Managing Editor HAWLEY- You’ve heard the expression about talking to so-and-so is like talking to a brick wall. Sometimes the brick wall speaks to us. The side, exterior wall of 322 Main Avenue- which is today China House Chinese Restaurant, was the place for generations of youth in the early 20th Century, to leave their names. Left in pencil, names of boys are generally followed by “Hawley, Pa.” and the date. Some were from other towns. Some of the earliest include Allie Barret, Feb. 18, 1909 and Hugh Cunningham, Hawley, Pa. Aug. 9, 1912. Numerous dates are found from the 1900’s through the 1950’s, and a very few after that. Remarkably, the penciled autographs remain to this day, just off the sidewalk in the passageway between 324 Main and 322 Main Avenue. Girls’ names are very few, if any. Nothing offensive is found among these older epitaphs. There aren’t even any Valentine hearts. Intriguingly, a running joke in the late 1930’s among kids in town appears to have centered on automobiles. In a few places on the brick is the penciled message, “Don’t Buy a Ford.” In one place it says, “Buy a Ford.” It isn’t clear which replies to the other.
Asked about this, Thomas E. Sheridan said he wasn’t familiar with the penciled scribbling, but had a theory about the suggestion not to buy a Ford. Next door, at 324 Main Avenue, was a shop connected with G. Matter & Sons a seller of Ford cars and trucks. The 1935 Hawley street directory lists 324 Main Avenue as their showroom. They also sold Tydol gas from this location. They had an auto repair garage at 614-616 Church Street. Gottlieb Matter Sr. was born in 1858 in Germany (a later Census record gives Switzerland) and immigrated in 1903. Gottlieb Matter Sr. and his wife Louisa lived at 236 Bellemonte Avenue, near Woodland Avenue. They had three sons, Gottlieb, Paul and Walter, and a daughter Lizzie. The 1912 directory had Gottlieb Sr. and Jr. in the grain business. Walter was a clerk there. Paul had a livery. The 1925 directory puts all three sons in their father’s auto business at the two locations mentioned earlier. An ad in that book says they sold cars, trucks and tractors, under the Lincoln Ford and Fordson names. In 1931, Paul is listed as the manager. Their father had died by the time of the 1935 directory. By that time, Paul and his wife Eugenia lived in Honesdale, where he also managed an auto store at 518-520 Main. In the 1940’s, Tom Sheridan and his brother Gene had routes selling the Grit newspaper. Sheridan said that Matter’s shop on Main was one of his stops. He remembers Walter Matter by his nickname “Sparky.” Sheridan said that Sparky had two Fords on display, a Model A and a Model T, in nice condition. No one was to touch them, especially not curious kids. Sparky had the two cars wired so that anyone touching them would get a shock. Perhaps- hence the nickname. “’Don’t buy a Ford’ started because of that,” Sheridan said. Art Glantz also recalled Sparky Matter. He said Matter sold gas and managed the show room. He used his big plate glass window on Main Avenue to post the running box score of the World Series games. The Series was played in the early autumn in those days, Glantz recalled. “Maybe it was Sparky who wrote ‘Buy a Ford,’ Glantz suggested. “Sparky used to have a 1910 Ford that he would drive in local parades. He had some gadget on the car where one would get a shock when touching the car.” Glantz also recalled seeing a 1929 Buick or Cadillac in the showroom that was “built like a fortress.” He added that Sparky was always laughing and joking. Sheridan recalled that Sparky Matter and another man started the Great American Race, involving Fords which crossed the country from California to New York. Walter “Sparky” Matter was born in 1893. Sparky was a founding member of the Antique Automobile Club of America. Shirley Bea Gumble said that Lee Iacocca delivered Ford parts to Matters’ garage in the early years of his automotive career- that concluded as President and CEO of Chrysler Corporation. She learned that from the late Dick Pierson who worked at Matters before going on to Gumble’s lumber company. Shirley’s father William Bea repaired cars at Matters back in the 1920’s, according to Hawley street directory information. George Reafler, who was later Hawley Police Chief, worked for Matters for many years. The Matter brothers’ nephew George Haas sold cars for them and became the manager. Haas died in 2004 at the age of 93. A World War II Navy vet, Haas was an avid antique car buff and dedicated Hawley Rotarian. Gottlieb Matter Jr. became president of the Hawley Bank. Paul Gottlieb was still operating the business from the garage at 614-618 Church Street, in 1968. In 1972, Hawley Garage took over and is in business here today.
Despite the nay-sayers who penciled their advice on the brick, Matters had a long and successful Ford business in Hawley. If anyone followed the advice of the wall scribblers and didn’t buy a Ford, however, Hawley had several alternatives. Sheridan noted that there were also Mercedes, Dodge, Chevrolet, Chrysler and Plymouth dealers in town.
Editor’s note: Many thanks to Will Wykoff for pointing out the brick wall scribbling.