Leroy Trulock pictured in his new showroom amongst dozens of new Super Series tractors. One of the Trulock selling points was that you didnâ€™t have to wait for the tractor you wanted to come in. They already had it in stock. Right: The former Trulock dealership as it looks today on HWY 51.
Trulock Machinery Fair - Then & Now
Trulock Machinery Fair Assumption, IL If a man name Leroy Trulock continued with his Oliver empire, he would have been the Sam Walton of farm machinery. This dealer story is probably one of the most unique that I’ve had an opportunity to research. Leroy Trulock was raised in Macon, IL, just south of Decatur. During the 1940’s, Leroy and his brother, Ivan, took over the Chevrolet Garage in Assumption, IL. As many of you may already know, Assumption is well-known as the headquarters of Grain Systems Inc. (GSI), the largest grain bin manufacturer in the country. In 1949, Leroy took on the Oliver farm equipment line. He set out to build the superstore of farm equipment. Leroy divulged in the farm line while Ivan continued in the automotive line. In 1954, a drought had reduced his customer prospects to nearly none. He came up with an idea as he waited for customers to walk through the door that didn’t come. He decided to build an equipment dealership that
could be run like a grocery supermarket where you could make a small profit per unit and sell a large volume. So Leroy built a new 24,000 square foot building. It was packed with Oliver equipment and was identified as the Trulock Machinery Fair. It was located on the busy IL HWY 51 and you couldn’t miss it. Leroy started advertising his new prices and he sold seven new tractors in the first three days. That was just the start. In addition to the Oliver line, Leroy sold anything and everything that had to do with farming. You could buy grain bins, tires, grease, nuts and bolts, tools and for the ladies they even stocked cooking wares. Trulock became known world-wide and people traveled from all across the country to visit the super center of farming. Leroy Trulock was a very religious man. Every day started out with a prayer service with all of his employees. He was an honest and giving man and the name “Trulock” was associated with fair dealings. Service was the golden rule. His word was as good as gold and many, many pieces of equipment were sold over the phone and deals were closed with a handshake. Leroy bought EVERYTHING in bulk. When he ordered lawn mowers, he would order a train carload of them in each size. Ordering in such large quantities allowed him discounts that others couldn’t get. He also ordered nuts and bolts in carload quantities containing forty-five and a half tons each. Leroy would invite the Sunday School classes from the Pana and Assumption Christian churches to help assemble the nuts and bolts. Fern Hammond fondly remembers the “nut and bolt parties”. The church groups would get together and bring food, sing hymns and put together the nuts and bolts. About sixty people could assemble eight tons on a Saturday. Leroy paid the Sunday school classes a penny a pound for this piece work with another carload arriving about every two months. Both parties were very happy about this arrangement.
This ad appeared in the Assumption Centennial Celebration book in 1953 just prior to him opening the Farm Machinery Fair. Leroy was dressed in period clothing and beard for the celebration. 31
Left: Leroy shows the new Oliver toys to a youngster in front of the counter in the service department. Below: This is the first ad to appear after Leroy signed his Oliver contract in 1949.
Leroy & Marty Trulock On a yearly basis, Leroy sold as many as twenty railroad cars of tires, thirty cars of fencing and barbed wire, loads of mowers, tillers and mountains of other wares from toy tractors to huge grain bins. Today a big night on the town for farmers in our area is supper at Ponderosa and a trip to Rural King. Forty years ago it would have been a trip to Trulock’s Machinery Fair. The business was known all over the country as he advertised in Prairie Farmer magazine. Farmers would travel and make a vacation out of a trip to Trulocks. Many would camp their way across the country and stay in Leroy’s lot. While the high volume prices were good for
Leroy’s business, it did not set well with the other Oliver dealers around the area. He could sell equipment so cheap that other dealers couldn’t even begin to compete. Grandpa Schaefer’s dealership was over one hundred miles from Trulock and Leroy’s machinery fair gave Grandpa fits. Trulock was hurting dealers all over the state and they finally had enough. The dealers got together and went to Oliver with their contracts in hand. They said “Either Trulock goes or we all go.” In 1966 the Oliver Corporation was forced by the dealers to cancel Trulock’s contract. Sam White once
Leroy Trulcock stands in front of the World’s Largest Dealership with a load of Oliver manure spreaders waiting to be assembled. Most of the equipment came into the town via rail which was located just blocks away from HWY 51. made the comment “Trulock helped make Oliver but it also helped to nearly break Oliver.” Sam was referring to the amount of tractors Trulock sold to the amount of tractors other dealers lost out on. Perhaps Leroy never knew how much damage he was doing to other dealers. Although he was a self-made millionaire, he was a giving man and in his eyes, the more money he made, the more money he could tithe. A pastor once said that Leroy loved to tithe his 10%. It made him feel good. So he decided that he would give 20%. That made him feel even better so he gave 30%. It made Leroy feel so good that he wondered how he would feel if he just gave everything. And that is exactly what Leroy did. When Oliver took Leroy’s contract away from him he decided to have a big auction. The auction lasted four days. Leroy was an enterprising man and was involved in numerous businesses ranging from grocery stores to sawmills and land. At one time Leroy owned a section of land in Morrisonville, IL with a lake on it, known as Trulock Lake. Leroy hired one of the larger farmers in Assumption
to move to Morrisonville and farm his land over there. Unfortunately the land has now been sold and the lake was drained and all that remains of it is a drainage ditch. After Leroy liquidated his inventory, he started a non-profit organization known as the Church Builders. Leroy used his new venture to loan money to congregations to put up buildings for church services. Leroy has helped to build churches all over the world. In the 1970’s Leroy gave money to the Lincoln Christian College to build married student apartments and he and his wife, Marty, actually lived in one for a while. Leroy later moved to Kissimmee, Florida where he built Trulock Hall in 1985 at the Florida Christian College. By the time Leroy had his auction in 1966, he had sold the building to Joe Simpkins from St. Louis. Joe hired Bill Williams to manage the store and Trulock Farm Machinery was once again in business. They didn’t have the Oliver contract anymore but were able to get it back some time later and continued into the White line. Things changed and weren’t bought in volume as they were when
Leroy ran it. Their main line was farm supplies and grain bins. They kept the name “Trulock” because it was so well known. Additional stores were opened in Macon, Mississippi, Polo, IL, Arcanum, OH and Oelwein, IA. Grain bins with the Trulock name on them were sold from New York state to Washington state. In 1969 alone, 554 grain bins were sold retail. Simpkins remained in business until 1979 when they had a 4-day auction. The building was sold to GSI, who was quickly becoming one of the largest manufacturers of grains bins and systems. Ron Tucker, who worked for Simpkins and now Sloans, said that Leroy would always come back to the dealership around Christmas. He would load up a shopping cart heaped with Oliver/White toys and then take them to Lincoln where he was residing and give them all away to underprivileged children. When I started to research this story, I was simply amazed that I knew so little of this dealership or the man that is was located only 30 miles from me. Trulock was the “Granddaddy of farm stores” and at one time, sold more Oliver tractors in a year than any Oliver dealer in the world! Leroy was a humble man and didn’t require recognition for his charitable work. He could have driven a Cadillac and lived in a mansion but he drove a Chevy and lived in a modest farmhouse on the edge of town. Leroy has passed on
along with everyone that worked for him. The only thing left is a building used for storage, a few pictures here and there and a lot of Oliver tractors dotted around the country bearing the Trulock name. If you sit down at the coffee shop in Assumption and mention the name Trulock, there isn’t a person there that doesn’t know who he is. Trulock left his mark on this earth with his contributions but he also helped put Assumption, IL on the map. With the draw created by Leroy, an IH dealership (Kuhle Implement) and a JD dealer (Sloan Implement) decided to take advantage of the traffic. While Trulock was in business, Sloan grew to become the second or third largest JD dealer in the world. Sloan once said Trulock was the best thing to happen to them. They were forced to expand and improve their image in order to be more competitive, even though they were the other brand. Within five years, they quadrupled their inside floor space and today everyone in the Midwest is familiar with the Sloan dealerships, which are scattered around the country. Assumption was sometimes called Machineryville. There was more machinery sold in that small town of 1800 than in any other town in the US. All of this can be credited to a man name Leroy Trulock whose motto was “If God is your partner, make your plans big.”