Friday, August 14, 2015

Tanks for the memories -- collector saves World War II weapons, vehicles


Collector and military historian specialist Larry Torske of Hardin enlists the help of his grandson to fire his prize cannon..
Military weapons specialist Larry Torske describes restoration work to visitors.

LARRY TORSKE has a cannon in his front yard, a "DUKW" in his Hardin shop, and tanks to boot.
Torske is surely the only man in Hardin -- and one of the few in Montana -- with a cannon proudly displayed in his yard.
The energetic farmer -- for many years a U.S. Postal Service carrier -- has a hobby of collecting old machinery. Married to musician Randi Lierboe in Fargo, N.D., nearly 52 years ago, he brought her to Hardin to the family farm. But all work and no play wouldn't satisfy either Torske.
A meticulous craftsman, Torske shows how tiny, intricate
pieces fit together to restore a vintage tank.
Randi, a retired laboratory tech, worked for many years, too, and both helped make Hardin's highly regarded Big Horn County Museum a reality.
Bruce Keller takes a turn at the wheel of one of Torske's restoration  trucks.
THE COUPLE'S two daughters, Brit and Andrea, sons-in-law and five grandchildren understand their parents' desire to be active in retirement. The Torskes are "community kingpins," as one friend put it, "always there to lend a hand to a good cause."
Torske sings in fund-raisers, with Randi on piano, and both beat the drum for the museum. "He has to have a project," says Randi, "and I always have a list of things to do" (including volunteering regularly at the museum.)
In a shop a mile or so away from the family farm house, Torske drives to work on his "projects and stuff," as Randi calls it. A large metal workshop houses 30-caliber carbines made by Rock-ola Jukebox, machine guns made by Royal Typewriter Co., and other treasures. The war effort reached into commerce and enlisted the expertise of businesses known for other reasons. For instance, Diebold Company, famous for quality safes, supplied vehicle armor. Royal Typewriter Co. turned out light machine guns. Truck boxes were manufactured by piano makers.
'AMERICA'S industrial might won the war," Torske said.
About a decade ago ago, Torske began to restore a M24 Chaffee, a light tank used by the Army at the end of World War II.
Larry and Randi Torske: long marriage
is a true partnership in understanding.
A major overhaul, including engine repairs, took several years. Torske showed off his effort during Hardin'’s Little Bighorn Days parade a few summers ago. Driving the tank was his son-in-law, Ray Jeno, who served in the Idaho National Guard as a loader on an M1 Abrams tank.
Inside Torske's workshop, everything is organized and neat.
Torske restored the tank for the Alabama Center for Military History, a private museum in Huntsville. Estimates for restoring a World War II tank range from $125,000 to $150,000. But Torske was paid in "equipment" not dollars, brokering a deal for a second, unrestored tank as payment for his good work.
"People drive past these big barns and houses and never know what's in them," he winks.
Latest undertaking:  this DUKW isn't Torske's but his
latest project is to restore one similar.
The "gift" tank, penetrated with dents and other scars of use, is still a work in process.
WHILE TORSKE is restoring the second tank, he takes time off to tackle a job he considers less-complicated:– restoring a World War II military ambulance. He's also restoring a "duck," an amphibious vehicle used during World War II in dangerous air-water maneuvers.
About the colloquial term "duck," that's how the word is pronounced, like the aquatic critter. It is officially spelled "DUKW," used particularly during attack and designed only long enough to survive short periods. So Torske has his hands full for a while longer at the shop. Randi will be busy with her own "stuff."

COMING WEDNESDAY: The movie "Rancho Deluxe"  was filmed in Montana 40 years ago. Now, the town of Livingston is celebrating the anniversary with a celebration and showing of the western parody this Thursday, Aug. 20, on the lawn by the historic Livingston Depot. Relive the days of yesteryear in a two-part series on the filming of "Rancho Deluxe," with updates on Jeff Bridges, Sam Waterston, Elizabeth Ashley and others in the movie.  Remember Jimmy Buffett's "Livingston Saturday Night"? We'll refresh your memory in our two-step down memory lane.  Remember to explore, learn and live. Catch us weekends and Wednesdays at

No comments:

Post a Comment