98-Year-Old Joe Dollman Continues Machining Career

Joe Dollman, 98, heads into Dollman Technical Services every workday to tinker and work on machining projects. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Growing up on a Monclova Township farm, Joe August Dollman quickly learned how to repair machinery with the tools at hand. 

While the 98-year-old Maumee man retired decades ago, he continues to venture into Dollman Technical Services (DTS) on Glanzman Road most weekdays to work on projects and tinker. 

“I’m just an obsolete machinist working on obsolete machines,” he said with a smile.

Over the years, Dollman has been actively involved in the company’s machine-making projects, including units that assemble radiators for Peterbilt trucks and several units that make mouse nests for research labs. 

“Researchers want the mice to be comfortable and safe,” said Joe Dollman, one of the elder Dollman’s three sons, who started DTS in 1992. 

“There’s a lot of Joes in our family,” the elder Dollman admitted, noting that his father was August but he has an uncle, son, grandson and nephew named Joe and an aunt named Josephine.

While he was born in Toledo, Dollman and his parents moved to a Ramm Road farmhouse that they shared with his uncle, with the express purpose of making whiskey.

The year was 1920, and the nationwide prohibition on the production and sale of alcoholic beverages had just taken effect. Bringing their knowledge of beer, wine and whiskey production from the Alsace-Lorraine area of France, the adults began producing whiskey to make ends meet.

“I could count 10 bootleggers within a few minutes of our house,” Dollman said, listing homes on Eber, Whitehouse-Spencer, Reed and Ramm roads.

Because his uncle took his best whiskey downtown to the public safety building to sell on credit, Dollman believes the family avoided too much scrutiny.

“My uncle was so angry at the Toledo police officers. They never paid him. But it did save him a term in jail,” Dollman said.

Their neighbors, a Polish family, weren’t so lucky. Dollman recalls standing outside one day and seeing the “dry dicks” – the nickname for federal agents who drove gray Lincolns – raiding the neighbors’ farm. While the father was the owner of the property, it was his wife and sons who were the bootleggers. Because the property owner was liable, pops was hauled off to the workhouse for 30 days. As he was hauled off, the mother and sons followed in their truck to say good-bye. That afternoon, they returned in their truck with all the fixings for a new batch of moonshine hidden under a load of straw. By evening, they were back in business.

A machine builder by trade, August shared some of his knowledge of machining with his son. Dollman remembers a moment in his teens when that information came in useful.

“My friend Don needed a new part and he asked if I thought I could make it,” Dollman said. “We took it to our neighbor’s barn where they had a lathe and I made it. I knew then this was something I wanted to keep doing.”

While Dollman started at Monclova School, his dad thought that the girls there were “too nice” and he was sent to St. John’s, a high school located on Superior Street. When the school closed after two years, he landed at Central Catholic, where there were girls, he pointed out.

After graduating in 1938, Dollman studied engineering at night and worked days at E.W. Bliss and Sears. He had just landed a job with Dura Corp. when Uncle Sam asked him to join the fight overseas. He headed to Columbus to train with the combat engineers at Fort Belvoir, Va., and did so well that he was asked to stay stateside and train as a staff cadre.

“I was always a big joker,” he admitted. One night, he was mimicking the colonel, standing up on a soapbox in the barracks, and getting lots of laughs. Little did he know the colonel was outside and heard it all.

“The next day, I was out of the class,” he said. 

Instead, the Army sent him to learn about motorboat river crossings at Evinrude Boats in Wiscon-sin.

Dollman served from 1943 to 1946, including time in England, France, Luxem-bourg, Austria, Czechoslo-vakia and Germany. Because of his sassiness with the colonel, he was busted back to private first class, but he was still put in charge of building a bridge in Bebra, Germany, where the Germans had demolished one. 

“Growing up on a farm, I knew how to build a bridge across ditches,” he said. 

He sent a first lieutenant to get cement, but when they started mixing the bags of dry dust with water, it was too creamy. Dollman suspected it was fertilizer, but the bags were not labeled in English. So they built a bridge without it – in 34 hours. 

“It was all out of lumber and a few steel beams,” Dollman said. “It could carry 80 tons one way and 40 tons both ways.”

Upon returning to the United States, Dollman returned to Dura Corp., where he stayed for 48 years, repairing machines and building new ones. He even managed to squeeze in night classes in TV and radio repair.

For a while, Dollman thought about launching his own business, but at that point, he was married with seven children.

Dollman’s sister Eleanor brought his future wife to a Halloween party at their house. Ruth was wearing a Popeye face, leggings and claws on her hands and feet. Weeks later, Eleanor insisted he take Ruth out. So he did. 

“I’d met girls, but none as good a person as Ruth,” he said. They had seven children, 18 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren before she died in 2012.

The year after their 1949 wedding, the Dollmans built a home on West Dudley Street in Maumee, and he remains there to this day. Dollman is also likely the longest running member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Maumee, where he became a member at age 1.

From 1958 to 1978, he served as Scoutmaster for Troop 104 at St. Joseph’s and was involved for many years beyond his leadership role. While he successfully prodded his three sons to get their Eagle awards, he was just as proud that he inspired 11 of his grandsons to also become Eagle Scouts.

Dollman’s pride in his children is evident. His three sons, Joe, Jim and John, all engineers, founded a business that creates machines and parts for businesses from Toledo to Thailand. 

His daughters, though none of them can run a lathe, have been equally successful. They include a chemical engineer, two nurses and a physical therapist.

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