., AIA: Focused on Design - Doug Sydnor

Digging Through the Archives: Jay McCormick “Mack” Sheesley - William Horner


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Front Cover A 1967 Peterbilt 358A model receiving a massive steel girder at Reliance Trucking’s yard in Phoenix, 1980s. Story on page 50

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From The Editor: One Trucker’s Award-Winning Road Rage - Douglas Towne

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One Trucker’s Award-Winning Road Rage Douglas Towne


ans of the highway thriller flick, Duel, have some specific driving habits. They pass semis with trepidation, even if the trucker gives a friendly wave with his arm out the window, encouraging them to go by. And they wouldn’t dream of honking at a big rig, no matter the circumstances. Duel, Steven Spielberg’s directorial debut, opens with these seemingly innocuous exchanges between a motorist and trucker on a lonely road. Soon though, viewers comprehend the gravity of the situation: the motorist is prey, hunted by an evil-looking semi. Much like Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho indelibly links shower with a psychotic killer, Duel will forever make you think twice about passing a semi. The low-budget film, shot in 11 days, remains spellbinding almost 50 years later. The made-for-television movie presented a different image of truckers. Semi-drivers were long known as the “Knights of the Road” for their reputation of stopping for hitchhikers and assisting disabled vehicles. These days, company policies forbid such activities. Due to

congested highways and a few bad eggs with poor driving habits, truckers often get a bad rap. But it took Duel to elevate semis into people’s nightmares. Writer Richard Matheson has said the script was inspired by his own experience

Images courtesy of Author

Editor’s column

of being tailgated by a trucker in 1962. The story intrigued Spielberg, who attended Phoenix’s Arcadia High School for three years in the early 1960s. Spielberg shot the film in 1971, featuring Dennis Weaver as a salesman driving his red Plymouth Valiant through southern California. Weaver is late for an important appointment with an unhappy client, delayed due to a slowmoving truck in front of him on an empty two-lane highway. The seemingly ordinary trip, however, becomes a terrifying ordeal when Weaver becomes stalked by the unseen driver behind the wheel of a 1955 Peterbilt 281 tanker truck. Like Hitchcock, Spielberg

Top left: 1955 Peterbilt used in Duel. Top right: Duel movie poster, 1971. Right: Dennis Weaver in Duel. ten

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plays on the fear of the unknown, letting viewers see only the trucker’s arm and boots. The villain appears less the driver than the truck, which appears dirtier and more ominous in every scene. Spielberg reportedly looked at several semis and selected an older “needle nose” Peterbilt because its butterfly hood, split windshield, and round headlights gave it an anthropomorphic appearance, adding to its menace. The truck displays six battered license plates from Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming, which suggests the truck has been spreading havoc throughout the West.

Duel will forever make you think twice about passing a semi The Peterbilt featured in Duel was used by Union 76 for gas deliveries from the Los Angeles Terminal. When the old semi made a delivery at Universal Studios in 1971, the studio made an offer for the truck and bought it that same day for $7,000, according to the driver, Bruce Werner. “There was no powertrain update for the movie,” he says. “It had a 1674 Cat at 245 HP, a 13 speed, and it was a 3-axle tractor that had Page and Page suspensiononly one differential. They did not change much except to make the paint look a bit more sinister.” The original 74-minute, Emmy-awardwinning TV movie aired on ABC and received positive reviews. To capitalize on the film for theatrical release, Universal had Spielberg add more scenes to lengthen it to 90 minutes. Duel was subsequently released in Europe, Australia, and the U.S. Interestingly, Spielberg employed another Hitchcock characteristic in Duel by making a couple of cameo appearances. Spielberg is seen reflected in a phone booth’s glass when Weaver is attempting to call the police, which he later said was inadvertent. Another “appearance,” however, was very much planned. As Weaver is attempting to outrace the semi intent on killing him, he sees what appears to be a police car parked up ahead on the side of the highway. The vehicle, though, is actually a pest exterminator named “Grebleips,” which is “Spielberg” spelled backwards. Top: Plymouth Valiant and Peterbilt truck. Middle: Grebleips Pest Control vehicle. Right: Steven Spielberg while filming Duel.

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wenty years ago a teddy bear holding a machine gun was displayed outside of a Pepto-Bismol pink building in downtown Scottsdale. Mandall’s Shooting Supplies at 3616 N. Scottsdale Road opened in 1975 and closed in the early 2000s with the retirement of the owner, Marty Mandall. In its place, the Creative Center of Scottsdale emerged in February 2016 as a 4,000-square-foot shared-working space for creatives. Formerly a shooting supplies store with an underground shooting range, the Creative Center embraced the integrity of Mandall’s while transforming it for modern use.

Original shipping containers for weapons have been converted into a table and bar chairs, handmade filing cabinets have been converted into lockers for artists’ supplies, underground shooting tubes now support beer kegs from the neighboring Goldwater Brewery, and thousands of bullet casings extracted from the tubes are scattered throughout the facility. The center’s logo sports the same

Clockwise from above: The Creative Center of Scottsdale lobby; shooting tube; and range sign with dancers.

teddy bear, but now he’s holding a blow torch. The original can be found on display at the entrance of the wide-open space that makes up the main room. In the same room are 10-ft. x 10-ft open art spaces, as well as private studios that can be rented. Center owner Michelle Biely said the

Images courtesy of Author

Mandall’s legacy Evident in Creative Center of Scottsdale



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idea was to get people who were doing art at their dining room tables out of their homes, “And give them someplace they could come and just focus on their creativity and build a community with other people who are in the same situation.” Sentimental about the building’s history, Biely said she worked to salvage much more than the logo. Biely began converting the facility in early 2013 working with Christina Noble, the owner of Contour Architecture. The center was one of the first to be built per the city’s green code to preserve the structure of a building while keeping it as eco-friendly as possible. “The Creative Center of Scottsdale is dedicated to supporting local businesses,” Noble said. “All fixtures and materials were selected looking at the proximity of their creation to home.” The interior insulation was produced in Chandler and is made from blue jeans. All bathroom fixtures were manufactured within 500 miles of Phoenix. The interior walls were made from wood collected from forests certified to forest sustainability – meaning that for every tree cut down for construction use, a new tree is planted. “The original building’s masonry structure provided a solid starting point for the project, but the primary challenge came from a need to bring light deeper

into the space for artists,” Noble said. Both tubular and sawtooth skylights are used and angled to maximize the energy received by solar panels attached above. Artificial light was designed so that even on rare cloudy days, LED lights on sensors offer a color temperature similar to natural daylight, Nobel said. Large glass garage doors open on both ends of the building to provide natural light and allow easy transfer of large art pieces. The courtyard was designed in collaboration with civil engineer Leslie Kland of Kland Civil Engineering and landscape architect Tiffany Halperin of Logan Halperin Landscape Architecture. It can be rented out and transformed from a parking lot to an event space illuminated by string lights. A second-story balcony, accessible from the lot, is made of the composite lumber called Trex Deck. The balcony overlooks the

courtyard and is frequently rented out by the next-door brewery. The exterior skin of the building was designed to be aesthetically striking and sustainable, and is composed of Corten steel, an outer insulation finishing system called EIFS, and masonry offering the warmth of the rusted red against the cool tones of the already existing gray masonry, Noble said. “There is a play with pattern and texture with the Corten as you move around the façade,” she said. “Landscape was also considered a building material, offering an additional contrasting color and texture that also references the green ambitions of the project.” With a structure as dated as Mandall’s, the project faced minor setbacks from the early discovery of asbestos and the collapsing of walls during demolition. However, the initial decision to incorporate sustainable practices into repurposing so much of the building’s original architecture will save Biely, the center’s owner, over 60 percent in energy costs, Noble said. “The Creative Center of Scottsdale was a rare opportunity to be creative and make a difference,” she said.

Images courtesy of Author

Rebecca Stallman is a student journalist at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Clockwise from left: Scottsdale Creative Center facade; the building’s courtyard; and owner Michelle Biely.

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trades. They then elect to specialize in one during their enrollment. By junior and senior year, between four and ten students typically participate in the house construction. The high school employs a block schedule to utilize their construction time better. Once the house has been completed, it’s sold, and the proceeds go to Salome’s building trades program. The program has been financially self-sustaining since the first house was sold. Not all of the students who participate are destined to work in the construction industry, but all leave with a working knowledge of how to manage problems in their own future home. They also gain the understanding that they can conquer outsized projects. Some graduates have gone on to open their own business in the building industry, while others have capitalized on their skills to pay for their next step in their educational journey. To see other ways schools, nonprofits, and businesses are working together to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s jobs, visit the Expect More Excellence Tour logistical reasons, such as the finished at stucco and septic installation. Students purchase the land, buy or produce their own Donna Davis is the senior community blueprints, and create everything from the engagement manager at Expect More wood frame to the plumbing and painting. Arizona. Of course, all aspects of construction must be done correctly and be up to code, so the youth are closely supervised and corrected when necessary. “Our homes have to be inspected, just like any other,” Maynes added. “We want our students to be well-trained, so we ensure that seasoned professionals oversee the process and help students adjust work as needed.” The freshmen at Salome High School are introduced to the school’s three career programs: business, culinary and building

High School Homework: Build a House Donna Davis


ducators often speak of engaging students in the learning process, but Salome High School in rural western Arizona has taken that to new levels with their Fighting Frogs student body. For the past decade, students have built four houses from start to finish, including purchasing land and planning the structure. The project started with a Career and Technical Education (CTE) program wanting to help students graduate with training in a trade that could be used to launch a career or help finance further education. “Giving students a marketable skill is instrumental in ensuring a bright future,” said Byron Maynes, superintendent at Bicentennial Union High School District. “Our CTE courses are beneficial for both the students and our community, while also helping businesses meet their need for qualified labor.” The school is now constructing their fifth house, which will take between two and four years to complete, depending on how many students are enrolled in the building trades program. Students work on the project from start to finish, with close supervision. Only a handful of building aspects are handled by Clockwise: Salome High School students professionals for at work; a house that they constructed.

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ark Place is the second most expensive property in Monopoly, prized as the having the board game’s second highest rent and mortgage. While named after a site in Atlantic City, Park Place is also the newest mixed-use development by the Douglas Allred Company in Chandler at the intersection of the 101 and 202 freeways. Willmeng Construction is building the project on a 17-acre site at Armstrong and Price roads. Park Place includes two, threestory class A, tilt-panel office buildings each of approximately 150,000 square feet, with a courtyard between the buildings. The toughest aspect of the project was each building’s three-story open lobby with floating stairs and many unique finishes, according to Patrick Smith, Senior Project Superintendent for Willmeng. “Providing and maintaining safety for the workers is most challenging, as we have to build the lobby from the top down, installing a working platform at the third level and removing it as we work our way down,” he says. Another challenge was working with the three-story, 55 feet-tall panels. The project is expected to take 14 months and cost $23 million. The plan was approved by the Chandler City Council in 2014. The site was previously the location

of Kuiper Dairy Farm, which had 525 cows on the property when it was sold in 2012, to make way for the next wave of speculative office construction to take shape along Chandler’s Price Corridor. Numerous subcontractors will work on the project, including Sandstorm, Ace Asphalt, Suntec Concrete, Hawkeye Electric, HACI, Niemeyer Brothers Plumbing, Milam Glass, Pioneer Roofing, M3 Metals, Prosteel Erectors, GEN 3, Apache Underground, ELS Landscaping,

Ganado Paint, Aspen Technologies, APL Access, Summit Companies, ThyssenKrupp, Miner, Partitions and Accessories, Alpha Geotech, Rite-way Thermal, and Torrent. Despite the complexity of the project, Smith has been pleased with the progress. “From the developer, Douglas Allred Company, to the architect, Balmer Architects, and the City of Chandler, all our projects are a true team effort,” he says. “I couldn’t ask for a better group to work with.”

Images courtesy of Willmeng Construction

Park Place Comes to Chandler

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West Valley Leaders Celebrate Avalon Apartment Homes Alison Bailin


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vondale Mayor Kenn Weise was joined by WESTMARC President Sintra Hoffman, State House Representative Lorenzo Sierra, and other Arizona leaders at a VIP reception to celebrate the opening of Avalon Apartment Homes in late January. The property, which is located at 2005 N. 103rd Ave., has been making headlines as the first luxury multi-family complex to open in Avondale in more than a decade. “Heers Management couldn’t be more proud to bring these luxurystyle apartment homes to Avondale. Throughout our company history, we have made it a point to deliver responsible and sustainable projects to the communities we are fortunate to be a part of. Avalon Apartment Homes is that type of project here in the West Valley,” said Brett Heers, president of Heers Management, which owns and manages Avalon as well as five other apartment communities in the West Valley. “Projects like these would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of City staff and of course, the Mayor and City Council. The Avondale City Council and the city planning department under the direction of Tracy Stevens and senior planner Rick Williams were instrumental throughout the entire

process,” he added. Avalon is located near the I-10 and Loop 101 and just minutes from State Farm Stadium and the Westgate Entertainment District. The development features one, two, and three-bedroom apartments ranging from 700 to 1,200-square-feet. Avalon has some unique amenities: a 2,500-square-foot fitness center with outdoor Cross-Fit training station; resortstyle pool with cabanas; lush landscaping; two pet parks; and a social pavilion with barbecues and a fire pit. “Avondale prides itself as a wonderful community for people to live, work and play. As one of the area’s fastest-growing communities, the City strives to provide open spaces and recreational amenities, and works to attract quality businesses and employers to the area,” says Mayor Weise, who also spoke during the VIP reception. “Developments like Avalon are critical to ensuring the businesses and employers we attract to our City will have first-class living Above: Avalon common area. Left: WESTMARC President Sintra Hoffman, Avondale Mayor Kenn Weise and Brett Heers.

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spaces and state-of-the-art amenities for years to come.” “The West Valley is home to 1.6 million residents, a thriving business community, an abundance of education options, and world-class sports and entertainment amenities,” says Hoffman, who also addressed the crowd. “Together, thanks to projects like this, we are one voice moving the West Valley forward.” The $80 million, 400-unit luxury apartment home complex broke ground in August 2017. Inland Empire Builders served as the general contractor, and Eric Miller Architects served as the architect on the project in partnership with Heers. Ben Graff, a zoning attorney with Quarles & Brady, was particularly proud of this accomplishment in Avondale. “It was great working with Brett Heers and his team to take this development from concept to brick and mortar. Avalon stands apart from other multi-family developments in Avondale, and we are grateful to have earned the approval and support from the Mayor, City Council, and Planning Department,” he said.

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Chasse Building Team (CHASSE): In church one Sunday, a pastor said that everyone was created to make a difference. It really resonated with me at the time – this is back in 2006 or 2007 – because I had been yearning to develop and use “my own playbook” as well as to cultivate my entirely own company culture and take care of a team and customers in my own way. Inspired, I took that concept in 2007 and built what would become Chasse’s purpose: Building to Make a Difference.

Greater Scottsdale for well over a decade, both on its board and as a past chairman of the board. My other passions include AJ’s iced tea (I have one almost every day!), ASU (Go Devils!), traveling, hiking and spending time in Flagstaff.


and to stay focused on relationships I built over the past two decades, and it paid off. We earned a tenant improvement project for Vestar at Tempe Marketplace, Alison Bailin and then a $4 million retail center project. How did you get your start in the building Opportunities in the education realm soon followed. Today, we oversee $200 million industry? While in high school in New Jersey, in construction projects annually and I took a drafting class. Hooked on day employ 120 team members at our Metro one, I went so far as to intern for a real Phoenix and Tucson offices. estate developer right after graduation. Describe CHASSE’s mission and values: This led to me moving across the country We’ve really stayed true to the vision to Arizona in 1987 – site unseen – to in 2007: Building to Make a Difference. take advantage of ASU’s award-winning Over the years, we’ve finessed the construction program (now called the Del concept to include specific pillars on how E. Webb School of Construction at ASU). we can make a difference in the lives of As a college sophomore, I jumped at the our team, on each and every project, and chance to intern early yet again, this time then how we can make a difference in the for a contracting company. I started at $6 community. an hour as a project coordinator, but hard Truly, everything we do today is focused work paid off. I ended up staying 17 years, on cultivating and motivating a great team, eventually serving as senior vice president. being great builders and exceeding the expectations of our great clients. Tell us about your journey to launch

Chasse Building Team: Interview with Barry Chasse

What’s next for CHASSE? We’re moving! During the first quarter of 2019, we are proud to be expanding into bigger offices in both Metro Phoenix and in Tucson. In the Phoenix area, we are moving from a 6,200-square-foot space in Mesa to a 16,000-square-foot open workspace (with better parking!) in Tempe. In Tucson, we are moving from a 1,900-square-foot space to a 3,000-square-foot-space. In Tucson, we are actually starting off the year on the heels of being honored with the 2018 Tucson Metro Chamber’s Copper Cactus Award for Business of the Year, so we are feeling doubly honored!

Tell us what CHASSE builds – your areas of focus: Our focus is primarily working with clients in the multifamily, office, retail, education, and nonprofit spaces.

Barry Chasse

Image courtesy of Author

What are some projects of note? Just a sampling: Tucson Premium Outlets, Catholic Charities MANA House, Dobson High School’s Classroom Addition, Canyon View High School, Artspace Mesa Lofts, Bob and Renee Parsons Boys & Girls Club, Overture What were the challenges? Kierland Senior Living, and Crescent As you can imagine, starting an Arizona Highland Apartment Complex. business in the building and construction What do you do when you aren’t space during 2007 was NOT without its working? challenges. About three months into making First and foremost, I am a husband the move, our state (and the nation) was and dad to two girls. My passion for hit with the worst recession in its history. helping children succeed spills over Those who have worked in this industry into my personal life as well, as I know firsthand it was hit the hardest. I have served the Boys & Girls Clubs of made the conscious decision to stay small



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Mar-Apr 2019


Cliffco: Re-Framing Fabrication Frank Pearson


re-frames of cement mixers. These have premature rusting and wear of the channel because of exposure to chemical agents and water. This is a safety hazard and can lead to significant downtime for the unit. Cliffco provides this service to some of the largest aggregate companies in the Southwest and has revolutionized the way the service is performed. Many repair facilities continue to manufacture parts using drill presses and other manual tools to fabricate the channel hardware mounting holes. Cliffco, however, utilizes our Plasma-table and proprietary programming to “blast” these holes with precision, in a fraction of the time. When conducting a re-frame, we strive to be time-effective while producing the safest, highest-quality product. The implied liability in performing these repairs is immense, so it is imperative that all hardware is torqued to specified ratios. Any failure in hardware or channel would be catastrophic, so we use certified and experienced mechanics working in a stateof-the-art facility. In addition to our in-shop capabilities, we maintain a fleet of eight service trucks outfitted with cranes and welders for mobile repairs.

Images courtesy of Author

hen the upper and lower elevator arms on our customer’s CAT/623F Scraper were damaged on a job, they asked Cliffco Heavy Equipment Repair and Fabrication to fix the problem. After inspecting the elevator arms, we determined that the components were beyond repair and replacement was the only option. However, the parts were unavailable and, even if they had been in stock, were prohibitively expensive. For most repair facilities, the inability to source the part would have halted getting the scraper back on the job and required the customer to use rental equipment. Cliffco, though, was able to utilize our in-house capabilities to manufacture the

elevator arms. We set-up programming to cut out the segments of the elevator arms utilizing a Plasma-table. This usually arduous, labor-intensive process only took a day with our technology. We next cut the pin bosses for the elevator arms using a Herco CNC. To perform this operation, we set the material up, adjusted our parameters and programming, and cut the segment of materials. Our final step was manufacturing the elevator arm pins using manual lathes to turn blocks of stock material into a pin. After manufacturing the segments of our elevator arms, we welded, painted and installed the completed elevator arms onto the scraper. The result? A perfect fit at a fraction of the time and cost. The best part was that our customer’s scraper was in service, making runs the following week. Another common repair is the rear

Arizona Contractor & Community

MDI Rock

MDI Rock is Arizona’s largest locally Owned landscape rock supply company

Throughout Arizona since 1988

Sales 602-569-8722

Arizona Phoenix 602-569-8722 Queen Creek 480-888-0487 Dewey 928-632-5320

People CONSTRUCTION AROUND ARIZONA Images courtesy of Mike Denny

MDI “Rocks” the Trucking Industry William Horner


DI Rock owner Mike Denny always had a fascination with big trucks. But his journey to operating a trucking company would first take him to the far side of the globe and later into a different type of “horsepower.” This roundabout path to becoming the Valley’s largest locally owned landscape rock supply company is an unusual tale. Denny grew up in Skull Valley, a small town located west of Prescott where his father was a rancher. “I often hitched a ride on big trucks carrying cattle or hay to our ranch,” he recalls. “I own the first truck I ever rode in: a bull-nose Kenworth belonging to Lemons Livestock.” When Denny was 14, his family moved to Australia, where his mother was from. There, he finished high school and went to college to continue his education in the horse and cattle business. He planned to return to the U.S. to start a career in horse training, but first he took a detour.

After college, Denny needed to earn some money to come back to the U.S. so he took a job at a large grain farm in what he calls the “semi-outback” of Australia. “I had many assignments, including a 40-mile roundtrip driving a truck hauling grain from the fields to an elevator in a 1970s vintage cab-over Mercedes Benz,” he says. Denny eventually moved to California, but the horse business wasn’t what he had envisioned. Disenchanted, he moved to

Top: Mike Denny with his first truck, a 1981 Kenworth, at the Pioneer Landscaping Materials yard, 1988. Above: Mike Denny loading at Madison Granite yard in Phoenix, 1990.

Arizona with the intention of going back to school to study business. First, though, he got a job at Pioneer Landscaping Materials at the Cave Creek and Union Hills yard as a loader operator/yard man. “The owners were very kind to me, and they trained me on their largest trucks, where I became a Arizona Contractor & Community

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twenty eight

Mar-Apr 2019

Images courtesy of Author

Top: Mike Denny with driver Larry Wansing (left) by a new Kenworth truck. Right: Mike Denny’s first new transfer truck, a Freightliner XL, 1997. Below: Mike Denny (right) poses with trucking legend James Bond and his vintage trucks, on display at the MDI yard, 2014.


substitute driver,” Denny says. “I loved working there.” But Denny wanted to run his own trucking business. In 1988, the owners of Pioneer sold him a 1981 Kenworth W900 tractor to start him in the industry. His timing, however, couldn’t have been worse. This was during the savings and loan crisis, and construction had all but stopped. “I pulled an end dump and anything else to get some revenue!” he says. From these humble beginnings, MDI Rock grew and prospered. Their current mixed fleet is different brands, sizes, and configurations, including Peterbilt, Kenworth, Mack, Autocar, Western Star, Ford, and Freightliner. “About the only brand we don’t have is New Trucks,” he says. Denny goes on to cite his fantastic group of mechanics; all repairs are done in-house, including significant rebuilds. “Sometimes, we even have to manufacture our parts on some of the older trucks to keep our fleet safe and efficient,” he says. This fleet of trucks and locations in north Phoenix and Queen Creek allows MDI Rock to supply natural stone products to contractors and homeowners throughout Arizona. “Our quarry in Dewey, east of Prescott, produces some of the state’s finest decorative stone,” Denny says. The company offers more than 50 colors of groundcover along with riprap, flagstone,

topsoil, sand, gravel, and boulders. “Our accent boulders range from basketball-size rocks all the way up to those as big as a compact car,” he says. “Of course, we have a placement crane to put that boulder in just the right spot.” With the growth of MDI Rock, Denny works to maintain a positive culture at his business. “I have found that most times you hire for skill and fire for fit,” he says, discussing his management philosophy. “Thus, it’s so important to find people that fit into the culture of our organization even if they may not have the skill set. We can teach that if they embrace our core values.” When asked what his company’s biggest challenge was, Denny replied, “Trucks LOL!” He went on to say that, “personally, it’s the risk involved knowing

that we have all these big machines out there and mistakes can happen that may hurt my people or those around us. I always have this sense of relief on Saturday afternoon when I know that the fleet is parked for the rest of the weekend,” he added. Besides trucking and operating an 85-acre rock quarry in Dewey, MDI Rock recently started a Green Waste Recycling Program. They haul lawn trimmings from landscape contractors to Dewey, grind it up, and compost it for resale. You know you’re in the right business when you unwind from your job—by doing more work. Denny confesses that his form of relaxation is driving one of his trucks. “I love the opportunity to jump in a truck and haul some equipment or run a loader for a bit. There’s also this hobby (or disease!) of collecting old trucks.” When asked about the future of MDI Rock, Denny said he hopes to continue improving on what the company has built to serve their customers better. This includes potentially opening additional rock yard locations and perhaps another quarry operation. He adds, “And, yes, we’ll buy more used trucks and fix them up like new!” Arizona Contractor & Community


Mar-Apr 2019

Back When Flight of the Phoenix

Images courtesy of Arizona Contractor & Community

Douglas Towne


hen Robert Dillery won the Roadrunner Truck Stop’s “Trucker of the Week” award in July 1970, he had no idea the occasion would be of interest almost a half-century later. Dillery, who now lives in North Carolina, has sharp memories of the event. He worked four years as a driver for Bekins Van Lines, the oldest and, at the time, the largest household moving company in the U.S. “We handled all the major outfits,” he recalls. “I did a lot of work moving Honeywell employees to and from the East Coast.” The photo taken at the award ceremony shows him in his truck, a 1969 GMC Astro

cabover. “It was the Cadillac of trucks and had every deluxe feature,” Dillery says. “Everything inside was padded and roomy.” The truck would also soon have a shut-down valve to protect its engine from overheating. “That was the gift for the award I’m receiving in the photo from the manager of the Roadrunner,” Dillery says. “It was a pricey accessory and cost around $800.” Dillery won the award after writing an article about the Roadrunner for a short-lived trucking magazine. “It was the only truck stop in the area,” he says. “If you needed anything for your semi, you went to the Roadrunner.” Dillery lived in Phoenix with his wife

and three children. “The Roadrunner had good food, motel rooms for $6, a swimming pool, a large parking lot, and all the female entertainment you could possibly want,” he says, with a chuckle. “That’s wasn’t uncommon; at most truck stops there were ‘lot lizards.’” His semi’s moniker, “The Flight of the Phoenix,” was inspired by the 1965 movie about an airplane crash in the Sahara Desert, which starred James Stewart. “At times, Phoenix was a big sandstorm, and the name just seemed like a good fit,” Dillery says. Arizona Contractor & Community

Meep Meep! Beep Beep!

Image courtesy of Arizona Contractor & Community

Phoenix’s Iconic Roadrunner Truck Stop Douglas Towne


ove’s, Pilot, Petro, Flying J, and TravelCenters of America. If you’re maneuvering a big rig in Arizona and need a pit stop, these truck stop chains are a welcome sight. But none will likely ever be mistaken for an amusement park, as happened with one specific truck stop in Phoenix. “I remember as a kid seeing the neon Thirty two

sign for the Roadrunner Truck Stop off the freeway,” Erick McElroy, who grew up in Phoenix, says. “I would get excited because I thought it was some amusement park for the Road Runner cartoon!” The truck stop was located just northwest of the intersection of Interstates 10 and 17 and featured a giant red neon roadrunner on the front of the canopy over

the gas pumps. The bird’s animated feet raced furiously back and forth, daring any trucker to race. There were no interstate highways when the Roadrunner Truck Stop was built in 1960 on the north side of McDowell Road. Interstate 17, called the Black Canyon Freeway, was in the planning phase when co-owners Albert Weymouth and Steward Mar-Apr 2019

or Images cour tesy of Auth

Top: Roadrunner Truck Stop, 1989. Above: Roadrunner Truck Stop, 1962.

Metz’s new 10-acre facility opened. It included the 24-hour Roadrunner Café, a truck wash, Texaco gas pumps, and lots of parking. A detailing shop, a CB radio store, Pearson’s Sign shop and a motel were adjacent to the truck stop. Blaine Warner took part in the construction of the truck stop, building something not typically associated with

truck stops. “My dad quit working for John Long in 1960 and started Warner Masonry,” Brian Warner, his son, says. “His first paid job was building the stone planter around their sign post, which I always looked at driving by.” In the late 1960s, Lois Weber worked as a waitress at the chalet-style café, which had a gable roof that almost reached the

ground. She made $20 a week plus tips, which weren’t much because the drivers had little spare money. Weber enjoyed the job but was not a fan of the restaurant’s java. “We brewed it very strong, and it tasted terrible,” she says. Still, the dark coffee didn’t seem to have hurt business. “Everyone came there after the bars closed and drank coffee for Arizona Contractor & Community

Image courtesy of Arizona Contractor & Community

Top: Trucks refueling at the Roadrunner Truck Stop, 1962.

Image courtesy of Author

the rest of the night,” Weber recalls. For some, the music selection available at every table made the café their go-to spot. “I had many a cup of coffee there while listening to Red Sovine songs [a country music singer associated with truck driving songs] on the table top jukebox,” Ed

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Etzkin recalls. while stopping by to pick up his paycheck. Some waitresses received a bit more The first accident occurred when a semi cut than tips and a paycheck. “My mom a corner too sharp and dragged his trailer worked there as a waitress, and my future tires along Driver’s front fender. After dad came in,” Angie Weber Soto says. “He exchanging info with the trucker, Driver was a trucker, and that’s how they met, and noticed a clicking sound coming from one the rest is history, 45 years later.” of the tires on driver’s side so he pulled into Many local residents have fond a side parking lot at the truck stop. memories of eating at the truck-stop’s café. “I opened the driver’s door and leaned “My dad use to take me out while I’m slowly driving there for lunch on Saturday “I thought it was some forward to see if the noise after my modeling class,” from the front or the amusement park for the came recalls Tolleson native rear,” he says. “I couldn’t Road Runner cartoon!” tell, so I stopped, put it in Carol Chapman Stewart. “I’d order the chicken salad reverse, and leaned out sandwich on toast with potato salad and a while driving slowly in reverse and backed big dill pickle.” right into a parked pick-up. I got my check Not everyone has such fond and went the hell home!” recollections of their job at the There were some popular long-time Roadrunner. Keith Driver was employed at employees at the Roadrunner. “Neva the wash rack and tire shop in the early was the cashier, and everyone loved her,” 1980s. Driver remembers a “crazy damn Weber says. And, of course, the truck day” when he had two auto accidents in stop mascot was a favorite. “I liked the less than 15 minutes at the Roadrunner Roadrunner sign,” Weber adds. “I used to Mar-Apr 2019

new freeway affected us adversely,” said Weymouth in a 1991 Arizona Republic article. “But I have no complaints,” he added. “We had many, many good years there. It was a good investment.” The truck stop closed in 1991, and the buildings were razed three years later. The truck stop’s neon Roadrunner managed to escape the wrecking ball for a few years, according to a 1994 Phoenix New Times article. The Roadrunner sign was left in place with hopes that a future tenant might incorporate it into a new business. With Phoenix’s restrictive sign laws, if the sign

came down it would not be allowed to be reinstalled. Although there was interest in saving the Roadrunner signs, their fate is unknown. Some believe, incorrectly, that one of the old signs was repurposed for the Roadrunner Restaurant and Saloon in New River. “Our Roadrunner neon sign was made specifically for us when the movie Beyond the Law starring Charlie Sheen was filmed here in 1993,” Jennifer Beeman, a restaurant employee says. Perhaps Wile E. Coyote finally caught his prey.

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wonder if he would ever stop running!” Unfortunately, the Roadrunner would eventually quit the race, but not before witnessing some challenging times. “The truck stop wasn’t bad back then in the 1960s, but I heard it went downhill later,” Weber says. Phoenix police officer John Robertson was shot and killed while off-duty at an adjacent motel, questioning a suspect in the robbery of two truck drivers in 1984. The Roadrunner became a magnet for prostitutes, known in trucker parlance as “lot lizards.” “If you were a female, it was not a safe place to go in the late 1970s,” Sharon Combs Grant Morrison, a retired nurse, says. “It was one of the raunchier truck stops I have been to.” Larger and more accessible truck stops opened up along the interstates, siphoning off customers from the Roadrunner. “We became antiquated as to location. It was a great location for a long time, but the

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Blacktop Innovators: Sahuaro Petroleum & Asphalt

Carly Hanson


ill Brake calls his years at Sahuaro Petroleum & Asphalt some of the best of his life. He started as a salesman, and then later became president of the company that pioneered rubberized asphalt. “Probably nobody knows it started in Phoenix, Arizona, in the ‘60s,” Brake says. Sahuaro Petroleum began with two men in 1961, Doyle Willis and Warner Gable, on 19th Avenue, just north of Van Buren

Thirty Six

Street. At the time, there were only two companies that distributed liquid asphalt: Chevron and Arizona Refining, which was owned by Arco. However, Sahuaro broke into the market by distributing liquid asphalt for Edgington Oil, a refinery based in Long Beach that became a one-third partner in Sahuaro. Using aggregates from sand and rock companies like Union Rock, Bentson Contracting, and Tanner Bros,

Sahuaro also paved roads around Arizona. Brake broke into the business in 1969 when his friend asked him if he wanted to have lunch with Gable and Fred McWenie, Sahuaro’s then-president. The company was expanding and looking to hire the best in sales. Brake was a University of Arizona graduate with a degree in agriculture and range management. “As I had just gone through a snowstorm in Delaware, and hated it back there, I said I’d be interested,” Brake laughs, “I went home and told my wife to pack and get out of Delaware.” Just like that, he left his job with DuPont’s agricultural division to get his name on the sales board for Sahuaro. Shortly after Brake came on board, Willis and Gable died, and Edgington Oil became the sole shareholder of Sahuaro. Then, Arco left the liquid asphalt business, so Sahuaro bought one of its plants in Flagstaff, as well as another operation on 19th Avenue and McDowell Road less than a mile from where Sahuaro started its venture. Brake served as a salesman and senior vice president under McWenie and became president in 1975. It was during this time that Sahuaro was developing and perfecting the equipment that would Mar-Apr 2019

Images courtesy of Bill Brake

“It’s a wonderful industry, and I was in at a unique time,” brake says.

All photos: Sahuaro Petroleum Co., 1971.

Arizona Contractor & Community

Images courtesy of Bill Brake

Above: Sahuaro Petroleum Co. at 19th Ave., 1971. Below: Bill Brake.

mix ground-up recycled tires with asphalt concrete to create rubberized asphalt to pave quieter, more sustainable roads. “It was a new and exciting way to get rid of a whole bunch of tires,” Brake says, and it helped Sahuaro with chip-seal applications across many Arizona roads. “We had laboratories and a lot of technicians and specialized equipment that a typical liquid asphalt company did not have, and we were one of the very first in the country that did that,” he says. “Now,

many companies take liquid asphalt and add value to it.” Once Sahuaro began incorporating rubberized asphalt into its work, the company made sales in many other cities, such as Atlanta, St. Louis, Denver, Calgary, and Los Angeles. Soon after, the use of rubberized asphalt was practiced by other American








We Service the Greater Phoenix Area.


Thirty Eight

Mar-Apr 2019

companies, such as F&F Contracting. The He was appointed by the governor to industry. Its employees not only achieved technology spread to a five-year term as that by developing a process that’s now China, Africa, Europe, one of five members used worldwide, but by delivering quality Canada, and Mexico. of the Arizona Game material on time at an economical cost, in Sahuaro’s employees and Fish Department a competitive market. also developed a plastic Commission. He enjoys “Sahuaro was a unique company, and sealant that combined his ranch with about 400 it had a bunch of really hard-working, great liquid plastic with liquid cattle in southeastern personalities who worked together,” Brake asphalt, which was Arizona near the says. “There has not been, nor do I believe marketed across the U.S. Mexican border, as well there ever will be, a company in Arizona “Rubberized asphalt as a house on the Baja that has delivered more asphalt for road changed Sahuaro into California Peninsula. building in the state than Sahuaro, and I a company that took a waste product and At one time, Sahuaro owned 60 don’t think it could ever be duplicated.” added value to it, and that gave us the percent of Arizona’s business in the growth,” Brake says. “Sahuaro had a lot of successes and became very well known around the world, but its main ingredient for success was the people that worked there at the time, who, in most cases went on to run other companies and are still in the business today.” Brake remembers Sahuaro’s company culture as a “very unusual” group of men and women who spent just as much time having fun as they did working hard and innovating. “They were very proud of what they did in their contribution to the industry,” Brake says. “They made it a very unique place to work because everybody Articulated Dump Trucks · Dozers · Excavators · Scrapers felt that they contributed to the success Motor Graders (grade control available) · Wheel Loaders and no one person, including myself, Water Wagons · Water Trucks · Fuel & Lube Trucks made our successes happen. But not one of us can take the credit for that, it was a Mechanics Trucks · Stand Tanks · Water Pumps · Compactors combination.” His favorite memory of working for Sahuaro fell on his combination birthdayretirement party after 30 years of employment, where he had the chance to visit with people from the industry he hadn’t seen in years. They all “roasted” him, he says. “Some things were humorous, sad, tragedies, and I could go on forever and ever, but that’s the one thing I remember the most.” One of Brake’s revelations from his years with Sahuaro is the frivolousness of awards and the value of people. “I’ve got all kinds of plaques on my wall that say nice things about me, but the reality of it is, the people that I met are what’s important to me, and as I’ve gotten older and retired, I’ve realized that more and more. It’s a wonderful industry, and I was in at a Rental Account Manager Rental Account Manager General Manager unique time,” he says. “Plaques don’t mean Jean Kasitch James Bagshaw Brian Collins anything.” After Edgington Oil, the owner of 480-258-4818 602-723-6838 602-620-2383 Sahuaro during its glory years, went out of business, the company was bought by the HollyFrontier Corporation, which is still in 3105 N Maple St. Mesa, AZ 85215 | operation. Brake left Sahuaro in 2012 and is Phone: 480-832-0855 still hustling, even in his retirement.

“Rubberized asphalt changed Sahuaro into a company that took a waste product and added value to it”


Arizona Contractor & Community

Whiting Bros.:

Cheap Gas, a Comfy Bed, and a Memorable Sign

or tesy of Auth Images cour

Douglas Towne


Top: Whiting Bros. station at Van Buren and 28th St., in Phoenix, 1967. Left: Abandoned Whiting Bros. station in Yucca, AZ, 2009. Mar-Apr 2019

Image courtesy of Arizona Contractor & Community


o the legions of travelers on Route 66, it was as if America’s Main Street had its own official gas station in the Southwest. Along the Mother Road in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, long-haul truckers and vacationing families could fill-up at roughly 40 Whiting Bros. service stations. In Arizona, Whiting Bros. stations were found along Route 66 in Lupton, Sanders, Holbrook, Winslow, Flagstaff, Bellemont, Ash Fork, Seligman, Truxton, Kingman, and Yucca, with some communities having multiple locations. While Whiting Bros. stations are linked to Route 66, there were outlets throughout the region. All touted the chain’s slogan, “Quality Gas for Less,” which customers took to heart. A Whiting Bros. station located in the copper-mining town of Miami, Arizona, was owned by Frank Boles in the late 1950s. “We charged 25-cents-a-gallon for gas,” David Boles, his son, recalls. “When my father was told by the Whiting

Bros. CEO to raise it to 29 cents, our customers protested!” Despite their popularity, the Whiting Bros. gas stations declined, as did the traffic on Route 66. The chain peaked in the late-1960s, and today only a single station remains. The rise and fall of Whiting Bros. is an inspiring entrepreneurial story of a business that recognized the vitality of Route 66 but was unable to shift gears when needed. The first Whiting Bros. gas station

opened in 1926 in St. Johns, a small town in northeastern Arizona. Art and Ernest Whiting, the sons of a lumberyard owner, Edwin Whiting, used surplus product to construct a gas station to supply autos traveling along the National Old Trails Highway. This forerunner of Route 66, which followed historic trails such as the Santa Fe, went from Baltimore to Los Angeles. That same year, Route 66 was commissioned and soon became the more traveled highway. Recognizing this trend, Arizona Contractor & Community

Images courtesy of Author

Left: Abandoned Whiting Bros. station in Yucca, AZ, 2009. Right: Closed Whiting Bros. station in Holbrook, 1996. the Whiting Brothers constructed their second station in nearby Holbrook. The station sold Pathfinder-brand gas, a small Los Angeles-based brand identified by its buckskin-clad frontier scout symbol. Whiting Bros. expansion continued, first to Winslow and Flagstaff, then further along Route 66, north to Utah and Colorado, and south to the Mexican border. There were 100 stations by 1965. One station in Bellemont, just west of Flagstaff, was constructed from powder boxes obtained from nearby Navajo Army Depot, according to the website, Legends of America. Initially, Whiting Bros. built modest stations consisting of a couple of gas pumps, an office with parts and supplies,

602.233.3339 •

and restrooms. Some later stations included service bays. What loomed large at the stations was their color scheme, big signs, and low prices. The buildings were white, with bands of yellow and red along the top and bottom, which extended to the canopy. This same color scheme was used on the large neon sign, which included their “WB” emblem. The stations operated on a cash-only basis, which allowed them to sell gas for a few cents less than the major chains. Other perks for customers included discount cards, trading stamps, and free ice with a fill-up during the summer.

Boles, then 12-years-old, recalls painting new gas prices on two, 4 x 8-foot plywood boards in the Whiting Bros. colors, red letters on a yellow background at his dad’s station in Miami. “It was so easy to calculate the number of gallons at 25 cents,” Boles laments. “A customer would request, ‘Give me two-dollars’ worth.’ That was 8 gallons. I don’t recall painting the ‘9/10’s’ on the price. That method, somewhat deceptive, probably became more common later on.” The Boles family lived in a small house near the station on U.S. Highway 60, across from the Inspiration Mine’s slag dump. Their Whiting Bros. station was full-service,

What loomed large at the stations was their color scheme, big signs, and low prices.

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Forty two

Mar-Apr 2019

which included checking a customer’s oil, water, tire pressure, and cleaning the windshields. “We had clean restrooms, checked daily,” Boles says. “Both my father and I wore white uniforms that were provided by the company that also supplied rags. We did minor car repair such as oil changes, grease jobs, and fixing flats. My father measured the gas supplies by putting a long wooden dip stick down a hole in the underground tanks.” The most exciting part of working at the station for Boles was driving a “track-rabbit gas-powered scooter,” in which the driver sat in a reclined position. “This was used as a promotional gimmick,” he says. “Customers would get tickets with each fill-up for a chance to win it.” By the time the Boles sold their station in 1961, Whiting Bros. was exclusively selling fuel supplied by Phillips Petroleum. Whiting Bros. diversified into the motel business in 1955. The first property, the Whiting Bros. Deluxe Motel, opened at 902 W. Hopi Drive in Holbrook and was managed by Al and Helene Frycek. The motel featured 57 units with “individually controlled hi-fi music,” along with the adjacent Kolob Restaurant, according to a postcard. The company constructed about 15 motels. Operators of Whiting Bros. stations typically had modest living quarters provided for them on site or on an adjacent property, according to the website http:// “A base salary was guaranteed, but incentives were in place for them to provide good service and cultivate repeat business. Internal company communications describe frequent sales contests among managers of the Whiting Bros. stations.” Whiting Bros. began to decline in the late 1960s because of several factors. Their stations were located on two-lane highways, many of which were being bypassed by the new interstates. The company, which preferred establishing their stations on low-cost real estate on the outskirts of towns, was not prepared to purchase pricey land adjacent to interstate exits. At the same time, large petroleum refiners in the retail gas market aggressively built new stations at these locations. The Route 66 website indicates that independent distributors like Whiting Bros. were hurt by disrupted supplies during the gas crisis in 1973. “It became tough to eke out a profit. By the 1980s, the management of the Whiting Bros. began unwinding from their roadside properties. The last of the stations were sold to Giant Industries in the early 1990s.”

The sole survivor of the Whiting Bros. chain was built in 1954 along Route 66 in the hamlet of Moriarty, New Mexico. The repair garage is not owned by the company but by Sal Lucero, a lifelong employee of Whiting Bros. Gas is no longer sold at Sal & Inez’s Service Station, but that doesn’t stop vehicles from coming in, especially after the restoration of its two historical signs. Interestingly, the sign repairs were delayed for a few months in 2014 so that a family of barn owls could move out from one of the signs. The relighting was aided by a matching grant from the National Park Service

Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program. Historically minded motorists still gravitate to other abandoned Whiting Bros. stations, such as the property in Yucca, Arizona. The business closed in 1990 and the buildings were razed six years later, leaving only cement foundations and signs. Pilgrimages to this site are not to save a few pennies on fuel, but to recall a bygone time, when rolling into a gas station over a hose activated a bell that summoned a uniformed attendant to fill your tank and check your car.

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Arizona Contractor & Community

Reliance Trucking: Phoenix’s “Atomic” Mega-Mover Douglas Towne


rizona has its share of monsters lurking in the great outdoors. There’s the Gila monster, a venomous reptile with steel-trap jaws. There’s allegedly the Mogollon Monster, a relative of Bigfoot with an offensive body odor. Perhaps the most intimidating beast, however, is “The Monster,” a creature that could lift 125 tons, was 78-feet long, and could travel at 40 mph. “The Monster” wasn’t created by a mad scientist, but rather Cecil A. Pelts to transport massive loads. A heavy haul whiz, Pelts came to Arizona and started a trucking company with a single vehicle. He parlayed this humble start into what became Reliance Trucking, a company that went on to specialize in moving large and unusual loads, especially for nuclear power plants. Besides trucking, the company performed crane and rigging operations. forty four

“Cecil used to say, ‘We could pick up the world if we had a place to put it!’” former Reliance employee Jim Tambash recalls. This “earthmover” was born in Roswell, New Mexico and always had a love for trucking, according to his son, C.T. “Buddy” Pelts. He moved to Arizona in the 1940s and started the Cecil A. Pelts Trucking Co. with a single vehicle. The company and Pelt’s house was located at 2500 N. 24th Avenue. Apparently, the 7-acre yard was a bustling place. Neighbors had trouble sleeping because of noise created by the business and charged the firm with creating a public nuisance in 1951. The plaintiff put a microphone in her bedroom window to record the commotion, but a jury acquitted Pelts of the charges, according to an Arizona Republic article.

Top: Reliance’s model 3000 cab-over flatbed loaded with corrugated steel pipe, 1961. Right: Pelts family in the early 1970s: (L-R) Buddy, Linda, Jane, Dana, and Cecil. Far right: Reliance workers, early 1990s.

In 1953 Pelts, along with his wife, Jane, and brother-in-law, Sam E. Curl, purchased Reliance Trucking Co., which was based in Flagstaff and had been in operation since 1935. The trio evolved from commercial freighting into heavy hauling and crane and rigging projects when it won the contract associated with building 18 Titan II missile sites near Tucson in 1960. To accomplish the Titan project, Pelts designed and supervised the construction of “The Monster.” The mobile gantry-type crane was constructed on the chassis of a B-36 bomber, rode on 18 wheels with airplane-like tires, and was hauled by a Mack diesel tractor over highways at speeds of up to 40 mph. The machine weighed 45 Mar-Apr 2019

Image courtesy of Arizona Contractor & Community Images courtesy of Buddy Pelts

tons and had an added 25 tons in the counterweight. Powered by a diesel engine, “The Monster” could lift 125 tons and “walk” with 85 tons. After the missile project, Reliance used the machine to transport, unload, and

erect the generating and transmitting equipment at Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River near Page. Other projects included installing precast concrete roof panels at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum and for the First National Bank Building in downtown Phoenix.

Another “monster” project was the construction of the Phoenix Trotting Park in 1964. The monster picked up V-shaped roof girders measuring 105 feet long and weighing 120 tons. At the site, Pelts designed and built a portable tower bridge crane to install the V-girders more than Arizona Contractor & Community

Reliance delivering T-Panels to general contractor Johnson & Son Co. in Scottsdale, 1970.

Image courtesy of Arizona Contractor & Community

“Cecil used to say, ‘we could pick up the world if we had a place to put it!’”

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70 feet above the ground. The crane was made of four lattice-work towers, each 87 feet high with connecting 60-foot-long girders atop, which moved the draw-works at 9 feet per minute. The towers were set on 10-inch thick cement pads and guyed from the top with cables and turnbuckles. Reliance had to dismantle and move the tower bridge crane eight times during the roof installation. The 10-ton towers were moved by a 60-ton crane, which usually took seven hours, according to a Republic article. Pelts merged B-Line Transportation and Cecil A. Pelts Trucking into Reliance in 1963, and rebranded it Reliance Crane & Rigging in 1968. The company did unique work, such as transporting 400 F-8 and F-11 jets from Goodyear to Tucson, but they specialized in heavy hauling for nuclear power plants. For their first nuclear power project, they used a gantry crane to lift a 650-ton nuclear reactor into position for Jersey Central Power and Light Co. at Forked River, N.J. Reliance performed more than 25 jobs hauling nuclear reactors, including those at Palo Verde, and worked abroad in the construction of Mexico’s only nuclear power plant near Veracruz in 1975. To assist with nuclear projects, Reliance built a 400-ton crawler, called a transporter, to carry reactors and steam generators from shipping terminals to nuclear plants. The transporter cost $100,000 to construct and was designed by company engineer Don Bingham. It could carry the weight of 10 trucks, be paired with another transporter to carry long loads, and was powered by a 345 hp diesel that operated hydraulic pumps, which in turn operated two hydraulic motors. Top speed was 5 mph in high gear, 0.3 mph in the lowest of its four forward speeds. For shipment, the transporter could be dismantled into six pieces that would fit on four semi-trucks. Reliance had a staff of 130, including drivers, shop and field personnel, and office staff, according to a 1970 Republic article. Four engineers, led by Casey Eubank, built moveable gantry-type cranes, transporters, and other equipment for heavy haulage, crane and rigging work. Curl, the vicepresident, managed the trucks while Pelts, the company president, bid contracts, and assisted field supervisors. Up to two years of planning went into jobs requiring special equipment, such as moving a 325-ton reactor to the Oconee Nuclear Power Station in South Carolina. A barge moved the reactor 2,217 miles from Mount Vernon, Indiana to North Augusta, S.C. There, Reliance loaded it on a 24-wheel

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Newer Fleet Please contact or 602-361-2174 transporter for a 75-mile haul to the site. To accomplish the journey, an access road had to be built to unload the reactor from the barge, power lines were raised, a rail bridge was jacked up 1 ½ feet and lowered again, and a river was crossed on portable barges. “It was a 500-ton headache, 20 feet wide and 21 feet high,” said a Reliance spokesperson. By 1980, Reliance had operations in Phoenix, Tucson, Santa Fe Springs, CA, Catoosa, OK, Houston, Augusta, GA, and Mexico. “Tucson and Houston were trucking yards with few employees,” Tambash says.

“Augusta was mainly a storage yard for ‘red iron,’ or what we called the ‘specialized’ equipment that was used at power plants. Catoosa was, by far, the largest yard.” Troubles with the Internal Revenue Service resulted in the company having to auction off most of its machinery in 1990s, according to Tambash. “Reliance operated for a few more years, but most of the equipment was eventually sold in 2012 to Taylor Crane and Rigging, headquartered in Kansas.” Much of the equipment that Reliance pioneered has become industry Arizona Contractor & Community


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Images courtesy of Buddy Pelts

standard. The company’s heaviest move exceeded 1,100 tons and it engineered equipment to lift and place prefabricated units weighing more than 2,200 tons, according to “We conducted a lot of business in Phoenix at the bar next door called the Buggy Whip, which we referred to as the ‘Annex,’” Tambash says. “Jane and Cecil were wonderful people; I was always treated with respect and courtesy. The kids, Linda, Buddy, and Dana, were the same way. It was a great place to work; there was always something different with one-of-a-kind projects. It was never boring.” Pelts died in 2008. His obituary gave credit for Reliance’s success. “All this was possible due to the many local employees they had over the years.”

Top: An early 1960s Kenworth W900 leads a T-Panel convoy, 1961. Above left: Construction of Terminal 4 at Sky Harbor by a Kiewit-McCarthy joint venture, 1988. Above right: Reliance Truck transports a generator to Los Alamos, N.M., 1988.

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Building on the Past 1960: Lin Tee Panel Convoy


he completion of the gymnasium at Buena High School in Sierra Vista was – briefly – a construction landmark. The longest Lin tee concrete members in the Western Hemisphere were installed in the gymnasium’s roof at the southeast Arizona school in 1960. “Lin tees” are single Tee precast concrete planks, capable of withstanding high loads while having a long span. The Lin tees were made by Stresscrete Corporation, a subsidiary of the Arizona Sand & Rock Company, at their South Seventh Street plant in Phoenix. The panels were manufactured with expanded shale aggregate from the West Coast, which reduced the weight by 30 percent. Pre-stressed concrete tee panels began to appear in the Arizona construction market in the late 1950s.

Some of the larger sand & gravel operations started the tooling process at their plant operations, and various designs were in production. Several architects used them in planning schools, restaurants, commercial buildings, and large-scale plants. One of the schools that used Lin tee panels was Buena High School, home of the Colts. The school was designed by the Tucson firm of Scholer, Sakellar and Fuller. C.H. Leavell Construction of El Paso, Texas won the bid to construct the school for $593,109. The Reliance Truck Company hauled the 18 Lin tees 220-miles from Phoenix to Sierra Vista. During transportation, each tee acted as a truck trailer attached to a rear truck wheel assembly. Three convoys of seven trucks, with the aid of two escort cars and one flag vehicle, moved the tees

to the site. Their route went through Tucson and Sonoita via U.S. Highway 80 and Arizona Highway 83. One of the challenges involved a turn near Sonoita. One of the trucks crashed there and the remains of a concrete tee still can be found in the roadside ditch. Once onsite, a 60-ton motor crane installed the concrete beams, along with other structural roof members including shorter tees and Stresscrete cored slabs. The Lin tees used to construct the Colt’s high school gym were 120-feet long and 36-inches deep with a 6-foot wide flange area. The Lin tees, however, did not prove successful. A pre-stressed concrete panel section weighing more than four tons collapsed on a covered walkway in September 1960. The gymnasium roof sagged and collected rainwater. All but two of the Lin tees exceeded the specified deflection limit at mid-span. The school replaced the roof before opening in 1961.

Images Courtesy of Arizona Contractor & Community

Mar-Apr 2019

Arizona Contractor & Community


he book, A Guide to the Architecture of Metro Phoenix, published in 1983 included a small office building in central Phoenix that resonated with me. A very skilled hand was behind its design: architect John S. M. Hamilton, Jr. AIA. A few years later, I realized Hamilton had designed the Larson Residence in Paradise Valley. So it was my special treat these many years later to interview Mr. Hamilton. Hamilton was born in Stanford, Connecticut and attended Forty Fort High School in northeastern Pennsylvania. He married and the couple had three children. Hamilton was married for 48 years and his wife died in 2010. Hamilton was attracted to the University of Oklahoma as Bruce Goff was the chairman of the architecture department. Goff had worked for Frank Lloyd Wright, who “designed more organically” and “was different.” Hamilton received his architectural degree in 1959, and had the opportunity to meet Wright

John S. M. Hamilton, Jr., AIA:

Focused on Design Doug Sydnor, FAIA when he gave a presentation at the university. After graduating, Hamilton joined P.E. Buchli Architects in Phoenix as their first employee in 1963. He was attracted to the architectural practice because “they had similar thinking” when it came to an architectural philosophy and preferred character. Hamilton was active at designing much of the firm’s work including numerous apartments and the Apache Elementary School in Scottsdale. Architect Gene Buchli described Hamilton as quiet, a reader, a fit

cyclist, and skilled at pencil renderings. Buchli stated that he and Hamilton became “friends for life,” and shared many interests such as attending the American Institute of Architects (AIA) conventions and visiting art museums including the Art Institute of Chicago. They both collected and created contemporary art; Buchli with sculpture and Hamilton with painting. After a few years at the firm, Hamilton started John S. M. Hamilton Associates Architects in 1966. The Phoenix-based firm grew to about 10 staff. He practiced for more than 50 years, retiring in 2010. Hamilton was an AIA member and received a 1975 AIA Central Arizona Chapter Citation for Outstanding Service to the Community. His firm was active with office, educational, commercial, industrial, institutional, religious, multi-family residential, and custom homes in Arizona, California, Alaska, and on the East Coast. His body of work received design awards from the Arizona Rock Products Association, the Electric League of Arizona, and Strand-Industrial. Hamilton was licensed in Alaska, Arizona, California, Iowa, Texas, Utah, and with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. Along with his residential work, Hamilton wrote three books: Discover Your Dream House (1988), The Working Woman’s Dream House (1989), and A House for Michael

Cont Image courtesy of Arizona

Image courtesy of John S. M.


ractor & Community

Hamilton at The Fountains 1976. Apartments and Sculpture,

Architect’s Perspective:

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(1995). The first two books were about how to create single-family residential additions and remodels. The last book told a fascinating story of a client’s dream of creating a new custom home that was off-the-grid, state-of-the-art sustainable, and with integrated accessibility for a quadriplegic on the remote Flying W Ranch near Tubac, Arizona.

Office Building, 2018.

Here are some of Hamilton’s many architectural highlights:

Sun King Club Apartments, 2018. Glen Arbor Apartments, 2018.

Images courtesy of Author

At 2323 North Third Street in Phoenix is the 1974 Office Building that was featured in the Phoenix architectural book. The project was a joint effort by Hamilton and P.E. Buchli Architects to create office space for both firms. Both had their individual office suites with a shared staff lounge on the first level, and two tenants on the second level. The design is composed of cubic volumes with split-face masonry walls and off-white plastered components. The ground floor offices access outdoor patios through sliding glass doors, where a Gary Slater steel sculpture serves as a focal element. Outdoor stairs provide access to the upper level while animating the entry elevation with sculpted playful forms. This small office delivers a well scaled, proportioned and detailed result. The firm was prolific creating apartments. The following two developments highlight common design approaches to humanize and aesthetically elevate apartments despite a tight budget. Many of the projects were for Harold Goldman, an attorney who became a major apartment developer. Sun King Club Apartments at 5900 East Thomas Road in Scottsdale were built in 1973. The 13-acre complex has 360 units set in linear wings defining courtyards of different characters and uses. Each wing expresses its units’ individuality with cantilevered balcony forms between exposed masonry walls, thereby giving a visual depth to the exterior elevations. Open breezeways and stairs provided upper level access, opportunities for social interaction, while activating the building forms. Hamilton also enjoys an organic expression of the structure where possible, such as the exposed cantilevered wood beams at the upper balcony canopies. The development received a recent rebranding campaign as the new “Scottsdale 59.” The Tampico Apartments at 2250 West Glendale Avenue in Phoenix were completed in 1973. The complex is part of a series of Tampico apartments including three in the Valley. The apartments are composed of two-story structures that

Arizona Contractor & Community

Smuggler’s Cove Apartments, 1978.

Other John Hamilton Projects

Groundbreaking for Marston’s Sales Showroom and Warehouse,1970.

surround outdoor courtyards. Circulation is externalized with single-loaded walkways and open exit stairs. Exterior character is very identifiable and expressive with a creative screen wall facing the street, which has repetitive upside-down arched openings. Such a curved element is expressed differently in numerous other apartments, and was probably influenced by Goff’s flamboyant forms. These apartments are now known as Glen Arbor and are being refurbished. Having toured many of Hamilton’s works, it’s apparent that his architecture communicates a quiet elegance, an understated quality, and a dignity regardless of an often utilitarian program

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performed with a restricted budget. “When creating buildings of any kind, I don’t believe in instant design,” Hamilton wrote. “With a residence, particular care must be taken to first discover and then absorb everything available about the site and client. I spend many hours with clients going over needs, desires, and living habits before even beginning to sketch a design.” Hamilton stated that his career “focused on design” and his architecture definitely reflects this commitment. Douglas B. Sydnor, FAIA, is a Principal at Douglas Sydnor Architect + Associates, Inc. and author of three architectural books.

• 1968 - Gay Vista Apartments, 3737 E. Turney, Phoenix (now Verde Vista) • 1968 - Tamarack House Apartments, 15th Street and Highland Avenue, Phoenix • 1969 - Monterrey Apartments, 28th Street and Thomas Road, Phoenix • 1972 - Marston’s Sales Showroom and Warehouse, 2727 E. Washington Street, Phoenix • 1974 - Larson Residence, Paradise Valley (demolished 2012) • 1976 - The Fountains Apartments and Sculpture, 7th Street and Highland Avenue, Phoenix (demolished) • 1977 - Goldman Residence, Paradise Valley • 1978 - Smuggler’s Cove Apartments, 8145 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale (now Scottsdale Serrento) • 1978 - Capex Corporation World Headquarters, 4125 N. 14th Street, Phoenix • 1981 - Yavapai County Community College Physical Sciences Building Addition, Prescott • 1980s - St. Mary’s Church Sanctuary, 280 W. Galveston Street, Chandler

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Digging Through the Archives:

Jay McCormick “Mack” Sheesley William Horner


or decades I’ve been among the many motorists driving by the CDL Trucking School, located at the I-10 and I-17 intersection, known to locals as “The Stack.” When Arizona Contractor & Community decided to do another special issue on trucking, I took the exit ramp and explored the school. On the grounds, I first noticed a 1954 “needle nose” Kenworth, before an employee directed me to where I would find Jay McCormick “Mack” Sheesley, the owner of a fleet of vintage semis. Soon I was greeted by Mack and Miss Liberty, his Australian blue heeler. Mack grew up in Chicago where he learned mechanics working in various shops. “I’ve always been sort of a roamer and, after living in various Eastern states, I enlisted in the Air Force,” he says. “After a year of training, I became a Radar Fifty six

Maintenance Technician in California.” In 1964, Mack, along with some friends, moved to Arizona. He worked for a short time at Ralph’s Diesel Service, located where the CDL Trucking School is today. Mack later moved to Cummins Diesel as a warranty adjuster. Mack learned of a job at Peterbilt in the Bay Area. However, while making the drive from Phoenix, a strike took place and halted all plant activity. On his trip back to Phoenix, he spotted a sign for a new plant opening in Hayward, California for Mack Western. Mack stopped, applied and became their quality-control inspector. His next job was as a operations manager for the Bay Area location of the

now-defunct C.F. Consolidated Freightways Co., which was headquartered in Hayward, CA. The company helped design the cab over engine (COE) for trucks. “Before World War II, freight was transported with smaller trucks,” Mack says. “So the CF firm started fusing various trucks together to haul more freight, which became the Freightliner brand trucks.” By the early 1970s, Mack noticed the trucking industry starting to slow. He quit the industry, moved to Illinois, and studied to become a schoolteacher. He learned the Carden Method, an educational program developed by Mae Carden in 1934 and practiced in approximately 80 elementary schools across the U.S. Mack was sent to the Bay Area by Carden, where he taught until retiring in 1990. Mack moved back to Phoenix, where he bought and restored vintage trucks as a hobby at the CDL School. His first project was a 1966 Kenworth, which he drove

most all the trucks in his collection have split transmissions requiring two stick shifters.

Mar-Apr 2019

Images courtesy of Author

Arizona Contractor & Community

Images courtesy of Author

across the U.S. several times. At one point, Mack had so many trucks that he sold half of them off to make room for new projects. “One is a start, more is better and too many is finally enough,” he says. Most all the trucks in his collection have split transmissions requiring two stick shifters. “An automatic-style truck isn’t my speed and is quite boring,” he says. One of Mack’s favorite vehicles is his 1952 Mack Tractor, which was a “big rig” in its time. The truck made a 1,500mile trip from Ortonville, Minnesota to Phoenix with a trailer-load of ornamental stone slabs. The semi featured air brakes, and a 165-horsepower gas engine to handle mountain passes that were first encountered in New Mexico. This meant 5-mile-per-hour upgrades and an unstoppable truck barreling downhill if you missed a shift or suffered brake heat-fade. The transmission is a duplex, which is a 5-speed main box, with a 2-speed auxiliary. “It has ‘two-sticks’ to shift a gear, which means you have to pay attention continually,” Mack says. After that journey, the truck stayed in Phoenix, as the frustrated driver took a Greyhound bus back to Minnesota. Mack was happy at my interest, as he thought few cared about these old trucks and his collection of truck-related items. It was an instant bond between us, as we both share the love for old relics from a different time.

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