The Rahway teenager drove the Ford all over Union County, hauling fertilizer, coal and feed. He charged 50 cents a ton and soon saved enough to rent a warehouse off Central Avenue and opened a feed store.
"He would haul anything, anywhere, anytime," said his son, Leslie C. Bartell. "He was such a tremendously hard worker."
Mr. Bartell died in 2005 of cancer at age 89. Seventy-one years after Mr. Bartell founded it, Bartell Farm and Garden Supply on Central Avenue still caters to men who dirty their hands for a living.
Mr. Bartell worked regularly until eight months ago, coming in six days a week, wearing blue jeans and a feed cap. Over seven decades, he'd watched Central Avenue evolve from a dusty road lined with chicken farms and fruit trees to suburban though fare crowded with the likes of Target and Marshall's.
His son Leslie runs the store now, which boasts a second branch in Scotch Plains and about 25 employees. He said most business these days comes from grass seed and garden hoses, not manure and chicken feed.
But Bartell's remains a small town operation, where a neighbor can walk in with a blighted tomato plant and walk out with suggestions for a cure.
Mr. Bartell was born in December 1914, in a farmhouse heated by a wood-burning stove on Clark's Madison Hill Road. A pivy, the closest thing to plumbing, flanked a barn out back.
His parents were chicken farmers who emigrated from Germany. Mr. Bartell was the second of three children. By the time they were old enough to hold a bucket, the Bartell children were cleaning chicken coops.
When city bread lines formed, eggs became valuable. By the time he graduated Rahway High School, Mr. Bartell had sold enough to buy his first truck. He bought another a few years later, then opened his store in 1933.
Mr. Bartell was in his 20's when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Chickens saved him from the war.
His days in the family coops taught him to spot a sick hen immediately and with great accuracy. Separating infected chickens from flocks was a valuable skill during the days of food rationing. So while his contemporaries headed over seas, Uncle Sam asked Mr. Bartell to stay in Jersey and inspect poultry, his son said.
In 1942, he earned a pilot's license and joined the civil Air Patrol. Each weekend Mr. Bartell climbed into a biplane at Westfield Airport and soared above the coast, looking out for the Axis, his son said.
He remained an avid flier into his 40's.
Sometimes it got him in trouble, like the time he was arrested in Clark for swooping only 200 feet above town.
But sometimes flying came in handy; such as the time he went soaring after work and spotted burglars breaking into his shop.
It was flying that got him married.
A young woman named Doris Linaberry came out to a Warren County airport in 1942 to watch the flyboys landing on the tarmac.
Mr. Bartell introduced himself and the couple married shortly after. They moved to Scotch Plains in 1946 and raised 3 boys and a girl.
As housing developers chased farmers from Union County, Mr. Bartell adapted his business. Home gardening boomed after World War II, and Mr. Bartell stocked his shelves with canning supplies.
Later he switched to lawn mowers. The latest trend in artificial stone patio bricks.
He was active in the Rotary Club and was an American Red Cross chapter board member. Several years ago he launched a foundation that awards scholarships to three Clark high students each year.
Mr. Bartell was survived by his wife Doris who recently passed away in 2005, a daughter Marlene Nichols, three sons, Leslie C., Richard and Edward; 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
About Our CompanyWelcome to Bartell Farm and Garden Supply.
Bartell's has been faimily owned and operated for 84 years with service to the entire area.
We have a complete line of products and tools for Landscapers and Homeowners to get the job done.
We carry a full range of landscape and hardscape products including top of the line materials from Techo Bloc pavers and walls.
We have a small fleet of 8 dump trucks for all your delivery needs.
We have a retail store and a bulk division.(see link to bulk yard)
We are a authorized Techo Bloc center. We have a very large selection of pavers and retaining walls.
Come see are displays and get your Free brochure or click on the link. Techo Bloc is the leader when it comes to pavers and walls. The PSI(pounds per square inch) of Techo Bloc pavers consistently surpass industry standards.
Some of the products we carry:
mulch, rubber mulch, decorative stone, sand, weed matting, geotextile, grass seed, sod, natural wall stone, drain pipe and fittings, firewood, full line of garden tools, spreaders, wheelbarrows, fertilizers organic and non-organic, pavers and walls.