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In Memoriam: P.E. MacAllister

by Sara Smith | Oct 25, 2019
A Tractor Salesman is what he called himself. Roads and the machinery that built them were part of his life growing up in rural Wisconsin.
His father, EW MacAllister, worked for the county highway department and became adept at building and maintaining roads.  This led to a job with Drott Tractor, the local Caterpillar dealer.  EW was a natural salesman and rose through the ranks to become Sales Manager and then General Manager.  The MacAllister family moved to Milwaukee in 1930 where the company’s headquarters was located.  Ed Drott had 3 sons in the business.  EW could see the handwriting on the wall so took advantage of an opportunity to open his own dealership for Allis Chalmers in Indianapolis in 1941.  Fast forward to 1945, when PE mustered out of the military and came to his parents’ home in Indianapolis.  His Father asked him what he was going to do.  PE shrugged and said, “Go back to Milwaukee and get a job teaching, I suppose.”  His Dad indicated he could use some help starting a new business, as Caterpillar had asked him to become their dealer for most of Indiana.  Would PE like to give him a hand?  He did, and the rest is history.

Born on August 30, 1918 in Oconto, Wisconsin, 26 miles north of Green Bay, Pershing was named after General John J. Pershing, the WW I hero.  Not infatuated with the name, young Pershing preferred Persh, Mac, or PE.  He grew up during the Great Depression with a younger brother (by 2 years) named David.  His father had a good job, so the family was better off than many.  Frugality and self-sufficiency were required by the times and reinforced through his Scottish Presbyterian upbringing.  PE was an average student and played the clarinet in high school.  His mother, Hilda, was a homemaker and many relatives lived close by.  Family was a big influence all his life.  After high school, PE enrolled in Carroll College, a liberal arts institution, studying English and History with the intent of becoming a teacher.  He graduated in 1940.  The war was raging in Europe and it looked like the United States would enter.  Like most young men of the day, he enlisted in the military.  On October 25, 1941 he was shipped off to basic training.  He remembered hearing about the attack on Pearl Harbor while listening to the radio in his car.  Fortunately, he “washed out” of flight school (a pilot’s life expectancy was poor) and instead became an armament officer, responsible for arming a squadron of P-38 fighters.  Stationed initially in the US, then England, PE spent a couple years in North Africa before finishing in Italy with the rank of Captain.  In total he spent almost 5 years in the Army Air Force, earning 4 Overseas Service Bars and a Presidential Unit Citation.  How he picked up the nickname “Prune” was never quite clear.

Read more information here: https://www.macallister.com/about/pe-macallister/
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CED October 2019 cover

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