BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — As Darryl “Darry” Bauman drives a 1966 Ford pickup in this year’s Cherry Fest parade, he’ll be following a family tradition in more ways than one.
Darry, who manages Whitehouse Motors for his parents, owners Bud and Bonnie Bauman, will pay tribute to the 80-year anniversary of the downtown auto shop during the parade.
“I won’t be riding on antique bike,” he laughed, referring to Bud’s past parade performance on an old-fashioned, high-wheel bicycle.
“This will be a tribute to our history with Ford,” said Darry, explaining that the family business was launched in November 1941 as a Ford dealership.
Founders and brothers Norm Bauman and Jacob “Herb” Bauman – Darry’s grandfather – opened the dealership to sell Ford cars and trucks, but the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor soon after. With the United States pulled into World War II, new vehicle deliveries were nixed, so the brothers instead offered auto repairs and part sales to stay afloat. The first car that Whitehouse Motor Sales sold was a 1946 Ford two-door to Orville Bucher.
In 1954, the brothers decided to drop the Ford dealership part of the business and Whitehouse Motor Sales became a full-service gas station with repairs, service and emergency towing services, using affiliations with AAA and Standard Oil of Ohio (Sohio).
Herb’s oldest son, Darryl “Bud” Bauman Sr. started working part time after school and on the weekends in the 1950s, then went full time after graduating from high school in 1956. In 1964, Norm took over as owner and changed the name from Whitehouse Motor Sales to Whitehouse Motors Inc. Herb went on to open Herb’s Variety Store in downtown Waterville.
Whitehouse Motors provided curbside fill-ups for many years; but in 1988, Sohio informed the Baumans that replacing the gas pumps and underground tanks with new environmentally safe equipment was not feasible. The pumps – the last of their kind in the county – were removed.
Throughout its 80-year history, Whitehouse Motors has been a family business. Bud and his wife, Bonnie, took over ownership in 1975, the same year their 14-year-old son, Darry, began working part time in the shop.
“I wanted money. I started mowing yards at 11 and also worked at a dog kennel, but I hated that,” he said. “My dad brought me in to start sweeping floors and fixing tires and I stayed.”
While Bud and Bonnie are now semi-retired, Darry’s daughter, Lindsey, is involved in the business, along with his sister, Julie.
“We’re in the fourth generation of Baumans,” he said.
Lindsey, who has a degree in history and loves to hear Bud’s stories about downtown Whitehouse, has been posting old photos for Flashback Fridays on the Whitehouse Motors Facebook page. She’s unearthed old receipts and photos that show how much the business has changed over the years.
A 1964 Anthony Wayne High School yearbook ad shows not only the old-fashioned gas pumps but also the entryway to the post office, which was located in a section of the building just north of the bay doors. Higgins Auto Supply started renting the southern portion of the building that had once been the showroom in the mid-1960s. Today, it is occupied by JAM Small Engine Repair and Sales, owned by Darry’s brother-in-law, Dennis Tippie.
Joining the team are Michelle Turner and two Anthony Wayne High School graduates, Tom Holman (2017) and Jimmy Winters (2021), who assist Darry in working on all makes and models.
With shop manuals dating back to 1928, the team does a lot of work on classic vehicles, such as a 1960 Studebaker and 1971 Pontiac.
“I’ve been around classic cars since I was a kid,” Darry said. “Dad would point to a ’55 DeSoto and say, ‘Look at this or check that.’ Now, I sound just like my dad.”
While classic cars are a specialty, most of Whitehouse Motors’ customers drive newer-model vehicles, so Darry and his employees are constantly taking classes to keep up with changes. For now, those are online, but he’s hoping more in-person classes will be available.
Over the years, the Whitehouse Motors mech-anics have seen some head-scratchers, like when Darry opened the hood of a car and was greeted by a possum with bared teeth. Some odd items have been pulled out of tires, including a pair of pliers, a railroad spike and a piece of plywood. It’s not unusual to find dog food or sunflower seeds in air filters – evidence of mice or chipmunks – or to find wires chewed by mice.
The primary goal is to eliminate any surprises for the customer and get them safely on their way, Darry said.
While the anniversary isn’t until November 11, Lindsey worked with Look at Me Graphics to create an 80th anniversary logo and T-shirts for the family to wear during Cherry Fest and throughout the year.