Garage Built for the Tucker Makes Way for Rite Aid  
Thursday, September 9, 2010

The intersection of West Main Street and Schofield Avenue in Dudley has been a major commercial center longer than most people can remember. The near future will bring a Rite Aid Pharmacy to the corner. Grading and excavation for water displacement drains has already started.

A couple of back-to-back garages in the intersection, long headquarters of the highly respected Bayer Motors Co., have been demolished. An adjacent three-decker, built early in the 20th century for Ralemus and Arthur Gadoury Sr., father and son, will also be removed. They ran a bakery and a confectionery store. The bakery produced breads, pastries, and specialty products, supplying goods for the confectionery store and Gadoury outlets in Webster and other towns.

Sisters Lillian Dwyer and Clarise McKinstry, nee Gadoury, remembered the confectionery store, recalling that Uncle Ralemus had a radio in his place of business when the medium was in its infancy, and whole families, including theirs, would visit to hear local talent on evenings that Webster station WKBE was on the air. Mrs. Dwyer, subsequently Dudley’s longtime town clerk, and another sister, Janet M. Gadoury, who became a sister of St. Anne, were absent from radio nights when they harmonized before the WKBE mikes, responding to call-in requests. The three-decker fell on tough times in its post-bakery years, although Gad’s, as the confectionery store was known, remained a viable enterprise over many years.

The garage on Schofield Avenue, built around 1947, was the first razed last month. It was designed for the sale of a widely heralded make of automobile, the Tucker. Prototypes were made, but the vehicle was never mass produced. The late J. Otto Bayer, founder of the automobile agency in the days before World War II, reserved territorial sales rights to a Tucker agency in 1947 by purchasing stock in the company. The Tucker Corp. advertised its car as “finer, more luxurious than the most expensive cars,” even before delivering its first vehicle. Company founder Preston Tucker’s dream hadn’t gone much beyond a prototype, but the car’s low-gravity design required that prospective dealers construct garages with lifts flush to be floor and specific features for a showroom.

This was the genesis of Mr. Bayer’s garage. Dealers subsequently received advisories that heightened the late Mr. Bayer’s suspicions about the auto maker. A trip to the Tucker factory prompted dismay. The plant was not equipped to mass produce automobiles. Hollywood made a film about the Tucker Corp. in 1988.

While the specially built Bayer garage never housed a Tucker automobile, John and David Bayer, who affiliated with the business after World War II, had all the documents to Bayer Tucker when the movie premiered. The building was used for an American Motors Co. agency, offering that vehicle for quite some time while adding Cadillac and Oldsmobile to the original Pontiac agency. Bayer Motors also sold White and International trucks for several years.

The property subsequently housed a gasoline station and served as a tire outlet under the Bayer Motors Co. banner. Although they never delivered a Tucker car, Bayer Motors escaped most of the problems associated with Tucker sales, such as taking orders for accessories beforehand.

Vacant for a few years, the larger of the two garages, originally with a three-car showroom, parts department and offices on the West Main Street side, extending to Schofield, was probably the first sales and comprehensive service garage built in Dudley. It gave to the blows of demolition machines on Aug. 13. The “Bayer Motors” sign in the intersection fell into rubble around 11 a.m. that fatal Friday.

Dr. Albert J. Lanoie, an optometrist with offices at 145 Main St., Webster, acquired a Chevrolet agency, retaining his optometric practice, while eventually working full time at Chevrolet corner, as the location was tabbed early on.

His professional standing transferred to the auto business, and he was generally referred to as “Doc Lanoie.” The particulars seem lost in time, but dealer Lanoie carried a mid-1930s dispute with a Dudley Board of Selectmen to his showroom windows, covering them with signs that berated the board for awarding a bid for a new truck to a Webster agency. His quote wasn’t significantly different, the window rant suggested.

Incumbent Dudley Selectman Anthony B. DiDonato Sr., now the longest-serving selectman in town history, offers a vague recollection of the window signs. He was an elementary student, and his family lived nearby on Williams Street.

Time, and little mention of the Lanoie agency in town records, have blurred any measure of its success. Its life as a Chevrolet agency might have been relatively short-lived. Central Garage on Mechanic Street in Webster put a Chevrolet logo over its showroom around 1937. James V. Geotis managed Chevy services from there over many years, moving to Dudley as sales grew. That location now houses Marty’s Liquors and Redemption Center.

J. Otto Bayer ran an Eastern Oil Co. gasoline station on East Main Street at what is now Park Avenue for about 20 years. He also was a heating oil distributor for Eastern Oil Co. Mr. Bayer acquired a Pontiac agency just before World War II. The war was still in progress when he purchased the Lanoie property around 1943, without any new cars to sell.

For a final note about the Tucker automobile, Walter Biadasz of Vero Beach, Fla., a former resident of Webster and Dudley, has photos of a 1948 Tucker, drawn from the Internet. It’s a prototype that wound up initially in an automobile museum in San Francisco. A California couple bought the car for a reported $6,000 when the museum closed, and drove it to West Coast automobile shows. The car was photographed when its owners stopped near an abandoned gasoline station to check on a tire problem. A tag to Mr. Biadasz’s net find says the Tucker in question sold at an antiques auto auction in 2009 for a reported $750,000.

There’s a sad addendum to the Bayer Motors Co. story: John C. Bayer, 87, and retired since 1990, died Aug. 23 — just days after the former Bayer Motors Co. garages were torn down.

-Courtesy Of
Telegram & Gazette

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