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InMarket: What I owe my man Frenchie

🕐 4 min read

What I owe Frenchie Life is not like a bowl of chocolates. To me, it’s a crapshoot. Forgive me if this story is a bit muddled, but I wouldn’t have even thought about it if the HEB Chamber of Commerce hadn’t asked me to speak at their luncheon. I readily accepted because I started my business reporting career about 30 years ago at the late, great Mid-Cities Daily News that covered the mighty suburbs of Hurst, Euless, Bedford, Watauga and Keller.

To get hired there, I performed an almost Survivor-like competition with another reporter. My assignment, do a story on Frenchie, a guy who owned sort of a combination car repair shop, junk yard and private swimming pool on some property near some apartments. The apartment owners complained about Frenchie’s property, claiming they saw rats, etc. As I recall, the apartments weren’t the Ritz, but they had a point. The city was ready to take Frenchie, a longtime area business owner, to court to force him either clean up his business or move. They made it clear they’d prefer if he’d move, as his property was grandfathered and really no longer zoned for whatever a combination auto repair shop and swimming pool is zoned for.

Frenchie, in my memory, was a shade-tree mechanic-type guy with a cigarette behind his ear. Frenchie wouldn’t talk to any reporters, but my job was find a way to talk to him. Otherwise, the other guy I competed against would get the job. I forget what story he was assigned. I just remember he complained about the coffee in the break room. Maybe just because of the stumbling, blind innocence of youth, I walked into Frenchie’s business and asked for an interview. Frenchie began berating reporters in general and then gave me the third degree: You’re from Dallas, ain’t ya? No, sir. Fort Worth. Southwest? No, sir. Paschal. You all fancied up. Why you wearin’ a damn tie? It’s what reporters do, we have to have something to loosen late in the day when we take our first drink.

Bet ya got a college degree? What school? TCU, but I had to go to TCJC first to afford it. What did you do growin’ up? I knew I had him there. I worked in my grandfather’s junkyard. What junkyard your grandfather own? Lowe’s Trailers and Wrecking Yard. You’re Mr. Lowe’s grandson? Yes sir. We had established some kind of junkyard dog connection.

Frenchie talked to me. I got the job. Later on, Bedford took Frenchie to court alleging he had junk cars on his property, a zoning violation Frenchie had his army of grease monkeys drive the variety of Fords, Chevys and Plymouths from the ‘60s and ‘70s down to the court to prove they weren’t junk cars. Frenchie won. Thanks Frenchie. Car crazy Fort Worth’s Paun Peters has always had an interest in collecting classic automobiles. It started when he was 16 and eyed a Shelby Mustang in a neighbor’s driveway. As president of Western Production Co., he’s had a chance to indulge his interest and start his own classic car collection. As a result he visits several automobile auctions around the country, including the Mecum Auction in Monterey, Calif., earlier this summer. That was where Peters successfully bid on a 1953 MG TD Roadster, a British classic car. The MG TD Roadster was among England’s famous Midget Cars during the 1950s. The car has been restored, and includes a convertible canvas top, five chrome wire-spoke wheels and a spectacular two-tone maize/caramel finish. “I was looking for a car that would create excitement,” said Peters. “It has beautiful styling and, to me, evokes the image of cruising the English countryside with the top down.” But he’s not going to own it long. Peters and his wife, Magdaline, have donated the classic MG to support the University of North Texas Health Science Center’s education, discovery and health care mission – Creating Solutions for a Healthier Community. Raffle tickets are $100 each and only 1,000 will be sold. Every raffle ticket purchased benefits the UNTHSC mission, Peters said. Appropriately enough, this year’s fundraiser for the Health Science Center, its second annual “An Evening with a Legend” fundraiser, features fellow auto collector Jay Leno. The former Tonight Show host owns 130 classics and is in talks with CNBC to do a show focusing on his car collection titled Jay Leno’s Garage. Who knows? Maybe Leno will buy a ticket himself and the car might show up on Leno’s new program? The “Legend” event is Nov. 6 at 8 p.m. at Bass Performance Hall. www.eveningwithalegend.com.  

Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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