A Brief, Bright History


A Brief, Bright History

Moreland Trucks: Made in Burbank

By James Quinn, Los Angeles Times 1975

Burbank – In the giddy days of economic expansion in the 1920’s when every investment was expected to produce a windfall. Burbank’s industrial centerpiece was the Moreland Motor Truck Co.

Reflecting local pride in the city’s industrial giant, the Burbank review declared in 1920. “It has become common to hear people remark that a think is as strong as durable or as powerful as a Moreland Truck.”

The company founded in Los Angeles in 1911 by Watt Moreland, expanded into a $2 million, 27-acre plant at San Fernando Blvd and Alameda Ave. in 1920.

For nearly a decade, Moreland prospered in Burbank.

The local newspaper noted that Burbank-built trucks and buses were used throughout the world – even in the Bolivian Andes, where they proved to be the only vehicles capable of operating at such heights.

And the firm succeeded, the paper said, “in the face of the fiercest of eastern competition and …demonstrated that trucks and other automotive machinery can be made in the West as well as the East.”

It all came grinding to a halt, shortly after the Great Crash of 1929.

Mrs. Edith Jones, Moreland’s sister, recalls that within a few years of the crash, the plant was boarded up. Moreland retired to San Clemente and the Moreland brand began a slow trek to obscurity.

“Everyone still wanted trucks, but they didn’t want to pay for them, so my brother just went out of business,” recalls Mrs. Jones, a resident of Pacific Manor on Glenoaks Blvd.

Today a gas station and homes stand where the trucks and buses were once manufactured.

So complete was the departure of the company that Burbank Historical Society members had to dig into their files when a Moreland truck and bus were offered to them recently.

“I had never heard of the company,” said Mrs. Mary Jane Strickland, society president, “and I was certainly surprised to learn that the firm had been so large and well known.”

Businessmen Gordon Howard and Joseph Palma donated the bus and truck to the society saying they hoped the group would be able to restore them.

Palma and Howard, collectors of antique vehicles, had bought the truck and bus four years ago from Universal Studios, which had used them as props.

Society members, after mulling what to do with the gifts, decided to undertake restoration of the vehicles and to make them the symbol of Burbank parades and other events.

Both vehicles appear to be structurally sound, although both engines need overhauling and painting and detail work is sorely needed.

Of the two, the bus seems more likely to attract attention. it is square-shaped in the old-fashioned manner, has high fenders and a rear platform with a guardrail.

“We don’t know what the insurance restrictions will be,” Mrs. Strickland said, “but we hope that we can make the vehicles available to any group that will display them as part of a community event.”