The new cars of old

Last summer I got an e-mail from Bill Ruh, the Montclair councilman, who in response to my Seven Wonders of the Inland Valley column expounded nostalgically about “things that aren’t here anymore.” I’ll share that in a column, or maybe a blog entry, sometime soon.

I just found Bill’s followup note involving the old days of new cars. Here it is:

“In Pomona the Chrysler dealer — I believe W.R. Shadoff — used to have a large sign which lit up
with the names of all the brands he sold – Chrysler, Imperial and Plymouth. If memory serves there used to be a large podium and a new car would be placed on top. The podium rotated (slowly to be sure).

“In those days of the late 1960s the car dealers were located along Holt from Pomona through to Ontario and along Foothill.

“It seemed that the introduction of each year’s new car was always shrouded in secrecy. The dealers would place butcher paper or some type of covering on their windows. There would be ads about having a ‘peek at the new (fill in the blank).’

“When the big day would arrive they would tear off the paper on the windows, have marching bands playing patriotic music on the lot; I guess purchasing a new car was a very patriotic thing to do. The Daily Report and the Progress Bulletin would have special sections dedicated to the new cars with black and white photos, etc.

“Leading up to the ‘big day’ the dealers would advertise ‘only five more days to the new (fill in the blank),’ then ‘only four more days,’ etc.

“Whenever a neighbor would purchase a new car, the entire street came over to take a look. It was an event. Today when one purchases a new car it’s a rather pedestrian event.”

Wasn’t that great? Thank you, Bill.

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  • #2257

    Back in old country we drove Trebant. Nice car if you like to push. Trebant dealers would announce new model year by painting all store windows black. I miss socialist revolution. Those were days.

    [Har har. — DA]

  • Larry Rhinehart


    I have been an avid reader of your column, but this is the first time I have checked out your blog.

    Interesting that one of the first entries that I read was the one by my friend Bill Ruh about the introduction of new car models.

    I am just enough older than Bill that I remember when W.R. Shadoff was located in downtown Pomona (at 3rd and Locust I believe). Back in the ’40s all of the car dealers were in downtown before they began the first decentralization move to Holt and subsequently freeway frontage (you’ve got to remember that there weren’t even any freeways out here until the mid ’50s). McKay Ford was on East 2nd Street, the Studebaker dealer was out there too, and Murphy Chevrolet was on Garey Ave. and Monterey I believe. Downtown Pomona was truly the heart of the “Pomona Valley.”

    The thing that I remember most though, as aptly described by Bill, was the way that the new model years were kicked-off. As I recall, the L.A. County Fair had a prominent role in the process. There was a covered area near the eastern entrance to the Fair where the new model-year cars were displayed. For many people, it was the highlight of the Fair to see them. The display was kind of like an early version of the car shows around the country. The timing of the Fair in September coincided with the new model-year introduction and the Fair was a great venue for large numbers of people to see the cars up close.

    Thanks for the nostalgic trip down memory lane…

    [You’re welcome, Larry. And welcome to the blog! Drop by anytime; we’re open 24/7… DA]

  • ray escoto

    I recall car dealers Mel Bunnell Chevrolet, Catron Motors/Volkswagen, Pomona Valley Datsun & Tate Cadillac.

  • JMac

    Don’t forget to add the Clark Brothers. I think when the brand-new Ted Greene Little League field opened up in the ’60s, every team but the Shakey’s squad was sponsored by a Pomona car dealer that inaugural year.

  • Victor Robin

    I worked at Mel Bunnell Chevrolet in the ’70s. It was a center for Hudson Maintenance, and several of us owned Hudsons. Fellow mechanics: Wesley, Duncan, Henry Mata, …… Bill Albright’s Twin-H-Ranch in Fontana was going strong.