By Becky Maxedon
Robert P. McCulloch, Sr., had a vision when he first laid eyes on Lake Havasu and the land surrounding it.
He started small with outboard motor testing facilities, and everything grew from there.
In 1964, McCulloch moved his chain saw manufacturing operation from Los Angeles to Lake Havasu City. And with that move, it was necessary to ensure there were potential employees in the mix and so they came.
Sunday, 80 former employees of the McCulloch Chainsaw factory got together for a reunion to remember old times, as they have for several years.
Dody Leehietpas, one of the organizers of the reunion said, “We are having the McCulloch Chainsaw Reunion 2020-21. It should have been in 2020, (postponed because of the pandemic) but since the bridge is going to celebrate the 50th anniversary, I said let’s have it.”
Leehietpas said there would have been McCulloch employees in Lake Havasu City from 1965 through 1999 when the plant closed.
“Even if you worked one day, you’re considered a McCulloch employee, so that’s how I look at it,” she said.
“I had such a good time working in the factory with the McCulloch family. Yes, we lost Mr. McCulloch. He died in ‘77 and I didn’t come to work until ’79, so I never got to meet him.
“But the family that was after him made it a family unit. They tried to make it happy. They gave us turkeys and hams for holidays. They gave the kids Christmas parties. They tried to make it as pleasant as possible. I’m very proud to be a McCulloch employee,” she said.
Randy Habeck said he worked at the McCulloch plant for 11 or 12 years, but his father Bob Habeck worked there for 46 years, beginning in Los Angeles.
“We moved here in 1971, so we’ve been here 50 years,” Habeck said.
The family relocated from Manhattan Beach, Calif., to make Lake Havasu City home.
“We’ve been coming to every one of these chainsaw reunions and we went to the McCulloch picnics in LA, so the memories go back deep form when I was a little kid,” he said.
“It’s all I ever knew. It’s the only place my father ever worked so it’s all good memories,” Habeck said.
He said the family began collecting the Rotary commemorative London Bridge Days coins when they began.
“We’ve collected them all. It started with my father. He collected them. He passed away two years ago, and I took over and got the last few,” he said.
Mary Ann Wagner came to Lake Havasu City in 1972.
“I had a bad accident in Michigan, and I came out with one of McCulloch’s flights. My sister came and we bought some land and then I moved here in ‘72 with my three kids and husband and a dog,” Wagner said.
Wagner did embroidery and seamstress work, doing logos for Mohave County and Lake Havasu City schools.
“Then I got the job to do the Shriner’s cap (for the London Bridge Days Parade float). It’s still the same one. Laid it out on my patio nobody knew who made it,” she said.
Some of Wagner’s memories included the airport being opened, enabling her family to visit.
“I had 10 of my brothers and sisters move here,” she said.
She still has a sister – Agnes – living in Lake Havasu.
“We used to have a lot of fun out there on the water, and driving up to Vegas because there wasn’t anything here,” she said.
McCulloch plant employees will be represented in the London Bridge Days Parade Oct. 30.