Today is a very special post in remembrance of my mother, Mary Jane (Reed) Gartner, who passed away one year ago on September 10, 2019. Her father, Lewis Reed, was the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge of Rockville – a family business that would be carried out for 97 years and three generations. It’s hard for me not to reflect on what an amazing person she was. As with most people, I have a few people in my life who really inspire me, and my mom is one of them.
In some ways, it seems like more than a year has passed since she passed. Her absence is part of my daily life now. At some point every day, I think I should call her and have to remind myself I can no longer do this. But I can keep her memory alive by sharing a few recent stories about her.
Apple Cider Time!
In the autumn months, a weekly visit with mom to Lewis Orchard Farm Market in Dickerson, Maryland for some apples and cider was a weekly ritual. Then over to Bassett’s in Poolesville for dinner. She was always happy to get out and enjoy the beautiful fall days and the sights outside.
Did Someone Say “Happy Hour?”
We celebrated mom’s 93rd birthday at Bassett’s Fine Food & Spirits in Poolesville, one of her favorite restaurants.
The Saturday Lunch Bunch
Saturday lunches were something that my mom and her friends at Asbury Methodist Village always looked forward to. They had a lot of fun taking turns choosing which restaurant they would go to each Saturday. I always tried to have an annual summer cookout for them down at my place. Simple pleasures mean so much more these days, and grilling out was always a big hit.
Below, we are enjoying a cookout on my back porch with mom and three of her friends. Burgers, beer brats, baked beans, potato salad, marinated asparagus, and homemade key lime pie were on the menu. Three of them in their 90s, doing with gusto whatever it is that gives them joy. I miss these small, but very meaningful times. Hard to believe that this was only 5 years ago.
“What’s Your Excuse?”
The photo gallery below could be titled, “what’s your excuse?” This is my mom at 94 years of age going through her exercise routine at the Asbury Village Wellness Center. Great job mom!
My #1 Fan
My mom has always been my #1 fan. I was so very proud to have had her in the audience on November 18, 2016 when I was recognized with the Arthur M. Wagman Award for Historic Preservation Communication by Peerless Rockville for my blog and book documenting the history of Reed Brothers Dodge. The ceremony was held at Glenview Mansion, one of Rockville’s most beautiful historic properties. It was a tremendous honor for me to receive this award, but more importantly, share this special occasion with my mother. I saw my mom in the audience. I saw her smile and I felt her joy.
Never Too Late to Learn Something New
My mom has always been an active person and had the heart and mind of someone 20 years younger. She was 90 years old when she joined Facebook! She was not only a Facebook friend, but a Skyper, a Texter and could navigate an iPhone and Windows 8! I could have not possibly been more proud of her.
Recalling a Wonderful Life
I have been fortunate to have spent the last 10+ years experiencing the best friendship ever with my mother. One of my greatest joys was looking through all of my grandfather’s photographs along with my mother. On many afternoon visits with her, we went through hundreds of photographs and wrote down names, dates, and locations to the best of her recollection. We were able to relive the highlights of her life together; it was a very special time. This weekly activity, working together with her sharing memories and photos about previous generations, has been one of the greatest joys of my adult life.
Watching my mom’s eyes light up when I gave her the first proof book of her father’s entire photograph collection — 350 pages and 2500+ photographs — was a beautiful thing to see. True magic happened when she opened that book and started looking through the pictures. The book was a monumental task, and almost 10 years in the making, but it had a monumental reward at the end. Bringing out all those cherished memories for my mother was truly a celebration of her life.
Near the end of her life, I came to understand what a strong person my mother was. My mother had grit, warmth, a positive outlook on life, and an independent streak that served her well during the last years of her life.
Grateful for Beautiful Memories
When it comes right down to it, all we have are memories. You don’t have to travel or go far away to make memories; it can be as simple as a trip to the orchard or a Saturday afternoon brunch. I miss my mother, but I am forever grateful for the beautiful memories she left me. I find it helps to take the perspective that I didn’t really lose her. I know exactly where she is and where she’ll always be. She is alive in my memories and the link to all the history I share on this blog.
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.
I thought it would be fun to create a special blog post of employee, friends, and family memories of Reed Brothers. So far, I have already collected some great stories from a handful of people sharing their personal favorite highlights of Reed Brothers. If you have any favorite memories, stories, or even photos you would like to share, please send them to me via the “Contact Me” section at the top of this page or click on this link: https://reedbrothersdodgehistory.wordpress.com/about-2/contact-me/
I will compile and showcase them here in a special blog post. This really will tell a very personal story of our company from the perspective of those who contributed to its 97 years of success.
Let’s hear them!
In 1926 Lewis Reed, the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge, and his wife Ethlene built a craftsman-style house in Gaithersburg Maryland, at what is today 301 North Frederick Avenue. This was my grandparents home. This was the home where my mother (Mary Jane Reed Gartner) was born and raised. Some of my earliest memories are visits to this home as I spent a lot of time there during my childhood.
It’s weird, the things you remember from childhood. Who knows why some things stick in your memory and others quickly fade away. Often there seems to be no rhyme nor reason behind it. While writing a page on this blog about the Reed Family Home, I also started making some notes about some of the arbitrary things I could remember about them and their home. And eventually some of that turned into this blog post.
They lived just across the Frederick Avenue bridge over the railroad tracks from where I grew up, so my grandparents played an integral role in the creation of my early childhood memories. This special post will highlight some of my personal memories of my grandparents home and hopefully give readers a small glimpse of our family history.
Their home had a big front porch, a back terrace, fish pond, chicken yard, and a beautiful back yard surrounded with flowers. In the basement there was a coal-fired, straight-out-of-a-scary-movie furnace, a laundry room, a finished area where my grandfather would show movies on his 16mm reel to reel film projector, and lots of space for me to play paddle ball (hitting a rubber ball with a wooden paddle that was attached to the ceiling with a string).
Some of my most cherished childhood memories are of making homemade ice cream with my grandfather. We used to make it with a “crank it yourself” ice cream maker. It always seemed to take forever. As a child, I wanted the ice cream immediately. Everyone who wanted to have a serving of ice cream when it was finished was expected to take a turn at turning the handle. When I was little, I would always go first because when the ice cream began to harden the churn became harder and harder to turn. My grandfather, or my mom or dad, would always have to take over at the very end. Sweet memories of a simpler time.
The fish pond was a magical place for a young grade-schooler. As a child, I spent countless hours feeding the goldfish bread crumbs and sailing homemade sailboats that my grandfather built for me out of scraps of wood. I remember I used to help him clean the pond. We’d use a net (or sometimes our hands) to capture the fish and store them in a large metal tub filled with water. When I think now of all the hours my grandfather spent cleaning the muck out of the bottom of the fish pond, I can’t help but cringe. But he never, ever complained, so in the end I guess we can say we both had a good time.
There was an alley driveway behind the garage between the properties that we used to call “chicken alley” – mostly because all the neighborhood homes back then had chickens. My grandparents had a chicken yard, too. It was attached to the garage. The nuggets of information I collected from my mom suggests they raised the chickens for eggs and eating. In those days if you wanted a chicken you didn’t go to the grocery store to get it, you went to the backyard chicken coop.
Fortunately, by the time I came along the chicken house had been cleaned out and was turned into a storage shed for my grandfather’s tools. The chicken house is visible at the top right of the aerial photo below. (click image to enlarge)
I have plenty of fragmentary memories from my pre-school years. As a toddler of a little over one year old, I remember I fell and broke my ankle running along the walkway on the side of my grandparents house.
When I was about 8 or 9, I remember watching someone walk down the sidewalk in front of their house with a cardboard box over their head. You’ve heard the old saying, “Monkey see, monkey do”. Well, I went and got my own box. As I was walking up the front porch steps with the stupid box over my head I tripped and fell. The scar on my chin is still visible today. But I remember the fall at their house clearly.
For all of that, the memories of my grandparents’ house are ones I will always treasure. My childhood just wouldn’t have been the same without them. Good times.
On June 6, 2007, several hundred people were captivated as The Paul Green School of Rock performed on stage at Reed Brothers Dodge dealership in Rockville, Maryland. The the only way to describe the energy The Paul Green School of Rock brought to the stage was awesome. We couldn’t have asked for more beautiful weather or a more fun weekend to celebrate Reed Brothers Dodges’ Annual 81 Hour Memorial Weekend Summer Kickoff.
It was a great success with lively music from The Paul Green School of Rock keeping everyone on their toes and delicious barbecue courtesy of Reed Brothers feeding all the hungry visitors.
The school’s manifesto today identifies The Paul Green School of Rock Music as the “nation’s premier performance-based rock music program”. They accept students from ages 7-18 and turn them into genuine rock stars. Their goals are to help their students realize their potential as musicians, to put them on stage in front of as many people as possible, and to help foster a new generation of incredible musicians.
The band really knows how to rock, and put on a great show, and that’s what it’s all about.