Posted on August 19th, 2012 8 comments
This sign became…
…this sign. And that fact was consigned to the memory of a select few until it was brought to light by Dean Wieneke. Read his story here.
The beauty of the world wide web is that anyone can find anything, and the family of the men who were Dickerson Motors found the story of Dean finding their family’s sign. They got in touch with me both in comments on the blog entry and personal emails. Which lead to them graciously scanning old photos, which are shared with you now.
Julie Dickerson Chung and Carolyn Dickerson Zerman are the daughters of William E. Dickerson, who started Dickerson Motors, Inc. in 1951 with his brother Thomas E. Dickerson (whose son Don Dickerson provided some of these photos). It was a Lincoln Mercury dealership located at 6116 Natural Bridge Avenue. It was in the shadow of the only remaining gasometer in St. Louis.
Here is that spot today. Note that the building appears to have been sitting on the dividing line between St. Louis City and County.
Dickerson by day…
…and by night. These photos were taken shortly after the dealership opened.
A big day for Dickerson Motors was when actress and icon Debbie Reynolds stopped by the dealership in 1955 to buy a car. She was on her way back to California to marry singer and actor Eddie Fisher.
Above, Bill Dickerson hands Debbie Reynolds the keys to the car she chose. To put it in historical context, Miss Reynolds had just completed filming of the movie The Tender Trap, with Frank Sinatra. It would release in November of 1955.
And Debbie gets inside her new ride to zoom off and marry Eddie Fisher. The marriage would produce actress/author Carrie Fisher, and end tragically when Eddie left Debbie for Elizabeth Taylor in 1959. This is just how her history played out and in no way infers her car from Dickerson Motors played any part in future marital dramas.
Don Dickerson (son of co-owner Tom Dickerson) shared the photo above, depicting the “Hot Rod Lincoln” that was part of the dealership’s racing team. In conjunction with the racing team, Don recalls:
“Before a race, my Dad was out zooming around Missouri to see what the Lincoln could do. He came over a hill at a very high speed and found that at the bottom of the hill was a buckboard with two horses pulling it. He slammed on the brakes but was going too fast to stop, killing two horses and totaling the car.”
To the best of Carolyn Dickerson Zerman’s memory, the car dealership closed around 1957-58. “I know my sister Julie was born around that time and was a “saving grace” to my Dad (above left), who hated to see the dealership close.”
The family does not know what became of the sign after Dickerson closed. In this entry about Ackerman Buick, former employee Tim Von Cloedt said Jerry Ackerman bought out Kuhs Buick on North Grand Avenue and moved the whole shebang out to Dellwood in the early 1960s. The first building on the lot went up in 1964 – so did the sign, now recycled as Ackerman Buick.
Where was the sign from 1958 to 1964? Considering how much information we’ve received so far, there just may be someone out there who knows the answer.
And this whole saga came to light when Dean and his family bought and dismantled the sign (above) to put it in storage at his father’s farm. As of this writing, Dean sold the sign to Fast Lane Classic Cars in St. Charles, MO, who plan to hang it on the side of one of their buildings.
So St. Charles is the newest chapter for one of the busiest, most recycled signs in St. Louis history. And thank you to all of the Dickerson family for being so generous with their photos and information.adaptive reuse, mid-century modern commercial, north st. louis, north st. louis county, st. louis history 6116 Natural Bridge Avenue, ackerman buick, Dellwood MO, Dickerson Motors, Lincoln Mercury Racing Team, mid-century auto dealerships, mid-century modern neon sign, Pine Lawn MO
8 Responses to “Recycling: The History of an Auto Dealership Sign”
Wow! That’s so cool that you’ve got all those period photos from the family! I can’t wait to see the sign up over at Fast Lane. I hope they install it so that it can be seen from the highway. I pass right by there on my way to the Wentzville Flea on random Sundays.
Don Dickerson August 25th, 2012 at 11:20 AM
WOW again, Toby, what a great site you’ve put together here!! Thanks to Dean and his family, you, and Fast Lane Classic Cars a great piece of Americana has been preserved. We can’t wait to come see the sign once it’s installed, and maybe meet everyone. (do you think Fast Lane will plug it in?) I’d also like to thank our cousin Julie and her chance meeting with the Akerman sign on the Internet. Without her, none of us would have known all this was going on.
Julie (Dickerson) Chung August 26th, 2012 at 1:56 PM
Hi Toby – ditto my cousin Don’s thanks to you, Dean and his family and Fast Lane Classic Cars. Thought you might like to know that I found the articles of incorporation for Dickerson Motors Inc. in an old box. Here’s some info:
State of Missouri Certificate of Incorporation dated 10/14/1948
State of Missouri Certificate of Authority to Commence Business dated 10/20/1948
Notice of Intent to Terminate dated May 2, 1958 (effective immediately)
Termination address shows as 6116 Natural Bridge, St. Louis 20, Missouri
Initial registration address was 5956 Natural Bridge, St. Louis
Best wishes and many thanks.
scott pozarich August 26th, 2012 at 8:11 PM
My father bought his 1957 Mercury Montclair Convertible from Dickerson new and we still have it with the Dickerson emblem on the trunk lid. I never new where this dealer ship was thanks for this info and new page. Scott Pozarich
Don Dickerson September 2nd, 2012 at 12:04 PM
Hey Scott is there a way to get a picture of that Merc in here?
Scott Pozarich November 27th, 2012 at 6:12 PM
Hi Don don’t know how but if you can post an e-mail address I’ll send you some thanks. Scott
Don Dickerson December 1st, 2012 at 2:51 PM
Hey, thanks Scott I’d love to see those pictures. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Don Dickerson December 15th, 2012 at 10:53 AM
Well Scott, I sent my address a couple of weeks ago but it doesn’t look like it appeared here……let me try again. email@example.com.