ASHTABULA COUNTY —
What a reaction! What fun!
Last week’s story prompted by Michael Doherty, of Doherty Ford in Forest Grove, Ore., sent my phone into a ringing frenzy!
While cleaning out his father’s desk, Doherty found a full-page advertisement from Sinkler Ford on South Main Avenue, published in the Star Beacon Oct. 22, 1976.
“It is in excellent condition,” he said. “When I searched for the dealership (on the Internet), I came across the article regarding the passing of Jerry Sinkler. Do you know anyone who may want it?”
What a find! You won’t believe all the people who called the Star Beacon.
The first call came from North Kingsville native Gary Walrath, general manager for Sinkler in 1976 and today a consultant with Great Lakes Auto on Route 20 in Ashtabula Township.
“I know how Doherty got that ad — other Ford dealers requested our ads because we were successful,” he said. “We advertised on the back page of the Star Beacon every Friday for 24 years. That was the way we advertised ... We mostly advertised used cars in the Star Beacon. It was a very important part of our success.”
Jerry Sinkler’s son, Scott, who now lives in Jefferson, said his father would get ideas for ads from all over the country. In return, he would send copies of his ads to other dealerships.
“He always had something going,” Scott Sinkler said. “He always had big things; always something fun going on.”
Sinkler remembers the salesmen wearing aprons and giving away free hot dogs and Coke during the “Red Hot Give-Away” sale in July, and the “We’ll Take Anything On Trade” ad campaign.
“We took horses, cattle and boats on trade-in,” he said. “Dad put a corral on the front of the lot with the horses in it!”
To get this news to Ashtabula, Lake and Geauga counties, former Star Beacon advertising representative, Herbert Thompson, would meet with Walrath every Wednesday. Together, they would brainstorm and put together the giant, weekly ad.
“We were the Star Beacon’s biggest advertiser for many years,” Sinkler said.
Thompson, now 83, retired in 1992 and makes his home in Ashtabula.
“(Sinkler) gave away toasters; they had salesmen riding on horses at a round-up,” Thompson said. “Car dealers don’t have any of that now. We used to have lots of fun.”
Of the eight salesmen appearing in the 1976 Sinkler advertisement, Bill Kaydo and Jim Partridge still work with Walrath at Great Lakes Auto.
In 1976, they were “The Supertraders” fighting rising car prices, according to the ad.
Today, after 40 years in the car business, Kaydo’s job title is consultant and Partridge, who has 38 years in the car business, is the general manager.
Walrath hired Kaydo fresh out of Ohio University.
“I played basketball for Jerry Sinkler,” Kaydo said. “I drove in the service department (at Sinkler’s) with my white Thunderbird and I asked Gary (Walrath), ‘Do you think I could sell cars?’”
Partridge started his adult life selling insurance until Walrath met him when he came in to buy a car from Kaydo.
“I said, ‘Hey kid, why don’t you sell cars?’” Walrath said.
Partridge said it worked for him because “I just like cars.”
Walrath also hired Ruth Harley to run the office at Sinkler’s.
“I called Edgewood High School and I said I wanted their best business student,” he said. “They sent Ruth.”
Harley said she fit right in.
“I was looking for accounting work,” she said.
Today, she’s the controller for Great Lakes Auto.
Walrath said it doesn’t seem like it’s been 44 years since that high school girl (Ruth) came in for an interview.
“(Sinkler Ford) was very successful,” he said. “We dominated the car scene for years with good people, a wonderful sales force and the power of advertising.”
Walrath said it’s been a very rewarding.
“People come up to me and say, ‘Remember that Ford I bought from you?’” he said. “It’s been great.”
But the Star Beacon and Walrath go back even further than Sinkler Ford. He’s a former Star Beacon delivery boy.
“For three years, I delivered the Star Beacon on my bicycle,” he said. “It taught me discipline.”
It also helped him open his bank account.
“I collected 21-cents a week from my customers, going door to door every Friday,” Walrath said. “I got to keep 4-cents (from every customer).”
ASHTABULA COUNTY —
What a reaction! What fun!
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