The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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June 11, 2014

A closer look at the McEleneys' history

Leo and Emmett McEleney started their business in 1914. Now, 100 years of service to the community has been accomplished. They started with Jeffery automobiles, and it was their mechanical prowess (Emmett) and business sense (Leo) which really helped them. In those days, they had to be able to make parts for cars that they sold, as there were no parts catalogs or salvage businesses to lean on. Also, they had to survive much adversity.

The brothers sold their first automobile to William Disbrow and took in-trade a 1911 Marmon. They used it to learn to drive and to work on. Emmett was 28 and Leo 21 in that year. After World War I, they sold Oakland, Reo, and Rickenbacker cars too. McEleney Motors took a big step up in 1927, when they got the Oldsmobile franchise, and in 1958 when they bought out Manning-Norbury on Sixth Avenue South to obtain a Chevrolet dealership. In 1958, they added Cadillac, and Toyota was added in 1972.

Tom McEleney mentions that the biggest thing he and others recall is, “It was a family in which many people gave their lifetime to working at McEleney’s— and they loved it.” We recall so many faithful employees (apologies to many not mentioned), a few were: Jack Tigh, from Manning’s; Del Schmidt, also a councilman; Soren Sorenson; Jack Struve; Otto Stuit; Paul Roth; Dave Hinerichsen; and Mike Clemence. Then there was the special friend of Warren’s and trusted key employee, Tom Pladna. Tom is still employed part time at McEleney’s — his 62nd year with the company. Bob Eads was their finance man for over 40 years.

Here is an example of McEleney employees’ diligence. It illustrates why people stayed and how much they loved their work. Benny Krumplemann changed oil and had a bay in the front — right near a showroom. He would go around collecting everyone’s dirty rags. He’d fold them twice and keep them handy for his very dirty work with oil filters and dip sticks. He was one of the first recyclers.

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