Commerce: Olive Garage
As a child, the Olive Garage building at the corner of Lincoln Ave. and Orange-Olive Road was one of the most memorable sights in the Olive area. Across the years, our family must have driven past that building more than 1000 times en route to Anaheim and Los Angeles and back home.
Though I had never stepped foot inside the Garage, I often had a glimpse of the interior of the open building from the back seat of our car. But after reading the emails Vince Marzo sent me in September 2017 describing the Garage, I feel I have a more complete picture of what I saw and recollect. Thank you, Vince, for sharing your vivid and engaging stories about your memories of the Olive Garage and its long-time proprietor, Anselmo "Heavy" Ames.
Now, three-and-a-half years later, in March 2021, I learned from Fred Meyers, grandson of Henry C. Meyers — early Olive rancher and businessman — that before the Olive Garage came into existence, the garage was Meyers Garage. This was earth-shattering news, because I had never seen the image Fred sent of the garage in 1913! Up until then, I thought the garage building appeared in 1915. Thank you, Fred, for sharing this significant piece of history with me and Olive Through the Ages!
Olive's oldest business
Before Olive Garage existed, in 1913 Meyers Garage occupied the brick building on the southwestern corner of present day Lincoln Avenue and Orange-Olive, at the time when automobiles started replacing the horse and buggy on roads in Olive. The garage was established by local rancher and businessman Henry C. Meyers who soon after founded the First National Bank of Olive across the street.
But Meyers Garage did not remain here long. The building was leased to another proprietor who named the business Olive Garage, starting in 1915. That name would stick. As the longest, continually operating business in the Olive area, Olive Garage would change proprietorship multiple times over the course of more than 100 years, as well as change its location.
The Merchants and Manufacturers Association directory lists proprietor E.L. Cossairt in the July 1916 publication, and Hansen's Orange Residence and Business City Directory lists Otto H. Buer in the 1919 publication. An advertisement published in the April 27, 1922 edition of The Orange Post: "Greater Olive Expansion Edition" lists C.F. Bliss as proprietor. The Western Directory Company phone book lists proprietor E.P. Ehlen in the 1924 and 1925 publications, L.E. Healton in the 1930 publication, and J.M. and Alfred Trapp in the 1932 publication.
But the proprietor most associated with the business in the brick building on the corner was Anselmo W. Ames, owner of the Olive Garage from 1935 until his retirement in 1983.
Vince Marzo, retired Fire Prevention Specialist with the Los Angeles Fire Department, who grew up in the Santa Ana Canyon in the early 1950s — and whose grandmother was the late Dorinda Dominguez Marzo, born in the Peralta Adobe — recalls the Olive Garage and its beloved proprietor:
Anselmo Ames, a.k.a. "Heavy" Ames, was a distant cousin. He got the nickname as a result of his build. He was short and stout, reminding me of a fire hydrant. He was equally strong, too. Back then, nearly everyone in the Canyon, and Olive as well, seemed to be related as descendants of Bernardo Yorba. And if we weren't related, everyone at least knew each other.
Heavy owned the Olive Garage and we all had our cars serviced there. He was a very talented and sought-after mechanic. He didn't replace parts; he rebuilt them... right there in the garage. He was the only mechanic in the area who could repair and service Ford Model T cars.
Though it has long been gone, there used to be an outbuilding next to the garage, beside the railroad tracks, where Heavy stored lubricants. The shed had a huge dent on one side. My dad told me that when he was in high school, he was at the Garage having Heavy repair his Ford Model A when an elderly couple tried to beat the train at the railroad crossing and lost. As the Santa Fe steam locomotive pushed the car down the tracks, it grazed the side of Heavy's shed. That dent was probably still there until the shed was removed by the new building owners.
I always marveled at the Olive Garage. Like the blacksmith's shop [on the other side of the railroad tracks], the garage was a throwback to an earlier era. And as a master mechanic, Heavy was one of a kind. He was as old school as one could be. Above his rolltop desk, located on the east wall of the garage, there was an unused 7-Up calendar from 1947. It was still hanging on the wall up until he closed shop [in 1983].
The Garage had a slab floor, with no service pit or hydraulic lifts installed. Instead, Heavy used floor jacks and jack stands to access a vehicle's undercarriage. Parts were stored on the west wall, and I seem to recall a mezzanine on that side, too. The south side of the garage had a long work bench where Heavy would sit and rebuild car parts. He had a great disdain for mechanics who would remove a malfunctioning car part, go to an auto parts store, and swap the bad part for a rebuilt one. If Heavy rebuilt the part, he knew it was done right.
There also were two gasoline pumps, at the front of the garage facing Lincoln Ave., serving regular leaded gas and ethyl. Heavy sold Richfield gasoline up until the time Richfield merged with Atlantic and the name changed to ARCO [Atlantic Richfield Co.]. I know the merger was in the mid-1960s, although the name change came a few years later. During the early- to mid-1970s, Heavy changed the gasoline brand from Richfield to a "no-name," independent, brand of gasoline. By the time of his retirement [in 1983], the gas pumps were long gone.
Heavy Ames' retirement marked the end of the Olive Garage's location on the southwestern corner of E. Lincoln Avenue and Orange-Olive Road. The business was sold to Ron Risse and then relocated to 2845 N, Orange-Olive Rd. in the former, old, 1920's gas station building that has since been modified. Ron still manages the daily operations along with his business partner Javier.
After the Olive Garage left 606 E. Lincoln Ave., C.C.c.c. Heating & Air Conditioning moved in and further modified the building during the many years of operations at this location. The latter business is owned by Henry C. Meyers' granddaughter and operated by his great-grandsons.
Though the structure no longer resembles the auto garage it used to be, the faint letters "Olive Garage" can still be seen on the top of the brick wall on the back side of the building; the sole reminder of the business with the longest history in the Olive community.
- Daralee, August 23, 2018;
Sources: Merchants and Manufacturers Association
of Orange, CA, Directory of the City of Orange and Adjacent Territory,
1916; Hansen's Orange Residence and Business City Directory: Including
Olive, El Modena, Villa Park, McPherson and West Orange, 1919; The Orange
Post: "Greater Olive Expansion Edition," April 27, 1922; Western
Directory Company directories, 1924, 1925, 1930, 1932; emails from Vince
Marzo on September 10 and 26, 2017; Olive Garage website (http://www.oftelie.org/)
accessed on August 19, 2018; Alex Padilla California Secretary of State
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