DEALERSHIPS OF THE PAST:

Aime Rawleigh "Pete" Adam

International Harvester

1949-1966

Ste. Rose Du Lac, Manitoba

Karen Adam Dreveski

July 2011

This article originally appeared in the Chapter 38 International Harvester Collector Club for Western Canada's IH Legends newsletter and is reprinted with permission. Click here to visit their website: http://www.ihc38.com/

Early Beginnings

A. R. "Pete" Adam was born in 1913 in Radville, Saskatchewan. In 1918, his father, Lionel H. Adam, moved the family from Radville to an area of Manitoba that is rolling meadowlands and sloughs surrounded by upper Lake Manitoba, Dauphin Lake, and lower Lake Winnipegosis. There, Pete's father established the Crane River Trading Company, a trading post, at Crane River, Manitoba, adjacent to the Ochi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation.

 

The area was very isolated and young Pete grew up speaking French, English, and Saulteaux (Ojibway). His father was a successful entrepreneur and the trading post kept 95 percent of the community going. They ran stock, sold hay, operated a commercial fishery and packing house, traded flour, lard, salt, and other staples for fish and furs. Pete was working in his father's business from the time he could walk. By his early teens he was packing fish in the family's fish sheds till 2 a.m. all winter. It was there that Pete gained his acumen for business that would lead to an International Harvester dealership.

Opportunity Arises

In 1937 Pete Adam married Mary Didychuk at Toutes Aides, Manitoba. Together, they raised a family of four daughters, Doreen, Lorraine, Marie, and Karen. In 1945 Pete moved his family to the village of Rorketon, Manitoba so that his children could attend school. He bought land and livestock, ran a commercial fishing and processing operation, was a fish and fur dealer, and wholesaled food staples and home appliances.

 

In 1945 there was an established IH dealership in Rorketon, Manitoba. Employment in this dealership was a great opportunity and Pete was hired to work for Werbiski's International Harvester. Pete learned all aspects of the business and quickly surpassed the owner's expectations. In fact, Pete did so well, that soon Mr. Werbiski was encouraging Pete to start his own International Harvester dealership.

 

Pete had struggled through and survived the Great Depression. In turn, WWII was over, and there was a renewed sense of hope for the future. Pete would have been buoyed by this sense of hope and by his dream of a better life for his family. It was not surprising then, that Pete was willing to do whatever was necessary to start his own business and secure the International Harvester dealership in Ste. Rose du Lac, Manitoba.

A. R. "Pete" Adam and Mary Adam in 1947

L to R daughters Marie, Lorraine, and Doreen

Realizing a Dream

Approximately 40 miles south of Rorketon, Manitoba, Ste. Rose du Lac was an ideal location for International Harvester because it was located in the heart of cattle country and was surrounded by fertile grain farms. While still living in Rorketon, Pete began the arduous task of building the structure that would house the IH dealership in Ste. Rose du Lac. The cinderblock building was 2,800 square feet with a poured concrete floor. With the help of his brother and brother-in-law, Pete built the dealership building brick by brick.

 

Pete would have been elated when he learned that he had acquired the IH dealership. However, he would not have celebrated that accomplishment for long, for there was far too much work to be done and no time to be wasted.

 

Open for Business

Upon the completion of the building, Pete Adam and his family moved to Ste. Rose du Lac permanently and the IH dealership was opened in 1949. In the beginning, Pete and his brother Romeo worked in partnership and the business was known as Adam Brothers. However, when ill health forced Romeo to leave the business, Pete continued on his own and the business became known as Adam's Garage.

Parts counter 1949

Upon entering through the front door, immediately in front of you, was a long counter where the cash register was situated and where parts were examined and exchanged. To the far left was a small office where Pete carried out his negotiations with customers when they came in to buy equipment. To the far right of the main door was a passageway that led to the back half of the building where mechanics worked on repairs. There was no running water so at the back of the building, against the wall, was a huge steel tank open at the top which collected rainwater off the roof of the building whenever it rained. There was a tap at the bottom of this tank by which water could be extracted and drained for use in the workshop or anywhere else needed.

Pete Adam faced many challenges during the first year of business one of which was the flood of 1950.

Rear south view of IH dealership building is visible Note the steel tanks to collect rainwater and small home built by Pete Adam for his family

A Going Concern

The customer always came first to Pete and he diligently went the extra mile to ensure that his valued customers were given the very best of service. Regardless, whether it was the sale of a small part, or a new IH tractor, every customer was important to Pete.

A. R “Pete” Adam at his gas pumps always ready to serve his customers

Stock control of parts was done with a system of cards indicating the part numbers then cross-referenced to bin numbers, with the parts bins located directly behind the front counter. Parts catalogs were used to locate part numbers. If a part was sold or received into stock, the quantity in stock had to be updated on the card. Obviously, difficulties would arise if one overlooked updating parts quantities on the cards.

 

All the business accounting was done manually. Parts sales were written in a counter check book. From there the information was recorded in a ledger. At month's end, statements of account balances were processed from the information in the ledger and mailed to the customer. Most of the farmers bought on credit and often accounts were overdue. There were some cases where Pete never got the money he was owed.

A page from Pete’s ledger 1962

Pete employed four men at his IH dealership. Two worked outside assembling machinery and two worked as mechanics in the workshop. They repaired all makes of equipment. Often, the mechanics had to go to a farmer's field to fix a tractor or thresher. At times, a repair on which the mechanics were working had to be delayed if, elsewhere, a farmer had a breakdown that needed immediate attention. Furthermore, at the busiest of times, there were more repair jobs scheduled than could be accommodated in the workshop. Any delay in receiving parts for a repair meant a longer wait for the jobs lined up outside. There was always great pressure to get parts into stock quickly because the farmers always needed the parts "yesterday." When parts finally arrived, they had to be picked up at the Greyhound bus station in Ste. Rose.

Pete Adam’s IH toolbox given by Pete to his grandson Adam MacDonell

John Deere and Case were also up and running in Ste. Rose at that time. There was intense competition for sales of machinery so Pete worked long, hard, hours particularly during seeding and harvesting. Pete traveled extensively throughout the community and surrounding areas to demonstrate new equipment on farmers' fields. During this time, Pete purchased a farm and often demonstrated equipment on his own land. Always thinking of ways to improve sales, Pete frequently held "Farmers' Information Day" at his dealership where his customers could attend a day of instruction on the latest innovations from the International Harvester Company. Coffee and donuts were always provided. Company reps from Chicago would visit and make arrangements for Pete to purchase equipment. On one occasion, Pete hosted International Harvester Pancake Days where customers could come in for a free pancake breakfast and talk to factory reps. The business flourished and Pete flew to Chicago to attend an IH dealership convention circa 1959. It was the first time he had ever been on a plane.

Pete Adam's IH Dealer pin that he wore on his trip to Chicago

1951 22” McCormick Threshing Machine

Pete sold this machine brand new and it still runs today as seen in the photo above

It was one of the last produced Picture courtesy of Turtle River Relics Museum Ste. Rose du Lac, Manitoba Diversification

Pete diversified by selling flour and twine partly for income and partly to support farmer cooperative buying. An army surplus building in which to store the flour was moved on to the property. A shipment of flour would come in by rail. The rail car would remain and Pete would go and pick up the carload of 75-100 lb. bags of flour and sling them over a shoulder onto a truck, then reverse the process to unload into his building. What an exhausting affair that must have been since Pete Adam was a small man and slight of stature!

 

To further supplement income for his business, Pete bought pelts from his many acquaintances from the Crane River area and, in turn, sold the furs to companies in Winnipeg.

 

In order to generate revenue, he also sold Pioneer Chain Saws as a sideline.

 

Mary Adam

It is often said that behind every successful man is a good woman. In this case, nothing could be more true. Mary Adam worked selflessly beside her husband Pete through good times and bad. If Pete was the breadwinner of the family, Mary was indeed the backbone of the family. Her sacrifices were immeasurable during the years Pete toiled to make his International Harvester business turn a profit. Day after day she cared for the four children on her own while Pete worked late hours in the business. Often, and without notice, Mary was called upon to provide a hot, wholesome meal to a customer whom Pete had invited to dinner in order to close a deal. On the rare afternoon that Pete was free, Mary would load the children into the family car for a day at the beach, only to have to take them all back into the house again because a customer needed parts at the last minute. Pete would then be busy with the customer, sometimes for hours, and the family outing would be canceled. Mary would leave whatever she was doing to cover for Pete at the parts counter whenever he was unexpectedly needed on a farm call. She provided sustenance, support, and stability for the whole family and her contribution to the dealership cannot be overstated.

Mary Adam with daughter Karen in 1955

The open door to the garage in the background was large enough to accommodate machinery

End of an Era

As time went on, there was increasing pressure for sales. Equipment was becoming bigger and more expensive and the majority of the farmers who made up Pete's local market were not operating on a large enough scale to be able afford the costs. Customers were traveling to other major centers for prices on machinery, and the competition for sales was not just limited to the two other local implement dealers in Ste. Rose du Lac. Most of the time, there were several different dealerships vying for the same sale.

 

After seventeen years as an International Harvester dealer, Pete decided that a change was due, and sold the business in 1966.

Pete and the 1st Place trophy he won with his 1951 Farmall Super A in 1986

Everybody Knows Pete Adam

His determination, steadfastness, tenacity, and heart were the foundation for his success as an International Harvester dealer. Hard work, sacrifice, courage, and a little bit of luck came together to make his International Harvester dealership a dream come true.

 

Pete liked to refer to himself as a "fair enterpriser". He was an equal opportunity employer who consistently hired workers of Aboriginal or Metis heritage at a time when that just wasn't done.

 

Pete Adam had the reputation of willingly helping anyone in need. Therefore, he became incredibly well known and popular. The hundreds of associates, contacts, friends, and customers he dealt with during his tenure as owner of Adam's Garage, International Harvester Dealer, remained with him throughout his life.

 

After the sale of his IH dealership in 1966, Pete and his family moved to his farm where he ranched until 1970. Pete Adam went on to a distinguished career in politics serving as a Member of the Legislative Assembly and as a Cabinet Minister in the Manitoba Provincial Government.

 

I'll Get By

A. R." Pete" Adam passed away on January 7, 2009 at the age of 95. His wife Mary and his family live with his memory daily and strive to live their lives according to his values and by the examples he set. For them, the presence of his spirit is everywhere.

A. R. Pete Adam and Mary Adam, 1987

Authored by Karen Adam Dreveski. Special thanks to Marie Adam Grateful acknowledgment to contributors Doreen Balchen, Lorraine Adam, Glenn MacDonell, Adam MacDonell, John Dreveski, Albert & Pat Thompson Turtle River Relics Museum.

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