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Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014

Picturing the Past 11: When GM thrived

Posted Tuesday, June 2, 2009, at 9:32 AM

(Photo)
Lowe Oldsmobile was one of three GM dealers in Shelbyville in 1965. (T-G File Photo)
As General Motors enters its second day of bankruptcy, it's a good time to look back at what once was.

Remember Oldsmobile -- the first GM line to fall in modern times?

Here's Lowe Oldsmobile-GMC, a Madison Street landmark from the late 1950s through the early 1980s; it was Coltharp Olds-AMC in its final years.

Today GM is consolidating dealerships into full-line stores. But in the 1960 and 1970s Shelbyville had three GM dealers -- Lowe; Cannon Chevrolet; and Wilkins Motors, which sold Buicks and Pontiacs, and at some point picked up the GMC franchise.

This photo's from May 1965, and there's not a small car (at least, by today's standards) in sight. The car parked in front of the building appears to be a top-line Olds 98. To the left are new Cutlasses and Olds 88s. I'd take the light-colored 88 two-door hardtop at left.

Bill Lowe lived three blocks away at the top of the hill at South Hillcrest Drive and Birch Street, in the large, nice (then and now) house which sits off the road. One of his stated goals was to drive home up the hill on South Hillcrest each night and see a new Olds in every driveway. And, by 1968, he managed to do so.

I remember my childhood days seeing mostly Cutlasses at every home (that's the neighborhood I grew up in). My parents were the last holdout; they bought a cream yellow '68 Cutlass 4-door to complete Lowe's goal.

This photo apparently wasn't published -- I couldn't find it in any May '65 Times-Gazettes -- but I did find an ad for Lowe's used cars. Available in May '65 were a "loaded" 1964 Olds 88 4-door for $2,777; two 1964 Impala 4-doors for $2,387; and a 1963 Galaxie 500 2-door hardtop with air and "full power" for $1,785. (If that Galaxie was the '63 1/2 model with the swept-back roofline it would really be a collector's item today).

SPECIAL NOTE: We now have a permanent 'Picturing the Past' photo gallery set up, where all the T-G file photos used each Tuesday will be uploaded and can be seen in one place. It also allows me to occasionally post additional photos instead of being limited to one per blog.

'Picturing the Past' is featured each Tuesday in this blog.


Comments
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David,

I look so forward to your blogs and especially Tuesday's. In this day and age, everyone needs to read something in the newspaper that brings a smile to their face. Thanks for your hard work.

-- Posted by cookie on Tue, Jun 2, 2009, at 12:31 PM

Ditto. I as well look forward to every Tuesday.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Jun 2, 2009, at 12:58 PM

To the right in the photo you can see Tillet Brothers Construction. When President Eisenhower started the Interstate Highway Program Gerald and Joe Tillet had a large part in the Interstate Highway construction in many different places.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Jun 2, 2009, at 1:17 PM

David,

This doesn't bring a smile to my face. It makes

me want to cry. Times when cars were affordable and were very durable hehe

-- Posted by InTheMaking2 on Tue, Jun 2, 2009, at 1:45 PM

GREAT PIC THIS WEEK. I LOOK FOWARD EACH WEEK. THANKS. THIS WAS TRULY THE TIME WHEN CARS WERE REALLY CARS.I DONT REMEMBER EXACTLY WHERE LOWES WAS LOCATED ON MADISON ST> THANKS AGAIN FOR ANOTHER GOOD PIC.

-- Posted by MARINEDAN on Tue, Jun 2, 2009, at 2:56 PM

Lowe's was just west of the North Hillcrest intersection. The building's still there, somewhat remodeled, and now houses a company that sells auto paint.

-- Posted by David Melson on Tue, Jun 2, 2009, at 3:46 PM

Remember when the Old's dealership was located just off the square, on N.Main St., behind the Hotel Dixie?

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Wed, Jun 3, 2009, at 1:02 PM

ilikeoldsongs, I remember when G. T. Bellar had a Pontiac dealership there. Did he also have Oldsmobile? I also remember when Boyd had the Chevrolet-Oldsmobile dealership on Depot Street, and later sold it to Cannon. Is it possible that Oldsmobile was split off then?

-- Posted by leeiii on Wed, Jun 3, 2009, at 1:25 PM

leeiii,it is very possible that Olds was spun off the sale of Boyd's, however your mention of Bellar Pontiac being in that same location has got me questioning my ragged old memory.I remember it now that you mentioned it being there, but it had completely escaped my mind.

So here is where I'm at:

(1)I only remember being in that dealership one time, possibly with my dad, since he was friends with Bill Lowe and Bob Ragan.

(2)This young couple came in while I was there,to take delivery of thier new car, the best that I can remember.

(3)I would later learn by word on the street that the car,a 1957 olds had been ordered with 2 or three four barrel carbs along with some other goodies to enhance its off the line performance, with the goal, on the husbands part anyway,to take down a '56 ford from Lewisburg, who had recently blown the doors off a local '57 chevy, a feat not easily accepted by the local hot rodders.

Now here's where my thinking starts to get a little cloudy.Suppose my memory is faulty and they were there to shop, not pick up a new car as remembered in (2) above? In that case I would tend to think that there was an Olds dealer, along with a pontiac dealer at this location.Otherwise you have someone looking at the possibility of souping up a Pontiac.In 1957? Good luck with that, when a 'vet or'bird rolls up beside you.

Oh,the outcome of the Ford vs.Olds matchup? Olds was always a fine automobile, comfortable ride, dependable, held its value well, ideal for family transportation.

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Wed, Jun 3, 2009, at 4:47 PM

ilikeoldsongs, you have gotten my memory stirred up with your "blow the doors off" comment. I can remember that there was a young man with a new 1963 Chevy with the big 427 engine in it. I wanted to have me a car that could "blow his doors off", so I built a Corvette 327 engine and put 3 two barrel carbs on it and put it in my 1956 Chevy. Man would it fly but I never did get a chance to try him.

By the way, after L. T. Bellar moved, Bryant Thomas and Burtis Landers had a VW dealership in that same building.

-- Posted by leeiii on Wed, Jun 3, 2009, at 5:16 PM

I found a few free minutes today and checked the T-G from 1955-56 for GM dealers in Shelbyville (an easy task, since the T-G only ran 6-8 pages per day then).

Boyd's sold the Chevrolet franchise to Cannon around March 1956, with a advertisement stating Boyd's would remain open as a service facility only.

Advertisements in March 1956 listed Bill Lowe and Bob Ragan as operating Lowe Motor Sales on Madison Street. A May 1956 ad announced Lowe Oldsmobile was newly open for business on North Main Street, which is probably the building ilikeoldsongs remembers.

These were several years before I was born, so I have no memories of these. But was Lowe Motor Sales the same Madison Street building that Arnold and Ragan Motors operated from for years -- and now houses a liquor store?

I also remember a tire store directly behind Dixie Hotel in the 1960s. Was that the first Lowe building?

Another ad indicated Templeton Pontiac, of Fayetteville, had been designated as Shelbyville's Pontiac dealer. So when did Wilkins Buick pick up Pontiac? Ads indicated Wilkins was operating in '56 as Buick-only.

The other Shelbyville dealers in 1956 were Stewart-Potts Motors (Ford) on North Main Street; City Auto Sales (Mercury) on North Main directly behind the Rebel Maid (today's KFC location); Dixie Motors (Studebaker-Jeep) on Madison Street;

Witt Motor Co. (Plymouth-Dodge) on North Main; and Shelbyville Motor Co.(DeSoto) on Madison.

Now do these jog your memories?

-- Posted by David Melson on Thu, Jun 4, 2009, at 3:39 PM

I wanted to have me a car that could "blow his doors off", so I built a Corvette 327 engine and put 3 two barrel carbs on it and put it in my 1956 Chevy. Man would it fly but I never did get a chance to try him........Posted by leeiii.

Wow, bet it would get over the earth!I'm sure that you felt a sense of disappointment at not having the opportunity to get on the line with him.But you know, as time has mellowed my thought process, I have come to believe that there are times in the lives of most of us that something we percieve at the time to be a lost opportunity, is actually a blessing in disguise.Who knows what would have happened if that race had come to fruition?

At one time in my early years, like I suppose most males are, I was obsessed with speed. Had this crazy notion I wanted to drive or at least ride in a car at 150 MPH.Well I never got that chance, but I did get my need for speed satisfied one late night, between Manchester and Shelbyville.

A friend of mine had purchased a 1957 Ford with the big Police Interceptor engine.He and I and another friend were sitting in a little cafe in Manchester, called The Duck In.You turned right at the light on US 41, and it was maybe a hundred yards on the right. leeiii you might remember it.

Anyway, the subject of how fast the car would go was being debated among us, and the owner said it would do 130 because he had already had it there.My other friend and I pointed out the fact that the speedometer only registered 120 MPH.He countered that there was a space equivelent to 10 MPH on the speedometer after the indicator reached 120. Later examination proved him right.

He said he could put us back on the square by our cars in twenty minutes.So,being young, ignorant and in our own minds at least, bullet proof, we said let it roll, Bubba. I've never seen fence posts go by so fast before or since. I couldn't count them, they were just a blur.Probably three fourths of the time between Manchester and Tullahoma the speedometer was buried and unreadable. We slowed down to about 45 or 50 coming through Tullahoma, then he kinda of eared it back to around 110 to 120 into Shelbyville.

Eighteen minutes after leaving the Duck In we pulled into a parking place beside my car on the Shelbyville square, safe and forever cured of my desire to participate in a 150 MPH ride, especially at night. So many things could have went wrong that night, but none of them did, thankfully.

Both those old friends are gone now, each departing this life at a relatively young age, but they live on in my memory, and the thought of some of the times we shared often brings a smile to my face.

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Thu, Jun 4, 2009, at 4:02 PM

David, yes that has stirred my memory. I can remember a lot of the things that you mentioned and there are some that I can not. For instance I am having a hard time remembering Bill Lowe and Bob Ragan together, however, I can remember Arnold and Ragan out Madison Street just across the railroad tracks. I bought a car from them in the early '60's. I am having a hard time remembering the tire store behind the Dixie Hotel. I can not remember when Buick and Pontiac combined in Shelbyville. I am having a hard time getting a picture in my mind of City Auto Sales (Mercury), and even though Witt Motor Co. sounds familiar I am having a hard time placing it in my mind. I do remember when David Enochs had the Studebaker-Packard dealership on West Lane before Urban renewal, as well as his Studebaker dealership on Madison.

My mind is not what it once was and neither is my memory. Now, what were we talking about?

-- Posted by leeiii on Thu, Jun 4, 2009, at 4:05 PM

ilikeoldsongs, you have just brought a smile to my face as I remember those days. Yes, I do remember the Duck In. If it is true that God looks over those with less than full mental capabilities and teen-age boys then he must have been looking over us because we fell into both catagories at one time or another.

-- Posted by leeiii on Thu, Jun 4, 2009, at 4:16 PM

ilikeoldsongs, you have just brought a smile to my face as I remember those days. Yes, I do remember the Duck In. If it is true that God looks over those with less than full mental capabilities and teen-age boys then he must have been looking over us because we fell into both catagories at one time or another.

-- Posted by leeiii on Thu, Jun 4, 2009, at 4:16 PM

Amen and Amen to being watched over.If it had all been luck it would have run out a long time ago.

Had to be away from the computer for awhile, and being that classic one finger hunt and peck typist,it's getting a little late to try to get into the information that David provided above and your comments on it.Will try to add at least a little speculation in the morning, no guarantee of facts, however, as I'm fresh out of those.

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Thu, Jun 4, 2009, at 9:49 PM

Sorry to be so late with this post,been fighting a head and chest cold for a week now and so far I'm not winning.Didn't sleep more than a couple of hours last night.

David, first let me say thank you for your continued effort each week to come up with interesting bits from the past, and especially commend you for going above and beyond the call of duty in this particular case.

But was Lowe Motor Sales the same Madison Street building that Arnold and Ragan Motors operated from for years -- and now houses a liquor store?

No,not in the 1950's time frame.Like leeiii, I can't honestly recall anything other than Arnold &Ragan, but I would assume that Lowe Motor Sales started at the same place that I am first aware of Arnold&Ragan,which was across the street from the Eureka Pants Mfg.Co.My dad purchased two cars from them over the years,and based soley on the info you have provided, David,I am pretty sure that the first one was purchased from Lowe Motor Sales.This car was bought around 1954 or 1955.But I can't recall ever seeing a sign that read Lowe Motor Sales.Boyd's sold to Cannon about March,1956, thus putting Arnold, a salesman, out of work.I would guess that he bought into LMS, or perhaps bought out Bill's interest around that time.Just a guess.

leeiiii,like you I can't remember the Olds (or Pontiac)location behind the hotel being a tire store.About all that I can remember about the location itself is that pull in apron was pretty shallow and there was either a concrete or concrete block retaining wall on the upper side.

I'm kind of in the same boat with you on Witt Motor Co. on North Main.I will say that I have a nagging, vague feeling that it might have been across North Main St.from the Dixie Service Station, where a large bank now resides.

About City Auto Sales:The name means absolutely nothing to me, no familiarity at all.Oh I know where it was at alright, and it wasn't on North Main Street.From a legal point of view only, yes it was on property that was listed with a N.Main address, but the merchandise, new Mercury autos, were arranged and displayed to catch the attention of travellers on Madison St.And leeiii, I think maybe that address is what is keeping you from zeroing in on this particular business.Try this:its a hot day mid July 1956 and you are in your car headed out N.Main St. for Murfreesboro. Just before you get to Dixie Service Station you decide there's something you need to do in Tullahoma first, so you start to hang a right at the light and whoa, whats that over yonder around the little milk building behind the Rebel Maid? Wow new Mercury auto's, all in a row!

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Fri, Jun 5, 2009, at 5:42 PM

I would like to see a line of photos from Madison Street i.e, Cook's One Stop Market, Sticky's, The Scotsman, the carnival (where the Wal-Mart bldg is on Madison - now used by Jostens), Honeyland, Lowe Oldsmobile, Tillett Bros. Construction, Harold's 41 Market, Vic Thompson's barn (where Regions is now), Ray's Drive-In and the 41 Drive-In theatre. I am especially interested in Ray's Drive-In and the 41 Drive-In theatre if anyone can please post any or all of these. Thankyou.

-- Posted by decorate1 on Fri, Jun 5, 2009, at 8:12 PM

ilikeoldsongs I agree with you that we owe David a debt of gratitude for everything he has done in getting this blog going including the extra time he has given to it. I along with many others I am sure are getting a tremendous amount of joy from reliving the days gone by.

Now that you mention it I am getting a clearer picture of Witt Motor Co. I remember that there was a service station on the corner of North Main and Elm called Gulfpride. The service bays were on the Elm Street side, and there was kind of a showroom on the North Main side. I am now sure that is where Witt Motors was even though my memory is still vague about it.

I do remember the retaining wall between the Dixie Hotel and the car dealership building. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind it seems to me that there was an alley that ran all the way through from Noth Main to North Spring.

I can remember when Wade Arnold was at Boyd's and I can remember him being in business with Bob Ragan but I can not place a date on the transition from one to the other.

I am still having trouble getting a picture in my mind of the Mercurys lined up. However, I know the exact piece of property being mentioned. The Arbys is sitting on part of that property and the expansion of KFC encompasses part of it. I can remember when (maybe more than once) a truck came in and set up kind of a yard sale on that property with tools for sale. They were mostly automotive tools and yard tools.

decorate1 I agree with you about seeing pictures of those places. David is going to hate me for this but maybe if the participants of this blog have some of those pictures, you would be willing to share them with David. I would like to see this blog continue into the hundreds of weeks and beyond. As for Vic Thompson's barn. I can remember him living on the Tullahoma Hwy just before you get to what is now Hillcrest Gardens, and I can remember when he bought the Spence Clardy farm on the Unionville Hwy and built a barn there, but I can not picture one on the Tullahoma Hwy.

To David: Please keep up the good work.

-- Posted by leeiii on Sat, Jun 6, 2009, at 9:46 AM

leeiii,you have got the property location for Chick's Mercury dealership nailed down,no question about it.The only reason that I can think of for my clear memory of the situation is the fact that one of my older first cousins purchased a new Mercury there in possibly 1955 or 1956.

This dealership was not there long, I frankly don't think that it lasted through more than 1 model year.And kind of like the Lowe Motor Sales deal, I don't remember seeing a sign of any size that identified it as City Auto Sales, just a few banners strung around, hence no familiarity with the name.Mostly the fact that my cousin purchased a car there is the reason I remember it at all.

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Sat, Jun 6, 2009, at 11:19 AM

leeiii ---- Vic Thompson's horse barn was on the corner (which was not a corner then) where Regions Bank is on Madison Street -- when his barn was there, the mobile home parks were not -- I can remember one of the most traumatic things happening when I was at my father's restaurant (Ray's Drive-In) -- a horse got out of the barn and on the road (not even a highway at that time -- mostly just blacktop with rocks in it) and was hit by a truck. The horse had to be "put down" because of the shock and injuries. I can remember crying for days over the horse. I hope so much that someone can find the photos I mentioned. My oldest sister had my parent's photos of the past and she along with them has passed away. Her girls don't remember what happened to them and I only have a few but not one of the front of the restaurant or the sign that read Ray's Drive-In and I would love to see it if someone has one.

-- Posted by decorate1 on Sat, Jun 6, 2009, at 8:08 PM

decorate1, I am sorry to hear that your Mom and Dad as well as your sister have now passed on. Ray and Lou were fine people and I thought the world of them. I hope some pictures can be found as well.

Could you tell me what year Vic Thompson's barn was across the road. I am still having a hard time remembering it. I am not doubting your word, just having a hard time remembering.

-- Posted by leeiii on Sat, Jun 6, 2009, at 9:06 PM

Thank you for your kind words about my parents. They were great and I miss both of them every day. The barn was white with a green roof and I can only remember it being a long barn running parallel with the road. It actually sat where Hillcrest Drive crosses Madison Street across from where the 41A club and Mrs. Hill's thrift store were. I think Mrs. Hill's store moved in after the 41A club closed. I remember Mama saying Louis and Faye Smith had the 41A club. Louis also took care of the juke box at "The Place" as we kids called Daddy's restaurant changing records out. Johnny Cash's "Ring Of Fire" was popular then. And Patsy Cline's "Crazy' so that dates me for sure.

-- Posted by decorate1 on Sat, Jun 6, 2009, at 10:25 PM

"Crazy" was at it's peak popularity from late '61 till early '62, while "Ring Of Fire" hit mid '63 into late Summer.

Hope that helps with the time frame.

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Sat, Jun 6, 2009, at 11:03 PM

For decorate1, ilikeoldsongs and anyone else interested in time-dating music, check out www.cashboxmagazine.com/archives.htm which has Top 100 singles charts for each week from the 1950s through the mid-1990s. I'll make a special effort to see if the T-G has any file photos of Ray's Drive-In for you, decorate1. I remember Ray's well -- it was at the end of the street on which I grew up, and as a child I used to ride my bicycle around the old Ray's building after it shut down and sat empty for awhile before a used car dealership opened there.

-- Posted by David Melson on Sun, Jun 7, 2009, at 10:40 PM

David, thanks a bunch for the link to the Cashbox charts.I have been looking off and on for a long time for a source for weekly charts to supplement the Joel Whitburn Billboard reference books I have.Weekly charts will provide a degree of flexability that has been missing till now. Thanks again.

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Mon, Jun 8, 2009, at 7:32 AM

Ditto on the Cashbox charts. ilikeoldsongs, do either you or David have a link for a Country Music archive.

-- Posted by leeiii on Mon, Jun 8, 2009, at 7:53 AM

leeiii, I don't have any idea where to find a good reference source on the 'net for country music, possibly because since about the seventies no one seems to know what country music really is. As with anything, there are a few exceptions, a few good music makers out there still, but when entertainers start smashing guitars and such they lose my attention right quick like.

I have been frustrated at what seems like every turn since I started collecting a few favorite tunes around 1990. Putting songs together with thier original artist is sometimes tough, then you find, apt as not, that the version you want is not available domestically and you wind up in England or Germany and pay 20.00 for a cd because RCA,etc. are not interested in making small collector runs, they want the big bucks.

Information in general is so scattered and inaccurate at times, that it's useless or worse.

If anyone was wanting to start a music collection, or had reached the point that thier own recollection was starting to yield diminished returns, I would heartily recommend the purchase of a professional music work such as those in the Billboard series, authored by Joel Whitburn.

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Mon, Jun 8, 2009, at 4:19 PM

Billboard Magazine -- entire issues, including all the charts, from 1942 to 2008 -- recently became available on Google Books at http://books.google.com/books?id=dSIEAAA... but you have to wade through all the other pages to find the charts. These cover any genre of music you want to research.

For more info on rock music from a source most younger people from the 1960s through mid-1970s listened to here at night, check the WLS charts at www.users.qwest.net/~oldiesloon/wlsyear.....

And to hear rock and country from earlier years, check, believe it or not, YouTube. A surprising number of people have posted the audio of their music collections along with videos of spinning records or still photos or slideshows of the artists or the record label itself.

-- Posted by David Melson on Mon, Jun 8, 2009, at 10:22 PM

To David, leeiii and any other music lovers out there, I'd like to add a link to the list above.

www.classicbands.com

I haven't been able to spend much time on this site as yet, but it seems to contain a large amount of factual information, in a format that would be easier to access than thumbing through several large musical reference books. There also seems to be a considerable amount of verifiable trivia, much of which the younger readers of these blogs will probably be unaware of, but may find interesting, as lots of it gives an accurate insight into the thinking processes of many of the "older generation" of the 1950's, especially.

I'm glad that my parents didn't buy into all the hysteria surrounding music and television at that time. For that matter, I wasn't personally acquainted with any adults that did, thank goodness.

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Sun, Mar 21, 2010, at 11:58 AM

ilikeoldsongs, Thanks for the link. That one is pure gold. I began briefly to look at the names of those who have passed on. I got as far as the "B"'s and discovered that Bob Bogle had died this past June. I have got a lot more looking that I want to do on that site.

-- Posted by leeiii on Sun, Mar 21, 2010, at 4:11 PM


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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.