- Associated Press - Sunday, February 1, 2015

NORFOLK, Neb. (AP) - Larry Smalley needed a job.

The one offered to him happened to be at an automobile dealership. It’s a field of work he has stayed with - for six decades.

Recently, Smalley’s co-workers at Cornhusker Auto in Norfolk celebrated his 60th year in the local auto scene by hosting an open house in his honor.

“I kind of liked cars, but I didn’t have any idea that it would turn into all of this,” Smalley told the Norfolk Daily News (https://bit.ly/1A76Nfo).

Smalley’s career in the automotive industry began out of a simple need for a job. His then-future wife had moved to Norfolk from Osmond and Smalley needed to find a job before they were married.

He applied at Cobb Motors, which was located on Madison Avenue, where Christ is King Church now sits, and was offered a job there as bookkeeper. In August 1962, Smalley began selling cars for Bill Osborn, who had been a longtime business partner with Cobb Motors.

“I started learning the bookkeeping system and thought I’d stay in that category or in parts and service,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d jump into the sales end.”

Smalley remembers the first car he sold - a 1962 Plymouth to a gentleman who lived on Elm Street.

“I think it was green,” he said.

The changes in cars and the auto sales industry itself are what stand out the most in his memory. The first car sold while he was on the job cost $2,000.

Heaters weren’t a standard feature. In fact, he said car buyers in northern states had to spend an extra $144 for their new vehicles to come equipped with a heater.

Now, he said, new cars can cost tens of thousands of dollars and come equipped with bells and whistles that make it necessary for sales teams to go through special web and off-site training to properly explain to buyers.

“I remember … when you got a new car, you just took a book and started reading about it,” Smalley said of working in car sales. “Now, there’s so much technology on cars, they have to go through all of the different aspects.”

The revealing of new models has changed dramatically over the years as well, he said.

“Years ago we’d hide the new models in the barns and get them cleaned up. The night before the showing, we’d leave the lights off in the showroom. The next day people would come - you wouldn’t believe how many people - and we’d have doughnuts and coffee for them. People would take their coffee break and come in to see the new cars,” he said.

Smalley retired in 1999. Kind of.

Smalley said Cornhusker Auto owner Al Rajaee talked him into staying on staff to do inventory work and line up sales training. He can be found at the dealership during the morning hours.

He has no plans to fully retire anytime soon, a topic about which he and his 83-year-old brother-in-law in Tennessee - who still works 40-hour weeks - often joke. The job keeps him from annoying his wife, Marie, too much, he said with a laugh.

“I’m not going to sit back and just look out the window,” Smalley said. “As long as I can get a driver’s license, I’m going to go to work.”


Information from: Norfolk Daily News, https://www.norfolkdailynews.com

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