(first posted 3/17/2016) Today, McKeesport, PA is a hollowed-out former steel town. But in 1958, the “Tube City” was the heart of a still-thriving Mon Valley. 50,000 people called it home, almost 10,000 worked at U.S. Steel’s National Tube Works, and the city, located at the confluence of the Monongehela and Youghiogheny Rivers, was Mon Valley’s shopping and entertainment center.
Strung along Fifth Avenue were three department stores, four theaters, and dozens of specialty shops. And over a dozen automobile dealers could be found on and off Walnut Street’s”auto row”. Compared to downriver Pittsburgh, McKeesport was small, it but acted big. The city was the headquarters of G.C. Murphy Co., a regional 5 & 10 chain, and several manufacturers. It sponsored its own symphony orchestra and theater group. And every winter it hosted its own auto show, held in the still-functioning Palisades Dance Hall along the Youghiogheny River.
Back then, my father, Bill Swartz, was working days at Standard Auto Company, his in-law’s Chrysler-Plymouth dealership, while getting a graduate degree at night. And thanks to him, we can travel back and get a preview of the 1958 McKeesport Auto Show in glorious Kodachrome.
Let’s start with America’s favorite brand, Chevrolet. Chevy was one of the few all-new cars for ’58, and the folks at Deveraux Chevrolet put a fine two-tone Bel Air hardtop at the front of their display. Local ads asked you to “Get a Chevy from Devvie” and the agency was literally on the move, becoming the first brand to leave downtown for a suburban location.
They were soon joined by Peckman-Rojohn, whose bulky Lincoln and space-age Mercurys can be seen in the background. Bill Peckman was a popular member of the Youghiogheny Country Club, and well into the 70s, Lincolns, and not Cadillacs, filled the parking lot there. Barely visible behind the white Lincoln are a pair of relatively sober Oldsmobiles from Bruce Brown, later the town’s Toyota dealer.
And let’s take a moment to reflect on the banner in the upper left corner, put up by John Mooney, the town’s new Edsel dealer. Fresh off the demise of his Packard franchise, Mooney must have felt cursed, but his next venture made him a small fortune – he became the town’s Volkswagen dealer.
Turning around, we get a nice view of a taupe Mercury and the graceful flank of the almond-colored Fury Galen & Jones DeSoto-Plymouth brought to the show. But what’s that somber black car intruding on the right? It’s a Vauxhall Victor, the British GM compact sold by Palmer Pontiac. Quite the contrast to the Big M, and a sign that things were changing, even in the industrial heartland.
Moving down the hall and back to the opening image, we can see Galen and Jones also brought a Fireflite 4-door hardtop to their display. On the left, and looking uncomfortably similar, are a Pontiac hardtop from Palmers Motors, and a hint of a Series 62 from Superior Cadillac. But pride of place goes to the 2-tone lilac and white Fairline from Joe Eger – who took over the town’s Ford agency in 1938 when my Great Grandfather decided to hitch his wagon to then Number 2 Chrysler Corporation. Incidentally, the last true dealer new car preview I attended was at Eger Motors in 1975.
Speaking of Chrysler, here’s the Standard Auto display. My dad managed to pry enough money from my Great Aunt, then Chrysler’s only female dealer, to roll out the red carpet for a trio of all-whit-ish Mopars. There’s a Plymouth Sport Suburban, an Imperial Custom sedan, and a New Yorker convertible.
Let’s take a closer look at that Imperial. The truth is, we didn’t sell many of these – maybe 5 or 6 a year. The bulk of the business was Plymouths and lower-level Chrysler Windsors, although that didn’t stop my dad from propping up another New Yorker convertible with a Highlander plaid interior as a showroom display. And in a sea of two-tones, those monochrome Mopars really stood out.
As we take one last look, a few notes about the brands not on display. Both the Dodge and Buick franchises were in flux, but Paul Jones Dodge and Sullivan Buick would soon be fixtures. The Rambler dealer’s absence was easy to explain – the franchise was literally downstairs, on the ground floor of the dance hall. And there hadn’t been a Studebaker dealer in town for years, although the old dealership building on Walnut Street is one of town’s finer remaining buildings.
That’s it for our trip back to 1958. The next year, my dad finished his industrial management degree and went on to a career in food chemicals. The dealerships continued to generally prosper into the 70s, although many followed Deveraux out to the suburbs. My Great Aunt resisted, and finally closed Standard Auto in 1967. (I was 2 years old and didn’t have a say, to say the least.) The building still stands as the warehouse of Sunray Electric Company, a prosperous business in a once-prosperous town.
OUTSTANDING ! .
Thank you for this wonderful and informative article .
+5. This never happened in Yorkshire.
The future is overrated.
x1000 to that sentiment!!!
I was there in the late 1950’s and well remember the 1960’s and so on, it wasn’t all fun and games, some things are better, others are far worse .
Change is the only constant .
Amazing pictures! Thanks for sharing these. I would have been one year old and my Dad worked for Chrysler, so of course, I’m biased towards the Mopars. I think I’ll take the Fireflite, although the Fury is pretty tempting too.
My choices, too, tho I’d put the Fury ahead of the DeSoto.
I do get tired of the run of the mill 57 Chevys at displays; a dime a dozen, and most shows today do have a dozen of them.
The 55-60s are my favorite cars of all time, maybe because I was a kid at that time, but more likely because their flamboyant styling was so radical in comparison to those of the prior decade (not to mention subsequent decades). I’d take any of the cars shown except the Brit.
Yes, those pictures look like they were taken yesterday, not 58 years ago.
The photos are wonderful memories of businesses gone by. Especially when I saw the Edsel from J.P. Mooney, my grandfather. His life was automobiles until the day he passed away. He dedicated his life to his business and was still working at the VW dealership on Route 48 at 82 years of age. Thank you again for the acknowledgement of a hard working gentleman.
Wow this is a fantastic writeup, and the pictures are wonderful! Just imagine being able to walk into this dealership and pick up ANY of these beauties. Thank you for sharing this!
Stunning period photos! At first glance it looked like a museum or classic car show.
So did I!
Thanks for sharing these. Wouldn’t it be great to walk in and huff some of that new car smell.
What an amazing step back into a time which sadly just doesn’t exist anymore, neither the autos, the downtown scenes, the fashions (thankfully).
If that exterior shot of Standard is from the ’60’s, based on the cars in the image, it must have been a real tightwad of a market…Depression Mentality and all that…
Yeah, that’s a bad caption, not mine. Judging from the Plymouth in the showroom window, I’d say late ’52 or ’53 – although that could be a ’54. My great grandfather built the building in 1919 for his Ford agency, and the maroon carerra glass on the showroom facade was added when they switched to C-P in 1938. Otherwise, noting was changed.
First clue caption is wrong: “Comic Sans” font! Lol.
A major player in McKeesport was John P. Mooney who, starting in the 1920’s was the dealership for a variety of cars including Willys-Overland, Packard, Edsel and finally Volkswagens in the 1960s. His original dealership was located at 5th and Huey.
Tube City Online has a nice section on the Auto Row in McKeesport.
I work and will soon be living in McKeesport. The town has seen far finer days, but there is so much left that can be restored, from the hotels to the Victorian mansions to the downtown district. We need jobs, we need investors, and most of all we need support from the state and city hall to woo those two. If Fetterman can have progress with far less, we can do better.
I love the presentation. Great article!
Great period pictures…I was born in 1958 (though not in Pennsylvania), though eventually my Dad (who just passed away in January) got a job at Westinghouse…we lived north of you in Monroeville (one place they rented, another they bought)….before he was transferred to Catonsville, MD. All the cars back then seemed to be conjuring images of jet airplanes, which I guess was quite the rage in the late 50’s and early 60’s
We didn’t have anything this flashy back then…my Dad was at the end of his Rambler phase, he had bought ’61 and then ’63 wagons (first wagons in my family) after he traded in his ’56 Plymouth. I know he bought the Plymouth in NEPA, the first Rambler in Compton, CA, I’m not sure where he bought the ’63…probably somewhere in Pennsylvania, though I’m not sure if it would have been in the Pittsburgh area or NEPA. (too bad I can’t ask him anymore, and my mother would never have remembered)
People must have thought my parents were crazy back then, moving “back” to Pennsylvania after living in LA suburb for a couple years (I think most people were still moving to LA, instead of from LA back then.)…but I think my Father wanted to be closer to his (and my mother’s) parents, who were having some health problems…though they still lived quite aways away in NEPA, at least it wasn’t across the country. Though I now live in the sunbelt (not in California) I enjoy my trips back to PA (though not the last 2 going to funeral for my Dad and then his youngest brother). Happy St. Patrick’s Day (have to say that on behalf of my Irish Father).
No car connection except maybe to mention that my Father’s first car was a ’56 Plymouth Plaza (stripper, no options other than maybe a heater). Like your Dad, he was into chemistry, when he graduated in ’56 through the GI bill (first in his family, who were mostly miners before) a relative told him about a job at Sylvania, where he started working on semiconductors (transistors back then, mostly germanium). I doubt he even knew what a transistor was when he graduated.
He worked for many different companies, but never in any other field until he retired. He even worked (very briefly) on solar cells for a company in California (manufacturing)…some of them went up in the Explorer 6 satellite in 1959. He didn’t want any of them going up on the roof of his house, though…to him it was just a job.
Interestingly I have a relative who works at US Steel…but in Slovakia (about 70 km from Ukraine border). Most of her relatives are still there; only she and her brother …and their decendants like me are left of the family (who came to the US in the early 1920’s)
Beautiful photos and beautiful cars! I looked and looked at the pictures, trying to decide which car I’d want to take home. Finally I realized that I couldn’t pick one. I could just be led into that show blindfolded and be happy with whatever I bumped into (although I do have a weakness for Fifties Fords).
Maybe it’s the Kodachrome, but wow, what optimism oozes from those cars and photos! The 1950s were “Peak America,” perhaps.
The World always looked better in Kodachrome!
Thanks. Brings back memories of my frequent visits to my hometown’s dealership downtown showrooms from about 1959 to about 1964. Our annual local auto show was held in the then old Illinois National Guard Armory.
How does one pronounce the name of the river starting with the letter “Y”?
I think it’s pronounced: Yock-a-gay-nee (??)
That’s it – the city and its surroundings is know as the Mon-Yough (Yock) area. My home until age 10.
Special thanks to your father for taking excellent pictures and PRESERVING them!
Thanks for the wonderful pics! I was born in ’64 so never had a chance to see this generation of cars brand new in a showroom setting, it’s a bit shocking to see them all shiny and new. They all look so nice, it would be hard to just pick one.
It’s hard to believe nowadays, but car dealerships (for the most part) were a part of the landscape in downtowns all across the country. Yet, even 50 years ago they started to move from downtown to the edge of town, or, if the town/city was sizeable to the “suburbs”.
Up until Ford REALLY started to lean on dealers to “upgrade” their dealerships to a certain standard the dealership where my father bought his Fords was downtown in a small, rural, farm town. The actual showroom was a small shop that was partially gutted to give the cars (both of them) space.
In the town where I grew up, the Dodge dealership was the last downtown holdout, it went out of business in the late 50s.
If I had been car shopping in 1958 I think I would have made the same choice my father did: a 58 Chevy. I’m not sure I would have gone for the 2 tone paint scheme he did, though. Our 58 Brookwood was light/medium green over white, I would have gone with a solid green or blue.
Several years ago, I purchased a car at Lee Sapp Ford-Mercury on the main road in downtown Ashland, NE. I still get service there at times. A totally different experience, like buying cars in the Mayberry of the “Andy Griffith Show” fame. I know the service manager, the receptionist, and the owner actually called me to ask how I liked my car after I’d had it a few days. The entire experience there is very relaxed. I’ll miss it if it becomes yet another mega dealer.
I’ll bet special orders don’t upset them, either.
You raise an interesting point. They have a lot next to the building, another across the street, and a satellite lot on the edge of town by the highway. But, none of those lots is really large, and the satellite lot tends to have a lot of empty space. That’s the long way of saying they don’t have the most extensive inventory.
In my case, they were the most cooperative dealer I’ve ever dealt with that was willing to do a dealer trade to get me the car I wanted. I was looking for a seven passenger version of the 2005 Ford Freestyle in the top trim. Most of the high trim cars were the six passenger version with second row captain’s chairs. Perhaps not surprisingly, they traded with another small town dealer in Columbus, NE. Our salesman personally went out to retrieve our car and bring it to Ashland.
In contrast, I had bought a 1999 Chrysler Town and Country minivan from a mega dealer. I had to pull teeth from them to get them to trade with their own damn sister location across town! We were shopping year end clearance, and the location we were at had nothing but white vans in the trim we wanted. We were bored by the white, and we were standing there willing to part with good money to get the van we wanted. When a sales organization practically refuses to take $30,000 dollars that you are waiving in their face, you KNOW customer service is not a priority.
What Fabulous pictures! Nothing beats old Kodachrome slides with those vivid colors.
And what a great display of new cars. I am amazed by how thin the GM cars in that display, especially given the massive market share they had back then. Perhaps McKeesport was a pocket of strong dealers for the competing companies which skewed the local stats somewhat. Especially given the prominence of Lincolns over Cadillacs that you describe.
Even more remarkable considering here was a Fisher Body plant right up the road in West Mifflin!
When you’re number one you don’t have to try harder? I’m not sure why the Buick dealer wasn’t represented but there was a switch in franchises and locations around then. Everyone else is there, but with only 2 cars, which is true for most of the brands. I think my dad somehow got my Great Aunt to pony up for more space, which is amazing in and of itself, if you knew anything about her.
Thanks for the excellent pictures! It must have been wonderful to attend all the new car previews in September each year, something that I unfortunately won’t get to experience.
Great post! I like the rock star access your dad had to take those pictures before the crowds showed up.
I wonder if that Ford with the tag in the windshield was really $55 per month. That’s like $450 in today’s money.
Good eye! I meant to mention that – yes, that is $55 a month. It’s an update on the $56 for ’56 promotion that first made Lee Iacocca a star at Ford, back when he was a young District Sales Manager.
Car loans were for shorter terms back then, though — I think two years was common, and just about no one had a loan longer than 3 years. None of this 6 and 7 year stuff you see now.
Great, fun article! This puts me in a time machine, and lets me visit those exciting cars of 1958. I wasn’t born yet, but always dreamed of going back in time to see the new 1958 Edsel’s!
Wow. Jet-Age chrome in Kodachrome. Very, very cool. I feel like I’ve just stepped into the Time Tunnel. Great article!
What a treat! Thank you for sharing these.
When I initially scanned the article, I thought maybe this was a museum recreating a 1958 auto show. The Kodachrome really brings this to life!
Thank goodness for Kodachrome! I would have been four years old when the ’58s were introduced, and have just dim memories of snippets of TV commercials. Of course, lots of ’58s lived well into the ’60s and even the ’70s as daily drivers, but lost a lot of their shine. It’s wonderful to see photos of them in all their fresh showroom splendor.
My Grandfather had a ’57 Chevy in the late ’60s when I was around 4-5 years old. I remember it only because it was black and yellow and looked like a giant bee going down the road. It was just a old beater, a relic of a bygone age by that time.
“… John Mooney, the town’s new Edsel dealer. Fresh off the demise of his Packard franchise, Mooney must have felt cursed, but his next venture made him a small fortune – he became the town’s Volkswagen dealer.”
Reminds me of a unassuming, scrappy guy in my area who had Hudson, then Nash dealerships that folded in the late fifties. Then one day in the mid sixties he started selling something called a Toyota. From bad to worse everyone thought. His family now has something like 20 car stores and live like Arab sheiks.
There were Bugs everywhere when I was a kid. And then they started building Rabbits down the road in New Stanton.
They never attracted the import hate Japanese imports did in the late 70’s and early 80’s. By then, I’d moved to a bedroom suburb south of Pittsburgh, and saw a Toyota dealer one town over open and fold within a year.
Great pictures and great story. Simply love the cars, and broadening to local history is a big plus. (My Dad was at Westinghouse. I was born in Pittsburgh, but left too young to remember.)
What an amazing set of photos! I’m amazed that the second floor of the McKeesport Palisades — which today bills itself as having the “largest wooden dance floor” in the Pittsburgh area — could support all of that vintage iron!
I love, love, love that Fury, but you can practically hear the flakes of rust hitting the floor.
I am keely aware of the many quality control and build issues with the ’58’s but the one owner ’58 Plymouth Plaza stripper two door I bought in the 1970’s was a wonderful car if dog slow with the flat head engine and two speed slush box tranny .
No heater , radio , nothing .
It also had NO rust and almost no rattles / squeaks and the original powder blue and white paint waxed up nicely .
(who doesn’t hate all MoPars like some think)
Thanks, Jayson. And everyone, if you want to know more about McKeesport past and present, please visit tubecityonline.com Jason’s fantastic site that keeps me in touch with my home town.
As to Chrysler build quality, my favorite story from my dad was about the guy who drove to town from Chicago in his new Imperial, through an overnight rainstorm. He pulled into the service yard boiling over and not really coherent, and my dad finally understood there was something wrong with the trunk. When he popped it, the guy’s leather luggage was floating in a pool of water – apparently no one bothered to install the weatherstrip at the factory….
No contest the Victor has it beaten for rusting hands down.
Thanks for the showcase. Amazing record of the time. The transformations in terms of automotive choices and economic prospects in the region are astonishing. And sad.
I’d have put my money down on that Imperial, Just beautiful.
That’s the kind of stuff that brings back my childhood, because Johnstown and McKeesport weren’t that far apart, either in distance or place in the world as it was. And, unfortunately, both are about in the same place now – dying.
Big difference was that the Johnstown Auto Show had the Cambria County War Memorial (home of the Eastern Hockey League Johnstown Jets, in movies known as the Charlestown Chiefs), which left a lot more space between the cars.
Thank you for an awesome post. These pictures are amazing–it feels like you could literally just step into the room and see all those beautiful new cars. I’d be like a kid in the candy store–I would happily take any of them. If I had to pick one, I’d go with the stunning white New Yorker convertible from your dad’s display. Spectacular car, and it looks so good in white.
Beautiful pictures and great story – real trip down memory lane.
The plethora of 1958 Mopars is making me salivate. I do love what Chrysler did in 1957, but the poor quality of the ‘57s would cause me as a collector to want to consider a ’58. I also prefer some of the 1958 styling tweaks. Of course, the ’58s sold poorly due to the lousy reputation of the ‘57s as well as the 1958 recession. Those are some rare Mopars in those pictures.
In 1958 everybody wanted to be a Rambler dealer . In a few years these guys
were probably stinking rich. Before 58 these guys were probably laughed at
That said I don’t see any Ramblers at this show
Growing up in the Mon Valley, I was pleasantly shocked to see this. I lived with in McKeesport right before and and at the start of it’s decline, I could blame malls, plant closings and the “great fire of 1976”, I’ll leave that for the experts. On a note of personal trivia: The stylized “J” in my personal signature was directly inspired by the Jaison’s sign! Since We had the PCC and now McKeesport Auto Show, How about this connection Trackside “Classic”: PATrain!
No mention of the black Vauxhall Victor that appears in three of the photos not even a WTF is that doing there.
I believe it was mentioned (briefly). Its appearance is, to put it kindly, incongruous. Its name does it no favor either (Vauxhall Victor??).
Black seems an odd colour for a display car, in 1958, especially in that setting. And an odd colour for a Victor; the poor thing (?) doesn’t have enough chrome to look anything other than cheap.
What a treat. Great memories of shopping at GC Murphy in downtown Fort Wayne IN as a kid. I still have a stack of 45PM records with GC Murphy 98 cent labels on their original jackets. You could get anything at Murphy’s, including fresh warm peanuts scooped into a paper bag and delicious donuts.
The absence of Buick in this show is a blessing – the 58 was not their year. Nice to see colors other than silver and black – the pastels are great. IMHO Chevy was the best looking GM car in 58 – that Bel Air is a beauty.
CC provides endless fascinating looks through the windshield of the past and present and this look at the automotive community of yesteryear Mckeesport is one I can totally relate to. I grew up in New Britain, Ct., a city with a glorious industrial past. At one time in the late 30’s, my grandfather and 2 great uncles each had new car dealerships in the city.
I revel in my family’s automotive history and its place in the city’s automotive dealership franchise history and the dealership buildings now gone or still standing. My great Uncle Max’s showroom and garage, Honeyman Motorcar Co. is still there. Now used as a storage facility for school buses and snow removal equipment, from 1922-1940, my uncle sold Packard, Pierce Arrow, Hudson, Essex and Terraplane from this building.
Great photos, vivid both in color and in the optimism of the era. That 4-door hardtop Desoto is calling my name…
I also love the photo of the downtown district. While those metal coverings that were so often used to “update” old buildings in the 50’s and 60’s were architecturally tragic, they sure made for some vividly colorful signage! Downtowns were such lively places back then. Their time is starting to come around again…
Set the time machine for 1958, McKeesport, PA, I’m ready to go buy that white ’58 Desoto off the show floor!
It’s a tradgedy but Kodachrome is no more. The reason these aren’t faded and in fact look so vivid is that unlike other films, Kodachrome uses an additive process. So instead of the dyes washing away in thedeveloper where the light hit, the colors are actually in the developer and the film is made so the dyes stick better where more light hit the film. So if the developer isn’t fully washed away, the pictures get more vivid over time where other technologies fade.
Some years ago Paul introduced us to Shorpy.com, which is a website of antique pictures, including cars fairly often. They often have Kodachromes. Probably worth a visit for most CCers.
Many thanks to the authors family and the Kodak corporation for preserving this CC moment in time.
What a great piece, that really makes you feel you’re there in 1958.
I’d take the Fireflite hardtop, although I’f]d have to have long hard look at the Edsels first, and please accept my apologies for the Vauxhall Victor.
I loved the pictures of downtown McK. That was the year after I graduated from college. My cousin worked at Jason’s and my sister did the advertising for Immel’s. The ads appeared in the Daily News, of course.
I went back a couple of years ago to go to my HS reunion, and it was depressing to see what had happened to my hometown. White Oak hadn’t changed that much, but the downtown area was in very bad shape.
And those big cars with fins were glorious. Gas guzzlers but impressive.
The quality of the old pics makes it look like someone found a museum dedicated to 1958 cars!
Thank you for the wonderful article! I remember at age 13 seeing a bright yellow 1971 DeTomaso Pantera in the showroom at Peckman Motor Company. My grandfather bought all his cars there..1962 Mercury Comet, 1965 Mercury Comet, 1969 Mercury Montego, 1975 Cougar. He wouldn’t buy me the Pantera though! Now I have 5 Italian cars all these years later. Guess they sold me! 🙂
Oh, thanks for reminding me that I am OLD.
In Pittsburgh, I’ve worked at different dealerships with both Bill Peckman and Wade Mooney, sons of the gentlemen mentioned. One was a class act, the other not so much. Learned much from both though. The Mon Valley was really something back in the day.
Wow!!! Great pics, great story!
Wow, love those fantastic finned Mopars, especially that New Yorker convertible! They really stand out among the Chevys and Fords. Where are they all now?
Thank you for a wonderful article, and the great photos. That Kodachrome look was really unique: we took it for granted, now Kodak is gone, just like our heavy industries. McKeesport of today is very sad.
Technology of today is great, but art and craftsmanship of the industry completely different even as quality, reliability and longevity are best ever… perhaps like the different experience of driving v riding in a driverless car?
Just as the optimistic mood of the early 60’s devolved into the “Mad Men” era and the later-60’s unrest and disillusionment with institutions once trusted, a faith not yet restored. Our trust in institutions if anything, disintegrated.
I was born in 1968, in eastern PA. I lived my life from then on 10 miles outside of Freeport, PA, where Deveraux Chevrolet was THE Chevy dealer in town. They placed their dealership at the bottom of Freeport Hill, well known for runaway big-rigs, especially in the winter months. Every year it seemed some big-rig was crashing through their showroom! I haven’t been back in a few years, but there was a runaway truck escape ramp built to stop this many years ago. I hope Deveraux Chevy is still there the next time I go home! Oh, and the Kodachrome? Best pics EVER! Thanks for the reminder. Nothing nowadays captures the “feeling” like Kodachrome did! Wish I still had my old camera….
Thank’s for the memories. My family wouldn’t buy anything that wasn’t made by Chrysler Corporation. I can only recall one car that we didn’t buy from Standard Auto. My dad always bought a New Yorker every two to three years but Galen and Jones had a white DeSoto Firedome convertible in their show room that kept calling to him until he finally bought it. I remember the owner of Standard Auto was a lady by the name of Mrs. Wallbaum (apologize if spelling is not correct). I bought my first new car, a ’61 Fury, from her when I was only seventeen. She was all business but had a way of making everybody feel like they were her only customer. My dad was like fish out of water when she closed her doors
A very nice bit of memorabilia!
If you inspect the Palisades building, I believe it will show the ‘auto show’ was on the ground floor.
Hi Ted, so nice to hear from you. And my dad confirms your memory is correct – it was the ground floor!
Has anybody noticed the black and white photo is annotated “1960s”? That Plymouth in front of the dealership and the one in the showroom window both look like 1950 Plymouths to me.
Yep, This annotation is recent (using “comic sans” font, so post 1994) The photo is obviously older than the ’60s. (and 1950 seems right.) This happens all over the web. For eexampl,seemingly half of the black and white films on YouTube from 1930 to 1970 is called “1950s” in their descriptions- drives me nuts!
I think you are right. The Plymouth in the show room is either a ’53 or ’54. The Plymouth on the street looks to be a ’49 or ’50. The model changes were do subtle it’s hard to be specific with the quality of the photo The other vehicles are also from that period. The Chevy/GMC pick up could be in the early ’50s and what I believe to be a Buick looks to be in the late ’40s. The car in the show room is what dates the photo. It wasn’t unusual for people to keep a car for 10 years or more back then so the cars on the street wouldn’t indicate when the photo was actually taken. You have a critical eye for detail.
Anyone know where i can locate an old dealer plate Benedict Inc, a small Studebaker dealer in mckessport. Company was around in the 50’s
Not sure if this will be any help but it may be worth chasing it down. There was a guy by the name of George Krimm that had a garage on Finney Road in Lincoln Boro. He had tons of Studebaker NOS parts and memorabilia. Unfortunately, he passed away about two years ago but his son Jonathan may still have the contents of the garage. If the parts were sold, he may be able to put you in touch with the person who purchased them. I don’t have his contact information but the last I heard, he lived on the corner of Duncan Station Rd and Georgetown Place in Mt Vernon, Elizabeth Twp.
Thanks again for the info, hopefully he can assist with locating any items from this old dealership
I had never before noticed the styling similarity between the 58 Ford and the 58 Chrysler.
These are fantastic photos, and they remind me that I first became aware of new model introduction time when the ’58s came out. I was 5 years old in the fall of 1957.
I grew up just a few miles downstream of McKeesport, on the opposite (west) side of downtown Pittsburgh on a hill above the Ohio River.
Same view of 5th Ave. in McKeesport (from Google). Buildings are still there, but doesn’t appear to be the bustling shopping district it once was.
Here’s a pic of 5th Ave during the filming of Mindhunter. It was taken in July 2016 and was transformed into Richmond, VA in the mid 70’s for the purpose of that segment.
Wow, I have to see that film!
They just demolished the Jaison’s building – the one with the yellow-and-white facade on the left.
It’s a series on Netflix but if you do get a chance to see it, you might recognize the old Daily News Building. It was transformed into the Sacramento Police Department. They filmed in the area for months but only the locals would recognize some of the backgrounds. In one episode I had CA plates on my car and the next I had VA plates.
I’m from that “once bustling” part of PA. Grew up in the 60’s , 70’s in Butler. (about an hour from McKeesport).
Your article and pics really brought back a long forgotten era of my life.
Did you know 1958 was the first year that twin headlights were legal in all states, so as you see all the cars in the photos had them. That feature was brand new!
We had Peckman Lincoln Mercury (DeTomaso too), Deveraux Chevrolet, (Get your Chevy from Devey!), Eger Motors (The Redcoats save you Greenbacks!), John Naretto Buick, John P. Mooney Co. (had Packard, Edsel then one of the very first Volkswagen dealers), Bendik Oldsmobile and Kilment Studebaker (one of the last to close) near Forest Hills. Our area was home to Fisher Body too! Check out this link: http://www.tubecityonline.com/history/cardealers.html
Also, for any who are still local, my Grandfather John F. Montgomery was mayor of Versailles, PA for many years. -John Montgomery – (Grandson)
I’m probably a little older than you but In addition to the dealerships you mentioned, there was also Standard Auto – Chrysler/Plymouth, Superior Cadillac, Galen and Jones – DeSoto, Sullivan Buick (before Naretto), Palmer Pontiac, and Bruce Brown Oldsmobile, later to become the area’s first Toyota dealer. In addition to the Clement Brothers you mentioned, Studebakers were also sold by Poinsetta Motors in East McKeesport and early on by J.P. Mooney who also in addition to the Packards, Edsels, and VWs, sold Checkers and later Toyotas. The two that I’m having trouble remembering are the Kaiser/Fraizer dealership in Glassport and the Rambler dealer that was on the ground floor of the Palisades building. Whatever you fancy, you didn’t have to go far to find it We had it all.
Thanks so much for the follow up reply! The link below even has a map of all McKeesport dealers. http://www.tubecityonline.com/history/cardealers.html
I was best friends in High School with Paul Bendik, son of Paul Sr., owner of Bendik Olds (Don’t say Olds, say Bendik Olds!)
Since you are from a Chrysler family…may I highly recommend the book “Visioneer” about Virgil Exner, lead stylist at Chrysler 1949 to 1961. Fantastic book! I work for a company here in SC that has been selling Chrysler for 57 years, since 1965! We have a auto museum called Benson Memory Lane that has a 59 Fury and many other Chrysler, Ford, Mercury and Chevy cars of the 50’s and 60’s! Come visit sometime!
Her’s one I totally forgot about. After the Galen and Jones split, Paul Jones opened a Dodge store on Eden Park Blvd right behind the Eat’N Park. Bought a couple of pick ups from him.
Nasty CC effect: The mention of G.C. Murphy stores got me thinking of the one a mile from me in the 70s at Bradlee shopping center on the Alexandria/Arlington line. I was thinking something notorious happened there, a multiple murder, but it was at the Roy Rogers 2 miles away, not the one in front of Murphy’s. My sister’s HS friends once streaked the Bradlee Roy’s in the innocent 70s. Just now, I found out there was recently a gang rape requiring hospitalization among the 9th graders in the school behind Bradlee. The school board apparently tried to cover it up.
Small world – Bradlee rang a bell, so I checked the map. Turned out it was the shopping center within walking distance of where we lived from 1979-83. We were on the Arlington side, in the Fairlington Villages neighborhood. Giant was the supermarket in Bradlee’s at the time.