Family Owned Company Services Annual Half-Marathon

The gang at Clinkscales Portable Toilets goes the distance to quickly set up and tear down restrooms along a popular half-marathon route.
Family Owned Company Services Annual Half-Marathon

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Clinkscales Portable Toilets & Septic Service is owned and operated by the brother-sister team of Trent Clinkscales and Terry Shankle in Molalla, Ore., a small town about halfway between Portland and Salem. Terry takes care of the office and Trent works with a field staff of four full-timers and a couple of part-timers.

All hands were on deck for the Helvetia Half Marathon, plus a few extra family members. "It's a little bit overkill, but the reason we have so many people for 70 toilets is we have to set it up the morning of the race and then pick up as soon as the race is over," Trent Clinkscales explains.


The company had its origins in a septic business, Gary F. Clinkscales Septic Pump Service, started in 1981 by the siblings' parents, Gary and Marie Clinkscales. In 1992, Trent and Terry bought the company and quickly decided to expand the operation by adding portable restrooms. "Dad had thought about it. And then I thought, as an expansion area, what better place to do it?" Clinkscales says. "We bought three brand-new toilets. We bought a used truck from one of our competitors and away we went." Working off the good reputation their parents had established, the venture was successful, and before the year was out, they had 80 units in their inventory. Today it's up to 500 and accounts for 75 percent of their business.


The company got its foot in the door with this event 13 years ago when the service provider for a Mt. Hood snowshoe race didn't show up. A friend of the promoter made a few random calls and luckily stumbled onto the Clinkscales, who responded promptly to her cry for help. The caller was Paula Harkin, who later went on to create the Helvetia Half Marathon. "She was impressed with our response and quality of service so when she started doing things on her own, she called us," Clinkscales says. That was 12 years ago and they've had the contract ever since. It's their biggest event of the year.


At 8 a.m. on June 9, 2012, just outside Gordon Faber Stadium in Hillsboro, Ore., 4,000 runners took off and headed for the hills in the 12th annual Helvetia Half Marathon and Widmer Brothers 10K. The course took them through the pasturelands of northwestern Oregon, past the hamlet of Helvetia and its historic landmark Helvetia Tavern, and back to Hillsboro for a dramatic finish in the center of the stadium floor amid a cheering crowd. Besides T-shirts and awards, participants were treated to the Tavern's renowned Helvetia Burgers (meat or veggie), the Widmer Brothers Brewery beer garden, and musical entertainment by the Cow Paddy Stompers.


The company provided 72 units for the event — 34 near the starting line outside the stadium, nine about a mile later at the first water station (which was also the last water station on the return trip), five at the next station, four at the one after that, and three each at the next four. Eight additional units were supplied at a pavilion behind the stadium to supplement on-site facilities for post-race festivities. These silver Satellite Industries Tufways and PolyJohn Enterprises PJN3s were equipped with hand sanitizers.


It was a middle-of-the-night start for the company as all units had to be in place by 6:30 a.m. At 4 a.m., the team left Molalla for the hour-long drive to Hillsboro. To carry everything in one load, they used three pickup trucks (a 1999 Ford F-250, a 2006 Chevy 2500, and a 2012 Chevy 3500), two vacuum trucks and five locally built custom trailers that carried between 10 and 16 units each. After everything was set up, the team had a little time to enjoy a breakfast break before the race started, but as soon as the last runner left the starting line, they were back at work pumping and removing units. They stayed in contact with the police to determine the location of the last runner on the route, and followed a respectable distance behind. By 1:30 p.m., they were ready to pick up the last eight units at the stadium and call it a day.


Units were prepped with Walex Products Co. deodorizer and fragrance and a half bucket of water. After the race, a tag team approach was used, with the pumping team handing off to the hauling crew. Units were later pressure-washed at the company's yard. The two service vehicles were a 2004 International 4300 with a 500-gallon waste/200-gallon freshwater steel tank built out by Keith Huber, Inc. and a 2006 International 4300 with a 600-gallon waste/300-gallon freshwater steel tank built out by JENFAB Inc. Both have Masport, Inc. pumps. Waste was transferred to a larger truck at the yard and taken to the City of Salem's treatment plant.


Other than missing out on the legendary hamburgers and getting briefly showered on by the stadium sprinkler system as they were setting up, Clinkscales says everything went smoothly. They were spared one of their usual headaches. "Normally we find a bunch of clothes in the tank — unmentionables — but this year not as much," Clinkscales says.

One headache they never have to deal with for this event is an inadequate number of units because the promoter does not skimp. "Paula does not want to have people waiting to use the bathroom," Clinkscales says. The two parties always touch base after the event. "I make a point to email her and ask if there's anything we need to put in the file for next year," he says. They've already received the "see you next year" email from her.

Clinkscales says organization and communication are the keys to success for the event. "It all comes down to a lot of planning ahead of time, and taking really good notes. We keep files on each event and what truck went with what trailer with what toilets on it, which stops they went to. The crew gets antsy if they don't know what's going on ahead of time. They like to get everything loaded up way before Friday, so everything's ready to go and they know what the game plan is."


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