Maplewood History: Shearer Chevrolet and later…Hudson

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.

 

In 1938. the much respected Ollie Reller retires. Remember him?  A Closer Look at the Reller Chevrolet Building.

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

 

 

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “Maplewood History: Shearer Chevrolet and later…Hudson

  1. I do not know why a talented guy would do that but I do sometimes wonder in these types of stories if they really have the right person behind bars. I have to wonder who was really doing the books and if he was keeping a good eye on the figures. I have heard many times that someone trust the accountant to take care of things and then they find out that the financials are being “adjusted”. Not to say he does not deserve some of the blame but a business with so many people and parts you would think that you surely owe more taxes than he paid in.

    It could have been lack of oversight or just putting too much trust in the wrong people or it could have been his own scheme to do what he did.

    • Well, Mark, One thing we know for sure. He is the one who went to jail. The amount of tax money he avoided paying was massive. In an article I didn’t post, his judge reminisced a few years later that the sentence had not been severe enough.

      • Did Maplewood have any mob connections? It almost sounds like some sort of scene out of an Untouchables episode. I mean you see the movie stars and sports people riding around in his cars. How did Maplewood ever get on the map to be the dealership to loan out the “cars to the stars” other than being one of the biggest dealersships.

        • We certainly had a few crooks. Whether or not they were connected to the mob or a mob, I don’t know. I recall seeing a newspaper clipping in our library’s collection about money and guns that had been found in one of the buildings in the 7100 block of Manchester. I don’t recall the circumstances. Perhaps it was after a fire. I’ll have to look around a bit in Newspapers.com.

  2. As always, great job Doug, very interesting! Love all the intrigue, I find people and their motivations fascinating. This guy was what makes us squirm when we think of car dealers.
    I find it odd that people would want to own a car because a celebrity drove it, What do they know about cars??? I would be more inclined to want a car that a good mechanic drove, He would know what constituted a good car.

    Not sure what long trade meant, time allowed to pay, or amount paid for a trade in? It’s not a common phrase anymore.

    Also I find it common of people who try to get away with things, to feel no shame when caught in the act. He should have hung his head at the shame of what he tried to get away with, and the cost to his reputation.

    Thanks Doug

    • You are very welcome, Mary. Thank you for sharing this image with my readers. One has to wonder why such an obviously talented man such as F.W. would do something this stupid. It certainly looked as if he knew his business and was doing well at it. It was definitely greed, I suppose but why does it afflict some and not others?

      I don’t know what a long trade is either. Most likely just an inventive means by which the dealer could get the customers to spend more than they should.

      As for feeling no shame, my guess is it is the result of the same defect that causes them to misbehave in the first place. Thanks for your comments.