Jerry and Danny Vaughn run the business today with their mother, Delores. Leon was unable to attend due to poor health but was present in photos and videos showing the company's growth over the years.
Leon Vaughn started his business with a tractor and a Ford flatbed truck. He started his business hauling hay. He shifted to hauling wood in the winter and later began hauling dirt. At that time, his sons recalled, creek gravel was $7 a load and black dirt cost $8 a load.
At the time, H Highway was so lightly traveled that heavy equipment could be unloaded right off the highway. Leon Vaughn would buy new equipment, learn how to use it on his own property, then offer his services.
"He just had the drive," Jerry Vaughn said. "He wasn't afraid of anything."
Leon Vaughn had one of two earthmoving and hauling businesses in the area and took work wherever he could get it. His sons recalled odd jobs, such as bringing a big mixer to Monett for Kay Concrete from St. Louis by truck, or hauling furniture for auction to Tulsa, returning very late but being ready to go back to work the next morning. Vaughn's Ditching would provide its services to the telephone company and the gas company, installing infrastructure through many towns.
"We came up from being a poor family," Delores Vaughn said. "Leon always wanted to better himself."
For example, Jerry Vaughn said his father approached then Monett School Superintendent Ralph Scott for instruction on how to read blueprints. Scott got together with Vaughn in the evenings.
The lessons paid off. Vaughn's business expanded in the 1970s, doing more residential and commercial work and contributing to big projects like school construction.
In the 1980s, the company continued its growth by hauling asphalt for highway construction. The company fleet grew to 76 vehicles from the original two. At one point the firm had 100 asphalt trucks, serving as a broker with truck owner-operators.
The Vaughn Companies today employ 58 people. Employees are a tight family. Working with Delores Vaughn in the office is Linda Oberhelman, who has been with the firm for 22 years.
Credit for the firm's success was widely shared on the day of the celebration. Contractor Jerry Dierker was recognized as the Vaughn Companies' oldest customer. Danny Vaughn recalled Jack Fox had been the banker to first approve a loan for the company, and support by banker Glen Garrett had been instrumental in helping the business grow over the years.
"If it hadn't been for our parents opening the business up, we wouldn't have what we have today," Jerry Vaughn said.
"I'm very proud of Jerry and Danny," Delores Vaughn said. "They took the business over. Their dad would be very proud."
A third generation of Vaughns have now joined the firm, with grandchildren going to work at the business. Danny's daughter, Josie, prepared a video of photos from family archives that was shown during the 50th anniversary celebration.
"It sure has been wonderful how everyone turned out," Delores Vaughn said. "It makes us feel real good."
As for the future, Danny Vaughn anticipated more commercial work as the company keeps growing. The sons and their mother all agreed the secret of their success has been having a close family.
"We're still small enough to care and big enough to do the job," Danny said.