Wooden trucks give local stamp

A line of trucks, including a camper, the Waterville Transfer Company Truck and the NAPA Auto Parts truck are parked close to the Waterville Auto Parts front door. (Provided photo/Braylen Bromiley)

 

By Karen Larsen
Empire Press Correspondent

The cement truck made by Wayne Rock displays the Waterville Shockers logo. (Provided Photo/Braylen Bromiley)

There are 6,000 NAPA Auto Parts stores in the U.S., and Waterville Auto Parts is one of these. Yet, Waterville Auto Parts has something very unique that cannot be found in any of the other stores. On a shelf around the whole edge of the store are displayed homemade wooden trucks of all kinds.

These trucks were made by lifetime Waterville resident Wayne Rock, who passed away in 1998. Rock made the trucks as a hobby and, through his friendship with former NAPA Parts Supply owner Ron Harrison, decided that the Napa store in Waterville was the right place to display them.

Since that time, the trucks have made their home at NAPA and are an attraction for many who know about them. The store has changed ownership three times since Harrison sold it, but the trucks stay a part of the store. According to Rock’s son, Scott Rock, this was very important to Rock and Harrison wrote it into the sales contract for the store when he sold it. It has stayed in the contract each time the store has changed hands.

Many of the trucks are miniatures of business rigs used by local companies, either past or present. These include Central Washington Grain Growers, Ken Kem Inc., Rock Steele Structures (owned by Scott Rock), Waterville Transfer Company, Jim Jess Implement, Douglas County PUD, Rock Trucking and many more. In addition to the detailed woodworking of the trucks, the painting on them makes them stand out in their likeness to the originals. Much of this painting was done by local graphic artist Kimberly Gormley, who had recently moved to Waterville when Rock was making the trucks.

A logging truck made by Wayne Rock comes with a full load of logs. (Provided photo/Braylen Bromiley)

Gormley said that someone told Rock that she could paint and soon he called to say he had a truck and wondered if she could paint it.

“I did another and another and another,” Gormley said.

When Rock brought the trucks by he would tell Gormley what they were supposed to be and she would gather the information she needed to get them painted accurately. One truck that took a special effort was the Waterville Transfer Company truck. The business was no longer operating at the time, and Rock directed Gormley to a junk pile where an old one had been left. She said she went and took photos of it and then came back to copy the design onto the wooden truck.

Rock got the ideas for his trucks from what he saw around him. Scott Rock said that one day his dad was sitting down with his friends at a main street café enjoying coffee. He noticed a PUD truck drive past with a transformer on the back. He jumped into his pickup truck and followed the PUD truck until it stopped. Then he got out and had a good look at it. Rock said that his dad never used a camera — he just absorbed the details of the truck. Then he went home and got started on his replica.

Wayne Rock was a local wheat farmer and also worked in the blacksmith shop in town as a welder. In addition to making the trucks, he made a good deal of wooden furniture. The podium in the Waterville Town Hall council chambers and a cabinet that holds maps and drawings were both made by Rock. He was the one who built the restroom in Pioneer Park, which he built through donations and a minimal fee he charged the town.

Waterville Mayor Royal DeVaney, who was a good friend of Rock, said that Rock was always helping the town. DeVaney said he sometimes went over to Rock’s shop and just watched him work.

“He had a knack for doing that kind of thing and he enjoyed doing it,” DeVaney said of the woodwork.

Scott Rock said that much of the furniture that he and his wife, Shannon, have in their home today was built by his dad. One thing he does not have from his dad is a truck. During the last three months of Wayne Rock’s life, Rock moved in with him to take care of him. One evening during this period, the two were sitting on the porch and Rock approached his dad about the “Rock Steele Structures” truck, asking if he might have it for his office.

His dad answered, “Those trucks stay together.”

Rock ventured one more time, and got a less than courteous answer.

“I granted his wish. I never touched those trucks,” Rock said.

Rock told the story to his friend and business partner Jeff Zollman and Zollman went to Wayne Rock’s shop and scrounged parts to build a Rock Steele Structures truck. Then he brought the truck to the Rock Steele Structures office as a surprise for Rock.

“I still have a truck to remember Dad and Jeff with,” Rock said.

Rock added that his dad made two of most of the trucks that are displayed in the store and gave one to someone else, but for whatever reason he didn’t give those to his kids. He gave them the furniture.

Gary Mullendore, current owner of Waterville Auto Parts, said that some people come to Waterville, sometimes repeatedly, just to see the trucks.

“They’re quite the conversation piece,” Mullendore said.