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Front Page » May 6, 2008 » Local News » A Piece Of Helper History is Hauled Away
Published 2,308 days ago

A Piece Of Helper History is Hauled Away


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By CLAUDETTE LANGLEY
Sun Advocate reporter


On April 30 a worker with Construction Plus from Price tears into the interior of the building that once housed both the Moose Lodge and Bunnell Motor Co. Snow collapsed the roof this winter and it had to be torn down.

In the 1920s and 30's a building at the far south end of Main Street in Helper was the place to buy the day's "hot-rodders" favorite machine - the Model A.

In those days the Bunnell Motor Company provided Carbon County residents with their wheels and was a hotbed of activity. Founded by S. Burt Bunnell, the family business thrived for four years in the structure most recently owned by Delores Markakis.

"We could only fit two cars at a time in the showroom," said Louis Bunnell, 87, one of Burt's five sons. "We had this elevator that ran by pulling on a large rope around a big wheel that we used to lower the extra cars into the basement."

In 1928 the business was the center of a major brouhaha when the 20 millionth car manufactured by Ford stopped by for a visit as part of a nationwide tour. The whole town turned out in front to get their picture snapped with the vehicle.

Four years later Bunnell Bunnell was once again on the cutting-edge becoming a distributor for Ford's first V8 "flathead."

"The Ford V8 quickly became Everyman's power for the road and Everyman's power for racing... The V8 "flathead" can take a lion's share of credit for the revival of U.S. road racing after the Great Depression...," according to information from media.ford.com.

Louis Bunnell said that the company was in serious need of more room and the same year the V8 hit the roads, the family business moved across the street from its original home. The shiny vehicles rolled out of Bunnell's second showroom for about a decade until Mother Nature intervened.

"On a July 4th in the 1940's lightning hit a coal shed behind the business and it burned down," Louis Bunnell said.

The family moved their business to Price after that into the building that is now used to store ambulances. Coincidently, that building too is scheduled for demolition.

"Everytime we got a building seems like someone wants to tear it down," Louis Bunnell said laughing.

Residences weren't the only thing that changed with the Bunnells, the family got out of the car business and switched to mobile home sales instead.

"We started selling double-wides," said Louis Bunnell, noting the family business finally shut its doors in 1987. "We were in business close to 50 years."

Ford's 20 millionth car was on a nation-wide tour in 1928 when it stopped at Bunnell Motor Co., which was housed in what became known as the Markakis building. The whole town of Helper came out for the event.

The Bunnells' - S. Bert, Louis, Omar, Kay, Boyd and Ross' - half-century of entrepreneurship spanned some of the nation's most memorable years including, Prohibition, the Great Depression and World War II. During the war, with stock of new automobiles being scarce, they turned to repairs and selling used cars.

Despite its bright and busy beginnings the brick structure seemed to fall into disuse and disrepair and this winter Mother Nature once again had her way. The heavy snows accumulated on top of the building and one day the roof simply collapsed under the weight of it all.

Markakis appeared at a Helper City Council meeting March 6 seeking input from the city leaders concerning the proposed demolition. She wanted to be sure that she knew any rules or regulations that the city might have for this type of project.

She shared her plans for the structure. The basement that once stored hot rods would soon contain the debris from the glory days.

Mayor Mike Dalpiaz told her that as long as the debris was non-combustible there wouldn't be any city ordinance governing the demolition.

The main request from the council members was that the project be safe and that the space left behind be attractive.

April 30 the dust filled the air as the building's guts were ripped out and dumped unceremoniously into a metal container to be hauled off.

"I wish I had known when they were going to do that," Louis Bunnell said. "I would have stood in front with my hand over my heart."



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