By Kelsie Hoitomt
DOWNING – O.K. Hedlund drove past an old barn on Highway 170 for years and he always wondered if inside it was housed a piece of history.
So one day he decided to stop at the home of David and Erika Sudbrink to look inside their barn and sure enough, an old wooden hay hoist that is believed to have been built in the 1930s hung in rafters.
It was O.K.’s father and uncle that started Hedlund Brothers on their farm north of Boyceville and that is where the “Little Giant” hoist was built.
In the Hedlund History book, it is quoted by M.R. Hedlund that;
“Dr. Kreblein, a veterinarian living near Downing (Sudbrink property) had been treating our stock a number of times. He knew how mechanical the fellows were. In 1938 he asked them (Hedlund Brothers) for a hay hoist that could be mounted in the hay loft with an electric motor. He had just received REA on his farm (Rural Electric Association).”
“The patent may have been about 1940 when they were in process of getting nine Hoists ready. They continued to design and build on the electric driver hoist. They had first worked on an assembly line in the old hog house for making the individual parts.”
O.K. said that he remembers being 11 or 12 years old and painting the wooden hay hoist frames in the stalls in the horse barn on the farm.
There were around 148 wooden hoists built at that time on the farm and it is believed that Dr. Kreblein’s was the first.
O.K. stated that there is no evidence that points to it being the first, but there is also no evidence that says it is not.
The hoist remains in almost perfect condition, minus a few cobwebs with the words “Hedlund Brothers-Little Giant” still readable after all these years.
As business began to grow, the Brothers moved into Boyceville and opened up Hedlund Manufacturing, which switched gears from wood products to steel.
“I can remember welding frames for the steel version of the hoist when in high school in 1946 and 47,” said O.K.
The Hedlunds’ made hoists for Olson Manufacturing in Albert Lea, Mn and those were painted red and sold under the Olson name. Hedlunds’ in turn sold their bale fork, which was popular item after the advent of the baler.
This product is stated to have been mainly responsible for the beginning of Hedlund Manufacturing, which first was located between Main Street and Tiffany and then later moved to the North not even a quarter mile up the road.