2018-01-27 / Features

A drive down memory lane

STORY AND PHOTOS BY ANNA FLETCHER
COURIER-TIMES STAFF WRITER


“The 1916 Cadillac Touring Car features a wooden body and a backseat ‘widow seat.’” “The 1916 Cadillac Touring Car features a wooden body and a backseat ‘widow seat.’” Roxboro Glass Company owner and Person County historian Clark Oakley grew up around cars. His father, Harry Lee, was an avid auto enthusiast who owned 17 antique cars when he passed away in 2016. The family sold some of the cars that, according to Clark, were unfinished and required a lot of work to complete. The remaining ones are now kept either at the auto glass shop or at Clark’s childhood home in southern Roxboro.

“Dad loved his cars. It was his love and passion,” Clark said. “I mean, there’s his house right there. Look at the car garages – they’re ten times the size of his house.”

There are, in fact, more than 16 garages at the Oakley family house, where Clark’s mother, Barbara, still lives. As Clark lifts one of the garage doors to let in the soft light of an overcast January morning, he reminisces on the motored residents inside.


“The 1914 Studebaker is the oldest Studebaker in North Carolina and one of only three models made that year.” “The 1914 Studebaker is the oldest Studebaker in North Carolina and one of only three models made that year.” 1912 MAXWELL MESSENGER

This Maxwell is believed to be the oldest car in the county, Clark says, and the first car that his grandfather, Frank, ever saw.

“He and his brothers would chase it barefoot on Old Durham Road, outrunning it most of the time,” Clark said.

It uses three types of fuel: gasoline for the engine, carbide for the headlamps, and kerosene for the rear tail light and two side lamps. First purchased in 1911 by Ira Carter, the owner of former lumber mill Pick’s Siding, the car was shipped in three separate crates from Charlotte on the Norfolk and Western Railway. It was then assembled in the yard of the old Roxboro Depot.


“The 1912 Maxwell Messenger is believed to be the oldest car in Person County.” “The 1912 Maxwell Messenger is believed to be the oldest car in Person County.” 1914 STUDEBAKER

Likely the oldest Studebaker in the state, Clark says, this car was restored in 1982 and is one of only three made that year.

“This car is very wellknown to people in Roxboro,” he said. “At one time, it was valued at over a million dollars. Not now. Everybody wants something that goes fast and loud.”

All-leather seats, ample room and reliability make it not only his favorite of the bunch, but a national first-prize winner,

1916 CADILLAC TOURING CAR

Nicknamed “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” by the Oakley family, this yellow Cadillac is the first car Clark remembers his father restoring. It originally fit seven riders and, though it needs new tires and hasn’t been driven in 30 years, it can reach speeds of over 100 mph, he says.


“The 1919 Cadillac Touring Car was the first Cadillac purchased in Person County and features a ‘fat man’ steering wheel and pin-striped wheels.” “The 1919 Cadillac Touring Car was the first Cadillac purchased in Person County and features a ‘fat man’ steering wheel and pin-striped wheels.” “The body was missing, and we couldn’t find one, so my dad had a guy make one out of wood,” Clark said. “That backseat right there actually goes on a buggy. That’s called a widow seat – that’s where you put the mother-in-law.”

1919 CADILLAC TOURING CAR

This later model is another community favorite, Clark says. It originally belonged to Dily Walker, a Roxboro resident who sent several local students to college.

“My dad knew what parts were missing on this car when Dily had it,” Clark said. “He was buying them before he even got it. He knew he was going to get it one way or the other.”


“The 1931 Studebaker was restored in 1975; and, though many people believe that it was driven by Al Capone, it actually belonged to two sisters from Banner Elk, Clark Oakley says.” “The 1931 Studebaker was restored in 1975; and, though many people believe that it was driven by Al Capone, it actually belonged to two sisters from Banner Elk, Clark Oakley says.” The first Cadillac purchased in Person County, the car features a “fat man” steering wheel, which, when turned a certain way, allows for the driver to get their ample waistline behind it. It also features pinstriped wheels, which were painted by another local resident and ex-fire chief, Buddy Hall.

1931 STUDEBAKER

Popular opinion is that this car once belonged to Al Capone, Clark says.

“Actually, it was two little old ladies from Banner Elk,” he said. “Their father ran a store and a considerable moonshine still.”


“The 1959 Ford Galaxie Skyliner Retractable 500 was one of the first hardtop convertibles ever made. It’s a regular in the Roxboro Christmas Parade.” “The 1959 Ford Galaxie Skyliner Retractable 500 was one of the first hardtop convertibles ever made. It’s a regular in the Roxboro Christmas Parade.” It was restored in 1975 and, according to Clark, has carried many people to get married.

“It’s got to have tires,” he said. “That’s the problem with old cars. When you fix them up, tires on a regular car last just a couple years, and the tires on this car are over 40 years old. You can’t drive it fast, because it’ll probably come apart.”

1959 FORD GALAXIE SKYLINER RETRACTABLE 500

“My dad bought this one at B & J Motors in 1960,” Clark said. “This was one of the first hardtop convertibles ever made. It’s got more wiring than a space shuttle, and I’m not kidding you.”


“Clark Oakley opens a door of one of the multi-garage structures at his childhood home in southern Roxboro.” “Clark Oakley opens a door of one of the multi-garage structures at his childhood home in southern Roxboro.” Clark grew up in the car, he says, and has driven it in about every Christmas parade for as long as he can remember.

“I’ve gone from riding in the backseat to driving it,” he said.


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