Note: This feature was printed in the Aug. TT&C 2011 issue.
More photos available in the Aug. TT&C 2011 magazine. Call (701) 883-5206 to purchase.
Editor’s Note…As most of our readers know, Larry Phillips has been writing our monthly column, “The Little Engine House,” for us on a regular basis since March of 1990. Recently, though, as a result of Larry’s involvement as an field instructor in Hazardous Materials, his company, Signal 10 Group of Jamestown, N.D., became directly involved with J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc., located in Neenah, Wis. As a result of that initial relationship and subsequent business transactions, and along with the hazardous materials reference materials Larry received (and continues to receive) from J. J. Keller, Larry also began to acquire, along with his company’s purchase(s) of those reference and training materials, numerous 1/64 scale die-cast trucks that were produced exclusively for J. J. Keller, but were not for sale…at any price…they were only available to those individuals and/or companies who placed orders totaling a certain dollar amount with J. J. Keller and all of them were produced in very limited capacity.
Although Larry has sworn up and down all his life that he would never collect anything but miniature fire apparatus, the trucks that started coming his way from J. J. Keller found their way into the very last empty showcase in Larry’s Signal 10 Group office…and, as Larry put it, “…once that empty showcase started filling with the Keller trucks, I just knew there had to be a story to go along with them…somewhere”…which, ultimately, led to the following interview with Glenn L. Huffman, catalog manager for J. J. Keller. In addition, Larry told us, in the preparation for this interview, that he felt that all the words that you are about to read needed to be included, so Larry’s regular column will continue once again in next month’s Toy Trucker & Contractor. However, Larry also wanted to make this point perfectly clear…and that’s even though “The Little Engine House” does not appear in our magazine this month, the true spirit of Larry’s writings for the past 21 years, as well as his love for miniature fire apparatus, will absolutely come through with flying colors as he expresses his own comments to Glenn towards the close of the interview…
So, now let’s listen in as Larry talks with Glenn, and find out just how this miniature truck promotion for J. J. Keller began, and also the reason(s) behind it…
LARRY: Glenn, can you introduce the readers of the Toy Trucker & Contractor to J. J. Keller and give us a brief history of just what the company is all about?
GLENN: The company was founded by John J. Keller in Neenah, Wis., back in 1953. At the time, John was an ICC (Interstate Commerce Commission) practitioner…and he set up a one-man shop and became basically a consultant helping other companies run their transportation operations. For the first 10 years or so, it was a very small organization…and then they started to get into physical products such as books, manuals, guides, newsletters, etc.; all to assist companies with their transportation permitting, registration, licensing, defined loads, etc…you know, the operational side of the trucking business. Needless to say, one product led to another, and by the early 1970s, Mr. Keller had a very extensive product line in trucking…he was offering various types of forms and labels…and that, then, naturally led into drivers logs, inspection forms and all facets of trucking safety…and J. J. Keller started to create specialty publications to inform trucking fleets how to best conform with the (then) new safety regulations, which were mandated for all trucks back in the late 1960s and early 1970s…that was our first, real launch into the “safety world,” if you want to call it that…and that now has become one of our primary focal points as a company today…safety…whether it’s for trucking, manufacturing, construction safety, etc. And they also started to develop and now offer numerous employee training programs, the extensive and required vehicle signage and labels for truck fleets, maintenance forms and components that drivers would be required to use as part of their daily routine. In the 1980s, we began to develop and offer our own brand of software for regulatory compliance and safety…but, Larry, it’s really difficult to sum this entire company in just a few sentences…
LARRY: From just one person back in 1953 to today’s J. J. Keller in August 2011…how many employees do you have now?
GLENN: I don’t know the very exact number, but I believe it to be around 1,100, with most of them based right here in Neenah…but we also have a handful of field sales representatives that are scattered across the country…and all of them are based out of their home offices.
To read the rest of this story, call (701) 883-5206 or 1-800-533-8293 to order the Aug. TT&C 2011 issue.
Other features included in the Aug. 2011 issue:
• A Hobby Shared by Christopher Moor
• A Toy Semi-driving Man Tom Lane by Larry LeMasters
• Freight Trucks Galore in Idaho by Bill Vossler
• Build It or Buy It by Richard Yaremko