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JIM: Goings on in The Shire, early April 1939

In early April 1939, the world teetered a bit closer to war. During the first week of that long ago "cruelest month," both Great Britain and France pledged to help Poland in the event Germany invaded the latter-named country. At virtually the same time, Hitler directed the German military, via a top secret missive, to start preparations for that very invasion as early as September.

But meanwhile, back in The Shire. . .

Life continued apace in Adair County. Everybody who was anybody (and few who fell short of that lofty goal), announced candidacy for some office or another, subject, of course, to the will of the voters in the August primary. Among those in the running was Herschel Tate Baker, seeking the Republican nomination for the 36th District (Adair & Taylor counties) Representative seat in the Kentucky Legislature. Mr. Baker promised that if elected, he would "support a law to increase the old age pension." (He carried the primary and won the general election in November to serve his third. non-consecutive term.)

A certain sign of spring came in the form of an announcement from well-known Columbian and local roller skating rink manager David Heskamp.

He stated preparations were underway for the rink, located at the Fairgrounds, to open soon.

Although effects of the Great Depression remained in abundance, there were also signs of an economic re-emergence, some of them in the local automotive scene.

Wheet's Service Garage, recently settled into its new digs on Merchant Street just off the Square at the rear of the Kelsay Bros. Filling Station, had contracted to run a series of ads in the News over the next 20 weeks, and the paper earnestly requested its readers to watch for and read same.

Meanwhile, Charles D. Wethington just purchased an interest in Columbia Motor Co., thus becoming a partner in the Chevrolet dealership. For the nonce, he was in charge of the garage and attendant repairs, while the other owner, James Vaughn, handled the sales department. And too, Alvin Lewis, the local Aetna Oil representative, was putting up a new filling station on the H.M. Miller lot, just off the Square.

Without a doubt, however, the biggest news of all and surely the talk of the county was Mr. M.L. Grissom's brand new combination ambulance-hearse, freshly delivered from the A.J. Miller Co. in Bellfontaine, Ohio.

The News stated that the body of the vehicle, mounted on the stretched 1939 Buick 8 chassis, included "every facility for ambulance service and funeral use," and that Mr. Grissom and his assistant, Frank Callison, were "both very proud of their fine new equipage."

The A.J. Miller Co., founded in Bellfontaine in the early 1850s as a manufacturer of horse-drawn carriages, produced two styles of ambulance-hearses in 1939. Stated one source:

"A smart-looking flower car appeared in the 1939 A.J. Miller catalog with a business coupe-like top that flowed gracefully into the rear coachwork which included a folded convertible top fashioned out of aluminum that was mounted at the rear of the flower box. Small auxiliary doors appeared just behind the driver's door and could be used to load chairs or embalming supplies under the flower deck when the vehicle was used as a first-call or service car.

"Miller also offered an attractive triple-arched carved-panel hearse called the Miller Cathedral hearse. Embossed aluminum panels replicated gothic stained-glass windows typically found in churches and funeral chapels." *

* From "A.J. Miller Company, 1853-1956; Bellefontaine, Ohio," Coachbuilt, (cut, paste, remove three spaces), retrieved 2019 March 31.

This story was posted on 2019-04-02 07:16:15
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