Roots

By Lacey Healy

When a 1950 Chevy ¾ 3600 pickup is at the center of many family memories, it’s something that is hard to let go. Owner, Dennis Thum, remembers fondly his father, Elton, using the truck on their farm in Scotland, SD. “The big memories I have of the truck are of dad using it. He had a rack on it and would haul animals with it. He also pulled a lot of wagon loads of grain to the elevator. I remember him putting chains on it, it’s a rear wheel drive and low geared so he would just plow through snow with that thing.”

Purchasing this truck from a neighbor during a farm sale in the early 70’s, Elton had no idea the legacy this truck would hold for himself and his family. “It was always dad’s truck. When he moved off the farm in the spring of 1995 at age 74, he took this truck into town with him since this was his last bit of the farm. He was some sort of an institution in Scotland with his old 1950 farm truck that he putzed around town in to get coffee and things. One day, a gentleman from South Dakota Magazine was driving through Scotland and doing a feature on pickups. He came downtown and nabbed dad while he was having coffee. Dad got his picture in the centerfold of the magazine and was so happy to share his pickup.”

People around town began recognizing the rarity and personality of the truck, and started making offers to purchase the truck from Elton, however, in 2001, Dennis mentioned to his father that maybe it was time to pass the truck to the next generation. “He had many offers from people to buy the truck, and as he was getting older, I told him that I didn’t want to lose that pickup and would take it off his hands. In 2001 I took over ownership of the pickup and brought it to Sioux Falls. At this point, dad was 81, and was starting to have health issues. Dad was sentimental so he was happy to see the truck stay in the family. Of course it was starting to wear down, but so was dad, and he ended up passing away four years later. The last time I drove the truck prior to his passing, dad was with me. He just wasn’t himself that day, and we could also tell something wasn’t right with the truck either. That was April of 2005, and dad passed in July of that same summer.”

After his father’s passing, Thum was distraught as to what he should do with this truck that was getting older and becoming a bit of work. “About a year later, I thought about selling it to one of the many people who had been interested in it when dad had it. When I told this to my mom, Charlotte, she broke down in tears, not wanting me to do that. So scratch that plan. Mom was also very attached to the truck, and the memories it held.” Charlotte had a photo of the Chevy at her nursing home, and was able to visit the shop and see the progress on the restoration before her passing in January of this year.

Thum shortly thereafter ran into Ennis Lund from Cliff Avenue Upholstery & Restoration. “I bumped into Ennis one day, and asked if he restored pickups. Ennis towed it into the shop and started working on it little by little. I’m the campus Pastor at the University of Sioux Falls, and don’t have a lot of extra money to put towards the restoration, but Ennis worked with me in doing the restoration as I had extra money. Ennis is an artist in his craft. At this point of the story, my kids are starting to get interested in the restoration of the truck. I’ve always had pictures of them riding in the truck when they were little as they always thought it was such a cool pickup. While the truck was being restored, grandchildren started appearing, and now they are also excited about this. Jonah, my oldest grandchild who is five already refers to the truck as ‘his’ truck. He tends to just go sit in the truck by himself a lot. It’s a family project. It’s a part of my history, It’s the last bit of the farm that we still have, and it is part of our identity and roots. I’ve always told my sons that one of the most important thing to remember is your roots, and I think we have to take some steps in this rapidly changing world to preserve those roots. I think if we forget our past and where we come from, we lose sight of where we are going. For me, this is one family heirloom that we will hold on to as long as we can.”

Although the truck is immaculately restored, Thum doesn’t plan on it becoming a showpiece. “It was restored not to be a museum piece, it was restored to be a driver and for us to enjoy. The box was in bad shape, and was replaced, but everything else was able to be restored. The engine is the original engine that has a little over 100,000 miles on it. Ennis went over it and we have everything pretty much as it was and it looks like it did the day it drove off the assembly line. I really want to say how much I appreciated Ennis’ work and patience and his artistry in this project. It was quite remarkable to see someone who has a team of people who are so skilled at restoration. They did a beautiful job.”


 

 

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