May 9, 1996
Marilyn Alley recently found a unique advertising token from Perry's earlier days, perhaps 60 or 70 years ago. It is a miniature hand-held vanity mirror measuring about four inches in length. The mirror itself is round, approximately one inch in diameter, and it shows no sign of distortion, indicating a quality product. The handle is slender and tapers toward the middle for easy gripping by the thumb and one finger. The entire piece has a brass-plated finish with an embossed design. On the reverse side of the mirror is this message, also embossed in the metal: "Dodge Brothers -- Motor Cars -- Savage Motor Co., Ponca City and Perry, Okla."
I am guessing that the Savage Motor Co. was operated by the late Orville Savage, perhaps in the 1920s. A few decades later Orville and his wife, the former Mabel Foster, had a fine furniture store on the south end of the west side of the square, where the Christoph & Newton Furniture Store and Undertaking Parlor had been located. That building now is being readied by a new owner for a display of antique and classic automobiles, which ties right in with the subject of today's discourse.
If memory serves, the Savage Motor Co. in Perry was located in the area once known as "Auto Row," our own little version of Gasoline Alley. Generally, that was the 400 block on Sixth street between Delaware and Elm streets. Although with several notable exceptions the block is sort of desolate looking now and slightly run down at the heels, Auto Row existed there for two or more decades. In the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, that's where you went to look at the shiny new offerings from Detroit with that great new car smell. Several brands of cars were available there from a collection of dealerships that tended to change periodically through the years as economic conditions dictated. Some of them went broke, others did quite well. Most of the dealers managed enough sales to feed their families and keep the doors open.
In the 1930s and 1940s, at the corner of Sixth and Delaware where the Exchange Bank is now located, was the Chevrolet dealership operated by C. C. "Slim" Lacy. Mr. Lacy looked the look, walked the walk and talked the talk of a genuine cowboy, which he was, and he would rather have been on the rodeo circuit instead of greeting customers on the showroom floor. One block north of there, on the northeast corner of Sixth and Elm (503 Sixth street) where Loyd Hughes' Perry Auto Repair is now situated, was the Ford dealership operated by Sherman Krisher, a stout, distinguished looking gentleman, and the Krisher brothers.
Across the street from them at 501 Sixth street was H. G. "Doc" Donley's garage, where the Luthye garage is now based. Doc represented more than one car manufacturer here at different times. His last dealership was the post-World War II Kaiser-Fraser autos, which had only a short lifespan. In earlier times he was the local Pontiac dealer.
In between the showrooms of Mr. Krisher, the Ford dealer, and Mr. Lacy, the Chevrolet dealer, was a selection of several more new automobiles, most of them on the west side of Sixth street. The Savage Motor Co., featuring Dodge cars and trucks, probably was one of them. Earl Bechtold also sold Chryslers, Plymouths and DeSotos in that block at one time, and so did Tom Wolleson. Cole-Eby, an early-day BuickPontiac-Oakland dealership, also was located there. Nash cars, Hudson-Terraplanes, Studebakers, and possibly some others were offered by various entrepreneurs.
Bush-Terry took over the Krisher building after World War II and had a Pontiac dealership there, along with International Harvester farm equipment. Art Coffey was the manager of the firm before he went into the insurance business and later became a Ditch Witch dealer in the Los Angeles area. Ralph Cooper, the OldsmobiIe and GMC truck dealer, was at 413 Sixth street. James C. "Happy" Ken with his Dodge and Plymouth car business was right next door at 415 Sixth street, and his neighbor was the Earl Bechtold Motor Co. at 417 Sixth street.
William A. Box had a Studebaker dealership and Texaco gas station in the old Lacy Chevrolet building after that dealership was moved down the street by O. J. Moore to the present location at 520 Delaware, now the home of RubleVance Motors.
Not all of those dealers were located in that one-block span at the same time, but there were always enough of them there that the name Auto Row was very apt. Each dealer had his own service department and a full retinue of able mechanics.
In March 1938, Perry area used car dealers promoted a special one-day sale leading off with a parade around the square. Some of those taking part were Trussel-Bechtold Motor Co. (DeSotos and Plymouths), 423 Sixth street; Cooper Motor Co. (Oldsmobiles), also listing 423 Sixth street as the location; Noble County Motor Co., Donley Motor Co. (Pontiacs), Motor Inn Garage (Hudson cars), 413 Seventh street; Cole-Eby Motor Co., Lacy Motor Co., and D. Carpenter. Motor Inn advertised a new Hudson sedan at $694.
By no means is this intended to be a total recall of all the car dealerships from that era of Perry's history, but this is some of them with primary emphasis on the fabled Auto Row, that single block of Sixth street between Delaware and Elm. There were others at different times through the years. This is just a recollection of a few of them. I'm sure some of you can add others.
In the next Northwest Comer, we'll take a look at some of the gas stations, repair shops and other related businesses that used to operate here. In the meantime, Mrs. Alley would like to know more about the Savage Motor Co., and maybe you can help her. Also, if you have more information about Perry's Auto Row on Sixth street, I would be interested in hearing about that.