It all started with a little red truck.
With a single truck and a handful of linemen, Penn Line gets its start in the wake of the Great Depression building lines for the Bell Telephone Company. Grinding hard work is the order of the day as linemen dig five-foot holes and set 100-pound poles by hand.
At the start of the post-war industrial boom, Robert S. Reese, known fondly as “Pappy,” becomes a partner in the young company, bringing tree trimming and right-of-way clearing to the business mix. Known for insisting that the Company achieve success through “fair dealing and good work,” Reese leaves an indelible mark on the organization as its Chairman and CEO for some 30 years.
The same year, Dodge introduces its Power Wagon, a civilian version of the light cargo military trucks produced for the Army during World War II. Advertised as a “self-propelled power plant,” the Power Wagon goes on to become the workhorse of the fleet and a lasting, iconic symbol of the Company’s beginnings.
With chainsaws still too “newfangled” and pricey to be in wide use, crews trim trees and clear overgrown brush using cross cut saws, bucksaws and axes. The average laborer earns 77¢ an hour. Bus and train fare for traveling workers are routine entries on the Company’s general ledger.
Penn Line Service is incorporated in Pennsylvania, and holds its first annual meeting of shareholders on December 4, 1953.
Penn Line rides a wave of construction created by the post-war Federal Aid Highway Act which authorizes the creation of some 41,000 miles of highways across America. The interstate boom spurs the beginning of the Company’s roadside seeding operations, which ultimately grow to include other core highway activities.