Ray Shearer—business owner?

In the family stories I was told about my father’s father’s father Ray Z. Shearer, Ray was always portrayed as a poor man, but one who was a very capable, mechanically minded man who worked for a bunch of different garages as mechanic, drove a truck for a while, and even raced dirt track race cars. The details were thin, but consistent. But I was given the impression that the most important parts of his work history were included in this brief overview. I figured that if he had been involved in something grand—for instance, let’s imagine that he established and ran his own business, that he advertised it extensively in the local paper, that he built a custom race car in that business, and that he then watched as his business tragically burnt to the ground—well, that surely would have merited a mention in the brief story of Ray’s working life. Right?

So imagine my surprise when I found an advertisement in the August 1, 1919, edition of The Palco News (of Palco, Kansas) for The Star Garage, open day and night, Ray Shearer, proprietor. How had no one managed to remember such a big deal, especially for a man of apparently rather modest means?

After finding this 100-year-old ad, I did a deep dive and looked for any and all mentions of The Star Garage in local papers. What I found was over 50 mentions of Ray Shearer and/or The Star Garage in The Palco News between January 30, 1919, and March 5, 1920. Most of these are ads belonging to one of several advertising runs in the newspaper, and just a couple mentions are actual news pieces about Ray or The Star Garage. But even the advertisements have a story to tell.

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A letter from a lost father

1932-07-02 Ray Shearer letter page 1From what I’ve heard, my grandfather, Vernon Black, didn’t get much from his biological father—not even his surname. Vernon’s mother, Catalina Edel, divorced Vernon’s biological father, Zyonia Ray Shearer, when Vernon was only 5½ years old “on the ground of gross neglect of duty.” On several occasions, my grandfather even denied that Ray Shearer (the name his father went by) was his father. In his later years, my grandfather was somewhat more forthcoming about his biological father, but it was clear that Vernon held onto a lot of resentment for Ray.

I’ve never seen a picture of my great-grandfather Ray Shearer, nor do I know of any items that once belonged to Ray. What little I know of Ray I learned from my grandfather’s sister, Anelia (short for her given name of Anna Cornelia) Shearer. She was just a little over a year old when Ray left the family, but she kept his last name and kept his memory alive.

I’ve been going through a stack of papers and letters from my grandfather’s teenage years, and I found one envelope that was particularly worn out and discolored (as compared to the relatively clean envelopes that contained letters from Vernon’s friends and girlfriends). When I removed the letter contained in the worn envelope, I was surprised to see that it was a letter from Ray to Vernon, dated July 2, 1932, when Vernon was 15½ years old.

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