Frank Russell was born in 1913 in Vernon, Texas. Frank quit school in 8th grade and joined the circus to provide for his Mother, Mae and two younger brothers, Ross and Curry Wallace (known as “CW” or “Dub”). Frank returned home in 1932 after a few years on the road and was employed by Mike Wilkinson where he learned the blacksmith trade. Frank migrated to Shafter, California in 1935 with $247 in his pocket and began working for Al Nikkel Iron Works.
In 1936 a partnership was formed with Bill Isaacs. The original Isaacs and Russell shop was located where the Shafter Historical Society Railroad Depot and Museum are located today. Bill and Frank built and repaired potato diggers and other implements for farm use. In the summer of 1939 the partnership with Isaacs was dissolved.
The same year Frank Russell purchased property and constructed his new shop in downtown Shafter. The original construction now houses the retail agriculture and industrial hardware store. Frank married Luella Klassen in 1941. The same year the Main shop building was constructed and Frank and Luella gave birth to a son, Jim. In 1945 another building addition, and also a daughter, Pat was added to the family. In 1951 another building project was completed and the family was also completed with the birth of Andy.
Over the years Frank sold Goodyear Tires, Oliver Tractors, Oliver Iron Age Potato Planters, McConnell Potato Planters, Schmeiser Til n Paks, Noffsinger Potato Chain, Russell Rolovators and Russell Cotton Trailers. Thousands of Russell 30 ft. and 35 ft. Cotton Trailers were built in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. 1975 was the single largest production year with 575 units.
In 1971 Frank and Luella’s daughter, Pat and three grandsons were killed in an auto accident in Madison, Wisconsin, where Pat’s husband, Mark Shore was a minister. In the early 70’s, Andy Russell began managing the retail hardware division. 1980 was the last year Russell Cotton trailers were produced. Frank and Luella enjoyed Morro Bay and golfing together. They were founding members of the Laurel Glen Bible Church in Bakersfield.
Frank and Luella traveled to Navajoa, Sonora, Mexico each year to hunt white wing doves while Luella conducted Bible studies with the local women. Luella went home with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in April 6, 1996. Frank went home with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ September 26, 2001. Andy Russell continues to manage the company and has recently been joined by his Son, Cody following graduation from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2004.
The company’s mission will be to continue providing the utmost quality of service for our diverse customer base and ever-changing technologies.