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News from the week of May 1, 2002

50 years of putting rubber to the road

Salmons celebrate half-century in business

Dean Salmon appreciates a restored classic 1950s car as much as anyone. But for dependability, comfort and safety, theTracy General Motors dealer says the collector cars don't begin to compare with today's cars. Right: from the 1950's to the 21st century, 50 years of cars.

“I can remember when it wasn't unusual for a car engine to need an overhaul at 30,000 to 40,000 miles,” Salmon says of his years growing up in the 1950s, hanging around the back shop of his dad's Chevrolet garage. The cars of his youth had no air conditioning, no anti-lock breaks, no automatic transmission or power steering. The seats and upholstery usually wore out within three or four years, and frequent flat tires were just a part of traveling. Even though many owners changed the oil of their cars every 1,000 miles, engines were often worn out by the time a car had 60,000 to 70,000 miles.

“The life expectancy of today's vehicles is so unbelievable. When I was a teenager helping my dad it was a real rarity to see a car with over 100,000 miles on it. They just didn't last that long. With today's vehicles you usually don't have to change spark plugs until 100,000 miles,” he observes.

The 1957 Tracy High School graduate has a wide perspective on not only cars, but also on the Tracy business scene.

Founded in 1952 by Dean's father, Guy Salmon, Salmon Automotive is one of the oldest family businesses in Tracy. The business is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a special two-day celebration in the Tracy Prairie Pavilion this week. New cars and trucks will be displayed on the Pavilion floor, and special buffet lunch will be served Thursday, from 5 to 7 p.m., in honor of Guy Salmon's 90th birthday.

Guy Salmon, a native of Spencer, South Dakota, began his automotive career as a mechanic in Steel, North Dakota. He and his wife, Marlys, later moved to their family to Watertown, SD., where was first the service manager, and later general manager, of a new car dealership. Guy's interest in cars was natural since his father, Sankey Salmon, sold Overland and Maxwell cars in the 1920s in Spencer, SD.

When Guy and Marlys moved their family to Tracy in 1952 and bought out Jack Peyer's Chevrolet business on Fourth Street, it was one of at least seven car dealerships in Tracy.

Vern Hemmingsen had a Buick and Kaiser-Fraizer dealership on Morgan Street. L.J Aarthun sold Pontiacs, Ramblers, Cadillacs and GM trucks on Hwy. 14. Art Barglof had a Chrysler-Plymouth franchise on Front (now South) Street. Barglof Brothers operated a Studbaker franchise on Hwy. 14. Les Borner had a Ford dealership on Hwy. 14. Glen Dempsey sold Oldsmobiles, along with Oliver tractors, across the street from Tracy City Hall. A few years earlier, Fran Knoblauch had sold Hudson cars in Downtown Tracy. Right: Kris, Jeff, Dean, and Judy Salmon.

Today, Tracy has only two Tracy car dealerships, both owner and operated by the Salmon family. Dean Salmon operates the Chevrolet-Olds-Buick-Pontiac dealership in Downtown Tracy. Jeff Salmon, Dean's son, runs Dodge-Chrysler-Plymouth-Jeep dealership on Hwy. 14.

Trench collapsed in only an instant

Steve Meyer feels fortunate about rescue

A rural Tracy man escaped injury in a ditching accident that nearly buried him two weeks ago.

“I feel fine. Everything is okay,” says Steve Meyer. “But I'm lucky. It could have been a lot worse.”

Meyer was repairing a drain tile near his home southeast of Tracy on April 18 when an eight-foot deep trench collapsed on him. “It happened so fast,” Meyer remembers. “One moment I was standing at the bottom, the next I was lying face down on the bottom covered with dirt. I couldn't move.” Soil covered Meyer up to his shoulders. His arms were pinned underneath his chest.

Fortunately, Meyer's father, LaMoine, was nearby. The elder Meyer immediately called 911, and then neighbor Gerald Seehusen, who lives just a mile and a half west. In the meantime, there was absolutely nothing Steve Meyer could do but to try to stay calm in his precarious position. He worried than an additional cave-in would occur and bury him completely.

“It was a helpless feeling. I couldn't see anything but the dirt in front of my face and I couldn't move. A guy doesn't think something like this can happen, but it can.”

Seehusen arrived in just a minute. After placing a five-gallon pail over Steve's head as a precaution against another cave-in, Seehusen and Meyer set to work digging. Their efforts were complicated by a chunk of concrete that had fallen above the stricken man, but they managed to extricate Steve just as the Tracy ambulance and fire departments arrived on the scene.

Poet Cowboy

Gary Johns has knack for verse, but pen & paper spoil his mirth

By Nancy L. Torner

Some men might reach for their hankies. Others might crack a nervous joke, or go looking for a fight.

When feelings overwhelm Gary Johns, though, he turns another verse of poetry.

"When I get into the emotional state, it just comes out of me," the 47-year-old farmer said as he pushed the brim of his black cowboy hat off his forehead. "I don't know if I was meant for this or not. I never know when the next one is coming, or if the last one might be the very last one."

Gary Johns is a “poet cowboy.”

Take, for instance, his poem "Life in a Nursing Home," inspired by his late grandmother's nursing home roommate, Mabel. When Johns asked one day about her health, Mabel smiled and said, "I'm doing fine." Then she covered her eyes and wept, Johns said.

Some days later while loading silage and feeling boxed in by dense fog, Mabel's forlorn face and the blank expressions of other nursing home residents began to haunt him, said Johns, who raises cattle on 160 acres outside of Tracy.

"I thought somebody should do something special for these people," Johns said. "It seems like in the fast-paced world that we're living in people forget about the elderly."

About eight minutes later Johns had etched a poem in his memory. This is where all of his verses initially reside since his inspiration usually comes while toiling outdoors, or riding in a truck, on a tractor or on a horse. Besides, he hates using pens and pencils.

"I absolutely refuse to write anything down," Johns said. "The poems are all in my head. When I get older, if I'm still doing these poems, I'll probably have to get a recorder to remember them."

Aquatic Center countdown

The site at the new Tracy Aquatic is bustling with acitivity this week, as contractors push to complete the project in time for the summer swimming season. Tracy Public Works Director Don Polzine said last week that much has been accomplished recently, although much still needs to be done. Work continued to prepare the site for pouring the concrete deck that will go around the three pool areas.

Concrete for each of the pool areas was poured last fall, although a final finish coat still needs to be applied. The remodeled bathhouse and new concession stand are complete except for some exterior finish work.

After the pool areas are complete, pool equipment-including two large plume slides-will be installed. Also planned for May is the paving of the pool's parking lot, and the contruction of a paved circular drive that loops past the bath house's front entrance.

A grand opening is tentatively scheduled for June 15.

Monroe Town Hall will be functional museum piece

It's official. Monroe Town Hall will soon be part of Wheels Across the Prairie Museum in Tracy.

The museum bought the town hall from the township for $1. In return, the township has signed a lease with the museum for $1 a year that will allow them to continue using the building for township board meetings.

Wheels Across the Prairie is ready for the town hall, said curator Mary Lou Ludeman last week. A foundation was poured for the building last week.

No specific date has been set when the building will be moved, said Ludeman.

“We don't know for sure,” she said. “It has to be moved by May 15.”

The Minnesota Department of Transportation asked that the town hall be moved back farther from Hwy. 14. Reasons for moving the building include improved visibility at the Hwy. 14 and Township Road T-221, and reduction of snow blockage on the highway. Highway 14 is set to undergo improvements from Tracy to Hwy. 59 this summer.

Though the building is moving, its function will not change. The Monroe Town Hall will be used as a town hall at the museum, Ludeman said. She said some of the museum's artifacts will likely be moved to the building.

“I expect that things will be moved over there that won't deter from the function of the building,” she said. “It's fun to think about what can be put in there. It will enhance the museum.”

Hospital busier in April

TAMS gets $140,000 state grant

By Val Scherbart-Quist

Hospital activity at Tracy Area Medical Services has begun to pick up after slow months in February and March.

Hospital Administrator Dan Reiner reported to the hospital board last week that the first half of March was again slow for the hospital, but that activity increased significantly the last half of the month. Reiner added that hospital activity continued to be steady in the first half of April.

There were 39 admissions during the month of March, compared to 45 in March of 2001. There were only 27 admissions during the month of February, compared to 46 in February of 2001.

Reiner said that the hospital is currently examining ways to increase the number of patients who receive rehabilitation services at the Tracy hospital following surgery. Efforts are underway to make patients more aware of swing bed and rehabilitation services available at the hospital.

Reiner stated that although hospital activity was slow in February and March, clinic activity remained strong.

Director of Financial Services Stacy Barstad echoed Reiner's sentiments in regard to hospital activity in February and March. She reported that almost all areas of revenue were down for the month of March, but that the clinic has continued to operate at or above budget expectations.