When the War (and the work) ended, Hattie and Mel moved northward to Ojai, California. Mel worked with Hattie’s brother at Comb’s Welding for a few years, then bought his own welding rig and rented a small stall from Shaw’s Auto Repair. The “Wiggins Welding and Machine Shop” was an unpainted wooden shed, with no electricity, under a huge oak tree. Because Mel often worked until midnight, building up drill bits, Hattie and the kids took him dinner. The family ate together under the oak trees.
In 1955, they incorporated Wiggins Welding and Machine Shop and moved to Oxnard, renting a two-stall building from Power Machinery. Hattie began working at the business. After a few years, the business grew, and they bought property along a frontage road beside Highway 101. During the day they worked at the shop, in late afternoons and weekends they built their new site. Friends and family helped with framing, pipe-laying, masonry, and electrical work. Son Mike welded steel beams after school. It was a family-oriented business, just like Wiggins Lift today. (During this time, Mel had his first heart attack and, after years of smoking, quit the habit. To “help” him avoid a relapse, Hattie sewed shut the front pockets on all of Mel’s shirts, so he would have no where to keep a pack!)
After years of repairing agricultural trucks and lifts, Mel perceived a genuine need for equipment that could be serviced with ease in the field. Mel and Hattie knew they could build those machines. On June 3, 1963, Wiggins Lift Company, Inc., was born, out of a desire to make owner- and operator-friendly machines. In the ensuing decades, Hattie ran the office and kept the books, as Mel continued to innovate and serve the wider lift industry in California and beyond in agriculture, construction, and more.
In 1971, Hattie and Mel purchased an old H.L. Hunt chicken cannery just down the road. It became the new home of Wiggins Lift Company. The facility is still the company’s headquarters and primary factory, where Wiggins lifts are manufactured and shipped all over the world. Mel passed away in 1989, but Hattie and the family continue his tradition of innovation and customer-oriented service. Today, Hattie’s son, Mike, is president and her granddaughter, Michele, is CEO. Hattie still comes into the office almost every day, just as she has for 60 years. Happy 95th birthday, Hattie!
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