The Life and Times of Bill Lobe

Don Simonson

Bill Lobe died on March 11, 1972

 

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Bill Lobe was the owner and operator of the Lobe Chevrolet Company dealership in Cook from 1940 until 1972.

 

William John Lobe was born on January 17, 1917 at Ely, Minnesota. His life only lasted 55 years, 1 month and 23 days as he died violently on March 11, 1972 at his home on Lake Vermilion at Cook, Minnesota.

 

Now and then his name comes up in conversation and I am asked things about this man.  I was his chauffer and confidant.. I was hired by Bill to be an automobile salesman and later the General Manager of his dealership. I worked for Bill from January 6, 1964 until he died. Being I knew this man very well I will share what I know about his life with you.

 

Bill Lobe was one of the smartest men I have ever known. Maybe he was too smart as it cost him his life. He had a very nice family but in later years he did not want much to do with them. They tried in so many ways to reach out to Bill but he just was not able to respond. I will tell you why later on.

 

1935, Bill joined the Civilian Conservation Corps Camp at Kabetogoma Lake near International Falls. He soon worked his way up to a leadership position. He got an idea of how to make some extra money by starting a laundry so the men would not have to do their own. One day Bill lined up his men, he took a look down the roll of young fellows and he noticed one man that stood out, he had his thumbs stuck in his bib overalls and just did not look too sharp. He hired this fellow to do the laundry and soon Bill was earning more money than his monthly wages.

 

1937, Bill went to work for Louis Keys who owned many business enterprises and buildings in International Falls. One of the jobs Bill had was to collect rent payments on the buildings the madams used for their business.  Louis Keys also owned the Chevrolet dealership in the Falls and it wasn't long before Bill decided he would rather sell cars and soon he was the sales manager, he was Key's right hand man but he wanted to be his own boss.

 

Lobe buys the Cook Chevrolet dealership

 

1940, 15 March. Bill Lobe and Al Degrugillier bought the Luthey Chevrolet Company at Cook. George Luthey who had been the Chevrolet dealer in Cook since about 1927. Luthey bought the Schimmel   Livery stable, garage and bus line, he had a nice brick building constructed at this site with large steel rafters by 1928.  Later the "State Side Addition" was added to the building, it was rented out to the Minnesota Department of Transportation to store their trucks. That addition in later years was used as the new car showroom. This building was last used as the Rude Seed and Feed company. The building was demolished in 2005.

 

Bill had some money saved to purchase the Chevrolet Dealership but General Motors had an established a capital standard for each dealership. To raise more money that would not show as a liability on his personal financial statement he took a loan on his parents house in Ely, Minnesota with-out them knowing it.  On May 29, 1941 Bill Lobe bought out his partner Al Degrugillier. I understand Al had a very hard life as a partner to Lobe and his health even failed because of it. Lobe would not have made anyone a good partner in any venture.

 

Bill served during World War II

 

1942, Bill was drafted during World War Two. On August 11, 1942 he married Mary Jane Van Etta of Cook in Chicago where he was in military training. Mary Jane was the daughter of Dr. Michael Van Etta a dentist in Cook. Mary Jane was three years younger than Bill.

 

Bill attended Officer's Candidate School that qualified him as a "90 Day Wonder" as the Government had a program to train many Automobile Dealers, business owners and other company executives as officers were needed for the war effort. Bill came out of the officers training school as a Second Lieutenant. While serving in Germany during WWII Bill was a tank commander.

 

During the war Wayne Nelmark of Field Township operated the dealership for Bill Lobe. Of course there were no new cars to sell as after the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941 all new vehicles went to the war effort.

 

When Bill came home from fighting WWII he found a business with-out automobiles to sell. He started buying vehicles from anyone he could find and resold them to make his business operate. In 1946 the automobile factories started producing again but the demand was so great that the dealers were able to make huge profits.

 

Justice of the Peace

 

Bill Lobe was also the Justice of the Peace in Cook. When a Deputy Sheriff, a Game Warden or a State Patrol caught a violator they would bring them to Lobe to be charged. In that day the Justice of the Peace had the authority to make a judgment as to a fine or sending the person to jail.

 

Employees at Lobe Chevrolet before 1964

Please send names of others

 

Anderson, Raymond "Shorty"...........Shorty passed away on Apr 18, 1979 at the age of 57

Baumgartner, Donald "Bumps" .........Don passed away on Mar 10, 1999 at the age of 73

Bergman, Mervyn.............................1950s

Brunner, Kenneth............................. 1950s

Cheney, Vern...................................Vern passed away on Sep 09, 2007 at the age of 82

Goehring, Roy..................................Roy passed away on Sep 23, 1969

Jarvela, Leonard...............................Len passed away on Feb 3, 1998 at the age of 79

Kesanen, Robert.............................. 1950s

Lindgren, Willard..............................Willard passed away on Feb 17, 2013 at the age of 92

Lobe, William J.................................Bill passed away suddenly on Mar 11, 1972 at the age of 55

Manninen, Eli....................................Eli passed away on May 31, 2004 at the age of 90

Nelmark, Wayne..............................Wayne passed away on Feb 23, 1991 at the age of 80

Nylund, John....................................worked the summer of 1952

Owen, Johnnie................................. Johnnie passed away on May 24, 1980 at the age of 67

Rankila, Marcus...............................1954 or 55, sent by Don Erickson, Marcus passed away on nDec 02, 1975 at the age of 37

Rosen, Owen...................................Bud passed away on Dec 31, 2002 at the age of 85

Setter, Clarence...............................Clarence passed away on Mar 27, 1987 at the age of 71

Stenbeck, Wayne.............................Wayne passed away on Mar 11, 1969 at the age of 68

Vanne, William.................................Bill  passed away on May 13, 2004 at the age of 81.

Whiteside, John................................Jack passed away on Dec 20, 2002 at the age of 76

 

Bill Lobe had very good employees and treated them very well in every way including good wages. Of course he expected performance and did not tolerate anyone not doing his best. In those days medical insurance was not part of the pay package, not many people had coverage. My wife and I paid our medical expenses at the rate of $10 to the doctor and $10 to the hospital each month. Once a year when we got our income tax refund it went to doctor and hospital. We had no insurance coverage for the births of our five children. I do not owe for any of my children as they are all paid for.

 

Bill Lobe asked me to sell cars

 

December 16, 1963. I walked into the Lobe Chevrolet office to make a payment on an account I had there. Bill Vanne gave me a receipt for the five dollars. Standing at the end of the counter was Bill Lobe. He didn't say anything to me until I was about to leave then he asked "Would you like to sell cars?".  I said I did not know anything about selling cars and he said he would train me. I really did not take him seriously.

 

When I got home I told Muriel what Lobe had talked to me about. It seemed way out of line as I had never thought about selling cars, let alone Chevrolets.  I was a Ford man from way back. My Father always drove Fords except for buying a new 1946 Oldsmobile 78 series, 1947 Olds 76 series and 1949 Olds 88. As I thought about what Lobe had actually offered me, I figured it was worth looking at. At this time I was unemployed.

 

I had worked four years at the Delich Pure Oil Service Station by the railroad tracks in Cook. I started there on Sept 8, 1959. Irving Brodeen bought the business the next March. After working six days a week mostly from 7 until 7 I felt I was not getting anywhere. I tried with another fellow to purchase the business but we did not have the capital. I left the station on September 20, 1963. I really enjoyed this job and those I worked with.

 

After leaving my employment at the service station that fall I went to work for the A. J. Thomas Christmas Tree factory in Cook.  They were located where Sony's Electronics business is now. I hauled the Christmas trees with their 1955 International semi truck from the Big Falls-Little Fork area to Cook. After working around the Cook area and making a trip to their Christmas Tree Plant at Kalispell, Montana to the Twin Cities it was time to start delivering the finished product. On the morning of November 2, 1963 I left for the loneliest time of my life. This day I headed south with the semi for Mason City, Iowa which was the headquarters of the Thomas Company. I delivered trees in 12 States. I soon realized this was not the life for me with a family. I loved driving and spent from 12-16 hours a day driving as at that time I did not have to keep a log. The most lonesome time being away from home was a trip that I spent 11 days on the road with-out seeing anyone twice. During that time President John F Kennedy was killed which made it all the more lonely. Each evening from a different motel I would call Muriel. I also sent her a page each day of what I did and she recorded it in my diary. When I came home on December 8, 1963 it was one happy day.

 

December 17, 1964 I went back to talk to Bill Lobe and for the next couple of weeks I kept going in to see when I should start work. Actually I had nothing else lined up to do and I had a wife and four young children to support. Also I wanted Lobe to know I was serious about working for him and that I needed to know, otherwise I would be looking for another position but that I felt I could do him a good job.

 

I had never really known Bill Lobe other than greeting him when at the dealership on business such as picking up parts for the service station. He did stop now and then to have his gas tank filled at the station, but he never even rolled down the window and he did not want the windshield washed. When I had filled his gas tank he took off with his tires spinning as he always seemed to be in a hurry. I charged the gas to the Lobe Chevrolet Company and that was it.

 

Tithing

 

When I had a steady job I did not learn to tithe, that is to return to the Lord 10% of what we earned.   A good time to start was when I started hauling Christmas Trees as we needed to trust in the Lord for our provisions and our future as this job was only for three months. We gave our tithe to our Church and we decided to tithe on our gross income. We found we then had enough money to give more at times. The Lord taught us a lesson that I have never forgotten, you can not out-give the Lord. I learned soon how the Lord takes care of his children as I am sure it was God's will in my life that I went to work at Lobe Chevrolet. Of course one has to do something about opportunities. This job provided me with the best training I could ever ask or hope for. I had no idea what the future would be. I remember the time Bill Lobe told me I was foolish to tithe, he said some day I would want to buy his business and I would not have the money. Funny thing, his dealership was later handed to me and I bought it with-out any of my own money.

 

Started working at Lobe Chevrolet Company

 

January 6, 1964 at 7:45 I arrived at the dealership for my first day of work. I was excited but no one else there knew I was a new employee. They had seen me talking to Lobe for the past few weeks but he had not told Wayne Nelmark who was then the General Manager or Bill Vanne the Accountant. That did not bother me, I took a broom and cleaned the fresh snow off the new and used cars.  Bill Lobe came in after 10 that morning and told the management that I was working there. I was 27 years old and was used to getting along with everyone.

 

Lobe Chevrolet employees in 1964

 

Wayne Nelmark 80, 1991 was the General Manager and Sales Manager. He worked for Lobe from before the War until 1949 and then returned in the mid 50's. Wayne was a good car salesman and a hard worker. He was married to Ella Ortendahl, they had three children; Fay, Nancy and Jeffrey.

 

Owen Thomas "Bud" Rosen 85, 2002 had worked for Bill Lobe from 1940 and also was drafted into the Service. When he came home from the war he went back to work at the dealership, in fact he worked for the dealership until just after Bill died in 1972 and then he went to work at Mintac. Bud's mother was Ruby (Gustafson) Rosen and she was a sister to Clarence Gustafson 83, 1973 and he worked for his brother-in-law Julius Fadum at the hardware store. Arnold Gustafson 84, 1992 and his wife Alice (Brandt) Gustafson owned and operated the Mecca Inn, now the BIC building. Lawrence "LD" Gustafson 81, 1975 was another brother and he owned the Comet Theater.  Bud was the Shop Foreman after 1955 until 1972. Bud's wife was Mavis Dunn, she was born in England and Bud met her while in the Service. They have two children: Tom and Joyce.

 

William Frank Vanne better known as Bill. He had been employed with the Lobe Company since 1948. Bill was the bookkeeper and the parts man. Bill was married to Bonna Hill and they had three daughters; Lynne, Lori and Shari. Bill  passed away on May 13, 2004 at the age of 80

 

Raymond "Shorty" Anderson 57, 1979 was a part time car salesman as his day job was that of a mail carrier to the Togo Area. His wife was Vida (Dickson) Anderson and they had two sons; Ronald 54, 2001 and Charles 35, 1983

 

Eli Manninen, was the body man

 

Willard Lindgren was the master mechanic. He had worked for the dealership since coming home from the Service in 1945 until retiring in 1982. Willard was a man of very few words, never took a coffee break, just worked all day.  Willard's wife LaVerne passed away in 2001 at the age of 71. He has four children, Darrel, Karen, Trudy and Lori.

 

Clarence Setter 71, 1987 was a mechanic and also at times a salesman. His wife Bernice died in 1994 at the age of 72. They were the parents of: Larry, Dennis and Lee.

 

Donald "Bumps" Baumgartner 73, 1999 was the wrecker driver and mechanic. Don's wife is Irene (Holter) Baumgartner. His children are; Gary, Gail and Larry.

 

Others that worked at the Lobe Chevrolet dealership for a short time during the years of 1966 and 1971.

 

Rodney Roberts, in the Parts Department until going to work full time at Hills Mill.

 

Elof Olson in sales as he was between jobs at that time.

 

Louis Mordini in sales after selling his service station in Virginia.

 

James Saranpaa while still in high school to do everything that everyone needed . He also spent time running things to the Lobe household.

 

It was a hectic time around the dealership and not a good time for new employees as Bill Lobe was not himself nor could he appreciate anyone.

 

Three salesmen

 

When I came to work as a salesman for the Lobe Chevrolet Company I had a lot of competition from Wayne and Shorty. First off they knew what they were doing and had a very good following from their years in business. Of course all the customers were theirs, but I found out now and then their customers were buying elsewhere. But I had a good reason to sell cars, I needed to make money, a good incentive. It was not long before they considered me a threat because I was working more hours and scratching for sales and at times sold more then they did. I knew how they felt but I had a job to do and I wasn't hired for my looks.

 

The Dale Carnegie Course

 

January 27 until April 28, 1966. I attended one of the best training sessions in my life and there were many with Chevrolet and Oldsmobile. I learned of the opportunity to take the Dale Carnegie Course which was available to the first 30 people that signed up. Those attending were from business places that wanted their employees to be better at meeting the public and getting along with people. Actually the course was just plain common sense but it made a lasting impression on me. I made some life long friends and acquaintances. The course was expensive but it was paid for by the companies whose employees were getting the training, except for one, me. Lobe did not believe in spending money for such things. The leader of the course allowed me to pay him weekly at half the regular cost. The following month of May 1966 I had my biggest paycheck ever, $1,017.41 which was a lot of money then. This of course really turned my career around and I never stopped selling after that. I learned to really love selling and being with people, especially ornery people. Ornery people need friends and I found out that most car salesman were turned off by them so if I gave them the time of day I could usually make a sale. Bill Lobe did me a favor by not paying for the Dale Carnegie Course as it made me continue on in spite of personal set backs and to earn my own way.

 

Bill Lobe's problem

 

In about 1960 Bill became addicted to hard drugs. He did not purchase these off the street but by prescription or bribery from doctors and pharmacists. I was not aware of this when I came to know Bill in 1964. I understand he had back surgery and took certain drugs for pain. At that time Bill was one of the richest men in the area so he could afford this bad habit. After  I had been at the dealership for awhile the other employees made known to me of Bill's problem. They showed me a packet of blank prescription forms that Bill would fill out and sign a doctors name for some of his drugs. This problem persisted until his death.  I will elaborate on this as I add to this story.

 

Insurance Companies

 

Bill Lobe loved to take advantage of any insurance company he could. One morning I came to work to find Bill out behind the garage with a John Deere crawler dozer sideswiping a car. I couldn't believe what he was doing so I asked one of the employees if Bill had flipped out. He said with-out blinking an eye that the wrecker had brought in that car last night and Bill did not want it repaired as the owner owed too much money so Bill totaled it out. Later that day the owner came in and he hardly recognized his own car. One of Bill's specialties was what he considered helping his customers as many did not have the money to pay the deductible on a collision claim. Sometimes Bill would pad the bill so the customer did not have to pay a deductible. When a car was damaged by hitting a deer there was no out of pocket expense for the car owner. Wouldn't you know, Bill kept deer hair in his desk. When a car came in for collision damage Lobe would insert the deer hair under the chrome moldings and the insurance adjuster usually settled the claim under the comprehensive coverage of the policy. There were times the customer did not know about the deer hair and that the insurance adjuster was settling under the comprehensive coverage, then Lobe kept the deductible funds. This assured Bill of getting a full settlement as many people did not want to pay their deductible and it went on the books and many times it was written off as a bad debt.  One more thing I learned not to do from Bill Lobe.

 

It was not long before I learned Lobe had the speedometer turned back on any car with high mileage. It seemed a lot of dealerships did this. This was done away from the dealership. I learned of it one evening while driving to Togo to show a pickup. The prospect drove the pickup and we came back to his yard. He seemed satisfied with the vehicle until he happened to lean back in the seat and up on the ceiling was an oil sticker which showed when the last oil change was, the mileage was much higher than the speedometer showed and it made him mad. I drove back much wiser and I was also mad. The next day I told Lobe I just would not sell a car that had the speedometer turned back, and that I felt it was a reflection on me. From then on we stopped that practice and everything went fine. I needed the trust of the customers and in the long run it was the best and right thing to do.

 

I remember when a fast talking health insurance agent came in wanting to sell Bill a policy. Bill didn't lie, in fact he exaggerated about his health condition. The agent wrote up an application and we were all surprised when he had a policy in a few days. Well it wasn't long before Bill started making claims. The insurance company started denying the claims saying it was for a previous condition. Bill took them to Court and I had to testify as a witness that Bill had told the agent about his past ailments. He was paid but the company cancelled his policy.

 

Of course he tried taking advantage of automobile collision claims, especially after taking a car in trade. His favorite was having windshields replaced that had chips, but he would not replace the glass after receiving a check. But the local State Farm agent soon got on to him. I remember one day the agent came to look at a car I took in trade that was in the shop. Lobe showed him the chip, the agent said it was not in the line of vision so he could not pay for replacing the glass. In those days the process for repairing chips was not an option. Bill Lobe said he wanted the windshield replaced, Eghner walked over to a mechanics bench, picked up a hammer and smashed the windshield glass and said, send me the bill!

 

My first and only ride with Bill Lobe

 

June 14, 1964, Lobe called from his home to tell me to stick around the dealership but did not say why.  At 9:45 he came sliding up to the front door of the dealership with his new Oldsmobile Starfire. This was a beautiful sporty car with the shift lever on the floor in the counsel between the bucket seats trimmed in black leather. The car was bright red with a performance engine.

 

I had just time to tell my wife Muriel that I was going to Minneapolis. Bill said he would drive and we took off with the rear tires laying rubber. When we got to the intersection by Ken & Kathy Leding's home he said "Anything coming?". I thought he would stop but we just flew across highway 53 and south on what we then called the Range Line Road now known as the Ralph Road. He drove 70 miles an hour down this gravel road and hardly touched the bridge by Alarik Bakk's as usually you could hear each board on the old bridge deck.

 

In those days most people going to the Cities took highway 73 to Chisholm and 169 to Hibbing and south on highway 73 to the Goodland cut-off to highway 65. Bill drove up to a 100 miles an hour when possible. We came into each curve with the tires screaming and then he held the pedal to the floor coming out of the corner. The Starfire handled beautifully. Bill smoked a pipe and when he wasn't driving through a corner he was either packing his pipe with his knees on the steering wheel or shaking the ashes out his side window.

 

When we got to McGregor which is a hundred miles from Cook we needed gas. I then told Bill I would drive. He thought I drove too slow so I kept it around 80. When we got to North Minneapolis he said he would drive as I did not know my way around the Cities. We drove across the City at 40 to 50 miles per hour when possible and ran every red light he could. I have never been that scared in a car before or since.  I said to Bill you're going to get stopped by the police, he said they would not risk driving like he did.

 

When we got to his doctors office in Edina I went in with him. When he was called he gave me his billfold to hold. It was about three inches thick and he later told me he had over ten thousand dollars in it When Lobe came out he introduced me to his doctor, William Proffitt who then invited us to a baseball game that day as he was the Twins Team Doctor and that he had good seats. I was glad Lobe did not care to go as I have never been that interested in baseball.

 

I drove all the way home with Lobe telling me how. Once when I had a problem passing a vehicle he rolled his window down and threw a coke bottle at the car. I had visions of being stopped somewhere up the road for this incident. I was never so happy to be home as I was that evening.

 

Floods

 

The Lobe Chevrolet Company building was located in the lowest elevation in Cook. At the corner in front of the business the elevation was 1301 feet. The elevation of Lake Vermilion is 1356 so it is a good thing there are some hills between. Whenever it rained all the water from downtown Cook and up on the highway flowed to this low area. From Lobe's building it had no where else to go as the river was almost the same level. Also, whenever the Little Fork River overflowed, water would raise at the corner by Lobe's.

 

Almost every spring we had water across the street and often in the office and the mechanical shop. What used to bug us during the high water was the vehicles driving past pushed waves of water into the building. This condition was helped with the new culvert bridge north of the First Baptist Church. When the Little Fork River raises it will back up east of the bridge at this time. What we need is more dams upstream.

 

Cook has had three great recorded floods in our history. The first was in April of 1927. Art Erickson was at that time the St. Louis County Road foreman and he decided they would straighten the river out in Cook. Just west of Lobe's building the river took a bend south and back north again. The County cut a new channel which may have helped some. Also this made it possible for the road to be made straight between downtown Cook and Leding's Corner on highway 53. Now-a-days it would not be possible to re-route the river so quick.

 

The next great flood was in 1950. There was about three feet of water in Lobe's office and of course business was closed for a few days.

 

In 1970 we experienced Cook's worst flood. It rained five and a half inches the first night. I still live right across the street from the Lobe building. I was home alone as Muriel was in the Cook Hospital and our kids were with my Parents at Grantsburg, Wisconsin.  I am a very sound sleeper and when I woke in the morning I heard water running in the basement. The hose from the water softener blew off and the water was hitting the basement ceiling, in fact there was over a foot of water in our basement. At that time we had a flapper valve in the sump which did not hold the over-flooded city sewer system, the basement didn't smell so good either. It rained all day so that we received over eight inches in 24 hours. 

 

Water was already across the street in front of the dealership. I moved all the new and used cars from the building and the lots and parked them all over town on the streets. Many people had to leave their homes from this flood. There was 52 inches of water in the Lobe Chevrolet office. There were two cars at the dealership that went through the flood, one in the mechanical shop that I could not move and another in the body shop. I really felt lost for the three days the dealership was under water. Most of the businesses on the Main Street were also closed.

 

The joke around the dealership later was the flood of 1950 was not as bad but Lobe lost all of his income tax records, and they were stored upstairs. We had just been audited in 1968 so the records were safe.

 

Took Bill & Mary Jane to the Twin Cities

 

Bill's first wife did not go out much, they had their groceries brought to the house. Even the hair dresser came out when needed. Her only close friend was Gunild Benson a neighbor who was her maid. Living with Lobe over the years had taken the toll on this once beautiful lady. She was always very nice when I went to their house as she always seemed so lonesome. Before going to work at the dealership I had never seen her other than in a vehicle with Lobe.

 

On October 5, 1964 I drove Bill and his wife to Minneapolis. It seemed Bill's wife hardly talked at all as Lobe did that. Mary Jane seemed not to be able to handle herself in public.

 

Lobe always stayed at the Radisson Hotel which was then in downtown Minneapolis next to the huge Dayton Store. When we pulled up in front of the nice hotel I noticed it said no parking, Lobe said don't worry about it. He then said open the trunk lid but do not touch the luggage. A black man dressed in a nice doorman uniform came out and said  "How are you Mr. Lobe"  whereas Lobe gave him a twenty dollar tip. The doorman called for someone to carry in the luggage and Lobe gave the doorman a tip for the luggage carrier and another to the doorman so I figured he had dropped fifty dollars before getting in the hotel door. No wonder they remembered him.

 

On October 9th I headed back to Minneapolis to pick up the Lobe's. In those days we traveled to the Twin Cities via highway 73 and 65. I drove fast as I was always in a hurry. South of McGregor I noticed I was catching up to a couple of cars and after awhile I noticed flashing lights. A State Patrol car stopped the car he was  pacing and also waved me to stop behind him. He gave both of us tickets, the first and last one for me. Lobe paid the $25 speeding charge, no questions asked.

 

When I arrived at the hotel I pulled up and parked in the no parking area and out came the black doorman. He recognized me and I told him I was coming after Lobe and he said he would watch my car. 1:00, I knocked on the door to the Lobe's room in the Radisson Hotel. I have always taken pride on being on time and that was the time Lobe wanted me there. Of course Lobe had to tip everyone again when we left the hotel.

 

Mary Jane Lobe died

 

March 10, 1966, 5:30 pm. Ken Leding called me to go with him in his ambulance to the Lobe residence as Bill thought his wife may have died.  Dr. Heiam and his wife Margaret also rode along in the ambulance as he was a St. Louis County Coroner at that time. We found Mary Jane sitting in her living room chair at their home on Lake Vermilion. We later learned she had died from an overdose. Such a nice lady to be dead at the young age of 45 years, 8 months and 26 days. Ironically Bill would die with-in six feet of this chair but we found him on the floor with bullet wounds to his chest on March 11, 1972. After we put Mary Jane's body in the ambulance Ken took her to the funeral home as he was also a funeral director. I stayed to be with Bill so he would not be alone. Bill asked me to make a number of phone calls to Mary Jane's family and to his brothers and sisters.  Later I called Bud Rosen and his wife Mavis to come to the house. Bud was Bill's oldest friend and employee. Bill did not have any close friends nor did he allow his family to visit often. We stayed until 11:15 that evening. Now he was alone. I served as a casket bearer for Mary Jane at her funeral service on March 15.

 

Lobe takes an ambulance ride by choice

 

While Bill was in debate with several insurance companies over claims he decided he needed to make an impression about his medical condition. He rented Ken Leding's 1959 Cadillac Ambulance and I drove him to the University of Minnesota Medical Center.  Lobe rode in the front seat with me but I am sure that was not noted on the charges to the insurance company.  I remember getting tired of waiting for Bill while he was in the doctors office so I went to the garage and laid in the back of the ambulance on the cot to take a nap. We made two such trips.

 

Fire Department

 

In the past history of Cook almost every business place had an employee on the Cook Fire Department. Most of the business places were located with-in a block of the Fire Hall so it was convenient for the Fire Fighters to run to the Fire Hall. Also in those days most of the businesses were run by men and most of the employees were men. It was an interruption when a man left his work station but we only had two or three fire calls a month which is still about the average I would say.

 

It was my desire to join the Cook Fire Department and I did so in August after going to work for Lobe on January 6,1964. Muriel and I moved from a couple of miles south of town to across from the Lobe Chevrolet Company on September 1 and we are still at this address.

 

In his later years Bill Lobe was not supportive of the Fire Department as he did not like his people leaving when there were customers being waited on. Another of the Lobe employees that served on the department was Don Baumgartner. Bill allowed that as someone else could step in to finish his mechanical job. But when I joined the Fire Department that made Lobe very unhappy. I can understand his concern as it was hard to up and run out on a customer that was buying a car.  There were times when I did not leave when the siren blew but I would check in after the Fire Truck left to see if any more help was needed or to be available if another call came. Sometimes our two fire calls a month came the same day.

 

Ambulance

 

The first ambulance service in Cook was provided by the Lobe Chevrolet Company. Bill took an old Packard hearse in trade in about 1947. He made this vehicle available for an ambulance. Whoever was available, including mechanics operated this big black machine. Doctor Heiam had his Cook General Hospital across from the dealership and he would allow one of his nurses or whoever to ride along, no special training those days. When the Cook Community Hospital opened on October 26, 1959 Kenneth Leding started his private Ambulance Service.  Ken was associated with a Funeral Home in Virginia and he used his new Ford Station Wagon to bring people to the hospital or bodies to the funeral home.  Ken operated a very good service for Cook. He was a kind gentle man and a very good teacher as he had years of experience and  he was well qualified for ambulance service. It always amazed me that Ken could tell in a few moments what was wrong with a person and and usually the doctor confirmed it. I am glad I had the opportunity to work with Ken as it prepared me for the Cook Community Ambulance Squad that was established on January 1, 1970.

 

In 1965 I started helping Ken Leding after hours. I drove his ambulance and he took care of the patient in the back. At this time he had a real ambulance, a beautiful big red 1959 Cadillac which he had purchased from the North St. Paul Fire Department. This rig drove like a dream and rode very nice with it's long wheel base. On top of the driver was mounted a very large siren. In those days the sirens were mechanical as an electric motor turned the vanes to create a very load noise. I always remember how much electrical current was needed to turn this siren as when cruising down the road at 80 miles per hour and you turned the siren on it slowed the ambulance. Now sirens are electronic and they can make various noises.

 

Used Car Manager

 

Bill Lobe was great on giving his employees titles. On July 21, 1966 Lobe named me the Used Car Sales Manager. It was my job to take care of all the used cars, from the day they came in until they sold or died. I was glad to take on this responsibility as our used cars were sitting around. A used car is the most saleable right after it is taken in trade, even the salesmen are excited but soon they forget about them. I soon got in a dispute with the body man when I told him I needed a certain car worked on. I told Lobe that I had offended the man. I learned a valuable lesson from Lobe that day. He told me not to go to the body shop and not to talk to the body man, even when he came in for coffee. He said not to start a conversation with him anywhere. Lobe said he will come to you and then you will be his boss. It was not my nature to be unfriendly but I took Lobe's advise. On the third day the body man came to me asking what cars I needed taken care of.  Much of  what I learned from Bill Lobe was very helpful. Raymond Anderson became the body shop manager later.

 

The hundred dollar bill

 

August 18, 1966, we left this morning for the Twin Cities as Lobe had an appointment at the University of Minnesota Hospital for a check-up at 10:30 a.m. At 2:30, we checked into a room at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Minneapolis next to the Dayton Store. At 3:00 we went back to the hospital for Lobe to have more tests. I took the time to visit my brother Mike who was working in St. Paul at a Ford dealership. Picked up Lobe at 5:00 and back to the hotel. At 8:30 this evening Lobe decided he was hungry. We went to the Charlie's Exceptional Restaurant for a great meal, it was at that time considered one of the finest restaurants in the Twin Cities. I had never been to such a fancy place.

 

9:30, back to the Radisson Hotel. I was tired and went to bed and turned the lights out. But Bill kept me awake talking. I could see him standing in the bathroom as the light was on and the door was open. He was shooting himself in various places on his body with a needle. It was like he was drunk. He wanted to talk. He told me all about himself. He then told me one reason he hired me was he wanted one person around the dealership that didn't drink. I finally fell asleep at about 1:30 and Lobe was still taking his drugs. When I woke at 6:00 Lobe was gone but came back at 6:30 from having breakfast. We then went to the hospital again. As usual he would give me his billfold when called to the examining room, it was very thick and he usually carried $10,000.00. This afternoon we drove to the new Franksville Stand that Clark Winchell from Cook was the owner of, it was a fast food hot dog stand.

 

When we got back to the hotel room Lobe gave me a hundred dollar bill. He said buy something nice for Muriel tomorrow. I put the money in my billfold next to the ten dollars or so that I had. Lobe again kept me awake until about 4:00. The next morning when I woke he told me he had not slept all night. He told me I must have a good conscience to be able to sleep so well. But when I got up in the morning the hundred dollar bill was gone and my ten dollars was still there. Lobe went back to a restless sleep and I went for a walk to the large Dayton store. When I went back to the room Lobe was on the phone asking for drugs from a pharmacists. We made a trip to a drug store in Edina and left the Twin Cities.

 

We headed for home, all during the 220 mile ride nothing was said about the missing hundred dollar bill. A few days later Lobe came to the dealership and asked me what I had bought with the money he gave me. I asked him why he had gone into my billfold and taken the hundred dollar bill, he then handed me the money. I asked him why he did such a thing. He said, I wanted to teach you not to trust anyone.

 

Lobe's girlfriend arrives

 

October 18, 1966, I took Bill Lobe to the Twin Cities as his old girlfriend was coming in from California. He told me he had called her the night his wife died which was on March 10, 1966. They had been friends since the days Lobe worked in International Falls, she was two and a half years younger that Bill. They had an on going relationship over the years. When Bill and his wife went on a trip somewhere such as with Doctor & Margaret Heiam to Hawaii, Bill would spend time with this girlfriend there while his wife sat in the hotel.

 

We stayed at the Radisson Hotel as usual. This time we each had a room. The next morning we went shopping for a new sport jacket for me as Lobe said I needed to look sharp. That afternoon we went to the Minneapolis Airport to meet this lady.  Beverly was the very last one off the airplane, she was a very classy gal.  The story was told back home in California that she was going to visit her parents in International Falls as it was her father's birthday, but Lobe had something else in mind. We stayed one more day at the hotel.

 

When we left the Twin Cities we stopped at the Hibbing Airport so Beverly could continue on to the Falls. The next day we went back to the Hibbing Airport to pick her up and she came to Lobe's home and never returned to California.

 

In the next days Lobe showed Beverly off around Cook and Virginia. They were together all the time like lovebirds. It kept me busy hauling them around and also picking others up at the airport that came to visit. It took a lot of my time chasing around for them, I was on commission and did not earn anything unless I sold something.

 

Now I may be the only one that believes this, but I am sure Lobe's girlfriend had no intentions of staying with Lobe forever. She was forced to stay and I fully believe this.

 

It was not long before Beverly's husband showed up at the dealership looking for his wife. He said he knew his wife was at Lobe's home and he wanted directions out there. I really felt sorry for him as he seemed like a very nice man.  But what really surprised me was when Beverly's boyfriend showed up a few days later, also looking for her. She now had three men in her life, her husband, her boyfriend and now Bill Lobe.  It was not a nice situation and I was right in the middle of this and also trying to sell cars in addition to the other responsibilities I had at the dealership.

 

Lobe donates $1,000

 

A community project at this time was to construct a new Clinic Building that would be attached to the Cook Hospital.  What Clinics we had then were downtown. One was in the old Cook General Hospital building and another next to what was then the post office. Donations were being accepted and a loan was being looked at.

 

January 31, 1968. Lobe sent word he would donate a thousand dollars to the Clinic Fund if the Doctor would come to his place this evening. I gave the Doctor a ride to Lobe's house and left him there to fight the Second World War over again as Lobe had been a Tank Commander and the German born Doctor served on the other side.  Sometime during the evening Lobe gave the Doctor a thousand dollars in cash and received a receipt. Also during the evening the Doctor got drunk. I was called later that evening to pick up the Doctor from Lobe's house and take him to his home in Cook.

 

The next day the Doctor called me, he told me of his experience last night at Lobe's home. He knew he had received the money and had given Lobe a receipt but now he could not find the money. He said he knew Lobe had taken it back.  He asked me if I would call Lobe as he could not afford to take this loss.  Lobe confessed to me that he had taken the money. He then gave the cash back to the Doctor.

 

Minnesota State Sales Tax

 

August 1, 1967 was the start of the first sales tax in Minnesota. This was something very new for car dealers and anyone else who was mandated to collect the tax for the State of Minnesota. Of course business places are used to collecting things like income tax withholding, social security taxes for the government, with-out pay.

 

The sales tax started out at 1% of the price difference a person paid for a new or used vehicle, if they bought a vehicle for $5,000 and their trade-in was worth $1,000 they paid $40.00 on the $4,000. What really surprised me as the date of August 1st was coming, people rushed in to purchase new cars and they paid less attention to the purchase price of the vehicle than having to pay the 1% tax. Right after August 1st many people refused to pay the tax and it became a bargaining tool. This tax angered many people.

 

Over the years the sales tax has increase to the 6.5% that it is now. After one of the increases in the early 1980s many people as usual would wish to purchase a vehicle before the tax went up. One morning while I was at Smitty's Cafe having coffee, I had a call from the Executive Secretary of Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association. He said we have a big problem with the Deputy Registrars at the various license bureaus around the State as they would not accept the license applications for sales made the days before the increases took effect, such as the sales made on Friday and Saturday before the tax went up on a Monday.  The Secretary asked me if I could get in touch with Senator Doug Johnson as he was the Chairman of the Minnesota State Senate Tax Committee. I told the Secretary I was having coffee with Doug and I would put him on the phone. The problem was taken care of in minutes. Doug was at that time one of the most powerful men in the Minnesota State Legislature. Doug then lived in Cook and joined us for coffee whenever he was home.

 

First vacation

 

August 2, 1969.  We left on our first vacation since I started working at the Lobe Chevrolet Company on January 6, 1964. I had been working every day and at least two nights a week when I went out cold calling looking for customers. In those days we did not depend on advertising to get customers to the dealership. Most of our sales were from taking orders for new vehicles as we only stocked eight or ten new units. I was looking forward to time with our family as we lived busy lives. We wanted to do something special as our five children were growing up without enjoying a vacation trip. At this time I was 33 years old, my wife Muriel 31, Carol 11, Mike 10, John 8, David 6 and Becky was 4.

 

A month before we left I told Bill Lobe of our plans of taking some time off for a trip. He said I should work as I was a young man and I needed to make money. I told him I felt a vacation would be a breath of fresh air as I worked over 60 hours a week. The dealership was also open on Saturday until 2 or when every the last customer left.

 

About 10 O'clock on Tuesday morning before I was to leave on Saturday, Lobe came in for the day. While Lobe and Bill Vanne and I were talking about things I said to Lobe, "Remember, I will be leaving this coming Saturday for a week's vacation". Lobe looked at me and said "If you leave you don't have to come back" and he turned around and went home. Lobe did not come back to the dealership the rest of the week.

 

Bill Vanne said to me "Now what are you going to do?" I responded that I was  going and that I had given him plenty of advance notice and we were about out of new cars to sell so it was a good time for me to be gone as it was our slow time before the new cars came out in September"

 

We left on Saturday at noon and traveled west and stayed our first night in Mandan, North Dakota. The next day I told Muriel that I may not have a job when we got home and I then told her what Lobe had said.  I then told my wife that if I were to get fired for taking a vacation after five years that I could get fired for a lot less.  It did put a damper on my vacation but the more I thought of it the more I felt I did the right thing.

 

We had a nice vacation and when I returned Lobe never said a thing about me leaving for the week. Some time later he told me I had passed a test by standing up to him. That was the kind of person he was

 

Fired

 

Lobe got mad at one of our best salesmen and a long time employee who was tired of the way Lobe was acting. One Saturday morning he came to the dealership, the only ones there besides me were the other salesmen; Wayne and Shorty. When Wayne had a phone call Lobe handed me an envelope and told me to give this to Wayne and he left. When Wayne got off the phone and read the letter his lower jaw dropped.  He was fired. A 57 year old faithful employee out of a job.

 

Drugs

 

I understand Bill Lobe started taking certain drugs for pain in about 1960. He had back surgery at that time and by the time I got to know him he was into drugs in a big way.  He did not buy his drugs on the street but through the doctors and the pharmacists. The first time I realized he was spending cash for drugs was in about 1966. Lobe called me one day from his home and told me Bill Vanne our bookkeeper was to give me a letter size envelope which I was supposed to take to a hospital (not Cook) and pick up a package from a pharmacist. When I came back to the dealership that day Vanne asked me what Lobe wanted with all that money, I told I never looked in the sealed envelope. He said there was $600.00 cash in the envelope I had handed to the hospital pharmacist. I often wondered how that pharmacist replaced the drug inventory, maybe some of the hospital patients received aspirin instead of a stronger pain reliever. I did contact a doctor that I knew and he said he would look into it.

 

Every now and then Lobe would call me if he was not coming into town asking me to pick up his mail. I noticed he was getting packages from various drug stores. As I have mentioned before he had prescription blanks he would fill out at times to get what he wanted. Also there were doctors from out of town that came to his house at various times.

 

There were times when it seemed Bill Lobe was not in his body but someone else. He did some odd things and made some bad decisions that we changed when possible. Lobe got much harder to be around. He seemed to settle down for a time after his girlfriend came but not for long. One day she came to the dealership after she had lived at Lobe's home for about a year and said "Why didn't you tell me Bill was on drugs?"  I did not give her an answer.

 

Bill spent some time taking a cure but he kept getting drugs in that hospital. The day I brought him home from the hospital I had a call from a druggist saying I was to take some medicine to Lobe. I told him no way, he got mad at me and said he would tell Lobe. A few minutes later Lobe's girlfriend called to say he was heading to town with a gun. I left the dealership and went home and told Muriel that we must turn off all the lights that evening. In a few minutes Lobe came to the dealership but not to my place. That was about the only time I was afraid.

 

Whenever I came to Lobe's house he would usually be in bed. On his bedstead hung a large revolver in a holster and under the bed covers he had a smaller pistol in a case.  Lobe's girl friend could never find his drugs until one day a plumber came to work on his bathroom and found where he kept them. In the toilet water tank. The one thing that really bothered me about Lobe's problem was that no one could help him. Anyone that tried he pushed them away. His siblings tried but he turned them away. He could financially afford the habit.

 

There were times Lobe would not stop talking and times he said nothing. When we traveled and we stopped for lunch he had trouble staying awake, his head would go down and nose would get in the food. Sometimes when he talked it was like he was drunk and told me things I really did not enjoy knowing. At the dealership sometimes he would just walk back and forth, in fact someone thought we should tie a broom to him. Sometimes he would just stand and look at me as I worked at my desk.

 

August 22, 1967. Beverly Lobe called one evening after dark asking that I take her from Lobe's house. She said Lobe had shot at her. He took his revolver and pointed it at her head and moved it and shot a hole in a wall which I saw a few days later. I told her to call the sheriff but she was afraid to do so. She said she had her bags packed and was leaving Lobe.  I called Bud Rosen as I did not care to get between the two of them with-out a witness, we drove out to the Lobe house, we looked in the windows and it looked like things had settled down. This was the start of things to come. Lobe became more violent. As I have noted, I was one of only a few people that understood why Beverly stayed with Lobe, she was afraid to leave. Lobe had threatened to harm her family in California. She believed him and I also felt he had the resources to have people bring harm to her family. She was caught between the rock and a hard place.

 

At the dealership Lobe was becoming more of a problem. One day he came with a tear gas bomb and set it off in the office area, we all had to go outside till things cleared, hard to sell cars with things like this going on. Lobe was very critical of everything and everyone. He would question me ordering certain new cars. I told him that was what was selling at that time and to let me run the business. One day I announced that I had just sold the 50th Gem Topper, which were covers for pickup boxes. He said "You aren't going to order any more are you?"

 

Things were not very exciting at the Lobe household. Beverly was used to the bright lights and she worked in a fancy dress shop. There were days when Beverly did not see anyone other that Lobe. She was not allowed to go places  alone. It was not until Lobe had passed on that I learned Beverly thought the Lobe housekeeper and others around the area were reporting everything to Lobe. She also thought I was reporting about her which I was not and Lobe never asked me to. Lobe was a very strong mean man. Lobe told Beverly he would harm her family if she left and I believe that to be true.  Beverly visited my wife often as she just needed someone to talk to and also she missed seeing children. Every now and then my wife and I went to the Lobe household as Beverly needed company. A number of times I had to go there on Christmas Eve just because they were so lonesome. Lobe spent most of his time in bed.

 

Married

 

One day Lobe told me we had to go to Virginia. He was not supposed to drive a motor vehicle though he did locally. As I was driving close to Virginia I said "Where do you want to go?", he said To the St. Louis County Court House".  As we walked in Lobe said to me "Beverly wants to get married" so he had to apply for a marriage license.  He was not able to fill in the information so he asked me to and he signed the application.  Since then I have often wondered why it should be a person can apply for a marriage license without the other person also signing.

 

The neighborhood

 

Lobe was not appreciated by his neighbors on Jacobson Point at Lake Vermilion, he was not friendly to anyone except Bill & Gunild Benson as they worked at the Lobe House. Gunild was the housekeeper and cook, Bill took care of some of the outside work. I know of at least two cabins that Lobe contracted to have burned down. There was a man next to Lobe's that had sold his log house to Lobe and he gave him a life estate. Too bad as I was on the ambulance call when this old man fell off a ladder while up a tree and laid dead. There was a time when Lobe had signs painted telling people to keep out. The signs were not just on his property so the neighbors were unhappy. Lobe had an unlisted phone and no one was allowed to just drop in to visit. When his close family wanted to visit they called the dealership, we then called Lobe for permission for them to visit him. Lobe's wife Beverly lived a very lonely life.

 

Lobe did not have many friends during the last years of his life. He was not close to anyone and seemed to want it that way. In his younger years he was friends with many people. He seemed to have the talent to offend most everyone. An example; one day the Chevrolet District Manager called on us and passed out cigars and announced he was the father of another son. Lobe said "did you find out who the father was". This really offended the District Manager and he did not take it as a joke. It took me some time to tell him Lobe was not himself. This man was in charge of allocating how many new cars our dealership received. One of Lobe's favorite sports was to shoot at the Vermilion Fairways yard light with his pistol as he drove home. He claimed to have hit the light at least once. Many people did not appreciate his driving habits as he was a terror on highway 24. He rolled at least two vehicles that I can remember and damaged others as he hit the ditch.

 

March 11, 1972, the last day

 

Bill Lobe came to the dealership early this Saturday as I opened the doors. He was in a very bad mood. To make things worse there was a water leak from some construction at the grocery store and water was running past the dealership. Lobe asked me to call the owner to have the water stopped, John could hear Lobe in the background as he told me what to tell him. He said the contractor was working on the problem.

 

Lobe was just plain mean that day and he let the world know about it. I had a few customers in that day shopping for cars and he was causing so much problem that I was about ready to tell him to leave.

 

Lobe made a phone call to his wife and they had an awful argument in the office next to mine as I was trying to make a sale of a used vehicle. He got so mad that when he hung up the wall phone he tore it off the wall. He stormed out of the dealership and that was the last time I saw him alive.

 

Ambulance call

 

Saturday afternoon, March 11, 1972. At about 4:40 while still at the Lobe Chevrolet dealership I received an ambulance call to the Lobe House on Lake Vermilion. When I drove in the yard the first thought that came to my mind was Lobe is not going be happy to see me with the ambulance. He did not like me serving on the Fire Department or the Ambulance Service as he felt it took away from my work at  the dealership. I assumed the ambulance call was for Lobe's wife Beverly from the awful way he talked to her on the telephone that day and from previous knowledge of things there.

 

I could hear yelling and sobbing in the house as I opened the door. Lobe's wife Beverly came up to me and said "Do something" and I can't recall what else she said.

 

When I stepped into the house I saw Bill Lobe laying on the floor in the living room, with-in a few feet of where his first wife Mary Jane had died on March 10, 1966. In his hands were blood stained papers that he had been waving around and I later learned was correspondence from an attorney as Beverly wanted a divorce which I was not aware of. 

 

Lobe was wearing a T-shirt and I could see three blood spots as someone had shot him in the chest. The first thing I did was check his neck for a pulse but could find nothing. I then checked his eyes with my pen light, no reaction, his eyes were dilated, he was gone. I then looked up and said "Who shot him", Beverly said she did. I then said to Beverly "He is gone". She screamed and said he wasn't dead and that she wanted him taken to the hospital.  Now if any of you have ever seen a doctor pronounce someone dead they spend some time before declaring the verdict, so who was I to argue at such a time though he sure looked dead to me. I had been on the Ambulance Service for a number of years and seen many that had expired and he had that look.  From the hospital I called the St. Louis County Sheriff Department to tell them what happened.

 

I then returned to the Lobe house to secure the place as a Sheriff would be coming there. At the residence that afternoon were; Lobe's wife Beverly, her son who was living with them and Bill & Gunild Benson who were neighbors and housekeepers. The bloody papers were still laying where Lobe had fallen after being shot. Of course everyone was running here and there. Later Beverly had changed her mind as to who had shot Lobe. The Benson's said they did not know what happened, then they told me a few things about that afternoon, then they walked around the house and would come back to tell me more of the events that day. The place looked like a murder scene such as one sees on television.

 

After awhile the Sheriff's Department and the Coroner came. They questioned me as to what little I knew about the scene and I left for home at 9:00 after a very troublesome day.

 

I remember thinking when I saw Lobe on the floor that I almost expected him to jump up and to tell me to get back to work. He was such a dynamic man that it was hard to believe he was gone. Of course my thoughts later were wondering what would happen now to the dealership.

 

After Bill Lobe

 

It sure seemed odd to have Bill Lobe gone, I had spent so much time with him for the past past eight years that I had been and employee of the Lobe Chevrolet Company. He was more than a boss to me, in fact I was too close to him so he was not able to treat me as an employee. Bill had given me the opportunity to learn the automobile dealership business. He gave me all the responsibility I would accept. He sure had been a real problem to be around but getting shot seemed like an awful way to go. After he passed away I realized it was almost like losing a family member. The phone calls and the demands stopped and I now had more time to work. I felt bad that Bill did not know the Lord as his Savior as we had talked about this a number of times. In fact he told me how foolish I was for giving our tithe to our Church and to other Christian organizations, he said I should set that money aside so I could buy his business someday. Bill was a religious person but I am not aware that he had asked Christ to be his personal Savior. He did not read the Bible for himself but depended on a religion to tell him what it says, he did not know that by simply reading God's Word that He will speak to us..

 

I knew Bill Lobe was very disliked but the people seemed to come out of the wood work after his death with many saying "Good Riddance" and now it will be safe to drive on the road to the Lake. What a sad thing to have lived 32 years in a community and to have people feel like they did. There were many that would not do business with our dealership because of him.

 

The next days were very hectic as many stopped at the dealership asking about what happened to Lobe and asking for the details of the shooting, etc. The day after Bill was killed was Sunday and I had a number of people call or come to our house for answers. Nothing was normal and I was trying to sell automobiles. Also anyone that sold the dealership product such as the parts stores wondered what the future was. Some wondered if the Lobe Chevrolet dealership would remain open. I had contacted the Chevrolet Motor Division of General Motors to inform them of Bill Lobe's death. They told me the usual policy was for the administrator of the estate to be able to operate the business for up to a year while a new dealer was found.  Fortunately Bill Vanne (bookkeeper) and I were authorized to sign checks and other documents so we just did things as usual. I was 36 years old and Bill Vanne was 46 so we were young and felt up to handling the job before us. We received every consideration from Chevrolet and Oldsmobile as they made sure we received enough new vehicles. General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC) told us our credit line would remain the same as they allowed us to stock our usual inventory of new vehicles. I was very pleased with the trust from these companies and from the public.

 

The Court soon appointed the Northern City National Bank of Duluth to operate as the legal administrator for the dealership. Bill Lobe's wife was not allowed to have anything to do with the business. They asked Bill Vanne and me to apply for a Surety Bond for their protection and the dealership. After the bonding company accepted us the Administrator asked us to to remain on the job just as in the past, in fact they gave us a good financial package to keep us there and to keep the business operating. They were very strict and asked many questions about the business but were very good to work with. In fact the Administrator gave each of us a two week vacation that summer. One of the reasons for the two weeks vacation was for us to be gone from the dealership. This would allow for an audit on each of us to see if we were honest. It was an interesting time.

 

No Funeral Services

 

Adding a note of mystery is the fact that Bill Lobe wrote a letter on March 6, just five days before his death, giving detailed instructions to the Range Funeral Home of Virginia for his funeral arrangements and outlining what he wanted published in his obituary. In accordance with his wishes, there were no funeral services. He was buried on March 15, 1972 at the Fort Snelling National Cemetery in the Twin Cities.

 

He must have known something was going to happen as a letter was found in his home written to the telephone company as he requested a temporary disconnect of his private line on March 15, 1972 to his house. This letter was dated on March 7, 1972 and he died on March 11, 1972. I feel Bill was getting to the point where he was going to do something very violent such as shooting somebody, I am sure getting shot was not in his evil plan. It seemed there was no one that could help him as he was traveling so fast toward his own destruction. He would not allow anyone to help.

 

It was a habit of Bill Lobe to write letters during the night hours when he could not sleep. He did not sign them until he was ready to mail them which could be days later. I have a copy of a letter he wrote to me that he wanted me to stop my involvement in the Fire Department, Ambulance Squad and the City Council. He listed everything I was part of in the City and said I could only keep my position as treasurer of the Church. Otherwise he said I would be fired! He then wrote "Very Truly Yours" but did not sign the letter which I still have in my files about this man.

 

I talked with the Chevrolet Motor Division and was told the dealership could continue to operate as we were for up to a year. With-in that time a buyer would be found or the Corporation could decide to close the dealership as that was the trend to close dealerships in smaller towns, especially since we were so close to Virginia. Chevrolet and Oldsmobile were very good to us and asked what they could do for us, I said we needed more new vehicles and they were very helpful. The District Managers from both Chevrolet & Oldsmobile called on us often.

 

It was very hard to just go to work as nothing was the same. My life seemed to be turned upside down and I still needed to sell cars as that was my living. People in Cook were very good to us, in fact some people that never came to the dealership were buying from us. As I was involved in many civic responsibilities those days I found it hard to make time for them. I was an active member of the Ambulance Squad, Fire Department, City Council, Chamber of Commerce and the Cook Hospital Board of Directors. Of course I was a husband and father of five children. Also we were all busy in our Church.

 

Sheriff's investigation

 

Something that came up with the Sheriff's investigation of the shooting of Bill Lobe was, who done it. As I have stated before that I had asked Beverly who shot Bill as I was checking his body for any indication that he was still alive. Beverly had said she shot him. But after a few days she changed her mind and said she did not do it. Her attorney questioned me and I again said that was what she had said. This was a very troubling time for me to make such a statement that could cause a person to be charged with murder.  Much of my time was taken up with interviews as the County Attorney was building its case. Also Beverly's Attorney pumped me for information as he built a defense for her.

 

April 4, 1972. I was called to testify before the Grand Jury at the Hibbing Court House. They sure looked like a bunch of very serious people, in fact I felt like I was on trial. The County Attorney questioned me as did Beverly's attorney. Also the jury was allowed to ask me questions. It was a long hard day as they reminded me more than once that I was under oath. I had to repeat that Beverly had said she shot Bill Lobe but that he may have brought this on himself, that was the way I felt about what happened.  Sometimes one can almost wish you did not hear or know some things.

 

5 April 1972. Beverly age 51 and her son age 33 were charged with First-Degree Murder of Bill Lobe in connection with the shooting death of William John Lobe. Bail was set at $50,000 each, which was posted.

 

20 June 1972, Beverly and her son were given probation for their part in the murder of Bill Lobe. This was not a problem with the people of the Cook area as they felt Bill Lobe had brought on whatever happened to him. I was glad it was over as it was taking a lot of my time and it was heavy stuff. The fact that they would be allowed  to serve their probation in California is a statement in itself.  Beverly stayed in the Cook area living at the Lobe residence. She passed away on October 7, 1981 at the age of 62. 

The Dealership

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One day the Chevrolet District Manager came to the dealership to tell us he was interested in buying the business. He had been with the Chevrolet Motor Division for over ten years. He called on all the Chevrolet Dealers on the Iron Range plus north to International Falls and south to Floodwood.  Being he knew both Bill Vanne and me and that we had been running the business for the Administrator of the Estate, he asked if we would both work for him. That seemed fine with us. He then spent time looking over the place as a buyer would and going over the records. He said Bill's widow would not be able to obtain the franchise as General Motors wanted people that knew the automobile business, for dealers.

 

12 Feb 1973, we were informed that the Chevrolet District Manager would not be buying the Lobe Chevrolet dealership assets. It seemed his wife decided against living in a small town such as Cook. Bill Vanne and I were informed we would be considered as the dealers, but we must act fast as the Chevrolet deadline of a year was almost up. This was something we were not prepared for. Bill and I went to the Farmers & Merchants Bank here in Cook and told them we were being considered for the dealership and that we needed money. The bank gave us more than we needed to purchase the business as we also needed operating capital. The Bank was very generous as we both had good credit ratings and had equity in our homes as they took a mortgage on them, plus the assets of the dealership. The Bank also gave us a letter of their intent to to finance us which we sent to the Chevrolet Zone Manager.

 

Chevrolet Motor Division acts as the business agent even if a dealership has other General Motors franchises such as Lobe Chevrolet Company was also an Oldsmobile dealer. If a dealer has all the GM franchise lines such as Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile, Cadillac and GMC trucks, Chevrolet is still the business agent. This dates back to the early days of General Motors. The man that founded General Motors in 1908 was William Durant. He lost control of GM and went on to create another line of cars. In 1911 he established the Chevrolet Motor Company. The reason the car was named Chevrolet was after a famous race car driver of that time by the name of Louis Chevrolet. William Durant became very successful with his new business.  Chevrolet has one of the most famous trade marks in the world, it is known as the "Bow Tie" and it has been on the hood of millions of automobiles and trucks. William Durant found his trade mark as a wall paper pattern in a hotel in Paris, France. William Durant's Chevrolet automobile company became so successful that he started trading Chevrolet stock for GM stock. One day William Durant walked into a General Motors Annual stock holders meeting and declared he owned contolling interest in GM. Ever since then Chevrolet has been the business agent. The Bowtie

 

We became General Motors Dealers

 

19 Feb 1973, Bill Vanne and I attended a meeting with a Chevrolet Zone Representative at the Radisson in Duluth where we made the necessary applications to acquire a General Motors franchise. By the way there is no charge for a GM franchise though one must meet the required standards such as character, standing in the community, automobile experience and a financial statement to handle the daily operation of a dealership.

 

7 Mar 1973, we received a phone call that we had been accepted by the Chevrolet Motor Division as a dealer. This was really an exciting time for us as we had really worked at it. We felt like we must have done something right.

 

On 21 March 1973 we traveled to the Zone Office of Chevrolet and Oldsmobile in Minneapolis to sign the franchise agreements to become the dealer in Cook, Minnesota. I remember the Chevrolet Zone Manager sitting behind his huge desk talking down to us like a king. He told us what it meant to be a dealer and the responsibilities that go with being a GM dealer. He also told us how we could lose our franchise, such as being charged with tax evasion by the IRS, being charged with a criminal act, being out of trust (selling our new cars  and not paying for them) and also not having our dealership open for seven consecutive days except for flood, fire, etc.  We really heard a sermon, but at the Oldsmobile Zone Office the Manager, who sat with us and welcomed us as dealers. By the way, General Motors dealerships now have only one dealer, whereas in those days both Bill Vanne and I were GM dealers and full partners.

 

Of course we had to apply for a Minnesota Dealers license to sell vehicles and collect sales tax. We were also required to purchase a bond to protect General Motors, including GMAC who financed our floor plan (inventory of new vehicles at the dealership). Also we had to purchase a Garage Keepers Liability Insurance policy that included everything to do with operating a dealership. Our attorney created a corporation for us, we took turns being the president. We then established a relationship with an accounting firm which I still use to this day. We were very busy with everything but selling cars.

 

22 March 1973, the Administrator of the Lobe Estate came to the dealership as he had been in correspondence with Chevrolet. He congratulated us on obtaining the franchise and the excellent relationship we had with him over the past year. We wrote him a check for the purchase of the assets of the Lobe Chevrolet Company, we did not buy the building. The Administrator then said "You have been in your own business for a week". He set the official date of when the dealership became ours as of March 15, 1973. GMAC (General Motors Acceptance Corporation) did an audit of the new vehicles in stock. GMAC sets a line of credit for each dealer based on their financial statement and the amount of sales. We had a good working relationship with them during the year we ran the business so they knew us.

 

It seemed there was always a good reason for someone to purchase a new car and I thought of a couple of good ones. I called two couples that were regular customers and asked if they would be the last ones to purchase a new car from the Lobe Chevrolet Company and the first ones to purchase a new car from Voyageur Chevrolet-Oldsmobile. Of course I told them we would like pictures for the paper.

 

Back to Court

 

28 March 1973, the death of Bill Lobe had created  many problems over the past year, and it was not over, as I was called on this date to testify in Probate Court in Virginia, Minnesota. It seemed Lobe's family felt they had a claim. I was in court all day and it was heavy stuff and sometimes hard to recall what they wanted to know. Just before lunch time the attorney for the family asked me a question and when I answered it he said I had testified to something totally different in a written testimony. The Judge said we will take a lunch recess.  After lunch I went back to the witness stand and the family attorney told the judge he had a made a mistake that was someone else that had made that statement. I was glad to be done with anything to do with the death of Lobe.

 

Buying the dealership gave me a second wind, maybe a third and fourth as I felt like a new person. I could work day and night and not get tired. Business was good and we made it better as we were both very excited about being our own boss.

 

Employees

 

When we bought the dealership the only employees we had were Willard Lindgren as our master mechanic, Donald "Bumps" Baumgartner as a working foreman and wrecker operator, Willard "Bill" Hawkinson a mechanic and Ray Anderson was our Body Man.

 

Responsibility

 

Something I have learned over the years is that a person seems to rise to the ability to handle the responsibility given to them. When I became an owner of the dealership I could sense an added responsibility. Now I didn't have anyone to ask how to do this or what should I do. My partner was a great guy but not interested in selling or operating a business. He told me early on that he would prefer me making the decisions.  It was very exciting being your own boss, but we could not do as we wanted as we had a business to run, first and foremost. No days off or leaving early, no time to be sick or stay home because you were tired. But something happens when you become the boss, you want to work even harder and enjoy working more. It was fun watching our bank account as we had a very low overhead. No salesman as we advertise "buy from the owner".

 

We rented the old dealership building by the year with an option for up to three years. We had agreed with Chevrolet  Motor Division to building a new dealership facility, the company calls them "Stores". Of course we could not wait to get out of the Lobe Chevrolet Company building that was located in the lowest elevation in Cook.  That building was later used by the Rude Seed and Feed business. It was constructed in 1928 or 1929. When it rained the water came up and offices were often wet, also I had to keep the windows shut on the new cars in the showroom as the roof leaked.

 

We started looking for land that would be suitable with location being number one and of course we needed space. I contacted the daughter of Rev. Lantz who was the first minister in Cook. He had homesteaded land, 80 acres, in 1903, the northwest corner was across from where we now live and is now 1st street southwest. The northwest corner was a quarter mile away, by Kathy Leding's home. There was still 63 acres of land available, all on the south side of highway 53. In October of 1973 we bought the land with a contract for deed, the only request the seller made was that a liquor store would not be located on that property. The summer of 1974 we had seven acres of land cleared for the dealership. It took me some time to decide just where to locate the building and how far back from the highway. I wanted plenty of parking area in front where  we could put all of our new and used car inventory. Chevrolet recommended space for 100 vehicles. We had the cement floor poured for the 10,000 square foot building in September. In November the steel framework went up.

 

The Corporate sign

 

General Motors had a common sign for all dealership that they installed and charged us $65.00 per month. In 1974 they insisted we put one next to our building. I told them we planned to be re-located to the highway next year but the said no problem we will move it, free of charge. GM had a company install these sign and they were designed to with-stand very high winds. The sign was set east of the dealership building across from the Cook News Herald. The cement base was six by six feet and eight feet deep, solid concrete. When we moved to the new location they did the same thing all over again which was expensive. All General Motors dealers have their name on the Corporate signs but Ford and Chrysler do not. The signs were nice and well maintained by the service company. I was glad to have the sign at my dealership as it as very good advertising.

 

New dealership location

 

March 15, 1975, we moved our dealership to the highway. What a wonderful feeling to have a new building to work in. Bill and I each had an office, the body shop was attached to the garage. Nancy (Jim) Rinne had worked for us at the old building as our receptionist and now she also had a nice new office. Nancy was great at her job and she knew everyone and was good to our customers. Willard Lindgren, Don Baumgartner and Willard Hawkinson now has a nicer place to do the mechanical work. Ray Anderson had a new body shop with a paint booth. Everyone was happy including the car customers as we could give much better service.

 

I took care of the sales and my partner Bill Vanne took care of the bookkeeping and the parts department. We later hired Lee Phillips to take manage the parts department. He had been working at the Martin Chevrolet Company in Virginia. Lee was a very good partsman and a good worker.

 

But the most important thing to me was having a new car show room with space for six full size vehicles. Being the money in a dealership is made from selling vehicles I wanted a large showroom, ours was 30 X 60 feet with windows on three sides from the ceiling to the floor.

 

Chevrolet Motor Division had all but guaranteed us a 25% increase in business by moving to a better location. They were not exaggerating, our business more than doubled the first year at the new location. People stopped in saying they did not know there was a Chevrolet or Oldsmobile business in Cook. Now we were on much higher ground so when it rained the water ran down to the old building. Business was good.  During the month of June of 1976 I sold 54 new vehicles and for the year 360 new cars and pickups. Chevrolet was right, the three most important resources for a business is; location, location and location.

 

In February of 1977 we hired Lee's brother Larry Phillips as our front-end alignment man, he had been the manager of the Mathisen Tire Shop in Virginia. He was good at his job and he soon doubled the output of that department.  We also hired a couple more mechanics and more help in the body shop. Lee and Larry were a great improvement to our business and I can't say enough good about them. They were very good workers, never complained and they worked everyday.

 

May 25, 1978, I bought out  Bill Vanne, my partner of five years. His health was poor and he really did not enjoy being in business. When you own a business you are unemployed each Monday morning, no guarantee of making wages. You must pay your employees and your debtors, what is left over is yours.

 

After buying out my partner I renamed the business Simonson Chevrolet-Olds, Inc. General Motors prefers it's dealers to name the business after the owner as they feel the dealer will take better care of the customers. Lee and Larry became my key employees with both involved in sales but with Lee also oversaw the parts department and the mechanical and body shop.

 

I came to Cook broke, now I owe thousands

 

One day as I looked around the dealership with all the new and used cars that I had to pay floor plan on, the building expense, equipment and the need to always purchase more, the employees I was responsible for, the inventory of parts, the accounts receivables that would be nice to have in the bank. I reflected back on when I came to Cook as a 17 year old young fellow in 1953, now I had a good wife and five children that never caused me any worry.

 

Business was good, but all I did was work, six days a week and 12 hours or more each day. When I was not at the dealership I was thinking about it.  Everything I did was work related including vacations as many of them were from winning contests with Chevrolet and Oldsmobile so we were with other dealers. I loved selling cars and meeting new people and taking care of old customers. My wife Muriel worked at the desk on Saturdays as did my daughter Becky. My sons Michael, John and David grew up working at the dealership but they were not interested in sales. The business put our five children through college. One by one my children left to work other places. John stayed as he loved working with people but he did not care for sales as he liked working in the parts department and driving the wrecker. There is no way a businessman can survive if they do not like sales, you do not have the option of not being in the middle of the business as the sales make a business. Just because you are a mechanic does not indicate you can operate a garage anymore than being a good cook allows you success in the restaurant business.

 

Lee and Larry Phillips were long time faithful hard working employees of mine and they were getting to the point where they were ready to get in or get out. I told them to give me a few years  for my accountant to get things ready for me to be able to sell. When you own a corporation you have enjoyed the income tax benefits but when you sell the business it can become an income tax liability.  In the Spring of 1988 I sold the business to Lee & Larry but stayed on until January 6, 1989 to celebrate 25 years in the automobile business in Cook.

 

Now that I had the time I served two years as the Mayor of the City of Cook as I was elected in November of 1988. My wife Muriel and I decided to also get serous about our family trees and we spend much time and travel researching the history of our families. We also finished traveling to the rest of the States of the Union that we had not been to before. The last state we visited was Delaware which was the first State to join the Union. We kept our bags packed and in the trunk of our car so if we were traveling and wanted to stay longer, we could. How wonderful to be free, no responsibility.

 

The only thing I miss about the being in business are the people. In twenty five years one meets many great people with 99.9 percent of them being enjoyable to be around. I am glad to see Lee & Larry taking care of the customers and that they are doing a great job for the people of the Cook area.

 

Being I needed to establish a business I studied for my real estate license and then the brokers license. As I like being my own boss and being independent but not wanting employees we created the Simonson Internet Realty company. It is nice again to be in contact with people. But this cookmn web site has now become my boss.

 

God has been good to Muriel and me and now we have time to think. Time is a great asset, to be able to do what you want when you want is great. We can borrow most anything but time.

 

Whatever you now think about Bill Lobe from reading this story, he gave me the opportunity to provide for my family which I will always be thankful for. A person can live and learn and make the best of any situation..............................

 

The Bible reads in Hebrew 9:27; "It is appointed to man once to die, then the judgment".

 

Lobe and his girlfriend, October 20,1966

Willard Lindgren and Bud Rosen, 1972

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Letters


Don, thinking about Bill Lobe again, I have to tell you about my first car. When I was a young kid in high school, I traded my old 22 caliber Marlin rifle to my cousin for his 1936 Ford. That old V-8 engine was so wore out, when I would drive down the road there was a cloud of blue smoke behind me, I carried a five gallon can of drain oil in the back. Don Delich had the Pure Oil station in town, and he would keep me supplied with oil. It was about thirteen miles from the farm to Cook. When I got to Cook, I would have to add a quart or two to get back home.
One day I saw that Bill had a nice little 1937 Chevy. in the lot. I looked at it several times until I got the courage to go in and talk to Bill about making a deal. Bill looked at my Ford, and my prayers were answered, he didn't take it for a ride, or even start the engine.(maybe he didn't want to hurt my feelings). Bill could see it sitting in front of the window, and he told me, "Ken, I have to have $125 and your old Ford".I told him that I only have $75 to my name, so that is all that I can pay. Bill then said, "Ken, I've known your family for years, your credit is good as gold, give me the $75, and you can bring me $5 or $10 whenever you have the money, until it's paid off". I told him that I can't do that. I counted out the $75 on his counter and said to Bill."Either you pickup the money, and give me the keys to the Chevy, or you say no, and I will put the money back in my pocket and go home until I have saved more". Bill lit his pipe, looked at me for a long time, then said "You are just like your Dad, If you can't pay cash for it, you will wait until you can.----Take the darn Chevy. There was never any hard feelings, Bill and I were always good friends.

Sent by Kenneth Ostlund, 1951 Orr graduate



Art Tomes

From: BLOACT@aol.com

Subject: Lobe

Date: Wednesday, November 12, 2003

 

Dear Don: It's an interesting story you're running on Bill Lobe. I knew him only casually. He bought a beautiful new Piper Super Cub airplane, which I believe he never learned to fly. He called me, while I still managed the Eveleth-Virginia airport, which was prior to 1963. He wanted the airplane sold. I met with him at his Lake Vermilion home where he was sick in bed!! I did arrange to sell the plane to Bruce Skubic.. I can't remember any of the details. The Super Cub was a great airplane..

Art, I am glad you sold his airplane so I did not have to ride with Lobe

 

*

 

Chuck Sorvari

 

11.01.2003. Don. The funniest story I ever heard about lobe was when he was a Justice of the Peace in cook Wayne Evans and him had a running battle about with him not living in the town did he have the right to be a Justice of the Peace in Cook. One day a fellow from Fort Francis ran into the ditch on 53 he was brought to town arrested for drunk driving. He was brought before Lobe. Bill was not in and he had giving orders that if any legal matters came up to send then to Wayne Evans. The fellow was taken to the Cook News Herald paper office and Wayne did not know what to do so he sent him back to Lobe. This was in the cold winter and after several hours and 3 or 4 times back and fore across the street Lobe returned. The fellow was brought before him.  Lobe took one look and said the man was sober and there was no evidence of him being drunk and dismissed the case. I have no idea how much if any of this story is true be it would sure fit Bill Lobe. Chuck Sorvari

 

Thanks Chuck, I am sure you knew Lobe well being your parents grocery store was right across the street from Lobe's.

 

 

John Nylund

 

11.03.2003, Hi Don!  I was looking for a summer job during the Spring of 1952 and kept bugging John Owens every time I saw him in Jim's Cafe. Finally, he agreed to give me a job washing cars and helping out on the lube rack. It turned out that he really wanted Mervyn Bergman for the job as was the case for several years before. But Mervyn had other plans that summer, so John had to settle for me as a last resort.

 

In those days when we lubed a car, all of the windows were washed inside and out and the inside was vacuumed and wiped clean. One busy day, I was falling behind the lube man so I was cleaning the outside of both door windows with a towel in each hand, one on each window.

 

Suddenly I heard Bill Lobe cheering from the pass-through office window, "Atta Boy, Dunner! Just keep working like that and you'll do okay". Of course, I was to surprised that he ever gave kudos and tried to work hard (when he was around) thereafter.

 

On the other hand, I never could please John no matter how hard I tried. Another time, Bill called me into his office and asked me to clean the commode. So I did - the best way I knew how. Later, he called me back and said, "come in here and I'll show you how to clean this thing". So I did and he did. He swished a long handle brush to push the water out first. Well, a little went down the drain and a little splashed out. He finally got it looking clean as a whistle. So thereafter, I was no longer the apprentice  "Thunder Mug Engineer". The point is, he was willing to show me how rather than ask someone else. So I thought he was somewhat humble that time, and I appreciated it. I made many mistakes during my introduction to the auto dealership business and learned a lot of common sense. As I recall, I made it through the summer.

 

John Nylund

Nylund Real Estate Group

Counselor Realty

 

Thanks for your story John. Lobe impressed people differently  as we all do. Yesterday I was talking to a gal who walked past the dealership every day to school. She really enjoyed talking to Bill and he was very nice to her.

Don Erickson

 

From: cnd2684@blackfoot.net

Sent: Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Subject: lobe

Don

As I remember it was in 1954 or 55 Marcus Rankila worked for Lobe. When  the 1955 Chev was introduced (at that time they were introduced at a certain date) Lobe had one in the garage waiting for the date of introduction. Marcus told us that it looked like a small Cadillac, we convinced him to make a small hole in the painted over window so that we could see it before the offical introduction. He was right it was a beauty and still is quite popular.


Congratulations on your anniversary and keep up the good work.

Don Erickson

 

 

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