As a family business based in Natick, MA for over half a century, O.B. Hill has a strong connection with the local community. Over the years the ‘family’ has been involved in many local fundraisers, actively take part in the Rotary annual Tour De Natick Ride for Scolars, provide support for the local High School athletic teams and the After Prom party – to mention but a few.
When President Joe Gagliardi of Coach & Carriage of Natick needed a transport company with the muscle and knowhow to haul his 1919 antique Northway truck in the Natick Fourth of July parade he turned to his friend Bryant Hill, chairman of the board of Natick’s O.B. Hill Trucking and Rigging Company.
With Hill’s Peterbilt diesel rig up front and the Northway B-2 truck riding high, wide and handsome to the rear on parade day the effect was spectacular – and for good reason.
Back in the day Ralph Northway designed and manufactured his namesake truck at his plant in West Natick just after World War I and Bryant Hill’s grandfather was already cutting and delivering ice from his Natick Ice facility on Dug Pond. The Hill family would go on to play a central role in Natick’s industrial history, including the establishment of O.B. Hill Trucking in 1953 and Natick Oil, which benefitted from the contributions of Bryant’s uncle John Hill, who recently celebrated his 96th birthday. He was a prize-winning designer and manufacturer of oil-fired boilers that helped build Natick Oil’s business when John, a decorated veteran of the “Greatest Generation” returned from World War II.
Joe Gagliardi’s journey to Natick followed a slightly different path. A native of Calabria, Italy, Gagliardi was driving tractors on his father’s farm by the time he was eight and cooking in his mother’s pizzeria by his 18th birthday. Fast-forward and subsequent to their immigration to the U.S., Gagliardi is the hard-working proprietor of one of Greater Boston’s most highly regarded automotive repair organizations. With skilled auto body craftsmen and mechanics working at seven locations in Natick, Wayland and Watertown, Gagliardi is a major presence in Natick’s “Road Iron District,” an assemblage of roughly three-dozen craft shops and auto dealers loosely scattered along routes 135 and 9 representing all things automotive.
Always fascinated by cars and trucks, Gagliardi’s personal collection of vehicles, which includes American and European classics was recently crowned by his acquisition of the Northway B-2.
According to Hudson’s Bill Semple, long-time president of the New England Historical Truck Society and owner-restorer of the Northway B-2 before Gagliardi bought it at auction, it is widely believed to be the last surviving example of over a thousand built in the early 1920s, when plans called for Natick to become “the Detroit of the East.”
With the return of the Northway to Natick the stage was set for the 4th of July Parade Committee to do something special, which they did with their usual aplomb. Their decision to showcase Natick’s rich heritage as this year’s parade theme led to Natick’s Paul Hasgill being appointed Grand Marshal of the event, which only seemed right given his World War II service and his leadership of the Natick Nipmuck Indians, a local tribe resident in the MetroWest region since the prehistoric era. On July 5 Paul Hasgill turned 100 years old, but not before riding down Main Street with family members on July 4th just a few minutes before the Northway B-2 appeared on the back Bryant Hill’s Peterbilt rig. The effect was spectacular, as the roar of the crowd confirmed when driver Gary Clark paused briefly before the reviewing stand on Main Street to receive a tribute from parade organizer Peter Mundy. But for those with a real appreciation of Natick’s proud heritage, the joint appearance by O.B. Hill and Coach and Carriage signaled something even more profound and well worth celebrating long after the sound of Fourth of July marching bands fades away: Natick’s “Road Iron District,” is alive and even thriving.
Almost 100 years after the closing of the Northway plant (a long-forgotten recession did the company in by 1925), the “Natick Mechanics” (skilled industrial workers who proudly carried their nickname into the Civil War as a volunteer regiment and on into Natick’s 20th century shoe plants) are still alive and doing just fine in the 21st century. Truly, Natick’s rich heritage was on parade on July 4th and the town and its Road Iron District have never looked better.
Article kindly provided by Peter Golden who writes for the Natick Tab Newspaper.