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Friday, May 6, 2016

Faces & Places

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bill Carpenter pulled the train caboose from the train depot at Thayer down to Mammoth Spring State Park. It is now located near the Depot Museum at the park.
Bill Carpenter ... Thayer's "ace" mechanic and wrecker operator

THAYER -- Bill Carpenter will be 86 in September this year. After suffering several strokes and falling and breaking his hip he now resides at Shady Oaks Healthcare in Thayer. He has been there for two years.

Carpenter is well known around the area as being an ace mechanic and wrecker operator. He has lived in the Thayer area all his life.

After suffering several strokes and falling and breaking his hip, Bill Carpenter has resided at Shady Oaks in Thayer for two years.
He was not born Bill. "My name is Edwin Willie Carpenter. They started calling me Bill in the first grade at Mammoth Spring School and it just stuck," he said. Carpenter left school at an early age, 13 years old. "I had to go to work to make a living," he said. He was the youngest of three brothers; Jim and Robert are both now dead.

Carpenter said he started working on vehicles when Model Ts were the rage.

He served in World War II for 44 months in Japan. "I was of course an Army mechanic. I worked on everything. The bigger the better," he said.

Bill Carpenter is one of the few residents in Thayer to have a road and a lane named after him. His wife Ruby still lives on Carpenter Lane just off Carpenter Road.
Carpenter recalled his days in Japan. " It was a lot different than Mammoth Spring or Thayer," Carpenter said. Although he was not involved in much actual combat, he did have a close call or two.

"This was just shortly after the war was over. I was raising the hood or holding the hood up on a gasoline tanker when a Japanese sniper in a tree tried to shoot me. The bullet just glazed me right underneath my arm. I didn't have much of a gun with me and an Army assistant driver shot the sniper out of the tree and killed him," he said.

After returning to the states, Carpenter went to work for the Camel Motor Company which was located on Front Street across from where Thayer Farm Center is now.

"I worked for $45 a week. When Ruby and I got married in 1949, they gave me a raise to $60 a week without me even asking," he said.

In January, Bill and Ruby, who still lives near the old Carpenter Garage, will be married 60 years. "That's quite an accomplishment in itself," said Carpenter's son Mark. The Carpenters have two other children besides Mark, Patricia Sue and Kathy Darlene.

After the young couple married, Carpenter decided he could make more money working for himself. "I went to the house and started my own garage and wrecker business in 1950," Carpenter said.

And what a business he had. He was known as, if not the best, one of the best mechanics and wrecker drivers that could be found anywhere in the area. At one time he operated five wreckers.

Buddy Rogers has owned Rogers Service Station in Thayer for over 30 years and is also a former Thayer alderman. "Bill and I were close friends and never really in any kind of competition. He was the best mechanic around for years and ran the best wrecker service. He did a lot of free towing and services for the city and for individuals also," Rogers said.

Another Thayer resident said he remembers many years ago two cars going into the canyon at Grand Gulf State Park. "Bill Carpenter was the only one around with the equipment and know-how to get them out. He used cables on his wrecker and got the job done," he said.

Carpenter said as much as he enjoyed working as a mechanic, wreckers were the favorite part of his job.

"I've pulled many a vehicle out of a ditch. I've helped the police department with wrecks; the Thayer Police Department knew my phone number very well," Carpenter said.

"I was born interested in fixing vehicles," Carpenter said.

Another interesting aspect of Carpenter's job was that he employed a woman mechanic for 25 years.

"Lorene Grooms knew as much about fixing a vehicle or using a wrecker as I did. She also did pretty good transmission work," he said.

Carpenter is one of the few citizens of Thayer that has a street and a road named after him. His old garage, close to where he and Ruby lived, is on Carpenter Lane just off Carpenter Road.

Carpenter's son Mark said he and his dad are closer now than they have ever been.

"My dad worked close with the Thayer Police Department. Back then there was no Jaws of Life and often times when there was an accident and dad's wrecker was called to the scene, he was the one that had to pull the people from the wrecked vehicles," Mark said.

"We worked together some at the garage. I started helping dad when I was about 10-years old. I would pull apart transmissions in the beginning. Dad was not a very good teacher so most of my learning came from watching him," the younger Carpenter said. He added, "Dad always tried to make things right with people. If we didn't get it right the first time he would go back and work until it was right. Often not charging the costumer,"

Mark said.

The younger Carpenter is now on disability and does not work at the garage anymore. He has a son Luke who will inherit the garage. "I don't know if he will ever be the mechanic my dad was, but he does like cars,"

Mark said.

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