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January 2, 2007 > Early Centerville autos and garages

Early Centerville autos and garages

Supervisor Fred Horner drove a one cylinder, eight horsepower Thomas. This was one of the first automobiles reported in the Centerville area.

Dr. H. W. Emerson was one of the first Centerville residents to own an automobile. It made it easier to serve his patients, but also brought some problems. He crashed into a cart in Irvington and a month later stalled on railroad tracks in Oakland. Dr. Emerson was not injured, but the car was badly damaged.

Dr. C. A. Wills entered his Comet racer in a meet in Oakland in 1909. The Centerville machine easily won a special five-mile match with the Grey Ghost. The most exciting race of the day was the ten-mile, free-for-all. Dr. Wills' Comet was leading the race when a tire burst. The car continued for three miles on the flat tire and quit only when the tire came off.

A local paper carried an ad in 1908 for auto tires at Bells. R. W. Emery advertised as agent for "The Merkel" motorcycle in 1909. A motorcycle-auto crash was reported in Centerville.

The first garages were reported in 1910. The Snow and Dunlap Garage and Machine Shop was on Main Street near School Street. Another garage was owned by Jo O. Brewer. N. B. Randall owned the Centerville Garage and had the agency for Overland cars by 1913. The Overland Model 79 sold for $1075 with regular equipment but cost $1200 when equipped with the Gray & Davis electric starter and generator. A. Juhl advertised "Ford Cars." Roadsters cost $575 and touring cars $625.

The Centerville Garage was robbed in 1915, and a number of bench tools including two large screw drivers were stolen. The screw drivers were used to break into Lernhart's drug store.

Randall installed new equipment for recharging batteries without damaging them in 1915. He also began selling Dodge cars.

E. L. King and F. W. Madruga took over the Centerville Garage by 1923 and were agents for Nash Automobiles and later the Graham Paige. By 1925, Sid Holman was advertising Chevrolet autos and Springfield and U.S. Cord tires. The Amaral Bros. were operating the Midway Garage and Mr.Willard, the Tourist Garage.

Ed Rose opened a Chevrolet agency and George W. Robinson a Chrysler agency. The Centerville Nash Company was organized in 1928 and sold 30 cars the first year. The Nash boasted of two spark plugs per cylinder. Ira B. Hodgkins became the Ford agent.

Santos Bros. established a garage and sold Chrysler and Plymouth autos. They also featured towing service and general repairing. John and Joseph Santos were conducting the garage in 1947.

William Furtado was a partner in the Furtado-Bettencourt Ford dealership for a brief time. Joe Adams came in 1935 as the Ford dealer in the Furtado building and sold about 1500 Ford cars the first 10 years, which included the war years when there were no new cars to sell.

Romeo Brunelli bought Ed Rose's Centerville garage and Chevrolet agency in 1937 and named it the Central Chevrolet Company. A 1953 ad read, "We Service All Makes of Cars and Trucks." Brunelli moved his operation from the corner of Fremont Boulevard and Thornton Avenue, where he had been for some 28 years, down Thornton to near the Nimitz Freeway where a grand opening was held in l965. The DiGiulio Brothers moved from Niles to Centerville in 1964 and became the first big firm in Centerville's new business district on the Peralta Boulevard extension.

Centerville was called a "big automotive center" by 1947 because it had the most dealers and repair shops in Washington Township. Joe Adams, the "Friendly Ford Dealer," Central Chevrolet Co., owned by Romeo Brunelli and John Calcagno, Santos Bros. and the Dodge Agency of Paul Hockinson of Centerville Garage were the big dealers. Traffic congestion and parking problems on Main Street became a feature of life in Centerville as the town attracted more cars and dealers. Some businesses shifted away from Fremont Boulevard and the busy highway to side streets. The City of Fremont studied the area and developed plans to relocate auto dealers away from Fremont Boulevard to Auto Mall Parkway.

Don Signer opened his Signer-Cram Buick dealership across from Washington High School in November 1980. He assumed total ownership of Don Signer Buick in 1982 and moved to Newark in July 1995.

A 1969 list of Centerville dealerships gives DiGiulio Pontiac, Central Chevrolet, King Arthur Toyota, Pierotti Fremont Motors, Fremont Dodge, Turner Ford, Fremont Lincoln Mercury, Edgren Motor Co., Mezzetti Volkswagon, Gibson British Cars and Golden Motors.

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