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oples Gas | Amoco | Caterpillar | City of Joliet | Texaco | Waste Management unty Highway Department | Mobil | Exxon | Argonne National Laboratory | Int nal Bank of Joliet | Dike Construction | Joliet Federal Savings and Loan | Mobil O ods | ICG Railroad | Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago e Airport | New Lenox State Bank | White Eagle Country Club | Indiana Depart l Express | Walmart | Village of Bolingbrook | Arlington Park Racetrack | UPS Ft. Worth | City of Dallas | Seven Bridges Golf Course | Will County Forest Pres rt | Fermilab | Kerr McGee | Northwestern Steel | IPSCO Steel | Cracker Barre rtners | City of Arlington | Motorola | Panduit | Route 66 Speedway | City of Ev ebartolo | Ritchie Brothers | Montgomery Watson | Bovis Construction | McHu ay Associates | Joliet Park District | Ryan Co. | Graycor | K-Five Construction | ht | Bechtel Corp. | Sunflower Electric Co-Op | Texas Toll Authority | Peoples G Commonwealth Edison | Will County Highway Department | Grundy County H wer | Olin Chemical | Kenny Construction | Dow Chemical | First National Ban epartment of Transportation | Illinois State Toll Highway Authority | Cub Foods an Airlines | City of Chicago | Yellow Freight | City of Orland Park | Kankakee A ansportation | Nucor Steel | City of Lockport | Burlington Northern | Federal E iver Authority of Texas | Midwest Steel | Gallagher and Henry | Sears | City of F J. C. Penney | Midway Airport | Lewis University Airport | Target | DFW Airp haumburg Airport | Texas Motor Speedway | Menards | Jewel/Osco | Metrovest on | Veterans Administration National Cemetery | City of Des Moines | Simons-D arbour Contracting | Panattoni | Hensel Phelps Construction | Kmart | Raceway


| Allied Waste | Commonweath Edison | Will County Highway Department | G termountain Power | Olin Chemical | Kenny Construction | Dow Chemical | Fi Oil | Illinois Department of Transportation | Illinois State Toll Highway Authority | American Airlines | City of Chicago | Yellow Freight | City of Orland Park | tment of Transportation | Nucor Steel | City of Lockport | Burlington Northern | Trinity River Authority of Texas | Midwest Steel | Gallagher and Henry | Sears serve | J. C. Penney | Midway Airport | Lewis University Airport | Target | DFW el | Schaumburg Airport | Texas Motor Speedway | Menards | Jewel/Osco | Met vanston | Veterans Administration National Cemetery | City of Des Moines | Sim ugh | Harbour Contracting | Panattoni | Hensel Phelps Construction | Kmart | | Austin Bridge & Road | Kiewit | Silver Cross Hospital | City of Los Angeles Pow Gas | Amoco | Caterpillar | City of Joliet | Texaco | Waste Management | Allied ighway Department | Mobil | Exxon | Argonne National Laboratory | Intermou nk of Joliet | Dike Construction | Joliet Federal Savings and Loan | Mobil Oil | I | ICG Railroad | Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago | A Airport | New Lenox State Bank | White Eagle Country Club | Indiana Departm xpress | Walmart | Village of Bolingbrook | Arlington Park Racetrack | UPS | T Ft. Worth | City of Dallas | Seven Bridges Golf Course | Will County Forest Prese ort | Fermilab | Kerr McGee | Northwestern Steel | IPSCO Steel | Cracker Barr Partners | City of Arlington | Motorola | Panduit | Route 66 Speedway | City o Debartolo | Ritchie Brothers | Montgomery Watson | Bovis Construction | McH y Associates | Joliet Park District | Ryan Co. | Graycor | K-Five Construction |


As I reflect on our history–and how

That level of success does not happen

we came to be one of the nation’s most

overnight or without the commitment of

respected earthmoving companies–I realized

many people. I want to personally thank

I needed to share the honors with those

all of our employees and sub-contractors

who have helped us achieve greatness in

whom I have had the privilege to work with

becoming an earthmoving empire:

over the past 60 years.

Our employees–the men and women

My special thanks to my partner for

who do the heavy lifting, along with those

40 years, La Verne "Bitz" Brown, and my

who keep the computers humming–are

son Thomas J. Lambrecht (who had the

exceptional folks. They work hard. They are

vision to take this company to greater

loyal, and have the integrity which makes

heights than I could imagine) and LAST

a company great. We appreciate them.

but not LEAST our wives for their support

Our partners–those firms who have joined TJL for special projects, adding their

and understanding over all these years. I also offer a special thank you to Lisa

strengths to ours–to get the job done.

Hundley for her diligence and leadership

These folks are in the trenches with us and

in making this historical overview project a

have shared our turmoil and our success.

reality and to David Ludgin for his persever-

Our suppliers–manufacturers, raw material vendors, and service providers–who deliver

ance and enthusiasm to tell the story. I wish everyone in the T.J. Lambrecht

their products and services on time and within

Construction Co. family continued prosperity

budget to assure that we can do the same.

and good health in the years to come.

God Bless America

Pau l A . L a m b r e c h t

4


From Earth To Empire Through the Years with T.J. Lambrecht Construction, Inc. By David A. Ludgin Designed by Gammon Group, Inc. Published by T.J. Lambrecht Construction, Inc. 10 Gougar Road Joliet, Illinois 60432 Phone: 815-726-7722 Fax: 815-727-6421 www.tjlambrecht.com All rights reserved Copyright Š 2008 by T.J. Lambrecht Construction, Inc. and David A. Ludgin No copyright claimed with respect to reprinted material. Printed and bound in the United States of America


Table of Contents In the Beginning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 Day by Day . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14 Location, Location, Location . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22 Moving Earth Beyond Illinois . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26 A Scenic Detour . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .32 How to Rebuild an Expressway . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36 The Natural . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .44 Earthmoving in the Lone Star State . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .50 The Most Awful Thing Has Happened . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .54 Lone Star Infrastructure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .58 The People . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .64 The Living Legacy of Tom Lambrecht . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .72


T. J . L A M B R E C H T C O N S T R U C T I O N

This Book Honors the Memory of

THOMAS J. LAMBRECHT 1949-2003

9


Paul Lambrecht and LaVerne “Bitz” Brown.


T. J . L A M B R E C H T C O N S T R U C T I O N

In the Beginning T.J. Lambrecht Construction, Inc. celebrated its 60th year in business in April 2007. April 2008 made 61. This is a significant milestone for any company, especially for a heavy construction contractor. Construction is a very risky business. Many heavy and highway contractors never make it to their 20-year anniversary, much less to the 60-year mark. This success story is one that should be recorded, told and re-told. It can serve as an inspiration for those who will carry the company’s mission forward. To understand how it all happened, one must go back to the beginning. Back to when the company was born through the efforts of Paul Lambrecht and LaVerne “Bitz” Brown.

In early 1946, Paul Lambrecht was

Paul’s folks. Paul’s dad was an insurance

mustered out of the Army Air Force. To

broker. He represented the Great American

ease the transition into civilian life, the

Insurance Company of Chicago. Before

government offered returning soldiers a

long, Paul reported there for work, where

benefit that came to be known as “52/20.”

he was assigned to the farm department.

The plan paid returning soldiers $20 per

It takes a small army to run an insurance

week for up to 52 weeks. At that time, $20 a

company. Paul found himself in a large

week was real money. Paul was content to

group of similarly situated young people.

participate in the 52/20 plan and, by his

In the course of his work at Great Ameri-

own admission, was “pretty much doing

can, he made a favorable impression upon

nothing.” This did not sit too well with

Vicki Gerodimos, who was also employed


Bitz and Paul take delivery of three DW-21 scrapers while Swede Carlson sits in the front unit and Bill Brown mans the unit on the far left.


T. J . L A M B R E C H T C O N S T R U C T I O N T. J . L A M B R E C H T C O N S T R U C T I O N

there. Vicki originally was from the Hyde Park neighborhood on Chicago’s

like her.” Paul did not pick up on this. But fate intervened one more time and

South Side, but by this time she and her

they met at the Great American Insurance

family had moved to the south suburb

Company in Chicago where Vicki worked

of Flossmoor.

during the summer. They even worked in

By coincidence, or perhaps by fate, Paul’s good friend Wes Thurlow was dating

the same department. Paul offered to take Vicki to a wedding

Vicki’s college roommate, Mary Lou Gray

of a co-worker in Chicago. They spent the

from Joliet, with whom she was taking a

whole day together, morning through the

trip to Boston. They met at the train station

wedding reception and into the night

in Chicago. All summer long Wes kept

where, unknown to Vicki, they met Wes

telling Paul, “let me get you a date with

and Mary Lou at the Blackhawk for an

Mary Lou’s roommate, I know you would

evening of entertainment.

When I returned to civilian life in 1946, $20 a week was good money.

- Paul Lambrecht

13


T. J . L A M B R E C H T C O N S T R U C T I O N

Paul was smitten. He told his mother the next morning, “yesterday I was with the girl I

1942, and headed into the armed services.

am going to marry.” They were soon engaged

Learning that the Navy had an ROTC pro-

and were married on March 2, 1947.

gram at Northwestern, he

One way or another they were supposed to meet. There are no accidents in life. Paul’s stay at Great American Insurance was

enrolled there. Bitz earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering, graduating in early 1945. He and his classmates were taken to the

brief. His next stop was the credit

Great Lakes Naval Station

reporting firm of Dun & Bradstreet.

near Waukegan, Illinois and commissioned as

This job took Paul out of the office and

officers.

on the road to call on customers in the south-

They were immediately assigned to

eastern portion of the Chicago

active duty. Bitz was sent to the Pacific.

metro area. Newly married, Paul realized

Coincidentally, both Bitz and Paul were in the

pretty quickly that he was ready to try some-

Leyte Gulf at the same time, although Bitz was

thing else.

on a ship and Paul was on land.

LaVerne Brown, known to the world by the

Bitz (third from left) and Swede (fifth from left) at the 1948 Road Show (forerunner to CONEXPO).

Joliet Township High School in the spring of

One of the ships in Bitz’s group was with-

name his infant cousin called him,

out a chief engineer. An acquaintance from

“Bitz,” was the son of a machinist who worked

Joliet mentioned to his commanding officer

at the Joliet Arsenal. Bitz graduated from

that he knew a fellow who was a


Swede Carlson (center) and two colleagues overhaul a D8.


T. J . L A M B R E C H T C O N S T R U C T I O N

mechanical engineer. As one might guess, be-

straight north to visit his

fore long LaVerne S. “Bitz” Brown was the chief

fiancée, Dottie Maxwell.

engineer. The war ended in August 1945, but Bitz and

Dorothy Maxwell, called Dottie by her friends, had been a classmate of Paul Lam-

thousands of his fellow servicemen were not

brecht at Joliet Township. Paul, Dottie and Bitz

discharged immediately. Bitz

knew each other well. During the war, Dottie

and the crew brought their ship back across the

worked at the Joliet Arsenal.

Pacific, through the Panama Canal

At some point in late 1946 or early 1947, Bitz

and eventually into port. Bitz was finally

came back to the Chicago area and took an en-

discharged in February 1946.

gineering job at International Harvester. I-H

During the war, Bitz met a gentleman,

had a tractor works in Hodgkins, Illinois. Bitz

named Bill Cobb, from Memphis, Tennessee

recalls putting

who ran a small construction outfit, using

tractors on a dynamometer, a scientific

mostly D6 dozers. Bitz went to work for him in

instrument that predicted how the

Memphis, but his heart was still in Illinois.

machines would hold up under actual working

Every chance he had, he would point his car

conditions. Eventually, it dawned on Bitz that

16

16


In mud like this, only a track machine will do.


T. J . L A M B R E C H T C O N S T R U C T I O N T. J . L A M B R E C H T C O N S T R U C T I O N

his boss, who had been

calling the company “B&L Excavators,”

working there for years, was not making

but someone told them they should use

too much more than he was. Bitz could

their full names if they wanted to attract

imagine the probable contours of a career

business. So they did, and Brown and

at I-H, and did not much like what he saw.

Lambrecht Earthmovers, Inc. was born.

He also wanted to marry Dottie, which he did in August 1946. There was much discussion among the young couples as Paul, Vicki, Bitz and Dottie contemplated their futures. Finally, Bitz and Paul decided they would form a construction company. They borrowed B&L began as a partnership. A decade later, Bitz and Paul incorporated the business.

$3,500 each. With the money they bought a new 1947 Dodge dump truck and an International TD9 dozer, with a BucyrusErie hydraulic blade. They also cobbled together a four-wheel trailer (one wheel at each corner), which they towed behind the dump truck, to haul the dozer. Several months later, they purchased an Insley cable backhoe. With this modest equipment spread, they set down to work. For a brief time, the new partners considered

The superintendents’ fleet circa 1962.

18

18

18


Bill Block operates an early track loader.


No one said this would be easy.


In the early years Bitz and Paul did a little bit of everything and got their hands plenty dirty. Here, Bitz pilots the rescue dozer as he prepares to pull a D8 from a spoil pond near Braidwood, Illinois.


Paul and Bitz check cost and repair data.


T. J . L A M B R E C H T C O N S T R U C T I O N

Day by Day Starting out, Bitz and Paul laid it all on the

grading job was finishing, she would drive out

line. Not just the money they used to form the

and present the owner with the bill, in hopes

company, but their livelihoods, their families’

that the company could be paid right away.

well-being and a reasonable dose of pride. They

A good business partnership has much in common with a good marriage. Fortunately they got along well, for Bitz and Paul spent most of their waking hours together.

Bitz, Dottie, Paul and Vicki had lived through

were light on capital, but long on stamina and

the Depression. Indeed, there was considerable

drive. Bluntly put, they worked like the devil.

concern in the first years after the war that the

Early on they landed a trucking job, hauling

Depression might come back. One consequence

backfill material to a pipeline contractor.

of this mind set was that Dottie and Vicki knew

Pipeliners literally work while the sun shines

how to save money. Dottie’s goal was to buy a

and sometimes all night, too. Paul recalls that

home for herself and Bitz. She put off that goal

they hauled material for 42 days straight. No

again and again. As she recalls, “Each time the

one was happier than they were when a rainy

equipment salesman came by I knew Bitz and

day came to give them a break.

Paul would buy some machine, and there

Dottie herself worked as the company’s

would go my nest egg.” Bitz would remind her

bookkeeper in the early years. Just as a small

that while you couldn’t depreciate a house you

23


All the Tulips in South Holland There came a time when Bitz was negotiating to buy a tract of land in the south suburbs of Chicago. The would-be seller was the proverbial stubborn Dutchman. The final negotiations dragged on through most of one very long evening. Worse still, the Dutchman liked to drink, and Bitz had no choice but to pretend at least to keep up with him. Finally the parties struck a deal. The Dutchman’s primary business was selling flowers. In a post-handshake moment of euphoria, the Dutchman shouted “Here, take some flowers home to your wife!” He proceeded to give Bitz bushel upon bushel of cut flowers. Bitz and Paul had been on a belt-tightening campaign, and neither of them had drawn a paycheck for some time. When Bitz finally got home that night he sailed through the front door and greeted Dottie with two armfuls of flowers and a B&L paycheck clenched in his teeth. For just that moment, Bitz was the happiest man alive.

24

T. J . L A M B R E C H T C O N S T R U C T I O N

could sure depreciate a machine, but that

might “shop” it among their competitors in

wasn’t much comfort. Dottie remembers

an attempt to drive the price down. When

quite clearly that one Easter she and Vicki got

B&L was the general contractor, its subcon-

an especially thoughtful present--a new dump

tractors in turn would not submit their bids

body for a truck.

until the eleventh hour.

A good business partnership has much in

One time, as Bitz was leaving for

common with a good marriage. Fortunately

Springfield, an acquaintance from another

they got along, for Bitz and Paul spent most

firm lamented that he had been unable to

of their waking hours together. When they

book a hotel room. “Well,” offered Bitz, ever

began to bid road work for the State of Illi-

the gentleman, “you can stay with me.” Thus

nois, most lettings took place in Springfield.

began the longest night of that man’s life. At

They traveled there frequently to gain every

about 1 a.m. the phone rang in Bitz’s room,

moment of time before the bid deadline. On a

with some subcontractor calling in his final

job where B&L was the grading subcontrac-

price. An hour or so later, the phone rang

tor, they did not want to deliver their bid to

again. By this time Bitz’s roommate really was

the general contractor one minute sooner

tossing and turning. Bitz got up for good at 5

than was absolutely necessary, because he

a.m., cheerful as spring in Georgia, ready to

Ten years after the company’s founding, everyone had a reason to smile. Back row, left to right: Paul, B.C. Patten (the Northern Illinois Caterpillar dealer), Bitz and Gene Harris (Patten’s salesman who handled the B&L account). Front row, left to right: Mrs. Patten,Vicki Lambrecht, Dottie Brown and Mrs. Harris. Taken at the 1957 Road Show in Chicago. 24


A D9 climbs onto a Talbert lowboy, ready for the next job.


From tiny acorns. . . the company’s New Lenox office, shop and yard, circa 1958.


T T .. JJ .. LL A AM MB BR R EE C CH HT T C CO ON N SS T TR RU UC CT T II O ON N

Location, Location, Location! B&L set up shop near Joliet, Illinois. For a

that one of the main transcontinental routes

road builder, this was the perfect place to be.

should essentially shadow Route 30 for much

Joliet sits at the crossroads of two coast-to-coast

of its length. In Illinois, Interstate 80 runs from

highways. It is also the southwest gateway to

the Indiana Line in the east to the Quad Cities

one of the world’s great railroad hubs.

along the Mississippi River. For Brown and

U.S. Route 6 intersects U.S. Route 30

Lambrecht, much of this work was quite

(Lincoln Highway) in Joliet. More important

literally in its front yard. It comes as no sur-

still, Route 66 (the “Mother Road”) runs

prise, then, that B&L won numerous contracts

through Joliet’s downtown. This fabled road

to build I-80 in Illinois. The same can be said

connected Chicago to Los Angeles.

of Interstate 55, which succeeded Route 66.

When Congress enacted the Interstate Highway Act in 1956, the planners decided

Joliet sits roughly at the center of a huge industrial region running nearly uninterrupted

27

TJ Lambrecht from Earth to Empire  

Gammon Group deveoped and published this exciting historical overview of one of the nations most respected earthmoving companies, TJ Lambrec...

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