This post and my earlier post (titled, A Startling Glimpse of a Stertzing Past) are both a response to a particular vintage photograph. Two buildings are visible in this image. The Stertzing building can be partially seen on the far right. But the main subject of the photograph is the Shearer Hudson dealership.
A quick search on Newspapers.com revealed an interesting story that concerns this dealership. First, let’s take a look at the image again.
Some of my detail oriented readers will note, that Mr. Gerry Vazis description of what happened is at odds with my title of this post. Be patient. If you wonder just who Mr. Vazis, was please see my previous post. I would like to thank Ms. Mary Piles, curator of historic images for the Citizens National Bank of Maplewood, for allowing me to copy this image.
Immediately following Ollie’s retirement, a new man arrives to fill the void. F. Wells Shearer.
Judging by his flamboyant ads in the St. Louis Globe Democrat and the fact that the very next year he built his new building, all signs indicated that Shearer was a smashing success.
This article appeared on May 21, 1939 in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.
The very next year Shearer picked up this pretty nice pad. His aggressive ads touting everything from free vacations to baseball teams certainly must have been paying off.
The war certainly must have dealt a severe blow to many businesses not just the car dealers. This article appeared in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat on April 25, 1943.
Shearer ran this fairly typical display ad on July 7, 1947. Billing his dealership as the 4th largest in the world, he had apparently held his business together through the four turbulent years of WWII. What could go wrong now?
Actually plenty had been wrong for probably quite awhile. This article had appeared in the Globe on the 4th of July, 3 days before the previous advertisement. That $121,438 that he didn’t pay in 1941 would be the equivalent of $2,213,814.74 today. That is especially galling when you consider this was a war year.
Shearer made the front page of the Globe on August 5, 1947. I feel sad for his family and friends. Him, not so much. He knew what he was doing.
This didn’t work. I didn’t find when he got out so I don’t know how long he actually served.
By the middle of 1949 his flamboyant ads were running again, like this one which ran on June 19. He was not selling Chevrolets anymore. General Motors had terminated their contracts with him when he went to prison. Hence the switch to Hudsons.
This ad ran June 26, 1949. Shearer now claims to be the 2nd largest Hudson dealer in the world.
This ad ran November 6, 1949. This guy could put on a show, couldn’t he? Unfortunately it was all for naught.
As pretty as those Hudsons were, they weren’t enough to save him.
There are a few folks in high places today who don’t want their tax returns examined. One fellow who would not wonder why is F.W. Shearer.
This is another sad story. History is full of them. I ordinarily choose not to post stories that are depressing or would open old wounds. With that in mind I apologize to any family and descendants of F.W. who might someday read this. But there are several lessons one can take away from this. The obvious, the bigger they are… is one. Pride goeth before a fall is another. Then how about… As beautiful as those Hudsons were, they couldn’t save a tax cheat.
It is still dangerous out there. Wear your masks.
Doug Houser July 28, 2020