Clyde Machines 50 Years Old

Clyde Machines began in 1967

In a 1967 Pope County Tribune article, Clyde Olson was asked "What had made Clyde Machines a success?" The 49 - year - old, soft spoken Glenwood businessman replied, "I suppose you might say it's because we satisfy a need in the industry and come up with something that no one has thought of before."

Born in Windom, Minn. in 1918, Clyde lived with his family and later they farmed near St. Cloud before moving to Edgeley, N.D. in 1925. There he grew up and worked on his father's farm. In 1941 he started farming himself and was married to his wife Edna. But farming did not satisfy his facile brain, and in the early 50s he sold his farm and moved to Minneapolis where he founded Tru-Air, manufacturing tractor skis, bale stackers and air filtration umbrellas.

By 1959 he had worked developing several new products and left Minneapolis to join the Melrose Corp. in Gwinner, N.D., where he was in charge of their engineering and design department. It is here he made a major name for himself as he was the principal designer in the perfection of the Melroe Bobcat. His prototype was the basis for today's internationally renowned Bobcats.

In 1961, Clyde Olson and his family were lured to Glenwood by the newly founded Glenwood Development Corp. and its president W.C. (Wally) Ogdahl. In the Dec. 7, 1961 ad ran "Come One, Come All" to the appreciation Open House for Clyde Machines, which was then housed in the old Wittwer water plant, just east of the fish hatchery.

In the early years, the principal products were farm equipment transports, self propelled swathers, and over the road trailers for self propelled combines. Later additions included the Clyde hydraulic tamping machine, used by numerous public utility companies, and the Clyde reciprocating hydraulic motor. Clyde was also actively involved with another of Glenwood's earliest manufacturing ventures, Glenwood Manufacturing Corp. Like Clyde's, it was a product of the Glenwood Development's efforts to bring industry, jobs and progress to the Glenwood economy. His involvement there was primarily in the perfection of the Gyro drive mechanism being manufactured at GMC.

A 1967 Minneapolis Star Tribune article noted that "Olson was a thinker... a man who can't help inventing things." By that time Clyde's was building airline baggage carts, commissary trucks and aircraft towbars. By November of 1966 ground was broken for a new 12,400 square-foot building on Highway 55. The expanding business was producing baggage carts for Northwest Airlines and towbars for both Northwest Airlines and Western Airlines. In March of 1967, the first commissary truck was shipped to Northwest Airlines in Seattle, Wash. By May they were manufacturing not only the standard 14-foot model commissary truck, but a 22-foot model as well.

In 1969, the firm was now making 26-foot baggage container loaders, capable of lifting 6,000 pounds to a height of 11 feet. These new and innovative models allowed the industry to now load baggage in a container, then place it on the loader and lift it directly into the airplanes. Units were shipped to Tokyo, Saigon, Alaska, Hong Kong and all the major terminals in the United States. Clyde was awarded a patent for the loader in 1972.

In July of 1971 the Pope County Tribune proudly announced "Clyde Machines to triple building size." With an additional 41,660 square-feet, the new addition "will primarily be used for manufacturing airline ground support equipment." One week later in the July 29 issue, the headline read, "Clyde Machines head dies at 53." Founder, president and patriarch, Clyde Olson had passed away. After years of fighting cancer, Clyde died at home, where he had run the company from his bed for several months.

In the many years since Clyde's passing, the name Clyde Machines has stretched from not only all over the United States but worldwide. Clyde is the exclusive builder of Trump wing deicers for aircraft manufactured by Boeing, McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed. The Clyde towbar, the "Cadillac" of the industry was now used on Air Force One. Work was being farmed out to numerous other newly started Glenwood area shops. By 1977, Clyde's was making snorkel boom units, cargo and baggage carts, towbars, portable water and lavatory service units, maintenance and work stands, and wheel and brake changers which were being shipped all over the world.

The national economic malaise of the early 1980s hit the airline industry especially hard. But from this economic recession, Clyde's became more diversified and looked to the future with great promise and took the challenge head on. Locally owned, managed and operated for 50 years, Clyde's has always been low key, not one to brag and has taken the good with the bad. Thanks to their dedicated work force, many who have been with them for their entire careers and some who had left only to return and be a part of one of Glenwood's oldest and longest running family owned and operated businesses, Clyde's is now operating in the 21st Century with third generation input and an eye on the future.

Clyde Olson, the man who could not keep from inventing things would be very proud. For after 50 years, the company he founded is alive and well. The company with local roots and small town ideals is making "new things that the industry needs and other people have not thought of."

Contributed by Jennifer Barsness, President and CEO of Clyde Machines

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