Looking for scales both large and small

Published 11:45 am Friday, June 26, 2009

This column is not about the scales found on fish, scales involving music, scaling a ladder or rating something from one to 10, but is based on the scales used to weigh things or people.

In one of my previous columns I commented about the lack of scales available for folks to check on their personal weight. Now, with the AARP/Blue Zone campaign in progress, this weight factor should be something worthy of attention. I fully realize many folks have small scale units in their homes and there are scales at the Albert Lea Medical Center and at HealthReach. Yet, there doesn’t seem to be any scales available for public (people) use. The last scale of this type I recall seeing and using was in a pharmacy that’s now closed.

By the way, does anyone out there in readerland recall the scales at various stores and locations where folks could insert coins and receive small cards with their weights plus predictions regarding their personal fortunes?

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There are scales of various sizes available for use by consumers (customers), retail firms and food processors for weighing purposes. Then there are the really large scales, like those used to weigh trucks and/or trailers filled with grain, steel and other commodities. And that type of large scale is going to be the focus for the rest of this column.

About three decades ago I was the purchasing agent, among other assignments, at Olson Manufacturing Co. The firm purchased angle iron and steel tubing in large quantities to be converted into barn equipment, picnic table frames, pen work and cattle stalls. This steel was sent to Albert Lea on flatbed trailers and purchased by the ton.

When a load of angle iron, for example, arrived at the South Broadway Avenue location, I would get in the cab with the driver. Then I would direct him to go over to Washington Avenue and go north to West Clark Street, There we turned left. Just before the railroad crossing, I would tell the driver to go left into the alley next to the building that’s now the Joyce Matthies Dance Studio. In those days a sign next to the sidewalk and this building identified the glorified alley as Market Street.

At the other end of this alley was the Albert Lea Elevator, or what was once called the West Side Elevator, located just north of the West Main Street viaduct. The driver moved his long rig up onto the scale. After the scale’s operator recorded the weight, he would signal for us to pull off the scale. Then I directed the truck driver on the route back to the Olson plant where the unloading of the steel soon took place.

When the unloading was completed, I would go back to the grain elevator with the driver and his rig. The routing and weighing process would be repeated. Then I paid the scale’s operator and received a slip of paper with both weights recorded. The driver gave me a ride back to Olson’s and went on to make his next delivery.

The difference between the first and second weights at the elevator was supposed to indicate the amount of steel sold and delivered to Olson Mfg. Co. In other words, if five tons of angle iron were ordered, then the difference between the two weights had better be darn close to 10,000 pounds.

We’ll continue this topic in the next column with information about the county’s missing truck scales and how truck drivers tried to avoid roadside scales down in Iowa.

Meanwhile, we’re looking for a few suggestions for articles, both historical and current, from our readers,. If the suggested topic has photo possibilities, old or new, then it could become a Sunday feature. The alternative could be a Friday column. Call me at 379- 3438 and let’s see what evolves.

Ed Shannon’s column has been appearing in the Tribune every Friday since December 1984.