My dad, Harold Coker, started Coker Tire Company in 1958. Dad was raised along with his two brothers, Bob and Bill Coker with an appreciation and love for old cars. Their dad (my grand dad) was an long time mechanic and loved Model A Fords. Known by many as “Pop” Coker, it was rumored he was able to make a Model A Ford run better by simply leaning against its fender!! A couple of years ago, a bunch of folks were touring our offices while Pop was around. I told the group about his legendary Model A mechanical expertise to which someone asked him, “How long you been working on Model A’s, Pop?” Pop scratched his bald head but quickly answered, “I reckon since they was new”!
Hardy Corn Coker was Pop’s real name, but everyone called him Pop. He was the youngest of 13 brothers and sisters raised on a farm in the mountains of western North Carolina. Guess my great grand-dad n great grand-mother ran out of middle names by the time they got to Pop. At least they didn’t name him Hardy “Turnip Greens” Coker! Pop loved to tell a joke or a story so I guarantee you he would approve of my funnin’ about his middle name. And boy he loved attention and the spot light too! Anytime he was the center of attention, he would tell a joke or a story. When telling his joke, he would always start to shake with restrained laughter long before he could get to the punch line. It was as much fun to “watch” him tell a joke as much as it was to listen!
The reason I thought it is important to tell you about Pop is because he was directly responsible for helping my Dad start Coker Tire. You see, my dad founded Coker Tire in 1958 with the help of some money my grandfather (Pop Coker) and grandmother (Mom Coker) received from selling their house several years earlier. My dad never forgot that either. Working or not, there was always a paycheck waiting for Pop every payday long after he retired and I ran the business and until he passed away at 97 years.
Pop taught me a lot of things. We spent a lot of time together when I was a kid on the farm. I am convinced that a big reason he lived so long was that he was always “studyin”. Not studying books studyin, but thinking. Of course it helped he didn’t drink or smoke to but he was always planning, fixing, building or thinking about planting something. I like that. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop and all that stuff. I believe it! It is good to have a purpose. There isn’t much of a better feeling than the physical tired feeling of a hard day’s physical work on the farm too. He taught us all to work hard.
I often tell the story about when Pop taught me how to plow behind a mule. You see, Pop always had a garden right up til the day he died. He hooked Elmer (our mule) up to the laying off plow and set me behind with the reins over my shoulder. He instructed me that “G….ee” meant for Elmer to go right and “Haw” meant for him to go left. He told me how important it was with the laying off plow to plow the furrow straight. Armed with the “mule steering commands” I clicked Elmer to start plowing only to look down and backwards (where I’d been) most of the way to the other end of the garden. My first furrow was really crooked! “Crooked as a dog’s leg!”, Pop would say. He was waiting for me at the end and lamented about my crooked furrow. Without telling me what I did wrong, he encouraged me to try it again going back the other way. Being a brilliant 16 year old teenager and legend in my own mind, I knew I knew enough to do it right so the crooked furrow had to be Elmer’s fault. I stuck to my “head down and looking back” method and you guessed right, it was crooked as a dog’s leg again! This time, Pop taught me that “in order to plow straight, don’t look back, you have to keep your eye on the end of the furrow”.
Pop loved telling people about Coker Tire and his help to my Dad in starting the company. But he was equally proud of my uncle’s successes. They’re both still car guys too. They both recently drove in our Coker Tire Challenge. Check it out at www.cokertirechallenge.com.
I have heard it said that one should never forget the one who brought you to the dance. We will never forget you Pop, me for sure!
From the road,