When a Texas electric cooperative was seeking a symbol to help mark its 80th anniversary, longtime employees pitched in and came up with a shining homage to the co-op’s past.
“We have a 1937 Chevrolet half-ton pickup truck,” says Donnie Clary, president and CEO of
CoServ Electric. “It’s not only in great shape, but it runs.”
Corinth-based CoServ is the second-largest electric co-op in Texas and one of the fastest-growing in the nation with more than 215,000 meters in six north Texas counties. And even with 450 employees, Clary has gotten to know many of them not just for the jobs they do, but the interests they pursue in their spare time.
“Some of these guys collect and restore vehicles, and a lot of them like old trucks,” says Clary. “We wanted something we could drive to events in our service territory, so we looked for something that had modern conveniences like heat and air conditioning and an engine with the power for modern roads.”
When word spread of a search for a 1937 truck similar to those that got the co-op up and running in its early days, some staffers immediately went on the hunt.
“Everybody was looking, and it took about three or four months to find one,” said Bret Turnbow, CoServ’s operations manager.
In September 2016, Turnbow flew up to Fairview, Illinois, 200 miles southwest of Chicago, to inspect a vintage truck being offered by a private owner on Craigslist.
“When he learned about our plans, he was willing to let it go,” Turnbow says. “We’ve kept him updated throughout the project.”
Three months later, Turnbow and Operations Superintendent Shea Hassell, co-op veterans of 23 and 27 years respectively, went back to Chicago with plans to trailer it back. Instead they climbed inside and hit the road.
“We drove it 900 miles with no problems,” says Hassell.
By January, new parts were on order and restoration plans were in place, with the co-op’s Donnie Morgan, construction project manager, leading the charge.
“I’ve been collecting and working on old cars since I was 7 years old,” says Morgan, who joined the co-op 34 years ago as an apprentice lineman. “This one was in pretty good shape when we got it.”
His personal collection of vintage vehicles includes three Chevy Camaros from the 1967 to1969 model years, a 1972 Pontiac GTO, a 1939 Chevrolet pickup, and a 1940 Chevy Coupe. So when it came to putting the truck into exhibition shape, Morgan knew who to call.
A paint and body shop in Lake Dallas handled the dings, re-chromed the grill, stripped off a bronze metal flake finish and repainted it in Chevrolet’s “apple green” hue common to its era. A rear seat from Turnbow’s 1965 Chevy truck was removed, cut down, and re-upholstered in black leather at a shop in Denton. And the doors were handled by a custom paint shop and CoServ Member located in Sanger, Texas.
Rails for the truck bed were made by Curtis Trivitt, CoServ’s vice president of energy services.
“Woodworking is my hobby, so the guys asked for custom rails that were appropriate for the era,” says Trivitt. “I got some oak lumber and had to custom fit the uprights to the pilot holes on the body because each one was a different depth. It took about a month in my spare time to get them right.”
And the finishing touch? Willie Wiredhand images embroidered into the seats.
Vicki Sargent, CoServ’s community relations director, says the meticulously restored vehicle “will open doors to help tell CoServ’s story—not just the past, but the present and future as well.”
The truck is carried on the co-op’s fleet roster as “Rosie” in tribute to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who supported rural electrification and championed early funding of the program. Making its debut at a car show in May in Aubrey, Texas, Rosie took “best in show” honors among more than 170 featured vehicles.
“We’ve stepped up our efforts at community outreach, and Rosie is already a good fit,” says CEO Clary.
“The truck is a good way of honoring the past,” adds Clary. “We’ll use it in parades, at festivals, fairs and car shows as a way of reminding members and visitors that we’ve been there as a part of the community for more than 80 years.”