Throwback Thursday: Barker Garage

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For many years my grandfather operated an auto repair shop in Tucson, Arizona, “Barker Garage.”  Located on 6th Street, it still had the sign on the building back in 2010 when this picture was taken (found on Flickr).  My grandfather’s name was Howard Barker; he learned to work on cars in the first World War, according to my dad’s retelling.  A few years back my younger son had to interview a veteran for a school project, and my dad shared some photos of my grandfather’s service time in WWI.  My dad told us that my grandfather learned the trade of engine repair during the war.  He also fell in love with motorcycles; in fact, there is a family story that Grandpa Barker made his own motorcycle from spare parts!

My father told stories of working in his father’s garage as a teenager, and I remember him working on cars he owned while we were growing up.  During the 1960s he owned a series of sports cars, including an Aston Martin, a Lotus Elan (!), and eventually a ’70s Corvette T-Top.  When my dad owned his sports cars, I was too young to truly appreciate them, but I do remember riding in these cars at various times when we visited my Dad on weekends, and those memories bring back a smile.

Back in the day, my dad might take my sister and me to Volunteer Park in Seattle, and we’d park in front of the Seattle Art Museum.  Out front were two camel statues from China, which we nicknamed as we climbed on them.  (A long tradition existed of museum camel-climbing before conservators moved them indoors and provided climb-friendly replicas a few years back, as I discovered in this blog post from SAM.)  We called them “Yesterday” and “Tomorrow.”  My dad would park in one of the open spaces right in front of the museum, and we’d scamper off to the camels while he’d wax his car in the parking space.  One way to pass the time!

I never had the chance to visit my grandfather’s garage in Tucson, but I found an interior shot of the building from Flickr that was taken a few years back.  The photographer has noted that the equipment “must be 50-60 years old, still works fine,” and my thoughts are, what a wonderful family legacy, to think of our grandfather’s workplace still being intact in 2007 when the photo was taken, even though my grandfather had long retired, and he had passed away before the end of the 20th century.  There is something about seeing a palpable representation of one’s family history like this that really connects you to a sense of heritage and shared family feelings and accomplishments.

Barker-Garage-2

Photographer’s caption:  “This is an alignment pit. The cars are driven out onto the calibrated ramps, the front wheels onto the turntables. Nowadays, car alignments are computerized done with a lift. The equipment must be 50-60 years old, still works fine.” (Photo dated Jan. 2007)

Our family still reminisces about our time in Tucson, even though we’re spread across the country these days.  It’s hard to believe, but the building is still there, at least according to Google maps!  – Minus the “Barker Garage” sign.  135 East 6th Street

Screenshot-2018-5-31 135 E 6th St
From Google Maps.

Does your family have traditional recollections?  Do you ever revisit a place you spent time at when you were young?

18 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: Barker Garage

  1. You know I have just finished reading Daphne du Maurier’s ‘The Loving Spirit’, and in it, one of the characters speak about the strange wonders of heritage and legacy. It seems like a simplistic observation, but the more I think about it, the more it leaves me gobstruck. Your grandfather certainly lived life on his own terms and it must make you all so proud. I love hearing stories about Adi and mine ancestors. Because we are the tangible links to these people who once breathed and lived such different stories than ours.

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    1. “. . . we are the tangible links to these people who once breathed and lived such different stories than ours” – I love this phrasing. Wow.

      It took me a long time to write this post; I’ve had the photos in a draft in my blog but I didn’t quite know how to tell the story. And then once I started it wound into the recollection with my Dad, which was not what I expected. I don’t know; I think I was concerned it might be boring to write a story about one’s grandparent. But I’d been holding onto the photos and the idea because I know my cousins will be interested in seeing the photos that link us to our Grandpa’s work. Thanks for your encouraging comments! 🙂

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      1. Thank you Theresa. Such lives, can they ever fail to snag our curiosity? Your cousins will surely love your post on your grandfather because it is now written and captured in words by you in such a beautiful way. With the nostalgia and love of a granddaughter 🙂 xx

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  2. My partner & I have a beautiful watercolour print on our hallway wall depicting Terry’s family’s car repair garage back east in the province of Ontario, Terry has fond memories of helping his Dad repair cars back in the day and yes, they owned quite a few unique cars, too! What a joy to read your post and appreciate the piece of family history on my wall once again!

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      1. 🙂 What a wonderful connection! So funny to both have grandparents in the auto repair business. My other grandfather also ran a service station/repair shop, only in Northern Arizona (Page, near Lake Powell). I’ll have to write about him in a future post. 🙂

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  3. What a cool post. I swear that building looks familiar. Not that I’ve been to Tucson in two years. I love the memories you have about your grandfather and your dad.

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      1. That is amazing because I had a deja vu feeling as I read it. Maybe that is because the subject was so akin to what I so often write about!

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      2. Yes, I think so! I so enjoy learning more about your life, Luanne, and I’m flattered to hear that my story sounded familiar. I had planned to stick to the Barker Garage story but then it took me into my dad’s cars-and-museum bit, so I just decided to go with it. Like you do, now that you mention it! 🙂 Thanks again!

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