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Lind: Fargo man has fond memories of classic cars

That was some beauty, the car in which Jerral Jones learned how to drive. It was a 1937 Willys, it belonged to Jerral's father on the farm in Kentucky, and Jerral was 16 in 1944 when he learned the art of driving in it. Eventually he bought his o...

1937 Willys
Jerral Jones sits in his 1937 Willys in Medora, N.D., where the car took second place in a car show. Special to The Forum

That was some beauty, the car in which Jerral Jones learned how to drive.

It was a 1937 Willys, it belonged to Jerral's father on the farm in Kentucky, and Jerral was 16 in 1944 when he learned the art of driving in it.

Eventually he bought his own car, a 1941 Chevy. But he never forgot that Willys.

The 1950s were big years for Jerral. He graduated from North Central University, Minneapolis, in 1950; was ordained an Assemblies of God pastor; married his wife, Marilyn, in 1951; and spent the rest of the decade serving Assemblies churches in New Auburn, Sleepy Eye and Pine City, Minn.

In 1960, they moved to Fargo, where Jerral worked for Fargo Linoleum, sold ads for KUTT Radio (now KQWB), and then worked for Fargo Rubber Stamp, Richtman's Printing and Fargo Tank and Steel.

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One day in 1978, he was in Devils Lake, N.D., where on a car dealer's lot he spotted a special car: a 1937 Willys, identical to the one he'd driven in Kentucky other than the color.

'Ran like a Swiss watch'

He wanted to buy it but couldn't afford it. A few days later, though, the dealer called him, offering a lower price. Jerral took him up on it. And he had his car, complete with the original title, original finance papers, original tires.

Even now, 31 years later, he remembers how many miles were on it: 19,967.

Jerral proudly drove it back to Fargo, stopping only in Northwood, N.D., to put in a new battery.

He had other cars for every-day driving, but occasionally he drove the Willys just for fun.

"It was a solid car," he says, "with a wonderful finish, and it ran like a Swiss watch."

The car took second place in an auto show in Medora, N.D., one year, and the Joneses often drove it in parades; one time, somewhat accidentally.

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He and Marilyn and a couple of friends came out of the Moorhead Center Mall after eating there, bound for a wedding in Dilworth. But a parade blocked the street.

"As we waited," he says, "I kept saying my car looks as good as those in the parade." So, when he saw a gap in the parade, he pulled into it, even though Marilyn wasn't sure it was a good idea.

"We went down the street waving to the crowd, who did not know we were not a part of the parade plans. We all enjoyed the sport of it." Including, it turned out, his wife.

On to Pennsylvania

One day a group of collectors of old cars came through Fargo on a coast-to-coast tour.

Somehow, one of the men heard about Jerral's Willys, came to see it, and after taking one look, wrote out a check for it, commenting, no doubt accurately, that "This is the first time I ever bought a car in 10 minutes in Fargo, North Dakota." But he, at age 70, was fulfilling a boyhood dream of owning one.

That was in 1991. Five years later, Jerral and Marilyn visited the man's home near Pittsburgh and saw their Willys on display with other old cars, including one once driven by Thomas Edison.

But the Joneses' car had a special spot, under a sign reading "Willys parking only."

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And on to Ohio

Jerral has learned that the man who bought his car has since died and his family has donated the Willys to the Crawford Auto and Aviation Museum in Cleveland.

But the car, originally black, has been painted maroon. "I felt so bad" about that, Jerral says.

Today, Jerral does pulpit supply for area churches, keeps the house in tip-top shape and enjoys his and Marilyn's retirement years.

He drives two cars: a 1995 Buick LeSabre and a 1998 Dodge Grand Caravan. But he still has fond memories of that old car.

In fact, he wouldn't mind it at all if someone gave him the Willys.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to 241-5487; or

e-mail blind@forumcomm.com

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