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YEARS OF WORK KEEP MECHANIC RUNNING

SHARE YEARS OF WORK KEEP MECHANIC RUNNING

Three of the city's landmarks are the 70-year-old Springville Garage, the garage's 42-year-old wrecker and 67-year-old Shirley Thorpe. Not too coincidentally, Thorpe owns the other two.

Thorpe, who celebrated a birthday Tuesday, has been the co-owner and operator of the garage, at 255 S. Main, for 28 years. But he says he's actually been in the automobile repair business since he was able to walk."I've been in the garage all my life. I've always like being around tools and equipment. Dad opened the garage in 1920, and I was always in there, curious about what went on in there. When Dad died in 1962, I took over the business."

Thorpe has worked in the garage ever since, doing oil changes and lube work, brake repairs, state inspections and sometimes light auto-body work - with only a minimum of help from nephew Richard Thorpe and from Jacob Straight, who actually lives in the garage.

"They just do part-time help, like some work and helping clean up. I still do the lion's share of the work though."

Thorpe served as a mechanic in the armed forces during World War II and was wounded in his abdomen - which he said has slightly impaired his ability to lift heavy objects but has not dampened his enthusiasm for auto repair work.

"I've always been around trucks, and repaired and drove them during the war, so I've always got a soft spot in my heart for them."

Thorpe said he has a similar soft spot for his 1948 Diamond-T wrecker, which he purchased from a local car dealer in 1953. "It's one of the last gasoline-operating wreckers put out by the Diamond-T company before they started concentrating only on diesel truck manufacturing."

The wrecker has quite a history, since "it's one of the last of its kind, much like me," he said. "It's been very reliable, and I can't see any reason it won't keep running for quite some time."

Though he said he does not get many calls for wrecking service, "since every garage seems to have its own wreckers these days," his rig is still in service because many competitors' wreckers don't have its lifting capability.

"It still works like a horse and can lift even very large trucks. I keep it well-maintained and ready just for such circumstances."

Thorpe said he keeps the garage open "just for the reason that I still like to get up in the morning and have something to do."

Despite his age and physical impairment, he enjoys the work, though he has had to turn down work because of those reasons.

"Business has always been steady here, though we've had other people working here at times. I probably should have retired a few years ago, but I've just enjoyed this a great deal."

He said he does not have children to leave the garage to, and the other co-owner still lives in Long Beach, Calif.

"It kind of leaves the future of the garage up in the air."

As to his possible retirement, Thorpe can't say exactly when that will be, "though it will probably be when they come into the garage and find me stiff with a wrench in my hand."