LEWISBURG — Arthur Elliott turned 99 on Monday, July 13, but honors for the extraordinary man only came together for this weekend.
Members of a Model A Ford car club, The West Branch A’s, planned to visit Elliott today at his Lewisburg home. Bob Whitmoyer, Elliott’s grand nephew, said they would park and visit for a spell.
Elliott was no stranger to the Model A, or other things mechanical. His working life included employment on the home front during World War II, owning his own business and other pursuits.
Daughter Jeanne Elliott, now of Bettendorf, Iowa, said she’s listened through the years and tried to write down as much as she could about her dad. Among the facts she’s collected were that Elliott was the youngest of 13 children and grew up near Watsontown.
Elliott’s father was killed in an auto accident in 1936, leaving two older brothers to basically raise him. Jeanne said Uncle Fred and Uncle Myron looked after her dad and in a way prepared him for the world of work.
“They brought home Model ‘Ts’ and all that kind of stuff,” Jeanne said. “They all took them apart in the garage or the barn for stuff to do.”
Jeanne said from that her dad watched and developed an affinity for mechanical things, including vehicles and how they worked. His brothers watched what Elliott could do and called him “little contractor” as a young child.
“They would get in some pickle or something would be going on and they would say, ‘OK, ‘little con.’ How are you going to fix it?’” she recalled. “Even as a kid he was always patching stuff and fixing stuff up. He loved the old cars.”
Elliot went to work, Jeanne said, and worked on a railroad and at the Pennsylvania Ordnance Works (POW) in the Alvira area. The POW, which manufactured munitions, closed as the strategy to win the war shifted.
Jeanne said her dad’s next stop was in a Pittsburgh-area shipyard, where he helped build metal ammunition racks for the LST (Landing Ship, Tank). It wasn’t long before he was named foreman and was in charge of a diverse crew which Jeanne said was a source of humorous stories.
“He had convicts and lady welders, because that’s all there was to do the work,” Jeanne said. “Apparently that was incredibly fun to try and manage convicts and lady welders in the shipyard.”
Elliot’s stories about the WWII workforce also described how people from all over the country moved to where the work was. When the war ended and sheet metal was once again available for civilian use, Elliott founded a business in the Williamsport area.
“He went out on his own and started his own sheet metal company,” Jeanne said. “Originally it was Elliott Brothers Sheet Metal.”
Jeanne said the company completed contracts for Corning Glass, Stroehmann Bread, employed many local people and got a reputation for high standards.
“He made (employees) shape up,” Jeanne said. “They called it ‘the clean cut company,’ and boy if they didn’t do a good job.”
She credited her dad for doing inventive things like devising copper hoods for restaurants and other items which required out-of-the-box solutions.
Jeanne said her dad is doing well and only stopped driving when he was 95. He lives independently, mows his own grass on a riding mower and cooks for himself. Jeanne noted mom is no longer at home, having needed memory care in recent years.
Whitmoyer, of Bloomsburg, said his great uncle may be outdoors as the Model A Fords arrive. They plan to chat at a safe distance.
“He’s always been a car guy,” he said. “Quite an amazing guy really.”
Whitmoyer described how Elliott survived a hunting accident as a young man before the war.
“They told him he’d never walk again,” Whitmoyer said. “He proved them wrong. He knew he had to do something and started working for a half-hour, then 45 minutes then an hour. He eventually worked his way up to working 10 or 12 hours a day during the war.”
Years after being accidentally shot by an inexperienced fellow hunter, Whitmoyer said Elliott was part of a safety course for young hunters. He turned his misfortune into something to help other young hunters to hunt safely.
“He would put on long underwear under his trousers and circle in red on his legs where he had been shot,” Whitmoyer said. “During his presentation he would open his trousers and show the kids.”
Whitmoyer described Elliott as a practical man, to the extent that even though he stopped driving, he kept his vehicle and asks people to drive him when he needs to go somewhere.