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Dave Johnson
Dave Johnson (self proclaimed the “happiest man in town”) is co-owner, along with his son Mike, of Dave Johnson Sales at 8535 W. Kellogg. He was born and raised in Wichita, graduating from North High in the Spring of 1953 and began attending Wichita University as an art major and cheerleader that Fall. Dave participated with his mother in the development of the original WuShock, mascot concept, the first costume, and was the first mascot from 1954 to 1955. He began in the car business selling cars for Bob Moore Olds and Grant Davis, getting his own lot at Kellogg and West Street in 1959. In 1966 he became a franchise dealer for Chrysler with Dave Johnson Chrysler Plymouth at 7127 E. Kellogg. He partnered with Rusty Eck in 1984 on the Dollar Rent a Car franchise in Wichita, later expanding to Tulsa and Oklahoma City. He has been married to wife Billie for 55 years. They have 4 sons (David, Rusty, Mike, lost Chris at 35 years of age), 3 daughters-in-law (Sally, Theresa and Toni), 16 grandkids and 3 great grandkids. You can reach Dave (the Gunner) at Dave Johnson Sales on West Kellogg, by phone at (316) 721-0442, or by email at wushock1dj@cox.net.
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2011-10-25 10:05:10
History of auto business in Wichita – series
A: If you are following our historical tour of the history of Automobiles in Wichita, you will recall that last month we discussed the growth of the automobile industry in Wichita and how it really took off in the 1920s. Although Americans did not invent the car, they certainly perfected it. Much of the credit for this feat goes to Ford and his assembly-line method, which transformed the car from a luxury item into a necessity for modern living. By the mid-1920s, even working-class families could afford a brand-new Model T Ford, priced at just over $250. The city was thriving on innovation and thoroughly embracing the car culture, with all of the good and bad with which it came. While the 1920s saw many burgeoning carmakers, including the Jones Car Company, the 1930s saw many of them fade away, unable to compete with the power of Ford’s assembly line, and further troubled by the Great Depression. Additionally, other large automakers such as Chrysler and GM had local dealerships competing for the consumer’s dollar. During this era, the car changed the way people lived and did business in Wichita. The widespread availability and affordability of automobiles and trucks, led to greater ability for farmers to transport goods, brought more people to the area, and during the Dust Bowl, saw them pack their cars and leave en mass. Change came so rapidly that by 1930, almost one in three Americans owned cars. This resulted in a lot of unplanned congestion on the streets of Wichita. During this time, the city of Wichita, and the country as a whole, began to address the problems of traffic and the conditions of the roads accommodating the new culture centered on the automobile. Remnants of this time dot the landscape of the city, standing as monuments to innovation and the city’s rich automotive history, and you are likely to see them frequently. Of the many lasting imprints, the John Mack Bridge may be the most notable. Designed by James Barney Marsh, known as the “father of good Kansas roads,” it was built in 1931 to alleviate traffic. Today the 800-foot bridge is the second longest remaining of the Marsh Rainbow Bridges and remains appreciated for its beautiful architecture. While we’re talking about the “father of good Kansas roads,” we need to mention another remnant of the time…what was called Old Highway 54. It was all brick back in those days, hand laid one brick at a time by the WPA in the late 30s and early 40s, from downtown…through west Wichita…and all the way out to the 10 mile corner (Colwich Road). From there, it continued through Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and all the way to the West Coast. The greater national picture would soon affect the local automotive culture, however. Automobile sales had already declined by a third in the nine months before the stock market crash and The Great Depression further affected the ability of many people to spend on anything outside of necessities. With the US entering WWII in 1939, the country’s resources were stretched further but the car was instrumental in keeping many families together and afloat during that difficult time in our history. While many auto owners limited their driving due to rubber and tire shortages caused by the war effort, the car also enabled those who remained at home to get to jobs further out of town as well as remain close with friend and family. While hard times and limited resources affected the auto industry, it in no way diminished Wichita’s love for the car. Next month, we will pick up Wichita’s automotive history after the war and share some names with which many of you will be familiar.
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