Have you ever been to Avondale?

By Richard Karns

Special to the Herald Review

Have you ever been to Avondale?

Avondale is located North of Evart at the intersection of 14 Mile Road and 70th Avenue. In talking with Ron Babb, Avondale is where both sets of his grandparents lived.

Bill and Alice Babb had four children, Ross, Vera, Roy and Virginia; and Dan and Elizabeth Booher had four children, Bernice, Olive, Kenneth and Leota. The children of these two families attended and graduated from Evart Public Schools.

Ross and Leota were in the same grade and graduated in 1933. After graduation, Ross had a variety of jobs until he went into the service. He drove a truck for the highway department when they were building the 115 highway. He worked in the iron foundry in Saginaw and drove cab in Lansing.

In 1934, Leota graduated from Country Normal with a teaching certificate. Classes were held in Evart. With the teaching certificate, Leota started teaching school north of Reed City (I believe Byman School) for two years. While there she stayed with the Anderson family, whose daughter Selma was Leota’s age. To add to her education, for two summers she attended school at Western Michigan School for teachers (now Western Michigan University).

She then taught at Highland No. 8 North on 80th Avenue. She taught for two years at the Bennett School; the building is still standing at the intersection of 90 Avenue and 15 Mile Road. Ron told me that during his mother’s teaching career, she was paid $80 a month, and because she also was responsible for the janitorial work and building the fire in the stove, she was paid an extra $5 a month.

In 1938, Ross and Leota were married and they had three children, Kenneth, Ronald and Marianne. Ross went into the Army in 1941 and was stationed in Orlando, Fla. Ron said his mother told him when they were living there, Orlando wasn’t much bigger than Clare, and she could walk the entire distance of the town pushing his brother Kenneth in a buggy without any difficulty. Ron shared about an opportunity his folks had to buy some land, but because they didn’t plan to stay in Florida after the service, and the lack of money, and not to mention the humidity and bugs, they didn’t buy it. A land salesman while swimming at Titus Beach approached them, offering to sell water frontage property for $5 an acre. That area today is where Cape Kennedy/Canaveral is at.

After being discharged from the service, Ross and Leota came back to Evart to raise their family. Ross had worked for Bill Anderson and had several other jobs before he started Babb Ford Motor Sales with the help of his father. Ross had first wanted to sell Studaebaker cars, but decided on selling Fords instead. In April 1954, he opened Ford Motor Sales in Evart, and in August of 1966, moved to Reed City at its present location.

The company Ross built, with a strong influence from Leota, is still going strong. What is truly grand, is that Leota is still here to appreciate the legacy she and Ross started; Leota turned 100 years old March 22 of this year. Ronald is the second generation, and his and Zoe’s son, Jeff, is the third generation to be at Babb Ford. Both Ross and Leota had a good work ethic. Ron told me his dad worked hard to make Babb Ford a trusted business and “mom was a good wife, and a great mother.”

Customer service was important back in 1974 when I bought my first new car from Ross Babb, and it still is today. Customers want to be treated with respect, and have the knowledge that the company will stand by the work being done on their cars; that is why they keep coming back.