Business Log: July 18, 1919
My bloodstained shirt tells me I have a quandary: Chuckie. When sober, he’s a top mechanic, probably our best. By late afternoon, he’s often neither. And usually asleep.
Creating the Cetena
There it was, atop a century-old brick building, in antique glory. Glory that shined through, even on a gray February day.
A field of white, and across it, the word “Hupmobile” in blue. Created from one-inch square tiles. The letters even had a subtle outline of white tile. My heart sang.
How had I missed this? I had driven by it hundreds, if not a thousand times. Maybe one reason was the last occupant had covered up the gorgeous sign with their own. A bad business decision in my estimation.
I wasn’t familiar with Hupmobile but sensed an automotive connotation. As a classic auto aficionado, my interest heightened.
Thoughts turned to my centena. I still hadn’t decided on a subject. I did know I was leaning toward someone from Omaha. I saw potential here. I needed to research this place.
The top result searching “Hupmobile Omaha” yielded a Wikipedia page on the building I was at minutes before. Surprised and intrigued, I clicked. It is on the National Register of Historic Places as the last remaining original Hupmobile dealership building in America.
Hupmobile launched in 1909, producing only small cars with a four-cylinder engine; an engine Henry Ford lauded. The brand saw meteoric growth. To meet demand, local dealer Felix J. McShane erected the building in 1917. McShane would become my subject.
Revisiting the building and the photos I took, I thought about McShane as a person and employer. Was he kind? Was he fair? Was he a tyrant? Would people want to work there? How would he have treated employees?
It is here that Chucky emerged. By 1919, some veterans would have returned home, and McShane just might have hired a mechanically adept soldier. As the war brought firepower and destruction never known before, some soldiers would no doubt have returned altered.
Chucky, in my mind, saw that destruction up close. What problems might Chucky bring home? What workplace dynamics might occur between a mentally scarred soldier and those who didn’t – or couldn’t – understand? How would McShane deal with those dynamics?
Researching newspaper articles via my local library, I learned McShane was elected Douglas County Sheriff (as a Democrat) before dealing autos. As sheriff, McShane paid for all prisoner meals from his own pocket during a budget snafu. Before his election, he had success in the steel and rail industries. McShane dealt with society’s highest classes. And its lowest. Yet, he maintained every person deserves dignity, no matter their station.
The conflict illustrated was first written out as a fictional letter from McShane to his wife, who was visiting a sick relative about a hundred miles away. To condense length, I chose to write it as a daily business journal entry.
Hupmobile would not last. Larger cars became fashionable and Hupmobile chased the trend, producing cars with V8s in 1925. Losing their focus, problems in the company’s upper echelon, and other issues doomed the brand. Hupmobile ceased production with the 1940 model year.
26 is a group of writers whose purpose is to inspire a greater love of words in business and in life.