Saturday, June 20, 2009

The End of An Era

I'm copying that headline from this week's Barnesville Herald-Gazette. Davis-Cooper Ford, the only Ford dealership in Lamar County, closed.

My dad worked for Dean Davis and Jimmy Cooper from 1969 until he opened his service station in 1972. He worked for Mr. J. R. Smith before that when Mr. J. R. owned the dealership.

Daddy was a mechanic first, then Service Manager, then Parts Manager. "The Ford place", as everybody called it, was always busy. I can still remember the smell of the new cars and getting to see them before the public did. The cars and trucks came to Barnesville on the train, covered to heighten the suspense. They'd be parked across the railroad tracks at the used car lot on Atlanta Street, just this side of the Dairy Queen, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Pritchett.

But I digress. I do that a lot.

What I remember most about Daddy working for the Ford place was how hard he worked and, I found out later, how little he got paid. He'd be at work no later than a quarter til eight and leave most days after six. Except Saturday when they closed at one o'clock. Then he'd come home and the entire family would watch The Bugs Bunny-Road Runner Hour. Overture, Hit The Lights.

When Dean and Jimmy took over the Ford place Daddy got a raise. I found all this out when he left there to open "the station", which is what everybody called Berry's Amoco. Before Davis-Cooper took over, Daddy made $75.00. A week. When they bought it out, he made $100. A week. No wonder he worked so hard. Who wouldn't for that kind of money?

But he loved what he did. I would say he had grease under his nails, but he didn't. I still recall him washing his hands with Lava soap, and using a little brush to get under his fingernails. He told me once that working with your hands was no excuse for them being dirty. That was a life lesson broader than soap and water. I should have listened better.

Daddy never passed judgment on any of the girls I dated, except once. A girl I was going out with who shall go nameless (Kristy Torbert) came by the station one time when I was working on a car. She came over but wouldn't hug me because I was elbow-deep in sweat and dirt. Daddy said "If they don't love you when you're dirty they don't love you at all." I should have listened better.

Davis-Cooper Ford moved from "downtown" to "the By-Pass", which is what everybody called US 341, to the corner of the By-Pass and Yatesville Road. That's where they stayed until they closed. The end of an era.

Roscoe Berry, Harold Smith, Clint Swint, Peggy Ogletree, James Brown, Shug Allen, they're all memories to me of a simpler time when the Ford place smelled and sounded of new cars, exhaust, and motor oil. I changed my first tire there. I sat in my first Mustang there. I bought my first car there (a 1965 Ford Falcon, fire-engine red, previously owned by my friend Mike Ruffin's cousin), the first band I ever played in practiced in the showroom, I hauled parts up and down stairs there. I bought Cokes for a dime and used the "honor system" to buy a pack of peanuts to put in my Coke for a nickel, dropping the coin in the tin box next to the jars of peanuts.

I could live there forever. But it's the end of an era.


Michael Ruffin said...

Thanks for the memories. It's a shame about the Ford place closing.

SwordandSacrifice said...

An era only truly ends when there's no one left to remember it.

Jenbug said...

Your writing is amazing...I can see it all when I read! I love how you remember such great details and express them so "eloquently." You dun gud, hunee! J