The Cambridge and Hiatt popcorn wagon that appears on the cover of the November/December 2013 issue of Vintage Truck magazine once spent afternoons and weekends parked outside the Sears, Roebuck and Company Department Store on Union Avenue in Portland, Oregon, before falling into disrepair. Now, thanks to the efforts of owner Gary Lukehart, the truck has a new life feeding the hungry truck and car show crowds of Washington state.
What else is in this issue?
- Dodge Revival – A Restoration Saga
- 12th Annual Vintage Truck Show
- 1967 Chevrolet C-30 Stepside
- 1955 Studebaker E13
- Saviano Cargo and Touring
- Delivery Designs – Deliveries in Anderson, Indiana, Part 1
- Chevy Talk – 1949 3800 Deluxe
- Triple Diamond Treatise – Service Letters from the 1960s
- Wagon Wheels – 1940 Bantam station wagon
- Tech Tips – Ready to Roll
- Notes from the Corrosion Lab – Silica Sand and Sandblasting Part 1, Health Dangers
- Tailgate Talk – Minor collision
Pop, Pop, Fizz
Cambridge and Hiatt Popcorn Wagon
By Patrick Ertel
Just after World War II, Gary Lukehart’s father bought a Cushman scooter for 12-year-old Gary and his brother, Roger. The Cushman was not a toy for the boys. Their dad bought it so they could contribute to the family income. They put a Coca-Cola cooler on the back, and for four or five summers traveled to orchards and construction sites in the San Jose area selling Cokes for ten cents apiece. They had the first mobile food service in the area—with a very limited menu. It was a good experience for the boys and a source of fond memories, as well as an education in entrepreneurship.
Years later, Roger bought a scooter like the one they had used in the 1940s and sent it to Gary. Gary restored that one and then bought and restored two more. “I painted one with a Nesbitt soda logo and one with a Yakima City Creamery ice cream logo,” said Gary. “I want to build a Squirt or 7-Up scooter too. I think a green one would look really good in my collection.”
When a Cambridge and Hiatt popcorn wagon came up for sale in 1995, it fit right into Gary’s growing collection, so he bought it. “It didn’t run real well, and the paint was kind of bad, but it was all there,” said Gary. The owners had parked it in a barn in the 1950s, and their neighbor acquired it and sold it to Gary.
The wagon is based on a 1939 Dodge half-ton cowl and chassis. A tag on the side of the truck indicates that Cambridge and Hiatt manufactured this wagon in Portland, Oregon. Records of the company’s history or other activities could not be found. In its heyday, the popcorn wagon spent most afternoons and weekends outside the Sears, Roebuck and Company Department Store on Union Avenue in Portland, selling popcorn to pedestrians and thoroughfare traffic.
“I didn’t buy it for commercial purposes or to restore it as a show truck. I like to go to car shows, and I thought my kids could use it at the shows and make a little money like my brother and I did in the ’40s. When you’re a kid, it’s nice to make $20 or $50 in a weekend.”
The truck originally had a propane burner for the popper and propane lighting, but Gary thought that was too dangerous for children to use, so he converted it to electric operation.
“For me it was something fun to do with the kids. They like it and it’s good for them to learn to work with the public, make change, and be responsible. We went to different car shows, and my kids popped popcorn for years. They really liked running the truck from about age eight, when they were old enough to make change, to about fourteen or so. Then they seemed to lose interest in selling popcorn. When they were old enough, my grandchildren took over and ran the truck. Now they’re about grown. I’m running out of kids and grandkids, so I’m going to have to rely on great-grandkids now.”