Like virtually all University of Oregon alumni, my oldest nephew, Adam Oblack, is a pretty determined Duck. That determination probably explains why, come game day, you just might see Adam behind the wheel of a lemon-and-emerald '67 Chevy pickup we fondly call the Duck Truck.
If you see him, throw him an "O." And remember this story of how Adam and his wife, Caroline (Reidlinger) Oblack '00 (pictured), came to be the proud owners of this special truck. It's an adventure that stretches back 47 years, through three generations and across the country.
The year was 1967. Adam's grandfather, Albin Oblack, needed a truck for the family farm in Molalla, Oregon. A dealership in nearby Woodburn had a new, light-blue-and-ivory Chevrolet long-bed pickup. The truck was perfect for the farm, easily hauling produce plus kids and friends. Over time, though, the kids grew up, the demand for hauling slowed down, and Grandpa no longer needed the truck.
Albin's son, Bob, thought he could make good use of the trusty Chevy. Bob, his wife Alice, and their young son Adam—my nephew—lived in Everett, Washington. So north the truck went. The truck wasn't far away on August 1, 1998, when Adam married his Molalla High School sweetheart, Caroline Reidlinger.
Adam and Caroline enrolled at the University of Oregon in 1995. Adam left the UO after two years, but stayed in Eugene until 1999, when he joined the Marines to continue his education. Caroline, meanwhile, earned her degree in educational studies in 2000 as a graduate of the Robert D. Clark Honors College. "We really became Ducks fans when we were both on campus," says Adam. "And it wasn't just football and other sports. When the money allowed, we attended other campus events."
Careers took Adam and Caroline to Fredericksburg, Virginia, but the couple, now with two young boys of their own, returned to Oregon for family visits whenever they could. "We came back to Molalla for a long Memorial Day weekend," says Adam. "Dad said he was going to sell the truck. But I wanted to keep it in the family. I threw out a figure of $1,000 and Dad accepted."
On February 13, 2009, the truck was loaded onto a hauler for the long trip to Virginia. It was still in its original color scheme, but "very rusted, inside and out. It was clear some work was needed," says Adam. "We had become good friends with a lot of UO alums back in the Virginia area," he adds. "I thought it would be neat to have a truck in Oregon colors."
Caroline wasn't so sure about the project. "I was just worried about the cost. But we were doing a lot of things with the National Capital Region (NCR) alumni group and, well . . ."
The determined Ducks won the day. On April 26, 2009, the truck was delivered to a body shop in Fredericksburg, highly recommended for its restoration work. Throughout May and June, the rebuild slowly progressed. Bob even came to Virginia to help his son, working to rebuild the old bench seat. It was during that project that the original purchase papers were discovered under the rusty seat springs—where they were put back in 1967 (that sales receipt is now framed and hangs in the rec room of Adam and Caroline's home).
By June, the truck was ready for the first applications of lemon and emerald paint—piece by piece. "Once the guys at the body shop knew what we were trying to accomplish," says Adam, "they really got into it. The thunder-green rally stripes on the hood were the idea of the body shop guys."
By the end of September, the truck was ready to drive to the Fredericksburg family home. Later, Adam and Caroline celebrated New Year's Day 2011 by joining friends of the NCR alumni chapter playing a game of flag football against counterparts from the Auburn Alumni Association—at the foot of the Washington Monument in D.C. (Yes, that was the year of the Bowl Championship Series game between Oregon and Auburn.)
Although they loved their time in Virginia, Caroline says, "We were absolutely certain we were coming home."
Later that year, a promotion took Adam, then a field representative for an aerospace services company, to Afghanistan. Caroline and the boys returned to Oregon, where she had accepted a management position with the Oregon Health and Science University Foundation in Portland. The Duck Truck came back too, in the giant moving van that brought the Oblack household goods to Oregon.
In 2012, the Oblack family was reunited in a new home in Damascus, Oregon. The ever-loving Duck Truck has since been decorated with Oregon decals. It's made a few trips around the greater Portland area, and is ready, finally, to make its first appearance on the UO campus—47 years after Albin Oblack picked it up to haul produce on the family farm.
—By Craig Weckesser
Craig Weckesser '64 earned his degree in journalism at the UO and spent 27 years as a Northwest newspaper reporter and editor, then 13 more as a government public information officer. He has continued as a contract communications specialist and lives with his wife, Susan, in Rochester, Washington.