Chet Smith Remembers Auto Row, Baker County, Oregon


With the passing of W. C. Poe, who was a pioneer in the new car business in Baker, brings back a lot of memories, and Broadway Street was truly "Auto Row" in Baker. The two first dealerships I remember on this street were the Welling Chevrolet Company, which operated on the northeast corner of Main and Broadway streets, in the building now occupied by Century 21 Real Estate, The other was Frisbie and Perkins Motor Company, which was located on the southwest corner of Broadway and First streets, the present site of Pioneer Federal Savings and Loan Association. They were Ford dealers, and sold Model T Fords. This was about 1924. One block away, the present location of CP National, was the Carter Motor Company, operated by W. D. "Pete" Carter. It was here he introduced the first Chrysler, in 1924. He later moved his dealership to the former Chevrolet building at Main and Broadway streets. This was about 1928.
     Approximately 1928, Chauncey Kirkpatrick purchased the business and located it where Pioneer Federal now stands, the former Ford location. Frisbie had moved his Ford dealership to its present location on north Main Street. Chauncey Kirkpatrick's Chevrolet dealership then occupied the entire block on the south side of Broadway Street, from First Street to Second Street. Included in the operation was a Standard gas station at Second and Broadway streets.

     Between Second and Third streets, the Tibbals Building, now a self-service car wash, was A. L. Denney Motor Company. He was the dealer for Dodge and Velie Motor cars. He and his mechanics put together a Velie race car, which was one of the better ones, which used to race on the half-mile track of the fair grounds, now the site of the New Tribes school on H Street. Denney operated from the early 1920s until his death about 1942.

     After World War II. the building was acquired by McManus Motor Company which handled Kaiser-Frasier cars and International Harvester trucks. McManus also became the Chevrolet dealer, affiliated with Lee Cables, the franchised Chevrolet dealer from Ontario. This partnership divided about 1946, and the Chevrolet dealership was acquired by Bill Burnside, a man from southern California, who set up temporary quarters on the site now occupied by Richardson tire shop.

     The building at Second Street and Washington Avenue , now occupied by Keith O'Brien's (formerly Hirsch Value Center) was built by Myron Fleecer, a logger and mill operator from Minam Town, about 1954. He had acquired the DeSoto-Plymouth agency, which only lasted about three years.

      Where the 5J administration building now stands was a garage, which was enlarged, and remodeled several times. The first dealer there was Arthur Murray, and he sold Hudson, Essex and Terraplane cars. Next came Archie Service, and he sold Star and Durant. Then came Jay Anderson and Ted Haves and they sold Plymouth and DeSoto. This was about the early 1940s. Across the street, on the northeast corner of Fourth and Broadway streets was a dealership called Miller and Miller. It was operated by a father and his two sons. They sold Graham-Paige and Jewitt lines. The Graham-Paige was the first automobile available in Baker with four-wheel hydraulic brakes. The Millers acquired the Studebaker franchise, and also sold the Studebaker Erskine, the Lark and all of the Studebaker line. About 1955 the Millers sold their Studebaker dealership to Bruce Kirkpatrick.

     Near Fifth and Broadway streets, where Joe Frerick's body shop now operates, was an empty building, which was rented by W.C. Poe. about 1934. Here he started one of our fist auto salvage stores, and sold used parts for a time. It was about 1936 when he acquired the Nash dealership, and during the war years he acquired the present location of the Poe Motor Company. He eventually became the oldest dealer operating under the same franchise in Baker.

      The building at Sixth and Broadway streets, now the Poe Motor Company, has been a garage for a long time. A black, sheet metal building, known as the Implement House, was there prior to the 1920s. It had a hand-operated gasoline pump, mounted near the curb on the sidewalk, and this was one of the first places where people who owned cars could buy gasoline.

     At this same location. A. F. Kerr and Associates started the Universal Motor Co. about 1925. They had the franchise for Willys-Knight and Whippet cars. This dealership flourished until about 1934. and it was closed out when Kerr took over the new Shell service station at Main Street and Auburn Avenue.

     The building again became a garage in 1934, when Cret Hardwick started the Hardwick Motor Co. He had acquired the dealership for Graham and Hupmobile cars, and did a fine job of selling these units, especially considering that the economy was depressed. He acquired the Pontiac line about 1937, and moved his dealership to 10th and Broadway streets, the present site of the Salvation Army store.

     The building known as the Ostermoor Hotel, which still stands in the 2600 Block of Broadway Street, although it is boarded up with plywood, was the first home of Pontiac and Oakland. This dealership opened in 1924. and was operated by Cliff Perkins. He is the brother of Mrs. Paul Gardner of Baker, and is retired at Milwaukee. He is 85.

     The northwest corner of Eighth and Broadway streets was acquired by P.M. McCallister about 1939, and he moved his Oldsmobile-Cadillac dealership there from the present garage building at First Street and Auburn Avenue, a building built by L. G. Sown about 1929. It was known as the Bown's Garage, and served as a storage and service facility of the Hotel Baker during its heyday.

     The southwest corner of Eighth and Broadway streets was a service station, and was occupied about 1942 by A. L. Barker, who had purchased the estate of A. L. Denny. He located the Dodge dealership there during the war years. About 1945 he acquired the Bown's.

      About 1935 Hardwick Motor Co. moved to the present site of the Salvation Army Store, 10th and Broadway 'streets. Hardwick still had Graham and Hupmobile, and acquired Pontiac in 1937. Hardwick sold to Ray Woodward about 1940, and Woodward sold to George Scott, who came into the auto business about 1950.

     George Scott had been our high school coach, and once operated Scott's Men's Store, which is now Bonn's. Scott sold the Pontiac dealership to a "high roller" whose name was Sandy Camp, about 1951.

     When Camp took over the dealership, he threw the biggest party our town had ever seen. He rented the Hotel Baker, had a window removed from the Auburn Avenue side, and put two new Pontiacs in the hotel lobby. Food and drink were on Sandy Camp Pontiac. and there were no invitations. The whole county was invited. It was the biggest event our town had ever seen.

     This is where I came into the picture. In the fall of 1954 I purchased the bankrupt operation of Sandy Camp, and established Chet Smith Motors, with franchises for Pontiac and International Harvester. One of my good friends came to me, and asked if I shouldn't be concerned. He warned that Camp had just lost $150,000 in the same dealership, and it couldn't be anything but high risk. I told him not to be alarmed, because I didn't have nearly that much to lose. I moved the dealership from there to the present location at 10th and A streets in 1960.

     At the corner of 10th and Church streets was once the Hudson-Essex dealership of Allingham and Scanlon. George Richardson now operates the Goodyear Store from that location. Allingham and Scanlon operated from about 1937 to 1940.

Editor's note: Chet Smith, 73, proprietor of Chet Smith Motors Inc., 2514 10th St., and a native Bakerite, is the city's senior automobile dealer. He first went into business in 1931 with a service station at 10th and Broadway streets. In 1954 he bought his first dealership at the same location. The following is his history of the automobile business on Broadway Street.

Printed here with the permission of Baker City Herald

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