Cars accelerate lives of Noble
By GRACE HOUSHOLDER
KENDALLVILLE - Probably no gadget,
device or machine has influenced the course of history in Noble
County more than the automobile.
A large percentage of Noble County's jobs are linked to the auto
industry. When auto sales are good, times are good in Noble County.
Cars influence how and where people build their homes (two-car
and three-car garages are common), how and where they shop and
how and where they work and spend their free time.
Getting a driver's license is a pivotal experience for most teens.
It is not uncommon for a teen-ager who is still in school to
be working to support the purchase and upkeep of his or her car.
The car is used for driving to and from school (few teens enjoy
riding the school bus), to and from work, going out with friends
and occasionally for "cruising" - driving around town
But it wasn't always that way. Wendell Jollief, 415 N. Krueger
St., did not have a car to drive until he bought his Gates Chevrolet
in 1938. He was 27 and working as a reporter in the Mishawaka
office of the South Bend Tribune.
Jollief was single, making $30 a week and grabbing a streetcar
for the five-mile trip to and from work. It was 5 cents for each
He bought the vehicle from a dealership that was down the street
from the newspaper office. "The salesman would come over
to my office," Jollief recalls. "I think that's why
I got the car."
He paid $899 ($19.20 per month) and took about four years to
pay for the new, six-cylinder black sports coupe.
"Whenever I got extra money I would pay what I could pay,"
Jollief drove the car to work, on vacations and to Kendallville
to visit Marijane Sawyer, who was living at 415 N. Krueger St.
(She eventually became his bride.)
On one vacation he drove in one evening from St. Louis to Fort
Wayne. They averaged 60 mph.
Jollief was married in 1941 and became the father of Jill in
1942, Jack in 1944 and Jan in 1945. A journalist, Jollief worked
for The Journal-Gazette and for many years for The News-Sun.
A stroke in 1989 ended his journalism career.
Jack Jollief, 353 N. Main St., bought his first car when he was
22. It was during the Vietnam War and most of his friends were
in Vietnam or in college. Jack was a member of the National Guard.
After his basic training he was living at home and saving money
from his job. In 1966 he ordered a maroon-colored Chevrolet Corvette
from Black's dealership in Albion. He went there because his
father had bought a car there.
The car took 12-13 weeks to come in, but Jack says it seemed
to him like "twice as long as they said." It had a
hard top, 427 cubic inch engine and blackwall tires because Jack
liked the looks of foreign sports cars. "It was different
because all the other Corvettes still had whitewalls," Jack
recalls. "I always had people tell me my car looked different
but they didn't notice why. That's all you see (blackwalls) now."
The car cost about $5,800. Jack was making about $6,500 a year
working at Newnam Foundry. "It was more than I could afford
and more than I should have ever gotten," Jack says. "I
bought my dream car first."
Jack doesn't remember "cruising" much in Kendallville
in the 1960s. "I think it was more popular to drive to Fort
Wayne and go to drive-ins like Gardners," he says. "We
didn't really cruise too much in town like they do nowadays."
How fast did his Corvette go?
"I had it going 150," Jack admits. "But I would
never go that fast today, and I wouldn't want my kids driving
that fast either."
Gas was 25-33 cents a gallon.
Jack says buying the car was a "learning experience"
because it was the first time he had to start making payments
and have insurance. "It was the start of being a responsible
person, although I wasn't very responsible at the time,"
He remembers when the Corvette had an engine problem and he took
it to Fort Wayne to be fixed. Twice he called to see if it was
fixed. Twice they said yes. Twice he caught a ride with his father,
who was working at The Journal-Gazette at the time, and twice
he was stranded at the dealership because the car wasn't done.
The third time he went down to get his Corvette he looked all
over and couldn't find it.
Finally, he found it in the body shop - an employee was painting
it. Apparently someone at the dealership had wrecked it while
taking it on a test drive and the dealership was trying to cover
up the evidence.
"It was a nightmare," Jack recalls. "The car was
fun when it was running good but a nightmare when I started having
problems with it."
He only kept the car a couple of years. "It was just too
much," he explains. "I couldn't afford it."
Jack works at Kendallville Iron and Metal. Ironically, his job
involves buying old cars and selling them to be recycled into
metal which is used by the automotive and appliance industries.
Jack and his wife, Cindy, have two sons, Joel, born in 1971 and
Jayme, born in 1974.
Joel, 28, who works at Hendrickson Suspension, which makes suspensions
for heavy duty trucks, purchased his first car in 1995 when he
was a senior at Indiana University at Bloomington. He bought
a used red 1988 Chevrolet Cavalier Z-25 for $5,000 from a friend.
"I had my eye on that particular car and finally found one,"
Joel recalls. "I was looking for something sporty, something
How fast did he go in it?
Joel remembers going past 100 mph.
When the car started having problems, Joel sold it and leased
a new car.
Jack says the biggest difference he sees from previous generations
is the popularity of leasing cars (paying a monthly fee to use
a car for a certain length of time). "When you lease vehicles
it's easier to be in a new vehicle every couple of years if you
really want to," he says. "Leasing is not as expensive
as it once was. Some of the prices are way out of line, but you
can get some deals if you look long and hard enough. I like to
lease because I feel safer in a car that's only a couple of years
old. Mechanics have a hard time keeping up with the changes (in
Jack and his wife, Cindy, are leasing two vehicles. Joel and
his wife, Kristina, own one car and lease one car.
The Jolliefs' interest in "wheels" doesn't end with
cars. Jack purchased a used Suzuki Intruder motorcycle last year
because it was "something I always wanted."
And Joel says he dreams of owning one, too.
Concerning motorcycles, Wendell remembers that he lost control
of a friend's motorcycle he was riding in Missouri and rode into
a field. He wasn't hurt, but it was the last time he was on two