WARREN BOSTON'S GARAGE
PIKES CREEK, LUZERNE COUNTY

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"Note how Pikes Creek, Hunlock Creek, and Sweet Valley all get mentioned. Also note the 5-digit phone number."

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They could have called it Boston Township rather than Fairmount Township. As far back as the 1850 census for Fairmount Township, Luzerne County PA one finds the Boston family to be quite prevalent. The branch we will discuss herein descended from one Silas Boston, who was born about 1827. He and his wife Rhoda had a son named Ezra who was born in 1852. Ezra and his wife, Eliza, had six children including a son named J. Eugene Boston, born in 1880. J. Eugene "Gene" Boston married Jennie Roberts and they were blessed with a son and a daughter. Warren E. Boston was born in 1901 and his sister, Thelma, in 1905.

Jennie Roberts Boston and J. Eugene Boston (front) and their children, Thelma and Warren (rear.) Courtesy of Terry Judge Fowler. "

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A large number of the Boston clan are buried in Bethel Hill Cemetery.

Gene and Jennie Boston lived along what was, until 1932, a wagon road that led from Dallas to Red Rock and points further west. Paved in 1932, the road was originally designated as State Route 115. In the 1950’s, it was changed to State Route 118. The Boston homestead

 "The Boston homestead, date unknown. Courtesy of Terry Judge Fowler."

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lay almost directly across from Bethel Hill Road and about ¼ mile east of what became Ricketts Glen State Park in 1944. The homestead has been modified considerably over the years and is presently the home of Tom Judge, son-in-law of Warren Boston.

"The home of Tom Judge, formerly the Boston homestead. May 2006. Photo by Ron Hontz."

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Gene was a farmer and Jennie operated a small grocery store immediately west of the homestead. The store was originally a small cinder-block building and, like the homestead, it has been added to and modified considerably.

"Home of Terry Judge Fowler (granddaughter of Warren Boston), formerly Jennie Boston's store, May 2006. Photo by Ron Hontz."

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Although details of Warren’s early life are somewhat sketchy, it is fair to say that he was a handsome young buck

 "Warren E. Boston, circa 1925. Courtesy of Terry Judge Fowler. "

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with a plan. By age19 he had married his sweetheart, Mae Keller (a year older than he) from neighboring Ross Township. Fresh out of school, Warren worked for a time on the ice dam at Mountain Springs and, for that period, Mae taught school. They then left Fairmount Township to earn more money than they could have earned had they stayed. The 1920 census shows him and Mae and her brother, Loren Keller, living in Depew, New York, a suburb of Buffalo. Warren and Loren worked for Gould Coupler, a manufacturer of sealed lead acid batteries. Warren was both an electrician and a crane operator while Loren was a machinist. I’m not quite sure of the chronology here but he may have attended Coyne University in Chicago to study automotive electronics either BEFORE or AFTER the work at Gould Coupler. He also spent time at Michigan State University in Lansing studying automotive repairs.

Suffice it to say that, by 1927, Warren and Mae had moved back to Luzerne County and were residing with her brother, Ernest, in Shavertown, Kingston Township. Warren worked for a while at a gas station\garage somewhere nearby to, no doubt, gain some hands-on experience before opening his own garage. I have seen a picture of him standing near a gas station logo that read "White Star" which may have been the forerunner to Texaco. He had inscribed on it "This is where I work." I couldn’t, however, identify its exact location, so I chose not to use the picture herein.

By 1927, he was ready to open his own place. On March 12 of that year Warren and Mae bought a parcel of land in Lake Township from William and Dorothy H. LaBar. Located at the extreme western edge of Lake Township, nearly on the Ross Township line, it fronted roughly 100 feet along the south side of the Main Road from Pikes Creek to Sweet Valley. It was also about 100 feet deep. Just three months later, in June, 1927, they bought an additional adjoining sliver of land with another 20 feet of frontage from the same parties. The total land area was now about one-quarter of an acre.

 "Eastern end of garage, nearest to Route 115/118, with two Atlantic gasoline pumps. Western end, nearest to Sweet Valley, contained the office out front and living space in the rear. Additional living space was on the second floor above both sections. Date uncertain but it matches my memories from the 1950’s. Courtesy of Terry Judge Fowler. "

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At the opening of the garage, cars coming to Warren for repair traveled a Main Road that consisted most likely only of "tar and chips." In 1937, macadam was finally added from the intersection of Main Road and Route 115. Floyd Wolfe, who worked for Warren shortly after WW2, was only 14 in 1937 but he earned a little money from the paving contractor, R.A. Davis. Lanterns were hung from sawhorses to warn motorists of the construction zone at night. Floyd, who lived right down the road from Warren’s garage, was in charge of filling and cleaning the lanterns, setting them out each evening, and retrieving them each morning.

Warren Boston’s Garage is chiefly known for not only the expert repairs one could get there but also the new Chevrolet cars and trucks sold there. It’s likely that 99% of the oldest Sweet Valley residents couldn’t tell you that he began by selling Fords! I thank his son-in-law, Tom Judge, for pointing out that Warren did begin with Fords not long after starting his business. That lasted only a year or two before a falling-out occurred with a Ford route salesman over after-market products that Warren carried. The Ford rep tried to insist that he carry only official Ford waxes, cleaners, and the like. Warren insisted that he’d carry only what his customers liked. The Ford rep wouldn’t budge, so Warren told the entire Ford Motor Company to take a hike—new cars and all.

I’m not quite sure exactly when Warren began selling Chevrolets and he may have been out of the new car business for a year or two. The following photo is estimated to have been taken circa 1933 based on the apparent age of Shirley in Mae’s arms.

"Warren Boston’s garage circa 1933: left to right: Davie Martin, Warren Boston, Melvin Keller. On the porch: Mae Keller Boston holding daughter Shirley. Courtesy of Terry Judge Fowler."

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Noteworthy is the fact that no Chevrolet emblem was seen on the building at that time. By 1934, he had begun selling Chevies, based on the word of Floyd Wolfe, who repaired many ‘34’s in 1946. Floyd’s cousin, Genevieve Wolfe, Doc Pollock (who later built the "Pollock Plot" in Sweet Valley), and several others bought ’34 Chevy cars from Warren and Bill LaBar bought a ‘34 school bus. Immediately after buying it, Pollock took his new car to a race in Tunkhannock. LaBar’s wife, Dorothy, had a lengthy teaching career in Ross Township, so it’s quite likely that she taught some of the students that Bill drove to her school. In 1937, the Chevy pickup truck was a popular item and Warren sold one of those, too, to Bill LaBar. Sam Bronson also bought one.

Warren and Mae raised two children but Mae was the mother of neither one. Their mother was Mae’s cousin once-removed, Charlotte Keller. In 1927, Dean Urban Keller was born and he took his mom’s maiden name. He initially lived with his grandfather, Stanley Wilson Keller, back in Mooretown and began his schooling in the one-room schoolhouse there. At about 13, however, as many teens are wont to do, he had a falling out with his parental figure and he went to live with Warren and Mae. In 1931, Charlotte Keller bore a daughter who she named Shirley. Shirley lived with Warren and Mae Boston from infancy and took their surname.

"Shirley Boston and Dean Keller. Courtesy of Terry Judge Fowler."

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An interesting event happened to one new Chevy that Warren sold in 1959 to Freda Kittle, the daughter of his friend, Fred Kittle. Fred had bought her a new car in April of that year for her approaching 21st birthday in May. Minors weren’t allowed to own cars without their parents being co-owners but Warren, knowing she’d turn 21 in just a month, skipped that detail and titled it in just her name. Freda used it to travel to work at Natona Mills in Dallas and she gave a co-worker from Lehman a ride back and forth. On the way home one day, Freda made her customary left-turn at Cook’s Store in the center of Lehman to reach the co-worker’s home. They hadn’t quite completed the turn across the eastbound lane of Route 118 when their right-rear quarter was impacted by a speeding car headed towards Dallas. The other driver, contractor Raymond Heddon, wasn’t severely injured and the girls made it though with only minor injuries, too. Warren, however, had to put through an emergency call to Fred to come down and get his name added to the title before an insurance claim could be filed.

In addition to selling and repairing cars, Warren Boston had many other mechanical talents and a business sideline or two. In the late 1940’s, he and Mae owned one of the first TV sets in the Sweet Valley area and he invited many friends and neighbors to watch it. My classmate, Don Stroud, recalls going there with his father and grandfather to watch the Friday night fights. People who saw the Boston TV soon wanted their own and Warren began selling (and likely repairing) Philco televisions. To improve reception, homeowners sometimes needed to build antenna towers so Warren applied his mechanical talent and constructed them. One such tower was seen for years outside Louie Winnicki’s tavern in Hunlock Creek. Back at the garage, customers waiting for their bills to be totaled did so in the office area. There they were regaled by a green parrot known for constantly calling out "Where’s Ralph?" No one today can recall the parrot’s name but a dog named Skippy also kept customers company. Before leaving, customers could also buy milk, bread, and other minor groceries to take along. For a while in the late 1940’s, folks could even buy a refrigerator at Boston’s Garage.

Warren was quite the sportsman and his friends used to come to visit to practice their marksmanship with .22 caliber rifles on the shooting range he had built inside the garage. For a time, there was even a tennis court behind the garage. I don’t think Warren himself played tennis but I’ve been told that Shirley did.

It seemed that Warren could build almost anything. He once built his own boat to take on fishing trips and equipped it with a 35 HP Johnson outboard motor.

"Warren’s homemade boat. Courtesy of Terry Judge Fowler."

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A light plane crashed in Lake Silkworth sometime in the 1950’s. It apparently was deemed to be a total loss by its insurance company. Warren retrieved it from the lake with his wrecker, brought it back to his garage, stripped off the wings, and used the fuselage to construct a trailer for his boat. The airplane tires were used, along with an old manure spreader, to build a box trailer.

He and his friends would take yearly fishing trips to Maniwaki, Canada, above Quebec in Ontario Province. Mapquest.com shows that to have been a trip of about 440 miles so, before the advent of interstate highways, it must have taken them several days to get there while towing their boats. They fished in several lakes on an Indian reservation and were required to hire an Indian guide.

"Herb Pierson, Jim Kibbler, Sam Bronson, Bob Jackson, Cliff Boothe, Lee Brader, and Earl Boothe. Courtesy of Terry Judge Fowler."

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Others who often went with Warren, but not on this trip, included: Fred Kittle, Walt Chamberlain, Grant Whitesell, Jimmy Crockett, and Junior Cragle. Warren often took home movies of their trip and, upon their return, set up a screen to show them in the garage. Getting from one lake to the next often required portaging the boats, which was quite tiring. Warren, ever the inventive genius, came up with a better idea. Using aluminum, he constructed little boat trailers that featured a minimal collapsible frame and wheels that folded underneath toward the center line of the boat. When they reached the far shoreline, they extended the wheels, loaded the boat onto the small trailer, and rolled it up and downhill to the next lake. Once there, the entire contraption could be stowed into the boat until needed again. Warren eventually built more trailers, painted them in various colors, and sold them to other fishermen back in Sweet Valley.

In addition to his love of fishing, Warren also hunted extensively. For a time, he and 14 other guys owned a deer camp on "Weintz Mountain" near Meeker but I haven’t been able to ID who the members of the club were. In 1974, he still trod the woods in search of game. At the age of 73, for only the second time in his life, managed to bag an elusive wild turkey. Excited to rush home and show off his trophy, he overlooked one key requirement. Like deer, turkeys must be "tagged" before they are moved. Game warden "Boob" Harned caught him and fined him. It is said that Warren never spoke to "Boob" again.

"Warren and his wild turkey. Courtesy of Terry Judge Fowler."

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As one may have guessed by now, Warren was a pillar of the community and he always had a float in the Sweet Valley Volunteer Fire Company’s annual parade. He even offered the use of his beloved boat to raise money to benefit the fire company. In 1955, my brother, Bob Hontz, took him up on the offer of a $1 boat ride around Sylvan Lake, with the money to go to the fire company.

"Times Leader\Dallas Post insert of June 3, 2005."

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As Bob tells it: "Tommy Adams also went along for the ride. We hit a submerged log and the collision threw Warren and me into the water. Tommy had been sitting in the front of the boat and was unable to reach the motor in the rear. He managed to stay in the boat. Warren and I were lucky enough to be rescued by folks in a rowboat before we drowned. I was plenty scared, though, for I went under twice before they reached us." Even later, in ill health, Warren continued to serve as a fire policeman.

"Warren in his fire police uniform. Courtesy of Terry Judge Fowler."

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In 1947, Warren and Mae had purchased an additional adjoining half-acre lot from Dana W. (Daney) Davenport), thereby bringing their holdings to roughly ¾ of an acre. Despite that, they never had sufficient room (or perhaps the requisite funds) to carry a large inventory of new Chevies. At most their stock consisted of one or two new cars and customers picked out their choice from either of two sources: 1) looking at brochures or 2) seeing them on a competitor’s lot and then coming to Warren to buy. For practically the entire life of the Boston dealership, Warren had faced major competition from Hasay Chevrolet in Shickshinny. Hasay, however, was known for being very interested in sales but very lax on follow-up warranty and repair work. Many would buy from Hasay and then come to Warren for repairs. It’s also known that, by the early 1960’s, most Detroit auto makers were pushing their dealers to sell more pickup trucks if they wanted to keep getting cars. Recalling how he’d given Ford the boot many years earlier, I can imagine that Warren didn’t take too kindly to any such pressure from GM. For this reason or maybe just because, at age 61, he was tired, he sold his Chevy dealership in 1962.

He kept up the repair work until 1965, when a heart attack made him quit all together. His father, J. Eugene "Gene" Boston, died in 1967. For the better part of two years, Warren made daily trips back to the homestead for two purposes: to look after his mother, Jennie, and to remodel Jennie’s old store. In 1969, Jennie died and the homestead passed to Warren. Warren and Mae didn’t need the large homestead house so they gave it to the daughter they had raised, Shirley Boston Judge, and her husband, Thomas (Tommy) Judge. This saved Shirley and Tommy from having to make mortgage payments. Warren and Mae moved into Jennie’s old store next door. It was nice to have family close by to help with mowing the yard (the properties ARE quite steep) and other chores. Tommy Judge remarked to me "When we added the name ‘Judge’ to the mailbox, it was the first time in five generations that it hadn’t read ‘Boston.’ "

Having resettled in Fairmount Township, Warren had no further use for the Lake Township garage property so, in 1970, he sold it to Ernie Besancon (pronounced Buh-ZANTS-un.) Ernie ran the garage for about 5 years, doing car repairs, welding, and plowing snow in the winter. In 1975 he got divorced and lost the property in a foreclosure sale. It was bought by the Updyke family and, for a 16-year period, the history grows dim. The Updykes are far too busy with their business empire to bother with helping me flesh out what other types of businesses may have been operated there and for how long. It is known that Rich and Lorelie (Briggs) Bonomo did run a sporting goods store called Sweet Valley Outfitters for "about two years in the early ‘80’s." I have also heard of a family named Christilaw who had a small grocery store for a while but I haven’t been able to contact them.

In 1991, Bryan Updyke sold the garage property to Rose Ann Crisci, D.V.M. and she presently still operates the Sweet Valley Veterinary Clinic on the site.

"Sweet Valley Veterinary Clinic, May, 2006. Photo by Ron Hontz."

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Mae Keller Boston died at age 79 in 1979 and Warren lived just a while longer, dying at age 80 in 1981. Tommy Judge still resides in the homestead and his and Shirley’s daughter, Terry Judge Fowler, lives in the old, greatly-remodeled grocery store (see picture above.)

Written by:

Ronald E. Hontz
33 Whitcraft Lane
Shrewsbury PA 17361
(717) 235-5791
cell phone (717) 309-1402
e-mail: Sweetvalleykid@gmail.com

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