In 1948, Howard Hevener – who owned Hevener Hereford Farm in Arbovale – bought a slightly used Willys C2GA Jeep, and the Jeep has remained on the farm and in the Hevener family ever since.
“He told me he got it – it had six hundred miles on it and he paid eight hundred dollars for it or it was the other way around,” Howard’s son, Bill said. “It was almost brand new. The odometer on it is only showing 35,000 miles. It might not be right, but the miles were accumulated around here and running up in the mountains.”
Howard passed away in 2001 and afterward, Bill parked the Jeep in the barn and left it there until a couple years ago when he decided to see if the workhorse still had some power in it.
“I towed it to Tom’s Garage up in North Fork, and he had it running within the day,” Bill said. “While it was there, he put new brakes on it. He did a good many things. It was running pretty good, and I drove it back home.”
While the Jeep was at the garage, someone expressed an interest in buying it. Bill discussed the matter with him and settled on a price, but the Jeep had other plans. When the gentleman came to the farm to see the Jeep, it wouldn’t start and the deal fell through.
It seems the Jeep wanted to stay on the farm and from that point, Bill decided that was what he would do with it.
In addition to being used by Howard on the farm to pull the hay rake and hay wagons, and to check on the cattle, the Jeep was used for sightseeing, joyrides and driving lessons.
“At the Bartow Drive-In, they had one night a week where a whole carload could get in [for one price],” Bill recalled. “It was cheap. It was either fifty cents or a dollar, I can’t remember, but my dad would gather up all the kids around, and they’d pile in that Jeep. It wound up with seven or eight kids in it, going to the drive-in.”
Bill also remembers stories others have told him through the years. Brothers Wendell and Ronnie Monk both worked for Howard on the farm and they used to tell Bill about the rare moments when Howard let them borrow the Jeep.
“They said sometimes they worked late and Howard would say, ‘well, you guys just take that Jeep on home, I won’t have to drive you home tonight,’” Bill said. “And my gosh, they said, ‘we thought we’d died and gone to heaven. We’d get that Jeep, and we’d get home and eat supper. We’d take off in that thing all over the back roads. We had such a good time.’”
Recently, Bill was telling the boys’ sister, Joan Barkley, about her brothers escapades in the Jeep and she had a story of her own.
“She said, ‘well, guess what Bill, your dad taught me how to drive in that Jeep,’” Bill shared. “I thought that was really cool.”
After Howard got out of the farming business, he was a real estate agent in the county. Bill was talking to a former client, Rich Laska, who recalled a time when Howard took him and his wife, Marcia, out to see several listings.
“He said, ‘your dad was showing me and Marcia around on Allegheny Mountain in that Jeep. We’d gone to look at some farms and every time Howard would stop, he’d say get out and throw a block under the wheel, throw a rock under there, the brakes aren’t very good,’” Bill said.
“It has a lot of history.”
Bill recalls snowy days when he would sleigh ride on the hill and Howard would pull him back to the top with the Jeep so he didn’t have to walk.
“A lot of times we had to walk it, but once in a while he’d bring that Jeep and pull us,” he said. “Man that was great – get a ride back up the hill.”
Growing up around the Jeep may have had an influence on Bill’s choice of automobiles when he became an adult. After he graduated from college, he had a Jeep and Chrysler dealership in Bartow and has owned several Jeeps through the years.
“I’ve always liked the Jeep,” he said. “I’ve always had a Jeep, too, and that could have had a lot of influence.”
In its 74 years of existence, the Jeep has been the source for many memories, and Bill hopes it will continue to be a memory maker for future generations.
“It’s good-looking, sharp, it’s really cool,” he said. “I pulled it back up in the barn where it sits and it’s going to sit until the next generation comes around.”