MACY'S: The last word.
- Linda Schmerber and Jada Jamison on "From Aisles to Avenues" … the KEMP AUTO MUSEUM’s Crosley exhibition! Plus a reader remembers Crosley in the family.
Manuel (L) 14 and Lou (R) 11, at Macy’s for the Crosley display and KEMP preview. Can you guess which one is the serious one and which is the ’class clown’? Yeah, I thought you could. The two brothers are volunteers in the FIN MAN’s Take A Kid To A Car Show, St. Louis program.
The Crosley exhibition was at the KEMP AUTO MUSEUM until last November 4th. For details call Jada Jamison at 636-537-1718.
Tri-Power Trivia Question: 1. Where was Crosley Field located? 2. What other consumer products were produced under the Crosley name? 3. Who performed the first recording of Pink Cadillac? Answers at end of story. 3. Crosley was the first car to win what famous race? Answers at end of story.
On Crosleys, CoBras and Clowns:
What do I think of when the name Crosley comes up? Clowns, of course. The Crosley automobile, manufactured and sold from 1939 to 1952, was a ‘sub-compact’ before we knew what the term meant. I remember going to the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey circus at the St. Louis Arena (when I was a sub-compact myself), and seeing a tiny automobile race out onto the circus floor, screech to a halt and watching as what seemed like dozens of brightly-dressed circus clowns piled out like puppies from a basket.
Over the next several years as I was coming up, I would see the occasional Crosley here and there around the St. Louis area. My last known public outdoor sighting was (as I recall) as recent as 1975 … a pair of the tiny cars sitting at a gas station on the corner of South Laclede Station and Heege Roads in Sappington, MO. They were a pickup and a station wagon as I recall and I believe they were being offered for sale.
The last time I saw a Crosley on public display was just last Saturday, September 29th, when TKCS-StL* participants Emanuel Garcia and brother Luis Hernandez accompanied me to Chesterfield Mall and the Macy’s store for a special preview exhibition of 'From Aisles to Avenues’ was taking place. The event which included, in addition to the Crosley automobile shown, models wearing period clothing, a photo booth and a Crosley automobile like the ones sold at Macy’s during WWII. (Yes, they really were sold at Macy’s, in the appliance department, right next to wooden radios, ice boxes and toasters.)
TALKIN’ TECHTM: Lest I forget, I must explain ‘CoBras’. The term in this case has nothing to do with reptiles and high performance Fords. Neither does it have anything to do with women’s undergarments. Rather the term (notice the cap B) refers to a type of engine developed by Crosley which was constructed of, get this, sheet metal! Designed to be light in weight, the CoBra (which stands for Copper Brazed), was a great performer, but didn’t hold up well longterm as you might imagine.
WHERE BUILT: At the Crosley Corporation in Richmond, Indiana, between 1939 and 1942 and by Crosley Motors, Incorporated in Marion, Indiana, and Cincinnati, Ohio, between 1946 and 1952. GENERAL: Wheelbase 80”; CoBra engine (typical), displacement, 44 c.i. (.72 liters), 26.5 horsepower, 1-barrel carburetor, overhead valves, sheet metal block. ECONOMY: as much as 50 MPG. SELLING PRICE: At 1939 introduction, $250.00 up to right at $1,000.00 in Crosley’s closing year.
DISCLAIMER: Product specifications may vary slightly from model-to-model and year-to-year. The FIN MAN and his associates are not responsible for any stress or confusion over the technical stats and minutia listed herein. If you want ALL the details from well informed sources, visit the Crosley Car Owners Club at http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/Crosley/.
AN ADMITTEDLY OVERSIMPLIFIED EXPLANATION OF CROSLEY’s DEMISE: Although later models would be powered by infinitely more dependable cast iron block motors, the CoBra engine’s reputation for failure may have been the crushing blow for Crosley. Introduction of the new, improved engines may have been the old story of "too little, too late".
Tri-Power Trivia Answers:
1. Crosley Field (1912-1970) was located in Cincinnati, Ohio.
2. Crosley was well known for his refrigerators (Shelvador), radios and other home appliances. Crosley pioneered the ‘money-back guarantee’.
3. A Crosley won the very first Sebring race, beating out Ferrari and Allard in the process.
This landmark exhibit focused on Crosleys retailed at Macy’s between 1939 and 1952. Produced in limited numbers, they sold alongside rotary phones and wooden radios (that were also on view) in the appliance department. Six Crosleys showcased at the museum, the earliest being the 1939 Crosley convertible. Two additional models exhibited at Macy’s for the first time in 60 years. This historic presentation introduced contemporary audiences to the magic and mystique of shopping in the bygone era. It also demonstrated the changing styles of cars during this period. The exhibition was made possible by the Kemp Auto Museum. Additional support was provided by Macy’s Chesterfield and MotoeXotica Classic Cars.
October 3 - November 4: Official opening of “From Aisles to Avenues” at Kemp Auto Museum, featuring six Crosley vehicles and over 40 historical panels and memorabilia.
Community Outreach Coordinator
Kemp Auto Museum
16955 Chesterfield Airport Road
Powel Crosley Jr. liked to label himself “the man with 50 jobs in 50 years,” a catchy sobriquet that was far from true, although he did have over a dozen jobs before he got into automobile accessories. He helped quite a few inventors up the ladder of success by buying the rights to their inventions and sharing in the profits. His work provided employment and products for millions of people.
The following Crosleys were on display at the KEMP AUTO MUSEUM:
1) 1939 Crosley Convertible: Mark Andrews
2) 1947 Crosley Sedan: Steve Coldewe
3) 1951 Crosley Hotshot: MotoeXotica
4) 1951 Crosley Pickup: Craig Leinicke
5) 1951 Crosley Super Convertible: Nick Nicklin
6) 1952 Station Wagon: Jim Delue
…and this from Linda Schmerber:
Thank you for another Crosley column. What a beautiful car and handsome boys in today’s STLPD. I knew it. 50 mpg when gas was really cheap. I always knew my parents, Andy & Peggy Ciolek, now 89, knew how to economize.
The used car bought in 1947 was the family car (finally my sister and I could see out the side windows) but when two more siblings came along, the Crosley sedan, with the top cut off, became a money maker.
Sno-cones were sold on regular routes in Jennings in the 1950’s. Two flavors were offered. Red, called strawberry or cherry and the second changed nightly, Grape, Root Beer, Orange or Bubblegum Blue, that tasted like Banana. It finally died and went to Baldi’s junk yard on Helen Avenue in 1961.
I was told in high school that boys liked cars and girls who could talk about them. Alas, to this day I can only tell the “make” of the car if it is big enough to be read on the outside. And those letters are getting smaller all the time!
Linda Ciolek Schmerber, Jennings
Fairview High ‘62