A Good Man Gone….

Mr. "Bud" Shell

Mr. “Bud” Shell

I grew up in the bootheel of Missouri – endless rows of rice, soybeans, cotton and corn with towns interspersed here and there. There wasn’t a whole lot to do on the weekend during our teen years.  The normal Saturday night involved grabbing a bite to eat (at the Hickory Log if it was a first date, Sonic or McDonald’s if you were single or had been an item for awhile) and hitting the Dexter Twin Cinema for your choice of whatever two movies were playing.  After the movie ended, you had to get creative.  Some people went “parking”, some gathered on parking lots to hang out & I often ended up at Bud Shell Ford.  Yep, a car dealership.  Way back in the eighties you could drive through the car lots at night and check out the cars.  I don’t think I missed too many weekends of seeing what Bud had on the lot.  A new Thunderbird?  A Mustang? A convertible Mustang?  The newest, most luxurious Lincoln, with keyless entry on the door?  SUVs weren’t a big thing yet but you could always buy a new Ford Aerostar if you needed room for the family.  We would pull in and explore the lot like it was an amusement park.  ONE of us – I’m looking at you, Michael Hurley – may have occasionally changed his wiper blades out with ones from a new car, but I’ll never tell.  My dad, Norm, had a great relationship with Mr. Shell since Norm always, and I mean ALWAYS, drove a Lincoln.  I knew if my dream of having my own car ever came true, I would likely drive it off of this lot. I had, by this time, lowered my 5th grade expectations of getting a Ferrari like Magnum P.I.  I remember visiting the showroom with my dad when his car was getting serviced and Mr. Shell would stroll through in his Tom Landry-style hat and & ask if Dad wanted to take whatever car he was enamored with at the moment for a spin or even take it back home for the day.  Mr. Shell was a smart businessman and a darn good car dealer.  He knew if my dad took something home that he’d be back the next day to sign the papers. I’d love to know how many car deals Mr. Shell made in his lifetime because the number he made with my dad alone was substantial.

On one of our trips to the dealership, we pulled in and I went immediately to the used section with the sparkly blue & silver pennants,  because I knew that was where any car I ever got would come from.  It would be well-worn & marked way down!  For a while after I turned 16, I borrowed my grandma’s or stepmother’s cars but by this time I was really itching for my own set of wheels.  I couldn’t drive worth shit, but my friends had started getting cars & it was a matter of pride & freedom to a teenager.  Dad had told me he would spend $1200 on my car.  Back in those days, that meant a pre-owned Ford Escort with significant mileage, an AM radio & more than a few dents, so I wasn’t too excited.  On this evening, I remember my laying my eyes on my dream car, right there in the used section at Bud Shell Ford, parked under those sparkly blue & silver pennants.  It was a 1985 Cutlass Supreme – light blue metallic with navy leather top and shiny wire wheel covers.  In my eyes, it was perfection.  Perhaps not a Ferrari but sometimes a kid in Southeast Missouri has to compromise.  I went straight to the sticker to see how much it was —– I knew it was more than $1200.  It was $7500.  Just a little over budget, but less than a Ferrari!  That night, I vowed that somehow, someway, that car would be mine.  In reality though, I thought that car was so beautiful that it would be gone in a couple days.  However, every time I visited the lot for weeks it was there.  I touched it, peered inside it, hoped against all hope that Mr. Shell would somehow lower the price to $1200.  I mean, it didn’t seem to be going anywhere at $7500.  I swear it seemed like that car sat there forever, just waiting for me to drive it home.  Dad would  laugh when I talked about it & remind me that he wasn’t spending over $1200.  Then March came.  The highlight of my year was always attending the Missouri State Beta Convention in St. Louis.  This year was my senior year and I had applied for a scholarship to attend Missouri State University in Springfield.  All the applicants were interviewed at the convention and the winner was announced before we came back home.  I knew college would be a stretch for my dad and I hoped to help him out by getting a scholarship, but this one was a long shot – I wasn’t valedictorian or salutatorian.  In fact, I was ranked 6th.  No one gives full-ride scholarships to people ranked 6th, right?  Except this time they did.  I got that scholarship, which, in 1988 was worth about $25,000.  It covered tuition, room and board, books and later, even a couple dinners a week at the on-campus Pizza Hut.  Dad wasn’t going to have to pay a dime if I kept a 3.5 GPA.  I’ve never been so excited to tell my dad anything.  Because I knew it was going to lift a weight off of him and I knew that now, if by the grace of God it was still there, that car was MINE.  I was sitting in the hallway of the downtown Marriott in St. Louis (now the Hilton) & I called him from the room phone that I had stretched out into the hallway.  I’ll never forget the yell he let out and the pride in his voice.  Then I asked.  “Hey, remember that car I want at Bud Shell?  Think we could go look at it?”  He thought that was a fair deal and the next day we drove to Dexter and Patti, the saleswoman who later became Mr. Shell’s wife, got the keys and took us to my beautiful, blue Cutlass.  I just thought we would sign some papers and leave but this is where I got introduced to the art of the deal.  My dad made an offer.  Mr. Shell countered.  My dad made another.  Mr. Shell followed suit.  He seemed like such a nice man and surely he could see in my eyes that this car meant EVERYTHING to me, right?  Everyone was so serious and all of these numbers were flying around and it got down to my dad offering $6925 and Mr. Shell offering $6975.  My dad said he couldn’t offer more than $6925. Mr. Shell said $6950.  I remember thinking that this was where I would hear “SOLD!”  But my dad wouldn’t budge.  Would not budge.  I felt tears welling up and I remember so distinctly saying to my dad, as my voice cracked, “I’ll pay the $25.00 difference!”  Dad said (& I could have seriously hurt him at this moment), “It’s the principle of the matter.  I’ve made my final offer.”  Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. (Will it help if I cry, I wonder?)  I bit my lip.  It was agonizing.  At that moment, that car might as well have been a Ferrari that came with Tom Selleck because I wanted it so bad.  And then it happened…….”Awww, hell, Patti, sell it to him!”  I could have hugged Mr. Shell.

We won!  I won!  That moment will stay with me forever because right there in that showroom, a dream came true.  I don’t know if Mr. Shell knew what he did that day, but he made me the happiest girl on earth.  It was the first of a few cars I purchased from him before we left the area, but every time I’m home and I find myself at the intersection of Highway 25 and Highway 114, I get a little smile on my face thinking of all the memories I carry with me from that car dealership…..my first car, my first sports car, my first family car (Taurus wagon) and many nights spent looking at cars with my friends.

I hope you’ll forgive us, Mr. Shell for those wiper blades.  It was Michael.  I swear.

13 thoughts on “A Good Man Gone….

  1. Sarah Aarant says:

    Love this True Story!!! Such a classic!!!

  2. Lois Smee says:

    Love this, what a wonderful tribute to such a “good man”. He will be missed by so many.

  3. Lisa Walker says:

    Love this story! My parents also bought several vehicles from Bud! And I have bought 2 from there myself. When my husband and I would go in Bud always met us with a smile and always called me sugar or ask my husband how did you get this beauty. 😊

  4. Dale Williams says:

    Great story! I came through before you by a decade but that senareo was played out many times. Only the names were changed. And yes a great man.

  5. kenny says:

    He is definitely one man that will be missed

  6. Tami says:

    RIP, Mr. Shell. I always had such fun when I was little, tagging along with my grandpa to your shop and Corder and Moore. You were one of his good buddies and you were always so good to us. Cars were my grandpa’s life. That’s what he did. And I know he’s glad to have someone to talk about cars again to in Heaven.

  7. Michael Hurley says:

    I still remember my trips to Dexter Ford, YES… It was still Dexter Ford back then, and meeting Bud Shell as a kid. I learned that a Saturday afternoon haggling over pinstripes and vinyl floor mats was actually quite fun. My years dealing with Bud and his family will never be forgotten. I was probably the first ever 24 year old that ever bought a new Mercury Grand Marquis out of the showroom floor. I still remember Bud commenting “that’s a good car, a really good car” as the doors were opened and the land yacht was navigated around the inferior Crown Victorias and Tauruses blocking the way. Thanks Bud for welcoming me to the Ford family in 1982; and never letting me leave it!

  8. Deveda Hamra says:

    Mr Bud was a wonderful man. I have bought cars there for years. They have always taken good care of me. Have never had a problem with any car I have bought from them. Mr. Bud loved to visit with everyone who came in to have their car serviced or what ever. He will sure be missed by many people. If I know anyone looking for a car I always sent to over to Bud Shell. You can go wrong dealing with all the fine people who work there.

  9. Norman W. Swafford says:

    I was always treated well at Bud
    Shell Ford. I considered Bud My friend . When Bud saw me out anywhere he made a point to come and say hello and we would talk. I probably bought 10 town cars an suv a pickup truck. cars for my children and always received great service and never ever had a complaint. Bud I will miss you. They don’t make them like you every day. May the lord welcome you home with open arms. Rest in peace my friend.

  10. Norman W. Swafford says:

    The above story about Bud was written by my daughter
    She loved going to Bud Shell Ford. Noelle we had some good times roaming through the lot. No place like it. That is the only place where you would find Bud.

  11. greg wamble says:

    i grew up thinking his last name was ford… lol. always gave my dad good deals and he employed my grandfather for a long long time. i don’t believe i ever met him, but if i did, it was as a child. actually there is probably no way i didn’t, just if i did, i didn’t put 2 and 2 together. “lowered my 5th grade expectations of getting a Ferrari like Magnum P.I.” haaaaaaa awesome! 🙂

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