By Charles Cooper
Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week.
My thanks to Mickey Howley for mentioning Betty and me in his column last week. Mickey, you were correct about there being four new car dealerships at one time in the Valley, but on reflection, I realized in the late 1940s and early 1950s there were actually five.
We always had Busby, later Pilkington Chevrolet, Hendricks Ford, Jimmy Wilbourn Dodge Plymouth, and Trusty hardware. Although Trusty didn’t sell cars, they did sell Inter-national trucks and many local people swore by them.
However, in the late 1940s, Mr. Spencer opened a Studebaker Agency close to where Larson’s is today. Studebaker had a distinguished history dating back to the 1850s when the Studebaker wagon was the top of the line in farm wagons.
Papa Badley said he had owned several and thought they were the best in their day. They started in the automobile business in the early 20th Century and produced a line of cars, pickups, and stake body trucks.
During World War II the government bought all three lines by the thousands and they had the reputation of being very reliable. After WWII, when all the other auto makers were basically dressing up their pre-war designs and selling them as fast as they could be produced, Studebaker took a bold new step. Critics said you couldn’t tell if the cars were coming or going but they really were a beautiful car that got excellent gas mileage and had a record of reliability.
As usual I digressed but the first one I remember in Water Valley was owned by my old friend, Wade Doolin. It was classy and the front had a nose that looked like a jet plane. My step dad, Jesse Lawson, had a 1950 Studebaker pickup and I think he finally gave it away never realizing that one day it would be a collector’s item. Studebaker never moved their operation from South Bend, Ind., and National Funeral Home of Memphis bought a fleet of Studebaker coaches so the company sent one of their top mechanics, Jim Leonard, to set up the fleet. Jim liked Memphis so well that he stayed on as mechanic to maintain the fleet even after they went to Cadillac.
Jim still had a Studebaker personal car when I worked there in the 1950s and he ran the garage as his personal fiefdom. He still drove up to South Bend every year to attend the Indy 500 and people who had gone with him said he drove like a race driver.
Welcome to our new columnist, Amy Tittle, and I wish you every success. As Mickey pointed out, Betty and I have a tendency to cover bygone years. You can bring today’s perspective to our readers.
Water Valley has a history of coming back from various disasters such as the yellow fever epidemics, the closing of the railroad shops and the depression of the 1930s. I remember how many predicted in the 1940s that the loss of all the farms to the Enid Dam would be the end. I feel that the word is out that Water Valley is a business community and the evidence is here by the opening of new businesses and the enthusiasm of the citizens.
Let me hear from you at my email address email@example.com or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, TN 38101 and have a great week.