In October 1944, during World War II, when toys were hard to get and even wood to make toys was scarce, truck driver Earl Topham found an old railroad tie on the salt flats in Nevada, took it home and carved it into a semi-trailer truck for his son, Barry's, Christmas gift.
Topham used no power tools, only a jackknife, a brace and bit and a mallet and chisel, to make the nearly 40-inch-long scale model of a PIE truck and trailer. He cut the limb off a box elder tree and carved 18 wheels for the toy and an extra one for a spare he put beneath the trailer.Barry was 2 then, and through the years he and his friends and his two brothers, Kent and Shane, and two sisters, Jeralynn and Sue, played with the truck until it was worn and battered.
So Topham, 2476 E. 3080 South, restored the toy in 1969. The bright red and black lettering, originally applied by Carl Schmidt of Schmidt Signs, who did all of PIE's truck lettering, was a bit dingy, so Topham touched it up. He fixed the dings and dents in the wooden toy and painted it all over, red with black trim for the truck and silver for the trailer.
Barry's children and their friends played with the toy for years and, recently, Topham noticed it needed another freshening up, so he restored it a second time. Schmidt had died, but his son, Walter Schmidt, at the sign company restored the lettering to like-new condition and Topham again fixed broken pieces and replaced missing parts until the toy looked brand new.
Topham, 72, a PIE truck driver for 38 years, has retired after driving more than 3 million miles. He and his wife, Wilma, 70, have 19 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. They all consider the truck and trailer a family treasure.
Barry, who is a physician in Holladay, plans to retire the truck and put it on the mantel in his home.