Hap Carty is a U-Haul pioneer whose U-Haul story dates back to the Company’s beginning in 1945 when his sister, Anna Mary Carty Shoen, co-founded U-Haul. Here, in his own words, he reflects on his long history with U-Haul.
Looking Back On 70 Years
By Hap Carty
When I think of U-Haul Company’s success serving customers for 70 years, I think of men like Vin Kiley, Joe Hansbury, Jim Shaw, Harry Richardt, Bill Kreckman, Ralph Shivers, Frank Lyons, Bill Jakubek, Tom Safford and many, many more men and women whose contributions to the success and future of U-Haul are incalculable. I wish we had the space to tick off the contributions by these people, but it would take a book to list and explain all of them.
But two people were and still are the foundation of the organization: L.S. “Sam” Shoen and Anna Mary Carty Shoen. They laid the bricks and mortar of the organization as it is today.
The first trailers were built by a welding shop in Salem, Oregon. They had a variety of automobile rear-ends for undercarriages, and they were a disaster! But that’s the way most trailers were made at the time, and Sam quickly learned that if U-Haul wanted safe, durable and functional trailers, we would have to design and build them ourselves. So, U-Haul trailers were built on the Carty ranch in Ridgefield, Washington. In 1946, I went to work there and learned to cut parts, paint, weld and assemble trailers. We also began construction of a 60’ x 22’ manufacturing plant in Portland, Oregon, and in January 1947, we began production there. We opened U-Haul Dealerships as we built trailers.
The first one-way rental was from Portland to Seattle. I remember being with Sam at Bob Smallwood’s dealership when that one-way rental came in. When we unhooked it, the coupler came off the ball without being unlatched. We immediately shopped around and found the best coupler available and replaced every coupler in the fleet, and we destroyed the old ones so they couldn’t be used again.
In 1952, Sam asked me to go to Boston and start a trailer manufacturing operation, a rental company and whatever else U-Haul needed to have done in the Northeast. I dropped everything and headed for Boston with my wife, Toni, and two kids.
We bought a 1,900 square-foot, garage-type, two-story building. We built trailers downstairs and lived upstairs. Toni answered the telephone, took care of the kids, kept the place clean and cooked on a hot plate. The first four employees there were Don Shivers, Cleo Miller, Ron Green and Phil Schnee (who still works for U-Haul in Idaho). We also hired two part-timers, Danny Keegan and Woody DiLillo, to get a night shift going. Danny stayed with us for more than 20 years and Woody more than 35 years. All six of these people were outstanding. They, along with the men I mentioned previously and thousands of others like them, set a standard for productivity and quality.
I moved to Pennsylvania around 1956 and was given the responsibility of manufacturing operations. I was named product director and that included engineering, product development and repair staff operations. We also had our own staff including legal (for patents, zoning, etc.), the building department (which did site selection) and manufacturing. We built a lot of buildings, rental company headquarters and repair shops, and a lot of what we did was possible through the efforts and hard work of Vin Kiley. He also had a genius for bringing many good people into U-Haul, including Bill Jakubek. Bill started as a painter in the Boston shop and later became director of the Willow Grove (Pa.) manufacturing plant.
Tom Safford and Sam developed the Loadmaster trailer and we built thousands of them at Willow Grove. Those were good years. The Company was growing; we were busy manufacturing trailers, developing new models, establishing marketing companies, opening dealerships and watching guys around the Company develop into men who became top executives. In 1959, we brought trucks into the fleet.
But the big change came in 1966. That year, Sam moved product development, engineering and most central staff operations from Willow Grove and Portland to Phoenix. By this time, I had served as product vice president and executive vice president.
Then, I spent several years as president of U-Haul International. During that time, the U-Haul family grew from 6,000 dealers to 15,000. I had an outstanding staff, including Charlie Bayer, George Carey, George Howell, Jerry Gregson and Bill Kreckman. It was also during this time that we began the transition from the Mr. Goodwrench-type dealers to U-Haul Moving Centers.
The independent dealer always played a key role in the success of U-Haul, and they still do. Thanks to our dealers and team members, we’ve made a lot of improvements to the equipment over the years, benefitting our customers through economy and effectiveness. The customers approved, and they demonstrated their faith in U-Haul by supporting us for 70 years. That says a lot about leadership and the thousands of people in our shops, our field managers, repair people, dealers and store personnel who have taken this commitment to safety and service to heart.
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