The Dusters Car Club was founded in 1962 by El Zagal Shriners from the Bismarck/Mandan area. Dusters meet at noon in the Bismarck Masonic Center the second Monday of each month, and these meetings are most entertaining as the current president tries to keep order and move the meeting along. For a while there was a dandy gavel given to the president to use, but it made so much noise when hitting the plastic table top it disrupted the many side conversations that always take place -- somehow the gavel got lost.
Despite the unruly meetings, the Dusters still seem to find time to work on the great Shrine and Masonic projects conducted in the Bismarck/Mandan area. There is always a great turnout for the Circus, and there was a great turnout for the first annual Paper Day conducted in Bismarck this past summer.
Duster cars are seen in many parades in Bismarck and surrounding area as the 55 members take pride in showing off some of the 48 antique and classic cars in the current inventory. Further, Dusters and their cars have always been a very visible part of the Annual Fly-in/Drive-in Pancake Breakfast conducted at the Bismarck Aero Center for the benefit of the Robert E. Asker Scottish Rite Speech Therapy Center that is located in the Bismarck Masonic Center.
Dusters enjoy their involvement in Shrine and Masonic activities, as you will find members attending and working at Masonic events.
Driving Further Into Duster History
Following the vision of Harvey Larson, Max McMullen, Bob Campbell, Arne Springan, and Jim Zietz, five ambitious Shriners in the late 1950’s, the seeds for a new El Zagal unit sprouted and became the Dusters. Charter Members held their organizational meeting in Harvey Larson’s cottage along the Missouri River on June 8, 1962, with Harvey Larson being named the first unit president.
From this humble beginning of some twenty-five charter members, the unit has grown to become one of the largest units of El Zagal. The original by-laws were adopted on July 24, 1962.
As originally formed, the Dusters were to preserve the early history of automobiles while strongly supporting the Shrine Hospitals and other Shrine activities. Members of the Dusters were to own pre-World War II automobiles, return them to nearly new condition and use them to visually promote the Shrine through attending parades, displays, and sanctioned Shrine events.
While there have been far too many fine automobiles in the unit to list them all here without overlooking some, it is worthy to draw attention to some of the very oldest and most rare of the Duster’s fleet. Duster Bob Clifford had the distinction of owning the oldest Duster car, a 1903 Cadillac that now resides in a New York museum.
Another extremely rare automobile owned by Past Potentate Berk Strothman and Duster Harold Schulz was a 1910 Pratt-Elkhart that is rumored to now reside in the Pratt family museum. Dusters Bob Asker and Don Laschkewitsch have the distinction of driving one of best head-turners in the fleet with their bright red 1912 Model T Touring car that is adorned with brass trim, brass radiator, brass lights and even it’s own acetylene gas generator to provide a steady supply of fuel to the lights.
Several of the Duster’s cars have interesting stories of being found is varying condition in strange places. One of the strangest “found it” stories was Dusters Harvey Larson and Arne Springan’s 1915 Model T ambulance story. According to local lore, when Ft. Abraham Lincoln south of Mandan was abandoned, local treasure seekers made off with whatever the Army left behind – furniture, doors, windows, lumber, and whatever.
It is rumored that one day in the 1960’s or 1970’s, Duster Harvey Larson received a phone call from a local contractor who was tearing down a barn to make way for a hospital building project. It seems the contractor found a crate full of what appeared to be antique automobile parts and pieces. Upon inspection, Harvey determined that it was a nearly complete body of a Model T, still in the factory package. Old car buffs will remember that there were many different body styles that would fit Model T running gear, and that those various body styles were manufactured and sold by not only Ford Motor Company, but also by other after-market suppliers.
This is a bit of a long story, so we’ll shorten it a bit. The net result of this discovery, is that Duster Arnie Springan, PGM, became the proud owner of a 1915 Model T ambulance that had spent part of it’s life in a box at Ft. Lincoln and said box was liberated by some unknown person after Ft. Lincoln was abandoned, moved to Bismarck and stored in a barn.