The Cantlay & Tanzola and Western Gillette Motor Freight Story

Ran across this cool article on Western Gillette Motor Freight and Cantlay & Tanzola in an old issue of The Lufkin Line, the newsletter from Lufkin Trailer Corp. You can read the whole issue in PDF form here >

Back in 1922, two native Californians-one of Scottish parents, the other of Italian an­cestry-formed a partnership in a dump truck business. Today, 43 years later, this business is now one of the larger firms in the United States. Diversification has almost eclipsed the original Cantlay & Tanzola business, which was hauling sand and gravel during the early Los Angeles boom. They started their partnership on credit, buying 15 small General Motors dump trucks. But soon, they were out of debt and the fleet grew to 26 units. In 1929, Cantlay & Tanzola added tank trucks to move petroleum products.

Next, they bought cattle trucks and freighted cat­tle from inland ranches as far north as Idaho to markets on the coast. In 1937, Cantlay & Tanzola purchased Western Truck Lines, Ltd., and opened their first large general commodity terminal in Los Angeles. Two years later they purchased Inde­pendent Freight Lines. In 1956, they expanded to Dallas with the acquisition of Gillette Motor Transport.

At this time, they established the name Western Gillette for the common carrier business. Tank truck operations remained Cantlay & Tanzola. In 1960, Vos Truck Lines was added, extending operating authority into Chicago, St. Louis and Memphis. Joe Tanzola, who was president of the company, died in 1962, and Richard Cantlay became presi­dent.

These new Lufkin Doubles are part of 10 sets to join Western Gillette’s fleet at near-by Camp Roberts.

Dick Cantlay’s four sons had been working for years during school holidays, and vacations. Starting by shoving freight on loading docks, cleaning cattle trucks, pushing off ice pencils, the boys had been groomed thoroughly by their me­thodical father for the task of continuing in the family business. Donald had interrupted college at Loyola Uni­verity in Los Angeles for Army service in World War II. He returned to finish college, and then went back to Western Gillette on a full-time basis and was assigned to system-wide operations. Richard, Jr., like his brother, a graduate of both Loyola High School and Loyola University, had smashed both knees playing college football. He talked his way into the Army and basic training.

Assigned to armored artillery at Camp Campbell, he jumped off a half-track and the knees went AWOL. After a month in hospital under traction and with a medical dis­charge, young Dick returned to the firm in time to take over the vital wartime chore of handling tank truck operations of Cantlay & Tanzola division. Gordon seemed to have cams and gears instead of fingers and toes. Fascinated by the big power units in the fleet, he had long before asked to work only in the maintenance shops at Los Angeles ter­minal. Since then, his only time out has been three years with the Army in the Pacific. Glenn, the youngest, had the same training as his brothers. After graduation from the University of Southern California, he was assigned to the San Francisco Bay Area as a salesman.

This training period was complete, and the boys were old hands when full responsibility fell on their father. Richard, Sr. held the reins lightly and let the second generation test its own strength. Sat­isfied that the boys had matured into responsible adults, he stepped up to Chairman of the Board and Donald became President. Glenn continued in sales as Vice President; Richard, J r. headed up the tank truck operation of Cantlay & Tanzola as Vice President, and Gordon supervised one of thc largest and most complete fleet maintenance sys­tems.

Joe Tanzola had no sons, hut daughter Virginia married Thomas F. Rafael, and he is Vice Presi­dent-Treasurer of Western Gillette. Another Tan­zola in the business is Joe’s much younger brother, Dave, who stands between the two generations and carries on as Vice President of National Accounts.
Richard, Sr. died in 1964.

From a baby company with a balance sheet of determination and energy for assets, and heavy accounts payable of equipment and payroll for lia­bilities, Western Gillette grossed more than $28 Million in 1962, over $31 Million in 1963, and more than $34:Y2 Million in 1964. Last year’s equipment expenditures included over $1:1f2 Million for over-the-road tractors. Nearly as large an amount has been spent this year on replacement tractors, heavy trucks, trailers and vans.

The second generation grew up hearing Joe Tan­zola and Richard Cantlay insist: “Give your cus­tomer the very best service you can today, but he sure you improve it before tomorrow.” Lufkin is proud to number Western Gillette among its friends and customers.

Western Gillette Motor Freight 1956 Vintage Men’s T-Shirt

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