History of Oakes Auto Parts
Frederick Franklin Oakes (1903-78)


 

Fred Oakes, the founder of Oakes Auto Parts, was born on the banks of the Yazoo River in Issaquena County. Mississippi on May 18, 1903. The early part of his life was spent farming, hunting, fishing and learning to maintain equipment in this remote area. He had to "make do" to keep things working, things necessary for survival. This experience served his well for the remainder of his life. He always found a way through or around any technical problem. Machinery was his friend, and he held it close.

In 1923, at age 19, he left home and moved to Vicksburg to seek a better life. The chronological list below outlines his career.

Fred Oakes’ Early Shop

This picture (two prints) was probably taken on March 31, 1933 or 1934 at Fred Oakes’ Shop on Highway 61 North near U.S. National Cemetery; address was Route 1, Box 54. The date on the lower right is obscured. Originally, I thought the year was 1931 due to the clearly seen 31, however, documents now reveal that they did not buy this property until January 1932. The 1935 Vicksburg City Directory list everyone in the picture as working for Oakes Auto Parts Co.

Story of the picture: Fred’s brother John Christian, on the front fender, and brothers-in-law Marvin Leroy and James Russell Hartley, on front running board and driving respectively, were easily identified. Initially, that left three employees unidentified. Examining a Vicksburg City Directory from the 1935, I got the names of the remaining three, Arnold “Popeye” Graham, (later shot through the neck by a jealous girlfriend), James C. Deason and William M. Reed. By showing the picture to a number of women, they identified Popeye as the one, on the hood, handsome enough to risk jail time. Durwood Graham, Arnold's nephew, confirmed this identification. I had given up on the remaining two, when an email forwarded to me by my relative Rufus Stephenson, was found to contain, among its many addressees, the name James C. Deason. He was a childhood friend of Rufus. I emailed the picture to Deason, who has lived in Germany for 40 years with his wife, Uschi (see picture at left). He was very pleased to confirm that his dad was standing next to Fred Oakes, and the picture had stirred up many memories, and initiated many stories of the old days with his visiting grandson. The remaining employee, William M. Reed (wife Lela), who lived on Farmer Street, remains a mystery. Marvin, James and Popeye lived nearby at C. Albert and Ada Conrad Graham’s boarding house. See picture of Ada at right. Fred and Margie Oakes lived in the two story house you see in the picture. Warren Hyman, Fred's half-uncle, had a store next to Oakes’ place.

The wrecker was called the “Mae West”. Fred’s brother, Christian, on the front fender, and brothers-in-law, Marvin and James Hartley, on front of running board and driving respectively. Arnold (Popeye) Graham, is on the hood, William M. Reed is sitting on back of the running board. James C. Deason is standing next to Fred Oakes, white shirt. You may wonder how Fred Oakes, in the middle of the Depression, could afford six employees. His answer “They worked six days a week, but I could only pay them for one, and they were happy to have it.”

Below is a layout of the Oakes Auto Parts at the National Cemetery location. It was pieced together from old maps and the recollections of JC Oakes, my cousin. A detail survey was done by the Park Service in preparation for an expansion of the Park. That wonderful map was found on Ebay and appears near the end of this article. As one can see a number of relatives lived in the area. Warren Hyman was a half-brother to Fred's father and John Christian was Fred's brother. Fred's brother-in-law, James Hartley and wife, Katharine, lived in the C. Albert Graham boarding house.

Locations of Oakes Auto Parts in Vicksburg, MS


1924 Fred Oakes, Helper Y&MV Railroad, 1313 First North
1926 Car Repair, 2925 Pearl Street.
1929 1105 Openwood Street, Repairing Automobiles, Resides at 700 Adams Street
1931 Fred Oakes Openwood Repair Shop and Home, 26 Connecting Avenue
1932 Fred and Margie Oakes and Admiral Dewey McKay (1898-1971) sign a deed of trust with trustee Sol Felner in the amount of $1250 to cover the remaining money owed Sidney Lamar Clark for the purchase of the property near the National Cemetery. Average annual salary in 1932 was $1650. In 1935, McKay had an auto wrecking business with Clyde E. Bracken at 911 Washington St. In 1929, he had a repair shop on Openwood Street as did Fred Oakes.
1933 Fred Oakes applies for a loan to purchase a Star Automatic brake relining machine price $112. He list his assets as real estate on Highway 61 North, near the National Cemetery, value $3000. He states there is no mortgage and that he has been in business for five years.
1934 Fred and Margie Oakes buy “Lake House” on National Cemetery Rd. from Mrs. Emily Garbish. Price $250. ($200 cash and $50 note.)
1935 Oakes Auto Parts, West Side National Cemetery Rd, 1 South Mint Springs Bayou, Home at Walters, MS., note paid and land transferred.
1935 Warren Hyman and Helen, West Side National Cemetery Rd, 3 South Mint Springs Bayou,
1936 On June 8, Fred and Margie convey the National Cemetery property to United States Park Service. Apparently, at some point, Fred and Margie Oakes bought out A. D. McKay and became sole owners.
1937 Fred and Margie Oakes, reside at Walters, MS, Oakes Auto Parts Co. West Side National Cemetery Rd, 1 South Mint Springs Bayou,
1938 January Fred executes a Deed of Trust to pay Frank R. Melsheimer Jr. $1100, for Mulberry property. In the picture below, we can see the top of this building at extreme left above the white building marked Saloon. Melsheimer, as a condition of purchase, removed the four-window top floor and took it with him. Fred roofed the lower floor. This is a view looking up Clay sSreet in the 1910.


1938 July, Recording Deed from Frank R. Melsheimer, Jr. to J. G. Shepard, Chancery Clerk
1938 October 3, Fred Oakes signs a Deed of Trust with the First National Bank of Vicksburg for $1100.
1938 February, Gets approval from city to alter Mulberry Street Building
1939 Oakes Auto Parts, 1224 Mulberry, Resides Rt. 1 Box 54
1940 Moves to new home at Route 4 at Kings, Uses adjacent property as salvage yard for parts in his repair business.
1941 Oakes Auto Parts, Spring Service, 1224 Mulberry and 522 Clay St., Work Phone 2460; Home Phone, 1057 at Highway 61 North
1944 Oakes Auto Parts, Spring Service, 1224 Mulberry and 522 Clay St., Work Phone 2460; Home Phone 1057 at Highway 61 North, Residence Rt. 4, Box 95

Oakes Auto Parts Employees over the years.

 

 

 

 

Equipment

Tools were an essential part of Oakes Auto Parts. As the business grew Fred took on more variety of auto repair. Initially, he primarilty did small jobs not requiring much more than hand tools, however as automobiles became more complex and larger jobs were more profitable he need expensive tools. Where possible he would purchase used tools that were in good condition or that he could recondition. In November of 1933, he purchased for $112 a used Star Brake Reliner Machine, Model #40. Below is the sales document showing his financing arrangements. Also shown are photos of similar models.

 

In order to do major engine rebuilds he would need something to rebore cylinders, grind valve and turn crankshafts. In 1934, he purchase a new cylinder boring machine. We see here the receipt for the $350 purchase. This would have especially expensive since this is during the depression. He could not pay cash, instead he traded in a machine, Storm 38-2165, puts $50 down and financed the remaining $190 over 10 maybe monthly payments.

Fred Oakes was alway interested in new things. As we see he bought this machine in 1934, however it was first introduced only two years earlier.

Kwik-Way Engineering History.

All companies are started because someone identified a problem then came up with a solution. In the case of the Cedar Rapids Engineering Company (Kwik-Way), there was no precise way to scientifically recondition a valve or valve seat of an automobile engine in the early 20th century. The methods employed were extremely crude and provided marginal results at best. The company's founders recognized a need for a precision way to perform this required service. and after much trial and error, they developed the Kwik-Way principle of cylinder head reconditioning. In 1920, the first Kwik-Way valve refacer was sold. At the heart of the machine was the now famous Kwik-Way Six Ball Chucking System. The sales literature for this revolutionary new machine called the new chucking system a "masterpiece of modern mechanical engineering". The company's founders were, in fact, highly educated engineers, and the chucking system they developed in 1920 is still the world's most accurate chuck for reconditioning valves. The valve seat grinders that were developed are also still recognized as the best in the industry. These two products differ somewhat today from what was sold in 1920, but the original design concepts remain intact in today's current production units. Our estimates indicate that Kwik-Way valve refacers have reconditioned over 2,500,000,000 valves since first introduced in 1920.

In 1932, Kwik-Way introduced the first modern cylinder boring machine for reconditioning engine cylinders. Kwik-Way is still recognized world-wide for producing the best portable cylinder boring machines. The product line was expanded over the years to include many different products. During World War II, the company's piston grinders were used to grind glass radio crystals for the war effort. They were the only machines available at the time that were capable of delivering the accuracy required. Kwik-Way also made thousands of torque wrenches for the war effort and many are still in use today and occasionally turn up for sale on Internet auction sites.

 

Oakes Auto Parts Engine Rebuild Tools

Example of Storm Boring Machine traded in to purchase new machine.
Kwik-Way Cylinder Boring Machine ad.

Kwik-Way Cylinder Boring Machine,
Oakes Auto Parts, purchased 1934 from Cedar Rapids Engineering Company

Kwik-Way Cylinder Boring Machine,
Oakes Auto Parts, purchased 1934 from Cedar Rapids Engineering Company
Kwik-Way Cylinder Boring Machine,
Valve Facing Machine Ad
Kwik-Way Ad
Kwik-Way Valve Seat Grinder
Fred Oakes' Micrometers
Fred Oakes' calipers, thickness gauges.

Growth of Oakes Auto Parts

Fred Oakes began his shop as a repair shop. His available space limited what he could offer his customers. When he moved from the city to his place near the National Cemetery he then could expand his staff and offer engine rebuilding. He wished to acquire some cars and trucks to salvage for parts, however, there just was not enough room. In 1936, he had to sell the property to make way for a new entrance to the National Cemetery. He then purchased a building at the corner of Mulberry and Clay. All of the workspace was enclosed and on several levels. He outfitted the main work area with overhead shafts driven by an engine. The shafts had flat pulleys attached with large leather belt over them and connected to machines on the floor. This made for a very noisy environment when in operation. Here is a video that demonstrates the operation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6D_V5smCaOw

At right we see and example of such a belt driven shop.

Fred's model for his shop included parts from salvaged cars. He had to have space to store the cars. A property at Kings, north of Vicksburg became available. It was large enough to build a home on for his family and to store wrecked or inoperative cars and trucks. Initially, he simply used the parts for his repair and machine shop in town, however, the parts portion of the business grew rapidly. Used parts in this community which contained many low income people was very much in demand. Over the years, he made the transition from the Mulberry Street shop to shops he constructed on the Kings property. Eventually, the city exercised eminent domain and forced him to sell the city shop. Vicksburg never used the property in a way that justified this acquisition.

The Kings business grew and became a recognized valuable source for parts by customers in Central Mississippi and Central Louisiana. Fred's ingenuity, in provideing solutions to automotive problems, was appreciated by his customers and others businesses in the community. Those seeking to build some innovative machinery or equipment sought his advice and expertise. A dream of his, never realized, was a "Ford disassembly line." Instead, parts remained on the cars until a sale was made, at that point, the staff removed the part., cleaned it, and checked its operation, if possible. The customer was free to return any part that did not work. In those circumstances, most were happy to try another one. Fred's knowledge of the interchangeability of parts between many makes of cars and trucks greatly expanded his inventory.

He continued to do some repairs on engines, transmissions, springs and mufflers, however, these were a small part of his operation, and he accepted less and less of this kind of work.

Throughout his career, Fred would often find a clean used car that had a problem too expensive for the owner to repair. Engines that needed rebuilding were a common situation. He would buy the car and repair it, then resell it. Here is a bill of sale for such a 1933 transaction.

Oscar and Robert Bunch were brothers; their father was Oscar Bunch Sr. and was a commercial fisherman. Robert would have been 34, and Oscar Jr. would have been 25. The Whippet at right is a 1928 model, first year of the 6-cylinder engine. A Whippet hub cap at left is from Oakes Auto Parts, and owned by Floyd Oakes.

 

 

1934 bill of sale for a 1929 Essex Challenger. Sale was witnessed by W. M. Reed (wife Lela Reed), an employee of Oakes’ Auto Parts Co and Floyd F. Eilert (1900-68), a clerk in Waltersville. Eilert was called “Preacher.” Reed had worked for Miller Auto Co. Buyer might be “Henry Waite.” Here we show several examples of this car.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gallery of Oakes Auto Parts Photos

Fred Oakes at his Kings Shop
Sales receipt.
Ad
Ad from Redwood Yearbook
Fred Oakes and son, Melvin Oakes,
note phone number on the sign.
Oakes Auto Parts, Kings, MS
Buildings constructed by Fred Oakes.

Oakes Auto Parts, Kings, MS
Building constructed by Fred Oakes

Oakes Auto Parts Salvage Yard and Repair Shops

Floyd Oakes with Fred Oakes’ Boat Engine, 1980

1935 Vicksburg Directory
Park Service Survey Map, 1930s
The property at Mulberry and Clay that Fred Oakes bought in 1938. These are from 1913 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
The property at Mulberry and Clay that Fred Oakes bought in 1938. These are from 1913 Sanborn Fire Insurance Mapsnwood shop.
The B. J. Robinson Gin and Machine Shop became the Oakes Auto Parts Shop.
Below are four views of the property at Mulberry and Clay that Fred Oakes bought in 1938. These are from 1925 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
The property at Mulberry and Clay that Fred Oakes bought in 1938. These are from 1925 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
The property at Mulberry and Clay that Fred Oakes bought in 1938. These are from 1925 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
The property at Mulberry and Clay that Fred Oakes bought in 1938. These are from 1925 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
The property at Mulberry and Clay that Fred Oakes bought in 1938. These are from 1948 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
T he property at Mulberry and Clay that Fred Oakes bought in 1938. These are from 1948 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

Views of the Y & M V Railroad Yard where Fred Oakes and later his father, Charlie Oakes, worked. Fred likely in the Car Repair Shop nad Charlie in the Carpenter Shop. These are from 1925 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

Views of the Y & M V Railroad Yard where Fred Oakes and later his father, Charlie Oakes, worked. Fred likely in the Car Repair Shop nad Charlie in the Carpenter Shop. These are from 1925 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

Views of the Y & M V Railroad Yard where Fred Oakes and later his father, Charlie Oakes, worked. Fred likely in the Car Repair Shop nad Charlie in the Carpenter Shop. These are from 1925 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

Fred Oakes, Highway 61 North
Margie and Donald Oakes, Highway 61 North, ca 1943
"Lard" was nickname for Margie.
Charles Oakes,
Highway 61 North, ca. 1943

L to R: Floyd, Donald, Margie and Melvin Oakes,
Highway 61North, ca. 1943

L to R: Floyd, Donald, Margie and Melvin Oakes,
Highway 61North, ca. 1943
Donald Oakes, Highway 61 North, ca. 1943
Melvin Oakes,
Highway 61 North, ca. 1943
CFloyd Oakes,
Highway 61 North, ca. 1943
Melvin, Floyd and Donald Oakes, in aviator caps
Oakes Auto Parts in background, Highway 61 North, ca. 1943

Donald, Floyd and Melvin Oakes. Chicken unidentified

Eleanor Oakes. Highway 61 North, ca. 1944

Eleanor, Melvin, Donald Oakes, Home at Highway 61 North. ca. 194

May 9, 1922 Vicksburg photo, This is year Fred Oakes came to Vicksburg. Camera looking along railroad tracks on piers near bank of the river which is flooded, with engine, rail cars and workers visible behind. In background are industrial buildings, tall smoking chimneys and some of the town buildings can be seen on the bluff.
May 9, 1922 Vicksburg photo, Camera looking across water of flooded river to rail gondolas and tank cars on tracks in water on bank. Houses and other buildings can be seen on bluff behind
Fred Oakes Toolbox, made in 1922 with the help of Frank Vichiarella, Italian immigrant and carpenter at Y&MV Railroad in Vicksburg. The oak wood was milled by Robert and Troy Barnes, carpenters at the railroad shop who later opened their own planning mill.
Leist Store Ledger Owned by Jesse and Faye Rodgers.
The Sam Leist Family ran a general store on the banks of the Yazoo River Entry of Charles Franklin Oakes
8/5/06,. On August 5, John Christian Oakes was born. The canned millk purchases on August 10 maybe meant that Grandma could not nurse.
Decenber entries for C. F. Oakes
May 9, 1922 Vicksburg photo, Camera looking across water of flooded river to rail gondolas and tank cars on tracks in water on bank. Houses and other buildings can be seen on bluff behind
Entry fro J. C. Dose, uncle of Fred Oakes.

February 2, 1970. Very rare letter from Fred Oakes to "Mel, Pat and the Ladies."
Transcription at end of letter.

Page 2

Rare letter from Fred Oakes to “Mel, Pat and the Ladies.”
Transcription:

I went to bed to early got my hours in I must be sleeping on wage & hour time it has sure ben cold here still having big frost every nite I got Richard & White chile to cut and work and fertilize the roses I bought two expensive HB Red Climers to replace the 1 by the winder they cost $10.65 They wer big rose bushes Bought 2 dump truck loads of good dirt to build up the yard on the right side of the house.

I got my garden going pretty well got corn planted my English peas are 8 in high-will set out my onions as soon as it gets warmer Strawberries are growing nice I sure will be glad to see warm weather the bad cold wethe sure is bad on Perry he cant get out of his house sure miss him out here would like to see those anteak engines in Washington but to far in the hole now. May get cought up if the weather get better i bought a 1900 modl 4 cyl Miller marine industrial? cyl motor for 15.00 will have it runing before long sure is a collectors idom

tell the girls howdy will call you later

your dad