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Pep Boys celebrate 91 years in auto supply business

Reminisce celebrates the 91st anniversary of Pep Boys auto supply shops with classic photos of their stores from the 1930s and 1940s.

In 1921, four Navy buddies—Manny Rosenfeld, Moe Strauss, W. Graham “Jack” Jackson and Moe Radavitz—pooled $800 to open the Pep Auto Supply Co. in Philadelphia. Since then, the company has grown to more than 700 stores. We’ve rounded up classic photos of Pep Boys shops from the 1930s and 1940s to celebrate their 91st anniversary in the auto supply business.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

William Hampton August 8, 2012 at 11:14 am

This article and pictures really brought back memories. Would like to see more of these auto features. In our town we had a Pep Boys, Western Auto, Firestone, and Sears Automotive stores. I always enjoyed going downtown on Saturdays and visited each store to see what was new. Thank you for the memories and keep them coming.

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michelle August 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm

bring back the creative building! miss those old institutions…

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RL Hill August 10, 2012 at 3:07 pm

I swear, I could smell the rubber! Really took me back.

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Hank Simons August 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Ah the memories, I remember in the early 50′s buying model T coils, bike tire repair kits, anything anyone needed was to be found at Pep Boys, thanks, Pastor Hank

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David Sherick August 10, 2012 at 5:02 pm

I learned to drive in my dad’s 1937 Hudson Terraplane. Would love to see a picture of one.

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Bill August 18, 2012 at 9:06 am

just do a Google search for 1937 Hudson Terraplane – there are loads of pics

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Cecelia Pollack August 10, 2012 at 6:10 pm

My husband, Robert “Bob” Pollack worked at the Pep Boys store on ‘C’ St. in San Diego, CA, in the late 1930′s until he was drafted into the U.S. Army before Pearl Harbor. He was hired by “Manny, Moe and Jack” right out of high school; showed great aptitude for the business, and was manager of the store when he had to leave by Feb. 1941. He was told that a position would always be there for him when he returned. Happily Bob safely survived the war, but made the U.S. Air Force his career. Sadly, Bob died this past Feb.; he would have enjoyed your article about one of his favorite times of his 94+ years. Thanks for bringing happy memories to me, too; I shared all those years with him.

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robert galas August 10, 2012 at 6:35 pm

let me get my roy rogers cowboy hat and 6 gun and hop in the car with dad….boyhood memories…….thank you

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Rick B August 10, 2012 at 7:03 pm

I spent 30 years in the auto business with Chrysler Corp Dealers and these photos remind me of the days you didn’t need an Engineering Degree to get around under the hood of a car. These were the days of plugs,points,condenser,cap and rotor. Where did we go wrong.

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Pete S. August 24, 2012 at 6:45 am

Well said!

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Mike Taylor August 10, 2012 at 9:22 pm

This is almost like the Firestone store when I was growing up. They worked on vehicles, sold parts but, also had sporting goods such as swim fins and masks, baseball equipment, and much more. Now you go into the same store, yes it is still in the same building for over 50 years that I can remember, and all that is in there is some tires and seats so you can wait on your vehicle to get worked on. I sure miss those days.

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Steve August 11, 2012 at 2:15 am

I remember Pep Boys from back in the early ’60s when I used to buy the sirens for my bicycles. You know, the type where you mounted to the frame that went down to the front axle and then hooked the chain to the handlebar and then when you pulled on the chain the siren piveted and made the little part of the siren go against the side of tire, which then made the inside part of the siren spin which gave out that loud, shrill siren noise! They were soooo cool. I never remember getting them from anywhere else but the Pep Boys in Richmond, Va. on Midlothian Turnpike, which was about 60 miles from our house in Rice, Va. It was rare, but special occasions and really special when we did get to make that long trip to the “Big City” a few times a year!!!

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Susa Sumner August 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm

It’s interesting to note the increase of products. The American ingenuity for new ideas is one of the things that makes this country what it is!

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debbie trunnell August 11, 2012 at 1:28 pm

I would like to know how order prints of the Pep Boys pictures

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BILL SOWELL August 12, 2012 at 7:15 am

I, like the other gentleman, could smell the tires in my mind. I had forgotten all about inner-tubes which I think most of the tires had to have back then. I tore up a few fingernails poking them inside the tire. By-the-way, why are there only three figures. What happened to the other Moe? Keep up the good work. Loved the article.

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María Elisabeth MUSSENDEN August 12, 2012 at 7:35 am

I loved those memories! Those were the times when each car model had a personality! Those were the times when boys and young men used to love to learn to fix cars and tinker under their hood!

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Ron Hada August 12, 2012 at 3:22 pm

In 1964, I completed Air Force electronics school in Denver, and was sent to McGuire Air Force Base in NJ. McGuire was located about 1/2 hour from Philadelphia. Having grown up in Oregon, it took a while to learn about the Manny & Moe guys on the billboards and what “Pep Boys” meant. When one of the Pep Boys retired, there was a lengthy article in the Philadelphia Inquirer. I live in Ohio now but I still remember those billboards.

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Ralph Grounds Sr August 13, 2012 at 6:54 am

That was a fine trip down memory lane. We have a Pep Boys here in Henrico Va. and I stop there quite often. I also miss the old Western auto, “Monkey Wards” and the old Army Navy where I bought my boy scout stuff and all kinds of “real” army surplus. Thanks! keep uo the good work.

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Dave Lawler August 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Looks like I am a little older than some of those commenting. I was hoping that among your pictures you might have included some photo shots of the two “Pep Boys’ Autogyros” that went with Admiral Byrd to the South Pole. That was really very creative advertising. An image of the autogyro was also to be seen on the five gallon can of “Gunk” that was sold by Pep Boys. The “South Pole” was also was part of the advertising for their brand of antifreeze.

A wrecked one of the Autogyros is still at the South Pole somewhere ….. the other was scrapped during WWII …. The fabric was cut into small blocks and attached to photographic picture of one of the Autogyros at the South Pole which was given as an award to school children who sold some quantity of War Bonds. I still have mine, hanging on the office wall.

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David Berry August 24, 2012 at 8:11 pm

I would like to see more of the old Auto Parts Store pictures and old car stories.

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William W. Highland September 20, 2012 at 12:22 am

Pep Boys were started by four Navy buddies. What ever happen to the fourth man, that was mentioned in your Aug/Sept. 2012 issue?

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