Loyal Tutle has restored four antique automobiles since his retirement from his trucking business. His friends say he can fix anything.
As a competitive young man working on taxi cabs, he and a coworker raced each other to see how fast they could put a clutch in a Plymouth.
Tutle smiled and recalled, “I was really proud of my 45 minutes, but my buddy always beat me by two or three minutes. He had long, gangly arms — and he loved to win.”
He says he learned at an early age how to work.
“I was born at home in Van Zandt County to Elmer Travis Tutle and Essie Pearl Keese Tutle in the Tundra community, seven miles from Canton. I was the oldest, with Carroll, Jo and Jerry next. We had an older brother who died soon after birth, and Jerry died a few years ago.
“When I was 5, “he continued, “we moved to Jackson to my Granddad Keese’s farm. My dad was always busy as a farmer, mechanic and black smith — and then he became manager of my granddad’s cotton gin, too.”
Born in 1927, Loyal remembers a little about the Great Depression.
“We raised our own food. I remember when President Franklin D. Roosevelt had us kill our cows because there was no market for their sale.
“When they were slaughtered, each farmer was allowed to keep only enough meat to feed his family for two days. There were no locker plants then where more meat could be frozen. The rest of the meat was burned or buried.”
(The Agricultural Adjustment Act paid farmers to reduce or plow under crops and slaughter young livestock to restore economic parity. Canning of meat was done in some communities.)
Tutle attended Jackson Elementary School through the eighth grade and one semester at Canton High School.
“I remember my family listening to President Roosevelt on the radio. He said something like, ‘My sons do not want war. My wife, Eleanor, does not want war. I do not want war. But my friends ... we have war!’
“When I was 16 my family didn’t have much. I thought I needed to help, so I quit school. My dad signed permission forms for me to enter the military.
“I wanted in the Navy or the Merchant Marines. Neither would take me because I had flat feet. So, I lived with an aunt and began work at an aircraft factory in Grand Prairie.”
In 1945, he was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps.
He and Bernice Fugate, also 17 and from Tundra, were married. They lived first in Dallas in a big apartment house. When Loyal was stationed at Biloxi, Miss., Bernice joined him.
Loyal said, “Bernice was hired on the base, working in payroll. We were able to live in town. I still remember our address: 803 Beach St.”
Tutle learned engine and electrical skills. Helicopters were brand new.
Planes were laid out and he wired them with 24 volts. He had been told he was chosen as an instructor, but the war ended.
Loyal said, “When I was discharged, I was handed a government-issued box of tools. We moved back to Dallas, where I worked for a year at a private garage, South Dallas Fix All. Then I began work for a taxi cab company as a mechanic. It was there that my coworker Showers and I raced to see who could finish jobs first. We had fun.
“I also had a friend who was a porter there. I admired him for learning a new word every week. He wanted to improve himself. I still remember some of those words he taught me.”
After learning to keep the taxi fleets maintained, Tutle began work for Mack Truck Company. He was a mechanic at first and eventually became foreman of his shift, rebuilding engines.
“While I was working there I was sent out to repair an engine for Old American Roofing Company. They hadn’t been able to find anyone who could fix the timing on a truck. When I repaired it they offered me a job in their shop.”
Mack Trucks called him back to start a night shift. That change brought him to Cleburne.
He said, “In 1959, Jimmy Young of Cleburne had a lot of Mack Trucks and needed a mechanic to work on them at his CleTex Trucking. We decided we wanted to get out of the city for our children, Gary, Diane and Paul. Bernice found a job in the Johnson County Tax Office — which she kept for 27 years.”
But when they moved to Cleburne, they found no place to live.
“Young had a big milk barn behind his house, so we moved in there.” He grinned and added, “It had a huge shower. Within a few months we found a place.”
Loyal began work at CleTex as a mechanic. Later he was given full responsibility for building a truck terminal on U.S. 67. He said the Youngs enjoyed spending time in Mexico, so as general manager he bought trucks and trailers, hired and fired employees, made major decisions and wrote the checks.
In 1978, Tutle formed a partnership with Dr. Jack Burton and Bill Jackson to open JBL Trucking.
“We bought out a San Antonio trucking company. We had eight trailers — one truck. Later, I bought them out and I had 45 trucks, hauling lime primarily.”
Both his sons, Gary and Paul, came to work for Loyal. He retired in 1990.
In 1995, Loyal bought the former CleTex truck terminal and his sons, began Tutle & Tutle Trucking Inc. with eight trucks. They currently run 650 trucks with their own sand plants.
Loyal was glad to get them started and to enjoy the freedom of retirement.
After Bernice passed away, he spent more time at their home at Angel Fire, N.M. He enjoyed camping with friends, hunting, and fishing, but he was lonely.
In 2002, he and Martha Burns married.
Martha said, “I was a teacher’s aide at Iredell, and I took a day off for Judge Roger Harmon to marry us. And then we left in our camper for Fredericksburg — our honeymoon. I went back to school the next Monday and told my students my name had changed.”
Together they have five children, nine grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. Loyal is a deacon at Field Street Baptist Church and participated in the church’s first adult mission trip, to Austin, Minn. He taught youth in Sunday School for 22 years. He said he has been a Mason so long he “doesn’t have to pay his dues anymore.”
For several years he said Sam Silvera and Pete Hobby have helped him work on projects, including car restoration.
“I couldn’t do it now without them. Pete helps with the lifting, and Sam, the technology.”
Loyal has sold his first restoration, a 1949 Packard 4-door sedan. He showed me a 1939 Packard, a 1929 Model A, and a 1960 Chevrolet El Comino car pickup that he restored. Each has a rich, glossy finish that he was eager to protect from the pollen in the air.
He said, “The Model A started with just the chassis. I went to swap meet and bought the cab and redid it. I rebuilt the engine, radiator, transmission, rear end, brakes, and wheels.
“I was having so much trouble with the fenders. I talked to a restorer, and he said, ‘Model A fenders never fit. You just have to be rough with ’em.’
“I figured out that Henry Ford was a master of mass production. He made cars that would last that people could afford — but there wasn’t time for much custom fitting.”
Years ago Loyal worked his way through an engineering training course with perfect answers — until he hit trigonometry. He said he should have stayed in school and gone to college.
As Loyal and I talked at his dining table, an adult grandson came in with his own family. Seeing an interview was going on, he quickly said, “Greatest grandpa in the world,” and gave him a kiss on the cheek and left the room.
I witnessed an award that could never be earned by a diploma.
Larue Barnes may be reached at email@example.com.