|Roemer Remembers the Day of the Maxwell|
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Robert D. Roemer isn’t new to the automotive repair and maintenance business. He’s been at it for several years, nurturing operations from a facility near his Dudley residence.
The owner of Rob’s Automotive, Mr. Roemer provides service for antique, classic, sports, and late-model vehicles. Things are a bit different now because he has moved operations into the town’s business center, occupying the former Webster-Dudley Lincoln-Mercury Garage on West Main Street.
“We’ve been at the location since February,” Mr. Roemer said on a recent morning, taking every day as it comes, tackling motor vehicle requirements as varied as their years of manufacture.
Ken Gevry of Charlton offers a specialty, working on old Fords, mostly the model A’s of 1930s vintage. Others with different services come in from time to time.
There’s another thing that marks Rob’s as different. Its business imperatives trace back more than 100 years, and include the Maxwell automobile, “manufactured in the United States from 1904 to 1925.” A list of Maxwell positives, and other advertising pieces, including “Dudley’s first horseless carriage,” have wall space in the West Main Street building.
Emil Roemer, Rob’s great-grandfather, sold and serviced Maxwells, said to be one of the best and most popular motor cars of their time.
Emil Roemer ran his auto business from a three-decker on School at Barnes streets in Webster, says Rob. “He sold the building to Place Motor Co. all those years ago,” actually around 1919 or 1920, the young Mr. Roemer said. Place sold Ford cars and is still in business, the oldest Ford agency in Central Massachusetts, located now on Thompson Road in Webster. The original Maxwell building is still in place with several apartments. Nectar Products Co., a bulk ice cream and specialty products plant, followed the Maxwells into the building.
The business operated by great-grandfather Roemer subsequently acquired other product lines, including sewing machines, and Victrola-like entertainment units, while becoming a major retailer and rebuilder of bicycles, serving generations of residents for probably 50 years from a storefront on Mechanic Street. Another garage, a Willis-Knight agency, was in the same building.
Parts of a Maxwell sign, rescued from a summer kitchen at Emil Roemer’s residence, remind Rob Roemer that his great-grandfather’s business model was the Maxwell automobile, but bicycles became the company’s go-to line through most of its years.
Young Rob is developing a multiphase approach to his business, featuring the trade and people skills he has acquired over time. His hands-on accomplishments include a stint as a firetruck mechanic. One of his brothers, Michael, is an auto body repair teacher at Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School in Charlton. “Actually, he was a big help in getting (our) whole shop set up,” says Rob. Another brother, Eric, is a Dudley firefighter.
Rob Roemer is a nice young man — and make this my observation — but Emil Roemer, his great-grandfather, had the manual on Maxwell motorcars.
Preliminaries to construction of a new police station on Main Street in Webster were reported a couple of weeks ago.
Donna F. and Randall V. Becker of Webster — he’s a senior executive with the Commerce Insurance Group — made good on their pre-town meeting promise, donating $500,000 for town acquisition and demolition of three condemned properties across from Town Hall.
While this brings a certainty to the project, it aligns the Beckers with construction of new police and fire buildings for the town. The young couple’s munificence is surely welcome, a wonderful addition to the projects to be financed by the Marilyn and Gerald Fels Foundation.
The foundation’s contributions to the public service facilities will total $20 million over 25 years.
Staying with the Fels Foundation, it sponsored the town’s fireworks display once more this year, but without the publicity that carried the show through its early years.
The only advance notice heard about the Fels’ contribution was the Town Hall declaration that there would be a pyrotechnics display at the lake, sponsored by “the same people.” There was a “maybe next year, too,” addendum to the line.
This was probably in keeping with Marilyn and Gerald Fels’ objectives. If there’s one thing that stamps Webster’s No. 1 help team, it’s a willingness to associate with all kinds of good works. At the same time, they’re modest people whose philanthropic concerns are for others.
In hindsight, though, the weather didn’t do much for the 2011 show.
Telegram & Gazette
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