By Frances Benell, Moulton, Udell
Moravia and Unionville
---- — This story starts a series on unusual people, who in their times had the talents needed, who mattered to the people of Moravia in some way or another. I will be featuring both early and latter day people. If you have a suggestions for me, call (641) 895-3592.
Art and Janes Fox
My father was very proud of his neighbor, Art Fox. He was proud because Art was the best mechanic in southern Iowa and northern Missouri.
Dad would tell his brothers-in-law present at the time, “You guys are just shade-tree mechanics. Art Fox is the only mechanic in this are who makes sure I can get to Morrells, every day, every week, I have to be there.
Art and Janet Fox were taking a chance on opening a new mechanic business in Moravia. He had been a paid mechanic since he was 14 in 1928. Art was born in a mining camp near Numa. He attended school in the winter months and had a wrench in his hand, working as a mechanic in the summers. Janet was sure they could do it.
Art said, “My father was mechanically inclined and my brothers fixed cars. You might say I cut my eye-teeth on Model Ts and Model As.”
Moving to Moravia in 1946, involved finding housing and buying a building in Moravia to open a business. He worked two years servicing Allis Chalmers equipment. Then, in 1948, the Foxes purchased a former ten pin alley and restaurant at 121 W. Chariton St. in Moravia. Diligently they remodeled the building into an auto repair who. Art Fox Garage would remain 31 years in those quarters.
“Cars have become more complicated, no comparison with the early models like the Model T. The early cars didn’t have filters. If you could drive a Model T for 30,000 over the dirt roads without an overhaul, you were lucky,” said Art.
Through the years, Art’s mechanical skills and savvy developed with the automotive industry. He has done every facet of auto repair.
“I used to do body work. We used hot lead and files. I mixed my own paint too. kIt was hard work, but it was nice to see what you could do,” said Art.
Art cited to primary reasons for being an independent business man, money and being your own boss.
But when the Foxes opened the doors of the garage, there was some difficulty.
“It was after the war,” said Art. “We had plenty of work, but it was hard to buy parts. Many times we repaired old parts or made new ones right here.”
Standing in the garage near a jacked up car, Mrs. Fox described what she felt was the key to success for the family owned business. She kept the books for the business and with all decisions made for the garage.
“Pay the business bills first,” said Janet. “The family must be willing to live on what’s left. And we have never gone into debt for luxuries. The family must be willing to sacrifice luxuries for the good of the business. It’s worked for us.”
Both Art and Janet were still active in community affairs. Art served on the City Council in the 1950s, Janet was active in the Moravia Garden Club, The Historical Society and many other activities. Janet was very knowledgeable about how to organize events and sometimes ran into difficulties, but she usually won out because she was correct.
The Foxes sold their businesses in 1997 and Art began his retirement in April of that year.
Asked to give his impression on retirement, Art crossed his arms over his worn green mechanics shirt and said, “I’e worked 50 years to be able to retire and I’m ready to do it.”
Thanks to Marchelle Walter and C.D. Dolittle for information.