Magazine writing: The last Studebaker dealership

Back in the early 70s I bumped into an editor for Boston Magazine at a party.  We chatted, and by the time we parted company he had asked me to do a story for him.  I had been telling him about an idea I had for a story about one of the nation’s last Studebaker dealerships, which was still operating in Revere Beach, near Boston, years after Studebaker had stopped producing automobiles. I wrote this story and they sent me a check. As far as I know, they never published it.


The Revere Beach Parkway is a windy road, and Feldman Motors squats on the apex of one of the curves, so small that the line of rusty cars nosed up to the sidewalk is only a dull blur in the corner of your eye as you drive past.

If you turn your head and slow down a little, you can pick them out; a Studebaker Lark and a couple of Hawks. There’s a Packard, one of the last models built, and it looks like it might have been red.

It is dark inside Feldman Motors, but there is some noise in the back of the shop and in a few minutes Irving Feldman shuffles out to the front, peering through think glasses. He is 65, and he’s been here for 20 years.

Feldman had chuckled on the phone and hedged suspiciously about being interviewed. “Oh, well, I can’t afford it right now,” he said. No charge, he was told, but he’s still not sure.

“Who do you work for? No bullshit?” He examines the press cards, turning them over to read the back.

He moves to the back of the shop to talk to a customer. The shop is full of yesterday’s cars. Packard Clippers, Studebaker Hawks and Cruisers. A white Hawk stands near the door, and the street noise disappears when you shut the door and squirm into the red leather seat. The clock is ticking, and automobile clocks never work.  The odometer says 9,000 miles, but Feldman says it’s probably 109,000.

“In 1955, the best days of my life I had here, we were selling, servicing, we had a group of 12 men. Then, 10 years later, the bottom dropped out of it.”

The bottom began to crumble when the Studebaker Packard Corp. decided to drop the Packard line in the late 1950s.  Feldman Motors and Studebaker-Packard dealers across the country found themselves dealing in nothing but Studebakers. It was a worrisome time for the dealers, but Studebaker was showing signs of resuscitation; they redesigned the Lark and came out with the Avanti, a beautiful four-seater with a fiberglass body and an optional supercharger.

It wasn’t enough. Studebaker moved its car-making operations to Canada for two years before the Studebaker joined that Big Hudson Hornet in the Sky in 1966.

“I had four Studebakers on order when we got the news from the company,” Feldman said. “I called the customers and told them they didn’t have to take the cars if they didn’t want to. But I told them I would stay here and carry parts, and service the cars if they bought them. They all bought the cars.”

1959_Studebaker04_AdIt’s hard to forget the good days, the mid-1950s, when Feldman Motors was selling cars, when 12 men in the back were repairing the Packard Clippers amd Patricians and Studebaker Hawks. And the fall – the decline of Studebaker-Packard – is hard to forget, too.

“They (Packard) went out of business and for a few years we were doing wonderful. We just took all Studebakers, then, even they lasted less than 10 years on their own and then they’re out.

“We work, we make a living, but it is a hard living now.”

It’s not hard to take yourself back to 1955 and imagine Irving Feldman tooling a big Packard Patrician with dealer plates into his dealership, walking into his showroom in a blue suit to talk to a customer. Today, he wears baggy pants and a faded blue sport shirt open at the neck. Today, his showroom is empty.

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Cowsnatching and other Maine tales

I’ve been looking through the Google News Archive and I’ve found a number of my old stories from my days with United Press International. This is a valuable find for me because these stories illustrate the wire service style of writing — tight, short and bright. I spent a lot of my days with UPI in Maine covering government and politics, but when I wasn’t doing that I was looking for features stories, like this one about cowsnatching.


AUGUSTA, Maine – There’s a lady in Levant who won’t let her cows out of the barn. Rustlers got one of her heifers and she  doesn’t want it to happen again.

In Mount Vernon, Milton Hall noticed three heifers missing. After checking his pastures, he called the sheriff. The cows had been rustled.

Rustling isn’t limited to the Western bad guy type.  It’s been reported in the Maine counties of Kennebec, Aroostook, Sagadahoc, York and Penobscot.  The incidents range from the theft of a single grazing cow to daring cowsnatching right from the farmer’s barn.

In Belgrade, someone made off with a single Hereford after cutting a tether rope. But in Albion, one ambitious fellow made off with six milking cows.

“The guy drove a truck right into the barn and drove out with six of them,” said Kennebec County Sheriff Stanley Jordan.

Sheriff Darrell Crandall of Aroostook County said there have been three incidents in recent weeks, but he said he wasn’t sure if two of them were the real thing or not. The third incident was rustling, all right, he said, but the farmer didn’t know whether he lost two cows or four.

“The guy drove right in with a vehicle and took off with the cows,” Crandall said. “But the owner didn’t know whether he got two or maybe four.  Now, just how he came up with those figures I don’t know.”

Most of the cases are one-shot, or one-cow, deals. But a couple of years ago some enterprising rustlers used a bit of local technology in bagging their bovines.

The thieves used a “pulp truck,” a big stake truck with a huge hydraulic claw which is used to pick up logs and place them on the truck bed.

“These guys used to get a cow near the pasture fence, bop it over the head with a hammer, then move the claw over the fence and pick the carcass right over,” said Sheriff Jordan. “We never got ‘em.”

Jordan thinks the increase in rustling is a result of the increase in beef prices. And he thinks it’s going to get worse.

“See, a friend of mine said they’re selling beef cattle for 80 cents a pound on the hoof,” Jordan said. “Now if a guy can go out and knock one off that’s 200 or 300 pounds or so dressed out, he’s got it made.”