D.D. Gross Motor Sales: Stories from Around the Shop

Click here to read Part 6.

D. D. Gross Motor Sales employed numerous full and part time employees.

Positions in sales, bookkeeping and mechanics were most commonly filled. Many past employees remembered humorous shop stories.  These stories provide an entertaining glimpse into daily activities. Most of the past employees interviewed worked in the repair shop, while a few worked in the showroom and parts department.

The parts department separated the showroom from the repair shop. This area contained small parts storage and a counter space.

Employee Betty Schreiber at D.D. Gross Motor Sales. Image provided by Scott Gross.

Bulky inventory was stored in the attic. In the parts department, customers could buy all sorts of Packard products for their cars. Products like tar remover, rubbing compound, wax, and touch up paint could be purchased.

Image provided by Scott Gross.

Mechanics would visit the parts department to obtain parts needed for repairs. The well-worn Packard catalogs were used for looking up part numbers.

Image provided by Scott Gross.

Betty Schreiber worked part time in the 1950s.

She sold Sherwin Williams paint, kitchen products, helped with billing and worked in the parts department.

Image provided by Scott Gross.

Betty recalled, “Dan’s sister, Evelyn, used to come in with her two kids almost every week. The kids liked to get into the brand-new cars that were sitting in the showroom. This was usually AFTER they had eaten candy or ice cream. I would always have to clean the inside of the showroom cars after they left”. 

Double doors led from the parts department to the shop. The repair shop was wide enough to hold four cars, but only had one large overhead door. There was a line of steel work benches along the back wall. A valve grinding machine and testing equipment were placed along the side wall. The paint and body shop was even smaller. It was narrow and only fit two cars end to end. The exterior wall of the body shop was all windows to let in as much natural light as possible for spray painting.

The following shop stories were shared by past employees:

My father-in-law, Bob Gross, was working at the garage on a blizzard day in the 1940s. On that day, Dr. Price from Stony Ridge had made a house call on a narrow road north of Moline. His Packard was stuck in a drift. Dan told Bob to put tire chains on Dan’s personal Packard, take a tow chain and retrieve the doctor. According to Bob, it was a harrowing experience. Can you imagine using a relatively new Packard as a tow truck?

Charles Waggoner

One time, I had to go with Dan to Bowling Green to pick up a car. Dan was driving a 1941 Packard and was really a fast driver. He said to me, “Come on Irwin, I’ll show you a new way to get to Bowling Green.” It was raining pretty hard. Nevertheless, Dan was driving 70 to 80 MPH in the rain. Riding with him really scared me that day. When we got there, he says to me, “Now be careful driving home, after all, it’s raining out.”

Irwin Welling

Dan usually sat at his desk, doing paperwork and answering the phone. I remember one day, the guys were kidding him about getting a little soft from just sitting at the desk. It just so happened that there was a tire that needed repair. He was challenged to fix the tire in a certain time limit. Dan agreed and went to work removing the tire and putting in a new tube. Dan succeeded in the job and got the tire back on the rim in the allotted time, but was sweating and puffing. Dan then remarked, “There, now don’t tell me I can’t do a job.”

Alwin Welling

            George Taylor was at the shop one day. At the time, he was driving a Packard. It was pouring down rain and he could not get his car to start. Dan told me to go out and get it running. The choke was stuck. So I got the car running. George reaches into his coin purse and hands me a quarter.

He says, “Here, this is for you.” I took it and said thanks, but I thought to myself, a quarter, big deal.

Chuck Hitchens

I started working at D.D. Gross Motor Sales around 1948 when I was in high school. My duties at the garage were cleaning, polishing, changing tires,           delivering and picking up customers cars, delivering appliances, and running parts from the parts houses in Toledo. Oh, I almost forgot. For a VERY brief period, I tried selling Packards for Dan at his suggestion. You can imagine an eighteen- or nineteen-year-old kid, trying to sell an upscale car to very mature customers. I was not successful at selling cars.

Clif Falls

Dan had sold a Packard to the police chief in Woodville, for his wife. I was told to take the car to her and that she would drive me back. Keep in mind, this is the wife of a police chief. On the way back, whenever she would make a stop, it would be a full panic stop, just about locking up the brakes.

After a couple of stops, I asked her if she always stopped that way. That was the only way she knew how to stop.

I tried to encourage her to be gentler, but I don’t know if she ever learned. I was glad to get back to Moline in one piece.

Clif Falls

Ted was a master in his ability to reform the auto body parts with melted lead to their original contours. Ted was also exceptional in mixing paint to match. In time, paint would oxidize and matching paint to the oxidized color was difficult. One time, George Biniker wanted his Americar painted. He told Ted that he didn’t care what color, just mix up some old paint. The car came out pink and George drove it for years. It was Ted’s kind of a joke.

Charles Waggoner

Ted loved a practical joke, and one summer day when he brought out a Worth Clegg funeral home ambulance for repair. He saw that the big shop door was open and that everyone was under a car working. So he idled up very quietly, got the nose of the ambulance inside the shop and hit the siren full blast!            Several banged heads and mad mechanics from that!

Roger Gross

This is a small sample of the many stories that were told. Gathering shop stories was one of the best research experiences I had while working on this project. The next installment in this series reviews new Packard advertising from the 1950s. Click here to read Part 8.

Author

  • Emily Benoit

    Lover of research and writing, libraries and archives. Graduate of Oakland University's MA of English Literature program; and Wayne State University's MLIS program with an additional certification in archival administration.