Hallett Construction Company (formerly Hallett Materials) has been a fixture in Ames for almost five decades. Its plant on the northern edge of Ames has been a landmark along Highway 69 since the 1950s. Although often referred to locally as a quarry, a more correct term might be sand and gravel pit. A large supplier of road-building materials, Hallett has operated gravel pits in Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas.
Pictured at the left is a 1992 view of the Hallett Materials operation north of Ames. (photo courtesy of Bert Sewell)
|Earnest Wilbert Hallett|
The trials and tribulations of drilling later test holes during an Iowa winter were noted in a memo from Ron Harken to E.W. Hallett in February 1965: Drilling has slowed considerably. Another blizzard is blowing in across the plains with about 6 more inches of snow predicted. We have about 4" on the ground already with 45 mph winds and a temperature around 3 degrees. It takes just about twice as long to do anything in weather like this. (Typical Iowa weather!).
The red 2-story Page dragline
was the most visible symbol at Hallett's sand and gravel extraction site.
Sand and gravel pit operations involve extracting, washing, and screening. The most visible evidence of extraction at Hallettís was the huge, red dragline that dominated the site.
A dragline rather than a dredge was deemed necessary due to the large number of boulders encountered. The workhorse for 35 years was a Page 625 walking dragline, class C-25, machine number 144. It was made by the Page Engineering Company of Chicago and took several years to build. Although it was built from 1936-1938, it didnít take its first walk until 1942 . These large machines typically take several years to build and are dated from the time of their first use. Page specialized in making this type of heavy equipment through the 1980s and later was acquired by P&H Power Shovel Company.
click to enlarge
Other companies such as Bucyrus, Marion, Monighan and Manitowoc also made moving draglines. The Ames dragline was originally used in a coal strip mine in Missouri from 1942 until 1956 when it was purchased by Hallett and dismantled. E.W. Hallett was known for always purchasing giant excavating equipment used and then reconditioning it. Mr. Hallett had wanted the railroad to build a spur line to the pit but was denied permission. Therefore, the parts were shipped by tractors and flat-bed trailers to three places: Boone, the Ames site, and St. Peter, Minnesota. After rebuilding, the parts were trucked to the pit on flat-bed trailers across farmland on the west.
Permission was obtained from Robert Pasley, owner of the 80 acre parcel of land just west of the Hallett operation, to drive along the north boundary of his farm. Mr. Pasley agreed to let Hallett come through provided they execute the move on frozen ground and replace the fence after removal. Hallett did not wait for winter, but proceeded with the move, tearing up the land and getting stuck more than once. A lawsuit had to be initiated to finally restore the land.
Two people were required to run the two-storey dragline: an operator on the top floor, and an oilman on the lower. The first operators were experienced men hired from the eastern coal fields. Later operators included, among others, Emmett and Louis Eckard, Jim Hovick, Steve Weigel, Randy Page and Mike Berhow. Randy Page was employed for a 24-year span from 1978 to 1993 operating backhoes, endloaders, and bulldozers. He spent 15 years of his career in the cab of the Page dragline and took a lot of ribbing because he shared the same last name as the machine. Once he used this to his advantage when he visited the Page Company headquarters in Chicago. After he introduced himself as Randy Page he received red-carpet treatment on the assumption that he was one of the family.