Union Chevy dealership had a nearly 60-year historyBy TERESA BLOUNT,
While the horse and buggy or mule and wagon had been the primary mode of transportation for centuries, men in Union got the desire to own the new automobile as cars began to appear on the market. Then some adventurous Union men even got the urge to enter the business of selling them.
As early as 1919, E.M. Moore opened a business that sold Oldsmobiles, Chevrolets and Dixie Flyers. In June 1921, Hays and Lewis had the Chevrolet dealership. Then by 1923, the Wilson brothers who had a garage at the time became the next Chevrolet dealer and changed their business name to Wilson Chevrolet. They moved to Whittle Bros. Garage and Service Station until 1926 when they constructed a two-story building at 104 Bank St. (H
ouse of Hope today) to house their dealership.
However, by 1931, Grady Graham had acquired the Chevrolet dealership. He moved it next door to the 106 Bank St. building that he had also built in 1926. At this time, automobiles were transported in boxcars of trains. Graham hired Bob Carleton and Leon White to assemble them in the boxcars, put wheels on them, and drive them to the building on Bank Street. On the north wall inside the store was a
ramp that these two young men used to drive the cars to the second-floor showcase room.
The Great Depression hit car dealers hard. In 1933, Graham owned the only automobile sales agency in Union. Lamar Sansang and Leon White managed his business. Then in 1934, when Graham moved to Jackson to become a Chrysler distributor, he sold the Chevrolet dealership to Sansang and White. They changed the name to S&W Motor Co. and remained at the 106 Bank St. store.
In 1936, J.T. Buntyn became successor to S&W Motor Co., changing the name to J.T. Buntyn Motor Co. He immediately bought the former post office and the Williams-Brooks buildings on the southwest corner of Main and Bank Streets, remodeled them, and moved his Chevrolet dealership there in April. The area at 114 Main (Faye’s today) became his entrance and office area, 112 Main held the parts department, and 112 and a half Main (Union Church today) was the showroom which held only one car. Gas pumps were installed in front of the office. The service entrance with a roll-up door faced Masonic Hall on Bank Street.
Leon White and Rush Turner were Buntyn’s salesmen, but not for long. They quickly got the Plymouth/Chrysler dealership and opened their own business White and Turner Motors in May 1936 in Graham’s 106 Bank St. building where they had just left. Turner left the business in 1942, and White then changed the name to White Auto Co.
Meanwhile, J.T. Buntyn sold his Buntyn Motor Co. to Modern Chevrolet owners Norman Weathersby and Jack Lee in 1941. In August, they changed the name to Service Chevrolet. In October 1942, this business closed and left Union without a Chevrolet dealership.
In October 1945, Sam Hays began working on a new building at 105 Jackson Road for Leon White’s White Auto Co., still a Plymouth/Chrysler dealership. White moved into this building in 1947 and then secured the Chevrolet agency in early 1948, thus giving up his prior dealership.
White Auto Co. stayed there until White sold to John Lee, who opened Lee Chevrolet, in 1959. Lee then sold to Dave Hawthorne for Hawthorne Chevrolet in 1978. He added Chrysler in 1983 and Dodge in 1985. Then he closed his business in 1987. Hawthorne sold his building to Sonny Gray, who used it as part of his Ford operation, and the Chevrolet dealership in Union came to an end.
Ralph Germany reminded me of other employees when he worked with Chevrolet: John Thrash, another salesman, Lev Ferguson, Icem Chaney, Bo White, James McCorkle and Donald Gomillion. I then recalled when I was a young girl growing up on Horne Street. My family lived between the homes of W.H. Herrington and Norris Smith, both of whom also worked there.
I want to give a special thanks to my friend and neighbor Mr. Harold Carleton for the help he has given me in this and several other articles since I have begun this project.
Here are the questions for this week:
• Do you know others who worked at automobile dealerships?
• Do you know anyone who was a carhop at the Magnolia Inn?
• Do you know where used car lots were located?
If you have memories or further information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 601-774-5564 or 109 Woodhaven Drive, Union, 39365.