The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


June 11, 2014

A closer look at the McEleneys' history


Many remember Philip “Flip” Soesbe, who may well have been Leo’s first non-family employee. He lived across the alley from the agency and was sort of tricked into joining. Leo had all but sold a car to an individual, but he wanted Flip to come aboard. So, he asked Flip if he’d take the car “up to the buyer and show it to him and talk it up.” Well, that was the beginning of a long association with the dealership. Much later, Flip retired into a job that really gave the agency a positive boost — that of courtesy car driver. First, it was retired parts manager Cecil Manning who filled that job — assisted by Flip, who delivered cars each evening that were already serviced and that Cecil had picked up early in the morning. In more recent years, we all think of much-beloved Al Wood, who is known to all.

After starting the business, Leo went into World War I as a truck driver, which also gave him splendid experience. He was the central business face for the dealership through the years and did such good community things as run for the Iowa State Senate, promote the acquisition of Schick Hospital for the community, and train all the early car business employees. The McEleneys have always been involved with Clinton and Lyons’ best civic interests in a very positive way. Warren took over as the dealership leader in 1947, and Leo retired to California in 1954. John later became president, and now, son Drew is taking over the reins.

During World War II, it was virtually impossible for anyone to get new cars. Leo started the bowling alley to get by and they sold “lugnut locks,” because tires were at a premium and often stolen. They had a regular gas station on the corner for many of those years — anything to make a buck. Leo was the consummate businessman and even took great pains with his empty show window. One of his best window scenes was a 1932 coupe, with a golf bag carrier and a ‘green’ nearby. People noticed.

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