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January 4, 2016 2:00 PM, EST
Man Behind Mack Trucks' Museum Plans to Call it a Career After 58 Years
Brockway model 152W44 (1947) at the Mack Truck Historical Museum (Wikimedia Commons)

Don Schumaker was working in the shop of Sheesley Supply Co.'s batch plant in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in December 1957 as the ready-mix concrete outfit headed into the cold, sluggish winter months.

So, unsurprisingly, on Dec. 10, 1957, Schumaker and two other shop crew members were laid off. But, company officials told the three men, they had friends at Mack Trucks' test lab. Why don't they interview at Mack and try to work there temporarily — at least until Sheesley could bring them back?

"On Dec. 12, I went to Mack and stayed there," said Schumaker, of Orefield, Pennsylvania.

That's not an exaggeration. Sheesley was the last company Schumaker worked for that wasn't Mack. Schumaker, who turned 80 on Dec. 22, has been with Mack Trucks for 58 years — more than half of the truck manufacturer's storied history.

He's still there today as the curator emeritus of the Mack Trucks Historical Museum in Allentown. Schumaker is now in the process of retiring, though he isn't ready to commit to an official date.

VIDEO: Schumaker talks about his career

Because of health issues, he is logging about 15 hours a week at the museum. Schumaker still has some tasks he wants to complete, including transferring some of his extensive knowledge and experience to those coming onboard now. He may even get up to 20 hours a week before retiring sometime in the middle of 2016 — maybe.

He's tried to retire from Mack before.

After joining Mack as a test lab mechanic in December 1957, Schumaker advanced through a number of positions within the lab. Over the years, he took several college courses from various area universities, culminating with a bachelor's degree in engineering from Lafayette College in 1987.

His education helped him move up the ladder at Mack Trucks, and he held the position of manager of vehicle performance until his retirement in 1995 after 38 years with the company.

Schumaker stayed retired for about six months. "I was done painting all the walls in the house," he joked.

So he joined the Mack Trucks Historical Museum staff in June 1996. He was later named co-curator in 1997 and curator in 2008. Now, he's been dubbed curator emeritus.

Schumaker, who always has been fascinated by machinery, is quick to deflect attention from himself and onto the Mack brand he's helped promote for so many years. How would Schumaker approach a feature story about himself?

"Just say what's-his-name is retiring," he advised.

But the reality is, colleagues say, Schumaker's knowledge of and commitment to Mack is tough to match.

Stephen Roy, president of Mack Trucks North America, called Schumaker a "true ambassador for Mack" and someone who made "significant contributions to protecting and promoting the history of Mack Trucks."

Wade Watson, vice president and general manager of Mack Trucks Lehigh Valley Operations, said Schumaker is "one of the staples of the Mack brand" who has done a "fantastic job" of sharing the company's history with the public.

Doug Maney, who was hired as museum administrator in May and started as curator in October, said he's learned much from Schumaker, though it's a "small fraction of what the man knows."

"There is no way to fill his shoes," said Maney, 46. "There's no way to learn everything that man has built up knowledge-wise."

The American Truck Historical Society also reached that conclusion in 2015. Schumaker received the organization's Historian of the Industry Award on May 29 in York. "Mack and Allentown — they are the only thing I know," Schumaker said when he received the award.

As for what a curator does, Schumaker said, "You do what needs to be done." He said the America on Wheels museum in Allentown called him one day, asking for Mack's job description for a curator. "That doesn't exist," Schumaker replied.

But if he had to break it down, Schumaker said a curator is responsible for the daily activities of the museum, which include accommodating tours, managing the displays and exhibits, and satisfying requests for information by using the facility's extensive archives.

For example, within the past 10 years, Schumaker said the museum received an e-mail from the descendants of a Swedish man who worked at Mack during its early days. Schumaker was able to find the man's name in a ledger and inform the family that he was paid around $43 a week and was a supervisor in the machining area. In return, the family sent photos the man took while he worked for Mack in Allentown.

"We have a lot of relationships like that around the world," Schumaker said. He added the Mack museum is fortunate in that it always has a backlog of information requests.

More than 9,000 people visited the museum in 2015.

When he finally does decide to retire, Schumaker said he has a garage full of trucks and parts to consume his time. Schumaker has a Mack ED pickup truck completed, but he has another one, a Mack EE model, in need of some work.

Schumaker also said he enjoys spending time with his family, woodworking, dancing and golf, though he hasn't had a club in his hand for three years.

And, even in retirement, Schumaker said he won't be a stranger at the Mack museum.

"I don't know what else I would have rather done with my life," Schumaker said. "I still don't look at it as work. To be a part of one of the most recognized trucking names in the world and for such a significant period of time of its existence, I feel privileged."