Stories From The Past By Friends & Employees
A while ago, I put out a call for stories and memories from employees and friends of Reed Brothers. It has taken a while for me to compile them all, but I am delighted to share them with you now in this special post. Here is what they said.
John Hall – Mechanic
The mechanics at Reed brothers Dodge worked on the Flat Rate System of pay. That meant if there was no work, there was no pay. This was very difficult on a family man. There were times in the winter that we were lacking customers. Brownie, who was an excellent mechanic would bang a Torsion Bar on a metal trash can to get Phil Vetter’s, or one of the service advisers attention (a torsion bar is a steel bar that was used on Chrysler products in place of front springs.) The bar could be twisted to raise or lower the height of the vehicle. There was also no sick leave, or holiday pay offered through the dealership. I decided to write up a proposal to the president of the dealership, Lee Gartner via Phil Vetter. All of the mechanics signed the petition. After a period of negotiation back, and forth, Lee Gartner came back with an offer of 6 sick days a year at $20.00 a day, and the six major holidays at $40.00 a day. This does not seem like a lot of money now, but in the early seventies it was much appreciated. Reed Brothers was now one of very few dealerships at that time to offer sick, and holiday pay to flat rate mechanics.
When the state widened the roads in 1970, Reed Brothers relocated from its original facility at the intersection of Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike to new Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep service complex on Route 355 at 15955 Frederick Road. Many longtime customers followed them to the new location. One of them that I remember well is John Logan Seitz from his 1957 Dodge that he owned, and the spinner hubcaps were always getting stolen from the front of his house in Kensington, Md, before he moved to Potomac in 1971. He was still coming to Reed Brothers when I came back to work in 1999, and for many years after I left. He said all the Gartner’s were very nice, and the employees treated him well.
In the winter time when the doors were all shut in the shop, and the engines on more then one car was running, the fumes were so bad that we had to open the side employee entrance door and walk outside for some air. One morning Lee Gartner walked by, and said; What are you boys doing? Why aren’t you in the shop working? We said we needed some fresh air because of the fumes. After we complained about the fumes for awhile, OSHA came out, and measured the carbon monoxide level in the shop, and it was high. Shortly after that Lee Gartner installed a whole new exhaust vent system in the shop.
One time John Trammel drove a customers car through the front garage door because the brakes failed, and when he beeped the horn for someone to open the door, no one did. It was winter time. The Gartner kids were as young as me at the time, and I worked on all of their Demos. Lee used to water his plants, and read his newspaper usually standing up in the corner of the showroom, and then walk through the shop picking up trash. I think he controlled the heat in the shop for us. The shop was smaller then 30 bays in 1972. The building ended right behind the heavy truck lift. There was a radiator repair shop in the back of the Body Shop, and Nathan Howard used to repair many radiators there. He also kept a small garden in the field behind the shop. The body shop was much smaller then. Lee took us to Mealy’s restaurant in New Market for a Christmas dinner once in a Snowstorm. We were all dressed up. He said, “I didn’t know you boys could look so good.” There was a man named Robert who was the car painter. In those days painters had to breathe a lot of fumes. His beard was usually painted along with the car he was painting.
The shop was broken into in the 70’s and Ben McGowan’s tools were stolen, along with some other mechanics tools. Lee Gartner had us all inventory our tools, and in a few days replaced all the stolen tools.
Roger Camp – Mechanic
He said the shop was again broken into years later, and the thieves stole a box truck off the lot with a lift gate, and loaded all the tool boxes up in the shop into the truck. They also took a large sledge hammer out of the body shop, and tried to break open the office safe. They were never caught. Roger said Lee Gartner installed an alarm system shortly after, due to the insurance companies regulations.
Janice Beall Taylor
Both of my parents worked at Reed Brothers in the early 1930’s. My mother (Mary Anna Slater) was the book keeper, and my father (Leonard Beall) worked in the paint shop. At the beginning of WWII my dad was working in the Paint Shop at Reed’s, matching paint on cars that had been damaged. When the draft took place, Selective Service disqualified him because they said he was “colorblind”.
Daddy always told this story: In 1942, they only had one new car left to sell. It was up to him to back it into the showroom. He was in the driver’s seat, with the door open looking backwards to see where he was going, and he got too close to a support pole (and was probably going too fast!), and ripped the door right off the car! The last one! Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence that Daddy left Reed’s and took a War job at National Airport until he opened his own business in 1944. I also remember my mom telling stories about riding to work with Mr. Raleigh Chinn after they moved into their new house on Anderson Ave. in 1938.
When the Goodyear Blimp came to visit Reed Brother’s in 1938 to promote tires I went up for a ride!! My mother worked as a bookkeeper at Reed’s when the Blimp came, and she was 8 1/2 months pregnant with me! She called her doctor (Dr. Hartley) and asked if it would be okay for her to go on the Blimp, and he said, “…only if I can go, too”. So she and Dr. Hartley and I rode along. Of course, I wasn’t born until 2 weeks later, but my mother and Dr. Hartley went up! My kids always thought it was neat that I’d been up in a blimp!!!
Robert Higdon (Assistant Service Manager)
I came to Reed Brothers Dodge a little over a year after spending three years in the Army serving in Vietnam 67-68. Reed Brothers Dodge was a part of my early life, but we all move on and change with the times. I was very sorry to see you lose your franchise. It wasn’t fair that it happened and now the building is gone too. Longevity should have played a part in you keeping the business. You all have played a big part in my life during those years and from time to time I think and remember some of the best times in my life were being your friend and co-worker.
Other Stories on Social Media
Tim B. Used to go into the service bay after school at St. Marys and get a Dr. Pepper and some Lance peanuts. Poured the peanuts into the Dr. Pepper and guzzled it down while watching mechanics work on cars. And it was a cool place for boys to hang out and watch cars get fixed. Very cool to a 4th grader.
Mark T. On the left side of Reed Bros. Dodge there was a concrete ramp going up to the second level. I used to play on it while my mom (Marie Thompson) crossed school kids from St. Mary’s to Richard Montgomery. She crossed Veirs Mill and the Pike for 30 years. The only time she missed is when she was pregnant with me in 1956.
John M. The first car I bought was a Dodge Dart Sport from Reed Brother’s. My dad went along with me to pick it out. I remember him asking me if I was sure I could afford it. I had just gotten my first teaching job. Never had another new car for the next 40 years. I loved that car. When I worked at United Auto Parts, I mixed the paint that the body shop painter used to paint Riggs Schultz’s sweet Plymouth — Go Mopar.
Michael B. I remember when the new car models would be snuck into Rockville at night and covered up every fall until the “release date” … I think back then it was October 1 …
John W. B. My parents bought their strangest car at Reed Brothers. A 1962 dart with a watermelon shaped steering wheel and push-button shifting.
Sally M. My first new car, a 1980 Dodge Colt came from Reed Brothers. My ’69 Chevy Laguna blew up at Lake Forest Mall the day my car arrived and Reed Brothers still honored the trade in.
Izetta W. T. Jeanne T. Gartner, my dad is George Waters. I remember him talking about you! Reed Brothers was like a big family. He enjoyed working there and the relationship with everyone. He was well respected there, as he would tell me of one of the Brothers personally asking him to help on a difficult job because he knew my dad had the skills to do it. Great memories.
Minnie W. S. Wow, thanks for this story. I remember we were Reed Brothers’ emergency number, which is why we could never tie up the phone. He loved working at Reed Brothers, was like a second family for him.
Thanks to everyone who responded with memories of the good years. I would love to see more if anyone else has any.
Good Sunday Morning , Jeanne T. Gartner,
These recollections from former employees and associates of the Reed Brothers Dodge dealership are wonderful. Noteworthy are the many very complimentary remarks about the franchise. It is truly sad that Chrysler Corporation chose to terminate the dealership. I am sure that is a story in and of itself , were it to be accurately told. Jeanne , these posted remarks reflect the atmosphere and business climate in a well run auto dealership in the past. I am inclined to wonder if this ethos continues in many dealerships today. How the world changes. Sincerely, Jonathan ( Jack ) Richards in Chesterfield, Missouri.
Thanks for posting these memories Jean.