Joe Neville and His IH Memories

Cindy Ladage

May 1, 2018

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2018 issue of Red Power Magazine, pages 63-64, and is reprinted with the permission of Dennis and Sallie Miesner. Click here to visit their website: https://www.redpowermagazine.com/

It is amazing that at the Gathering of the Green I had the chance to tour Jon Kinzenbaw’s IH collection and see his factory. While there, I met Joe Neville, who besides being a former IH employee led our group tour of the Kinze factory. 

Joe has a very cool Farmall story and he himself is in the process of gathering IH memories. He and his daughter Jet Kaehn started Harvester Heritage which is a non-profit organization dedicated to gathering the stories and oral histories of those who were witnesses to the International Harvester Company. 

Harvester Heritage is a preservation project of the National International Harvester Collector’s Club, tasked with preserving the history of the IHC. 

“I grew up on International Harvester tractors and I decided I’d like to work for them,” Joe explained about how his connection with Farmalls began. He worked for International Harvester starting out in machinery marketing and management. 

“The year before I graduated I got a job with them at the company store in Des Moines.  After graduation I started with International Harvester in 1967 in Iowa and did training in Ottumwa.”

As he went up the ladder, he worked with the district and went to Northeast Iowa where he became a Zone Manager in 1969. “The old term was block man and I called on dealerships.”

“In three and a half years I moved to a new Twin City Regional Office in St. Paul. There I moved into combine and hay tools marketing then into soil preparation and into tillage equipment.”

“I was transferred to the World Headquarters in Chicago in 1981,” Joe said. 

Things changed in 1984 when International Harvester became Tenneco. “In Chicago at the World Headquarters at Tenneco, they hired me. I moved to Racine and worked on World Wide products.”

Traveling around the world, Joe said at this point he held the title of Director for all implements, tillage, planting, and seeding. Then in 1992, things changed again. The world was an ever changing place in the manufacturing business and Joe said, “There was a downturn and they were considering getting rid of implements. I had been there 25 years and I learned of an opening here at Kinze back home.”

He applied and got the job and became the National Sales Manager. The National Sales Manager job brought Joe back to Iowa where he grew up, back to his roots. “There was a lot of difference working here than for a big company.”

The smaller company suited Joe and so did being home. However although he was still working in a different manufacturing company, he still bled Farmall red, which is really true of the owner of Kinze, Jon Kinzenbaw as well! “I was still an IH guy,” Joe said.

During his tenure with IH and Tenneco Joe added, “I had traveled all over the world in the 1980’s. It was bad everywhere. They were closing plants and everyone wanted more work.”

Now back home, things were a bit more settled and he could refocus on his old love for the International Harvester tractors and begin a collection of his own. 

“I live in town and collect Cub Cadets,” Joe said. 

“I have dad’s tractor, a 1949 C Farmall. It was new when he bought it and it did it all, planting and cultivating. When he passed in 1987, I was in Chicago and had no place for it.” 

After returning home though he learned about it in quite a roundabout way. “When I came back, I was looking for a competitive grain cart to compare with Kinze grain cart features at a dealer meeting. I talked to the wife of a farmer nearby. Ten minutes later, he called me back and the cart he had was not what we wanted. However later, I wanted to compare auger designs and called him back.”

After agreeing to let Joe and Kinze Manufacturing use his auger and cart for comparison, the farmer

caught Joe off guard when he said, “By the way, do you want your dad’s old C?”

Taken aback, Joe listened as the farmer explained that he and his neighbor had been talking and in conversation he learned that the neighbor had purchased Joe’s dad’s Farmall C. “So I got it and told Jon (Kinzenbaw) about it. He said he’d find room to store it. So I got it and restored it!”

Besides his Cub Cadets and C, he also won a cool Cub Cadet Hydro from a sales contest while with IH. “Now I’m out of room and need to build a shed,” he lamented the story most collectors tell.

Joe has had quite the International Harvester history and it continues today in his retirement with his work at Kinze and his quest to record the history of those that worked at the IH Company. For more information on Harvester Heritage, log onto https://www.harvesterheritage.org/.  

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