Jr. 444 S. Olds Avenue Hartford, Michigan 49057-1355
David Friday was a June 1934 graduate of Michigan State University and met his wife, Beverly, there. Dave, with a degree in horticulture, moved to a farm south of Hartford, Michigan, that belonged to his late father, George Friday. Dave farmed with his father.
Behind Dave's house was a small garage that he quickly converted into a repair shop for both families. He soon saw a need for a bigger shop, so he put up another building and bought the 80acre farm from his father.
At this point, Dave remembered that his professor at Michigan State built a welder out of a transformer, so Dave, at first, built welders himself out of old transformers. Also, seeing a need for a tractor that he could afford, he built the first 'doodle bug' tractor out of a model B motor, a Ford truck rear-end, a truck frame with an old Fordson radiator and gas tank and the first FRIDAY TRACTOR was born.
Other farmers seeing them, of course, wanted one also. Mr. Bob Weber, a friend of mine, has the only Weber Special Doodlebug Tractor. It was sold to his late father and has a hand-cast brass tag on the radiator that says 'Weber Special made by David Friday, of Hartford, Michigan.' He also has another Friday Doodlebug tractor he bought locally, years before, for $20.00. He overhauled the motor and put a 'lift-truck' on the rear-end and uses it on his large fruit farm, as it's the only lift-truck that he has.
At the same time, Dave taught welding school using the homemade welder. In 1947, Dave bought out Love Tractor, design and components from the late Jacob Love of Eau Claire, Michigan. Dave called it the Friday Tractor, with Chrysler industrial engine, six cylinder, with Dodge truck, 5-speed transmission and rear-end with two-speed. All of this gave you 10 speeds forward and two in reverse. Later on Dave also made a Friday tractor with a bigger motor, also IND 32 with rear gears, reduction boxes and bigger rear tires. The IND 30 would travel on the highway at 60-plus miles per hour. Note the picture of me on my Friday Tractor at the Friday Tractor Factory. Mine was the first one built in 1951, with serial #01-51, and was sold to the late Ed Spiess of Rock Island, Illinois. These tractors were very powerful. A lot of farmers had farms several miles apart and they could travel more quickly to the other farms for spraying or other field work. From 1948 on, Friday only used Chrysler motors and never made a lift-truck out of these tractors, they were after-market installed.
Dave had a large fruit farm and raised, among other things, strawberries and asparagus. In shortage of help, he built a power-hoe, a small tractor, 9.2 horsepower, Wisconsin motor and a small Crosley type transmission and motor on the rear-end. You sit very close to the ground, steering with your feet, using your hands to move the hoe back and forth, thus the 'Wiggle-Hoe' was born. It had hydraulic cultivators, with a fertilizer attachment. You could work one acre of strawberries in one hour, with just one man. It also had a hand clutch and brakes. Some of these wiggle-hoes were also converted to pick asparagus, by adding one or two seats out each side with a metal frame to hold old beer lugs or crates to put the asparagus into, and you could travel at a steady speed.
Dave made a lot of cost-saving machinery, including a straw spreader, used to put straw down between the strawberry rows. You will also see the picture of the tiller made out of a Friday tractor drive-train, with a Seaman tiller on it. Dave was also a Seaman Tiller dealer.
As his wife has stated, the backyard was full of Dave's inventions as well as a few failures. She stated that he would dream at night and the next day he would start on a new project. But in 1960 the farm situation got a lot worse, and at the urging of family and friends, and the Michigan State University U.S.D.A. engineers, Dave began experimenting with a method of harvesting tart cherries more economically and faster. Thus was born the 'Cherry Shaker,' the first one ever built. It was driven by a Wisconsin motor, hydraulic pump for driving it and also shaking the cherry trees, made in two pieces and both with four wheels. It had shaker frames to pull up on both sides of the tree. The hydraulic shaker would shake each large limb of the tree, the cherries would fall from the tree onto a canvas frame, and then move up a hydraulic conveyor to a tank full of very cold water. Then Dave decided that he could design a better one that had a hydraulic arm to grab the tree trunk and shake the entire tree in about 30 seconds. With just one man to drive the fork lift, again cutting costs, the filled tank was usually loaded onto a semi-truck that soon left the field for a processing plant.
Dave shipped parts to several foreign countries. He also shipped one Friday IND 30 tractor with turf tires to South Africa. He had an order to ship twelve tractors, but there was a problem with the South African government, so he only shipped one tractor. Dave also had an air strip on his farm and would often fly parts to farmers. He was a member of the Flying Farmers Association. His plane had the same numbers on it as that of Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis.
The first Friday tractor (new style) was made in 1948 and the last one was made in 1959, but Friday Tractor still made lift trucks, pruning equipment, and a small crawler tractor similar to a Caterpillar tractor, with a Honda motor on the rear, rubber track and a platform on the front. Friday Tractor closed in 1993. David Friday died April 26, 1988 at the age of 79. His son, Phillip Friday, and grandson, George Friday, still make the crawlers and the hydraulic pruning towers, but have since changed the name to Special 'T' Farm Equipment, Inc., and they are both very busy still farming three farms with fruit and grain.
I have talked with several of the old and original employees of Friday Tractor, including the Weldy brothers, Jim 'Doc' Owens, and Elmer DeMay, all of whom spent over 30 years working for Dave in the tractor business. Lendall Carlisle had worked there 43 years, twenty of those years as shop manager.
I was invited into the home of Beverly Friday (Dave's wife), and spent a couple of hours looking at several picture albums of the Friday family and business. Our family and the Fridays have been friends for about 50 years. Mrs. Friday lives in the same house at the farm and plant, and it is well over 100 years old. Dave also loved old cars and at one point had seven.
Included in Dave's collection was a strange pickup truck. He went to a local Ford dealer and bought a 1954 Ford Sedan Delivery and told the body man, John Main, Sr., to make a pickup to ride like a car. John took the Ford Sedan Delivery top off and halfway down both sides, and he told me it took three F100 Ford pickup cabs to build the back of the cab because the back window was 52 inches wide.
When the truck was completed, Dave took a load of strawberries to the Benton Harbor Fruit Market. Everyone was so amazed to see the pickup and they wanted to know all about it. The Ford dealer called the Ford Motor Company and they sent two men down for two days to look it over and to drive it. They told Dave they would put it in the Ford Times, a Ford magazine, but they never did. Dave was also told that Ford would pay for all blueprint expenses, but that never happened, either. No money ever changed hands. However, one-and-a-half years later the Ford Ranchero was born, thanks to John Main, Sr. Also notice, the tailgate was made at Friday Tractor Factory.
If you are interested in more information, please send an self-addressed, stamped envelope to me.
Jack Closson, Lincoln Welder dealer and supplier, was a very good friend of Dave Friday and his friend Jerry Wilson. They got together and decided they wanted an easier life than farming had to offer, so they began to build tractors. They built a Friday-Love style with a Chrysler IND 30, six-cylinder motor and a Dodge truck transmission and truck rear end. It had the same hood and fenders, but a different dash panel on it. Jack's cousin, Gordon Closson, and his nephew, Don Closson, told me that sitting side by side most people could not tell the difference in the tractors. I have found three of them, one in Coloma, Michigan, one in Mishawaka, Indiana, in a junk yard, and the third one is out of state. They all had friends at Ross Carrier Company in Benton Harbor, and he thinks that the hoods were made there and that the fenders came from Gladden Glass, both now out of business. The three men bought motors, rear-ends and transmissions through them, and they were also painted with Ross Carrier Yellow. They made about 30 of them. Paul Retz says that his is red now, but was yellow at one time. It looks like a lot of transmissions and rear-ends came out of Ross Carrier (and Bradley Tractor Company) for Parrett and Kaywood tractors, and Chrysler parts for Closson-Wilson. Some call them Wilson, but the cousin, Gordon Closson, says it depends who sold it because some called it a Closson tractor.
For more information on these local-made tractors, please send an self-addressed, stamped envelope to Robert Hall, Jr.