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End of the Road

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Glenwood Transit Changed With The Times

By Joe Foreman, Editor

It’s been a long haul for Glenwood Transit Line.

Seventy-one years to be exact.

The freight, transport and storage business has been a staple of the Glenwood community since shortly after the Great Depression, but Clarence Boles, Jr., and his wife, Helen, say the time is right to close up shop.

“It’s neat after this length of time to say we’re closing with a positive attitude,” Helen said

during an interview last week. “We’re not being forced to do this. We’re doing this because the time has come.”

Glenwood Transit made its last delivery in May. The office staff is spending the month of June packing boxes, securing customer records and tying up other loose ends. Property owned by the business will be auctioned off this Saturday after a community appreciation open house on Friday morning. The open house begins at 9:30 a.m.

“We want to finish and close with the same integrity we’ve ran the business with over all these years,” said the Boles’ daughter and Glenwood Transit general manager Lori Jens. “It’s important that we go out the right way. The Glenwood community has been good to our business and we want to show our appreciation with the open house.”

Glenwood Transit was started in 1939, in a small building on the southwest corner of Walnut and Coolidge Street, by Clarence Boles, Sr., and his wife, Hazel. They owned just one truck and hauled commercial freight from Omaha to Glenwood, Council Bluffs and Pacific Junction. Any freight or commodities their customers were in need of from Omaha, they’d pick up and bring back to town.

Clarence, Jr. remembers gathering and recycling used ice cream cartons during World War II from the basement of LaRue drug store. Each carton was worth a dime.

“My brother, sister and I would go get those (ice cream cartons) out of LaRue’s basement,” he said. “We put them out and Dad would come by on Saturday and we’d haul them to Omaha.”

In 1959, Helen and Clarence, Jr. became partners in the business. Three years later, Glenwood Transit bought the Tabor Truck Line which expanded the company’s territorial rights further south and east, to communities like Emerson, Farragut, Clarinda and Hamburg.

“When that happened, one guy picked up all day in Omaha and brought it here,” Clarence said. “We sorted on freight trucks and sent it on another truck and it was delivered the next morning. It was sort of like a distribution site.”

By 1967, Glenwood Transit had expanded the business to include household moving. Glenwood Transit became an agent for Mayflower, a relationship that would last for 43 years.

Glenwood Transit was also still hauling freight in the 1960s and ‘70s. One of its primary customers was the Nebraska Furniture Mart.

“It was nothing to send a trailer up there and get a whole load of furniture,” Clarence recalls. “There were nine, 10, 12 shipments a day, and we went every day.”

In the mid 1970s, Swift and Co. became a primary customer of the business after it opened a meat-packing plant in Glenwood. The 10-year span from 1975 to 1985 proved to be a busy and lucrative time for Glenwood Transit.

“They (Swift) were a great company to work with,” Clarence said. “When Swift was running, we had about 14 people that all they did was whatever Swift wanted. We had nine over-the-road drivers and one person here did dispatch.”

After Swift left town, Glenwood Transit picked up military and overseas shipping through a relationship with Offutt Air Force Base.

Military household moving would continue to be a major revenue source for Glenwood Transit well into the 21st Century, until shipments started getting awarded out of military bases in Colorado instead of Offutt.

Glenwood Transit has orchestrated some special moving projects, like the relocation of the entire Council Bluffs Public Library in 1998, and at the Page County Courthouse in Clarinda after a fire forced a complete renovation of the structure.

For years, Glenwood Transit coordinated the household moves for all of the Methodist ministers in the state of Iowa. Typically, the ministers are all reassigned to new communities during the same week of the year.

“We called it Methodist Week,” Lori said. “Nobody took vacation that week. We were moving the ministers all over the state.”

Glenwood Transit has employed over 300 workers over the past 71 years, including more than 50 relatives of the Boles family. Lori started working at the business in 1975 as a bookkeeper. The business’ current officer manager, Jill Ford, has been employed for 28 years.

“We’ve had some very loyal employees and loyal customers,” Helen noted.

A key to Glenwood Transit’s survival over the past seven decades has been its ability to change with the times.

“A guy told me, if you don’t change with the times, you get behind the times,” Clarence said.

Glenwood Transit has never gotten behind the times, but now the time has come to end the journey.