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Firestone, General, and Goodrich Tire Service Centers

Today we take a look at three service centers that sold tires located in Ann Arbor, MI, in the 1930s and the ’40s. The Firestone Store in the lead image and the expandable version of it (below) is still in business today. The service center was photographed in July of 1946 and is located at East Huron and South Division Streets in the City and was featured here recently. It has been included again because of finding this better overall view of it and the intersection.

Please share with us what you find of interest in these photos courtesy of the Ann Arbor District Library.

  • The Firestone Store located at East Huron and South Division Streets is still in operation today. 

  • The Harper Service Co. located at West Huron and North Ashley Streets sold General Tires. The building has not survived redevelopment in that area of the City.

  • The Silkworth Tire Co. at Huron St. and 4th Ave. handled Goodrich tires. The building has survived with some changes since this image was taken in 1948. 

28 responses to “Firestone, General, and Goodrich Tire Service Centers

  1. In the lead photograph, parked in the lot of the Firestone Store on the far left, is what looks like a four-door 1938 PACKARD Eight Touring Sedan.

  2. In the 3rd picture [2nd expandable photograph], parked in the center of the gas station, is a 1935 CADILLAC, possibly a Town Sedan.

  3. In the last photo note the neat Zenith neon sign on the left side of the building.
    So, they sold or serviced aftermarket radios?
    Can’t say I’ve seen that before on a service station.

      • Yes, I understand that, but being too young to have direct experience, was it common for service stations to install and or repair radios?
        I would guess maybe in the 30s-40s, before factory installed units were common.

        • In my area there were several dedicated auto radio shops. That is, they sold and serviced only auto radios and did not compete with other firms that sold and serviced home radios (and, later, TVs). They had a service counter where you could bring in your own car radio for repair and they also had garage bays where you drove the car in and the technicians would install a new radio or remove, repair and replace an existing radio. This was usually not a while-you-wait situation as it could take several hours to complete. Car dealers seldom did radio repairs; they had arrangements with one or more auto radio repair shops to take care of customers’ radios. Customers were often unaware that the work was outsourced and they probably could save money by taking their cars directly to the radio shop instead of the dealer. All that went away when car radios were transistorized, became more reliable and were more often replaced rather than repaired if they stopped working.

    • Those were tube type radios, so with a nearby tube checker machine a repair job could be done fairly quickly. I remember that most Sears and K marts in the 60 ‘s had those machines with a stock of spares. Tubes had a filament that would burn out just like a light bulb.

      • A very common misconception, then and now. The reality is that the filament (directly heated cathodes were too fragile for car radios, although they were used in very early experimental auto radios because that’s all that was available) – or heater in more modern tubes with indirectly heated cathodes – rarely to never fail. The two main failure modes for vacuum tubes are a) air gets in (loss of vacuum) and b) low or no cathode emission.
        Also, those radios contain a vibrator to step up the 6 or 12 volts from the car’s electrical system to the high voltage for the tube’s plates, these are fruitful sources of trouble then and now. Resistors and capacitors fail, too.

        • Those vibrators- If your classic car radio- from the late 30’s through the 50’s-was working at the end of the season but won’t work when you pull the car out in the spring-are the first things to check – after the fuse, of course. They “hum” when the radio is turned on and can be heard while the tubes warm up and before the radio produces audio sound. If no hum is detected, then likely the points in vibrator are stuck. (This is always a bit of optimistic thinking, as it’s an easy fix.)

          The vibrator is usually a round metal can that plugs into the radio chassis. It contains a set of contact points, similar to the ignition points found in the distributor. If the radio is unused for an extended period of time, corrosion on the points will cause then to stick together. Sometimes a sharp tap with a screwdriver will jar them loose, sometimes the vibrator needs to be removed and smacked on the workbench. If it comes to it, the crimping on the outside can can be undone and the points can be manually separated and the corrosion filed or sanded away.

          I’ve had to do this a few times over the years on our ’48 Chrysler and ’48 Packard. If I recall correctly, a friends ’57 Ford also had a vibrator.

          I think that electronic “vibrators” can be found, but you’ll miss out on the “hum”, and miss out on part of the authentic experience of running a car of that period.

          • Pulling a strip of bond paper between the contacts usually gets the vibrator running.
            Abrasives just use up the metal.
            There were also “synchronous vibrators” which drove the transformer AND rectifed the AC. Usually Nightmares to service.
            Any of the vibrators needed healthy capacitors in the primary circuit, a common failure mode (capacitors).

  4. 1946 must have been a halcyon year for tire stores after the war year’s tire rationing. Would have been really hectic trying to re-rubber all of the vehicles that were way overdue. Places like these might have presented good job opportunities for returning GI’s and/or GI Bill University of Michigan students, for example. Personally, I can’t vouch for that since I was only four years old and living 10 miles from Ann Arbor without a car of my own!

  5. First picture, at the curb in front of the Tokheim 850 Clock Face Gulf gas pumps, is a 1934 Ford BB Stake body truck with a V-8 engine.

  6. Wonder if that is new Zenith bicycles on the left in the last photo ? These pics are all so full of “special interest” items, thanks as always David !

  7. Silkworth got started in Ypsilanti and was owned by “Charlie” (Donald Charles) Silkworth (1939-2014). He also owned another tire shop and a John Deere dealership in Napoleon.

  8. I can’t imagine the purpose of the tower on the right in photo 2.Maybe people who wanted to keep on eye on things from up high worked there.

  9. Two classics: The Buick coupe and the 1934 Ford rack truck. Note on both vehicles concave line of the front fenders where they meet the running boards, grille line NOT forward of the axle , but slightly canted; free standing headlights. Both of these brands changed for the worst the following model year. Note the bloated tan Ford coach in the middle of the photo. Whew!

  10. Notice the swing set at the Firestone store. Probably not there to keep the kinds occupied, I think if was a product they sold. There is also a garden cultivator to the right of it. I know there were Firestone brand bicycles among other things branded by Firestone. I have part of a tool set.

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