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Patchetts-Hendy Co., Patchetts & Carstensen
Patchetts-Hendy Co., 1911-1914; Crows Landing, California; Patchetts & Carstensen aka (Patchett and Carstensen), 1914-1923; Patchetts & Carstensen, Inc., 1923-1937; Patchetts Bus and Transportation Co. 1937-1968; Patchetts Ford, 1937-2000s; Newman, California; 2000s-present, Turlock, California; Patchett & Wight Ford-Lincoln, 1937-1950s, Modesto, California
 
Associated Firms
Gillig Bros., Ford Motor Co.
     

Although the business survives as one of the nation’s longest-lived Ford Motor Co. dealers (Patchetts Ford in Turlock, Calif.), few remember they were once a major player in Central California’s school and transit bus manufacturing business. While many firms claim to have constructed ‘The First School Bus’; Patchetts-Hendy's, constructed in 1914 on a Model T fitted with a Smith Form-A-Truck, is amongst the earliest, it's only contemporary being Wayne Works' 1914“motorized school car” which was also constructed using a similarly-outfitted Model T chassis.

The firm's driving force was Franklin Arthur 'Patch' Patchett, born on January 19, 1881 in an adobe house alongside the Salinas River in San Miguel, San Luis Obispo County, California to John Armstrong (b. Nov. 18, 1840 - d. Jan. 13, 1903) and Mary Olive (Carpenter, b. Aug. 12, 1858 - d. Feb.27, 1946) Patchett. Franklin’s siblings included Allie M. (b.1882); Albert P. (b.1884); Mary E. (b.1887); Irene A. (b.1888); John M. (b.1889); Ray C. (b.1891); Dosha (b.1891); Walter C. (b.1894); and Ulysses Arnold (b.1899) Patchett.

His parents, both Iowa-born sheep farmers, came to California in the early 1850s via Missouri, settling in San Luis Obispo County. In 1885 the Patchett family moved to Sonoma County, where Frank attended the local schoolhouse while spending his afternoons and weekend tending to his family’s livestock. He developed an early interest in everything mechanical, taking a course in civil engineering from Scranton, Pennsylvania’s International Correspondence School.

In 1900, nineteen-year-old ‘Patch’ took a position with Benjamin H. Crow pitching hay and gathering wheat in Crows Landing, a small community located at the heart of California's dairy cream industry. His intelligence and resourcefulness led to a position with John Stewart as manager of his creamery. He subsequently set up his own cream separator plant which transported the precious liquid by rail to Oakland and points west. Between 1900 and 1911 Patch worked for the following Stanislaus County creameries; Stewarts, Oakland, Los Banos, Dos Palos and Villa Manucha.

On April 2, 1902 he married Francis E. ‘Fannie’ Byers (b.1881-d. 1961) and to the blessed union were born three children: Franklin Jr. (b.1903-d.1977), Marion Q. (b. 1905-d.1965) and Esther (b.1906-d.1999) Patchett. They divorced in 1909 and he remarried, on February 21, 1910, to Laura D. Hendy (b.1891-d.1966), a native of Worthington, Minnesota whose parents, Joseph and Harriet Hendy, moved to Modesto, Stanislaus County, California where they owned a large farm. Patch’s union with Laura produced two more offspring; Rhoda Muriel and Anita Glasier Patchett. (Following the death of his second wife Laura, in 1966, Patchett married for a third time to Ruth Studley (b.1900-d.1976).)

In 1911 Patch, in partnership with his brothers John M. and Ray C. Patchett and brother-in-law, Lloyd Hendy, were awarded the Ford Motor Co. distributorship for the western half of Stanislaus County, California. Organized as Patchetts & Hendy, they established a 'Ford Garage' in Crows Landing. For the first couple years Patch remained involved in the dairy industry letting his partners handle the day-to-day affairs of the Ford distributroship. In 1913 the firm was reorganized as a co-partnership, the Monday April 14, 1913 edition of the Modesto Evening News reporting:

“Article of Co-Partnership of the Patchetts-Hendy Company

“State of California, County of Stanislaus.

“We the undersigned, do hereby certify that we are partners transacting business in this state, in the County of Stanislaus, under the firm name and style of ‘The Patchetts-Hendy Co. That the names of all of the members of said co-partnership are F.A. Patchett, J.M. Patchett, R.C. Patchett and Lloyd Hendy.

“And that the places of our residence are set opposite our respective names hereto subscribed.

“In witness whereof, we have hereunto set our names this 28th day of February, one thousand nine hundred and thirteen.

“F.A. Patchett, residing at Crows Landing, California
“J.M. Patchett, residing at Crows Landing, California
“R.C. Patchett, residing at Crowe Landing, California
“Lloyd Henry, residing at Crows Landing, California.”

As business increased they purchased a second garage located 6 miles north of Crows Landing in Patterson, California.  A third Ford sales and service outlet was subsequently established in Newman, California, a small village located 6 miles south of Crows Landing. Located in the first floor of the Giovannoni building on P Street, Patchetts & Hendy’s Newman branch was managed by a new member of the firm named Hans C. Carstensen, who was a former butcher and carriage painter.

Hans Christian Carstensen (b. Aug. 20, 1876 in Denmark/Germany – d. Oct. 23, 1934 in Stanislaus County, California) emigrated to the US from Bremen, Germany on board the Lloyd’s steamer SS Spree, arriving at New York on October 5, 1893. Trained as a carriage painter he moved to California where he went to live with his cousin, Sanke Carstensen, who owned a farm outside of the village of Newman, Stanislaus County, California. Carstensen became a US citizen on March 28, 1900 in Stanislaus County Courthouse, Modesto, California. The 1910 US Census lists Hans in Newman, California, his occupation as ‘butcher’, most likely in the butcher shop of Chris Willson, with whom he boarded.

In late 1913, Patchetts-Hendy received a commission to construct a school hack for use in transporting elementary school students to and from school in Newman. According to a 1972 interview with Patchett, the bus was built upon the request of W.W. Giddings, a Newman school trustee who approached the firm in late 1913 stating, “Something has to be done to get these kids to school.”

The bus was constructed using a 20 horsepower Ford Model T chassis to which a Smith Form-A-Truck frame extension and rear end were attached, making the standard Ľ-ton Model T into a truck capable of hauling one ton or more of cargo.

The $350 1-ton Smith Form-A-Truck kit increased the wheelbase to 125-inches and included heavy-duty rear springs. The pneumatic rear tires and wooden wheels of the regular Ford are put on the front axle and replaced by extra heavy wooden wheels fitted with 3 ˝-inch solid rubber tires at the rear. The standard Ford rear axle was used as a jackshaft on which small sprockets connect to the large sprockets on the rear wheels via heavy-duty drive chains.

Carstensen constructed a wooden platform body with inward-facing bi-lateral bench seats that could hold up to 20 small students. A lightweight roof with a nitrite-coated canvas top was installed over the seats and fitted with rolled-up canvas windows which could be used in the event of inclement weather. Unlike military trucks of the era, the school hack’s canvas sides were fitted with clear celluloid panels so the student could see out the sides.

The single bus, which was operated by Hans C. Carstensen, its constructor, was very popular and a companion bench-seat equipped trailer was soon required – the girls riding in the Model T bus and the boys in the trailer. Even in temperate California, the roads were still largely unimproved dirt trails and on one occasion a particularly bumpy stretch sent the boys’ trailer on its side. In his 1972 interview Patchett recalled:

“Nobody got hurt, but the next day we got letters from the boys saying they refused to ride in the trailer anymore, we built another bus right away and it took care of that.”

A ride to school was not free back in those days, the 12˝ cent fare went to the owner-operator (Patchetts & Hendy) and was not subsidized by the school district who were essentially uninvolved in the operation.

The 1915 Modesto, Turlock and Stanislaus County Directory listed the following entries under the city of Newman:

“Carstensen, Hans C. (Ford Garage)

“Ford Garage (Frank A. Patchett, H.C. Carstensen)

“Patchetts-Hendy Co. (F.A. Patchetts, mgr.) Garage

“Patchett, Frank A. (Ford Garage)”

In August of 1914 Franklin A. Patchett bought out his brothers and went into business with Hans C. Carstensen forming Patchetts & Carstensen. Lloyd Hendy retained an interest in the new firm as did Franklin’s wife Laura. They subsequently discontinued the Crows Landing operations, electing to keep just two Ford Garages, the new one in Newman and the older one 12 miles to the north in Patterson which was operated until December 31, 1919, when it was consolidated into an all-new facility located in Newman.

A plot of land was purchased on the corner of N and Kern streets, Newman and in July, 1919, Patchetts & Carstensen began erecting a 150 ft. x 150 ft., (22,500 sq. ft.) fireproof building, which at the time was the largest and best-equipped Ford garage in the state. The showroom was equipped with large 8’ high plate glass windows at street level with a well-lit interior and office complex. Completed on December 1, 1919, the reinforced concrete structure was equipped with a Johns-Manville asbestos roof, making it thoroughly fireproof, thus providing the lowest insurance rate available.

In addition to their Ford Garage and school bus operations, Patchett and Carstensen operated an early ‘drive it yourself’ Model T rental business and also distributed Fordson Tractors and Atwater Kent radio receivers. Another Smith Form-A-Truck was used in the construction of a Model T fire engine for the Newman Fire Dept., which remained housed in the Ford Garage until the city built their own fire hall.

During the late teens additional school buses were constructed for other Central Californian schools districts. Five $500 school hacks were sold to the Dos Palos School District and six more were sold to trustees of the Turlock School District. In addition to the coaches already in operation for Newman’s elementary school, Patchetts & Carstensen supplied coaches to students at Newman’s Orestimba Union High School. They also furnished bus service to other districts located in Patterson, Crows Landing and Westley, California.

Demand for school buses increased in the early 1920s and 1923 Patchetts & Carstensen was recapitalized as a $150,000 stock company, becoming Patchetts & Carstensen, Inc. It’s officers included: Franklin A. Patchett, Pres.; Hans С. Carstensen, Vice-Pres.; Laura D. Patchett, Sec., its directors: Hans С. Carstensen, Lloyd Hendy, Franklin A. Patchett, Laura D. Patchett and Morris Vincent, the February 16th, 1923 edition of the Modesto Evening News reporting:

“Auto Dealers Reorganize

“Newman, Feb. 16 – Patchetts and Carstensen, Newman auto dealers, are filing articles of incorporation, forming a stock company under the same name with a capital of $100,000 common stock and $50,000 preferred. The latter will be issued as required. F.H. Patchett, N.C. Carstensen and Laura Patchett are directors.”

The news was reported to the automobile trades in the March 1923 issue of Motor West:

“Newman, Cal. - Patchetts & Carstensen have incorporated for $150,000 to do a general automobile and accessory sales business.”

Although they specialized in school buses, several fleets of transit and intercity coaches were manufactured by the firm in the mid-twenties. A fleet of 20 luxurious intercity coaches were built for Dave Walsinger, one of the early members of the Santa Fe Trails bus system based out of Los Angeles. The city of Phoenix, Arizona, purchased 8 Patchetts and Carstensen transit coaches and in 1924 two of the firm’s buses were delivered to a customer in Japan. An order of transit buses for the City of Oakland was mentioned in the July 10, 1928 edition of the Modesto News Herald:

“Newman Plant Gets Car Order: Eight Street Buses To Be Furnished For City of Oakland

“Newman, July 9. – Eight gasoline driven street cars were ordered from Patchetts and Carstensen this week for operation on the streets of Oakland and another order for as many more is promised soon.

“This order, the largest received by the local manufacturers, will provide extra work for a corps of extra helpers. At the present time a large force is engaged in making up school buses for shipment to various points.

“The Oakland cars will carry ten passengers and are similar in type to those built last year for the Monterey Grove service.”

The September 9, 1928 edition of the Modesto News Herald announced the delivery of 2 school buses to the Hilmar, California, high school:

“New Hilmar School Busses Delivered

“Hilmar, Sept. 8 – Two new school buses have been delivered to the Hilmar Union High School by Patchett and Carstensen of Newman. Drivers of the new busses will be Eckland and Fleshman.”

The ‘Do You Know Your Neighbor?’ column of the June 30, 1929 edition of the Modesto News Herald featured Franklin A. Patchett:

“Franklin Arthur Patchett, Newman garage man was born at San Miguel San Luis Obispo County.

“At the age of 4 he moved with his parents to Sonoma County where his father, a veteran of the Spanish American War, engaged in sheep raising.

“His early education was acquired in the Sonoma schools and through correspondence school courses.

“In 1900 he came to Stanislaus County locating at Crow Landing where he had charge of a creamery for four years during the early development of the dairy business on the West Side.

“During his managership of the creamery Patchett married Miss Laura Hendy of Modesto. Two daughters Rhoda and Anita were born at Crows Landing.

“Patchett next moved to Newman and started a garage and automobile sales agency, a business in which he still is engaged.

“Patchett is a member of the I.O.O.F. and has taken an active part in the development of Newman.”

Patch's brother-in-law and business partner, Lloyd Hendy passed away unexpectedly in mid-1931, the May 26, 1931 edition of the Modesto News Herald reporting:

“Pneumonia Fatal To Newman Salesman

“A resident of Stanislaus County for thirty years, Lloyd Hendy, 38, sales manager for a Newman automobile company, died in a Modesto hospital on Monday.

“He suffered an attack of pneumonia upon returning to Newman from a fishing trip in Northern California a week ago.

“Hendy, a native of Minnesota, had lived on the West Side since 1911. He was a member of the Newman Post, American Legion.

“Besides his widow, Mrs. Florence Hendy, he leaves a daughter, Elen B. Hendy of Newman; a brother, Glen Hendy of Patterson, and three sisters, Mrs. Laura Patchett of Newman, Mrs. Lillian Smith of Patterson and Mrs. Harriet Bright of San Jose.

“Funeral Services will be held in the Shannon Funeral Chapel Thursday at 10 A.M. Interment will be in Modesto.”

The July 2, 1932 edition of the Modesto New Herald reported that Hilmar High School had recently ordered another new school bus:

“It was stated that the new truck which has been purchased for a school bus was delivered yesterday to Patchetts and Carstensen in Newman, who have the contract to build the body.”

The August 26, 1932 edition of the Modesto New Herald announced that the Hilmar Union high school's buses were being fitted with new window sashes equipped with safety glass:

“Buses Ordered Repaired By Trustees At Special Meeting

“Hilmar, Aug 26 – At a special meeting opf the trustees of Hilmar Union High School Tuesday Night. Contracts were let to bring the school busses up to legal requirements. The bid of Patchett and Carstensen of Newman was accepted to install shatter-proof glass in three old busses and other minor requirements were awarded.”

In 1933 Patchetts & Carstensen shipped a small fleet of sightseeing coaches to Oahu, Hawaii which were used to transport visitors in an around Honolulu and Waikiki Beach.

The partner's Ford Garage continued to prosper, ‘The Dealers’ column of a 1934 issue of Ford News, revealed they had found homes for 40 new Fords in a 30-day period:

“What is said to have been an all-time record for dealers of Northern California in communities of 1,100 population was established by Patchetts & Carstensen in Newman, where they delivered forty Ford cars to retail purchasers within thirty days. Mr. Patchett, whose likeness appears above, is a leading member of the community.”

The 1934 Newman directory lists the following familiar names:

“Patchetts & Carstensen (Franklin A. Patchett, pres.; Hans C. Carstensen, vice president) auto dealers, 215 No. N.

“Franklin A. Patchett (president, Patchetts & Carstensen), r. 157 No. R. (wife Laura)

“Hans C. Carstensen (vice president, Patchetts & Carstensen), r. 315 No. S.”

Hans C. Carstensen passed away on October 23, 1934 at the age of 58.

A Patchetts & Carstensen bus was included in a West Coast Ford Motor Co. promotional tour, the May 2, 1935 edition of the San Mateo Times reporting:

“Ford Caravan Making Tour:

“A Ford commercial and industrial caravan is making a demonstration tour of the territory under the Ford Motor company, Richmond branch — Northern California, Southern Oregon and Western Nevada. On this Ford V-8 merchandising trek, the equipment in the caravan will be demonstrated before thousands of people in some fifty-two cities and towns of the vast region, according to Don Stewart of El Camino Motors, local Ford dealers.

“There are twelve units in the transportation parade, including light delivery equipment, heavy duty trucks and a large school bus. Among the Ford products in this automotive ‘road show’ is a 157-inch, closed cab, stake body truck, carrying a completely cut-away Ford V-8 truck chassis. There is also one closed cab platform truck carrying a comprehensive Ford parts display.

“Manufacturers of equipment of various types are represented in the caravan. Gar Wood Industries sent out two units, a Ford truck with two-yard dump body and another V-8 carrying an open express body.

“There is a Fabco six-wheeler behind a 157-inch Ford truck, and the Universal Equipment company has contributed a Warford four-wheel drive. The school bus is by Patchetts and Carstensen. The Ford Motor company's equipment includes a closed cab pickup, 112-inch panel delivery, 112- inch sedan delivery and 131 1/2-inch panel job.”

The September 3, 1936 edition of the Placerville Mountain Democrat revelas the firm was now producing all-steel school buses:

“School bells ring Monday morning at El Dorado County high school, Placerville grammar school, and at Georgetown, Camino, Pleasant Valley and Buckeye district schools…

“The high school on Friday evening received a new 48-passenger bus built on a GMC chassis purchased through Rupley Brothers. It is a Patchetts & Carstensen all-steel body and will be assigned to the Cammo-Placerville route. The bus used on that route last year, a 57-passenger conveyance, has been assigned to the El Dorado-Placerville route.”

In March, 1937 Phoenix, Arizona added five twenty-six-passenger Patchetts & Carstensen motor buses to the existing fleet of four Studebakers and one Ford.

Sadly only a single Patchetts & Carstensen coach survives, a 1937 Studebaker in remarkably good shape, which was recently offered for sale on eBay and sold for around $27K. The bus saw service in Arizona, Los Angeles, and eventually ended up in the collection of two Indiana museums. The semi-forward-control coach includes a Studebaker horse collar grill, fender mounted headlights, and big split windshield.

In 1937 they built two 36-passenger International chassised buses for the El Dorado County High School District of Placerville, California that remained in service for the next 14 years (1951).

In September of 1937, Gillig Bros’ purchased Patchetts & Carstensen’s school bus building operations, the December 14, 1937 issue of the Hayward Daily Review reporting:

“Four months ago Gillig Brothers bought out their only western competitor, Patchetts and Carstensen, of Newman. There the latter gentlemen created a business and built buses for schools located all over western America. In summer that firm worked 200 men. That factory created a payroll whose beneficial effects were felt over that entire community. The Newman factory equipment has been moved to Hayward by Gillig Brothers.”

The sale did not involve their lucrative school bus trasnportation business which was consequently  reorgnaized as Patchetts Bus and Transportation Co. In his 1963 interview Patchett estimated that Patchetts & Carstensen had constructed between 700 and 800 buses between 1914 and 1937. Gillig remains in business today as a subsidiary of Chicago, Illinois’ CCI Industries, Inc., the same firm that controls Great Dane trailers.

In 1968 Patchetts Bus and Transportation Co. was sold off to a larger operator, and the Patchett family concentrated on their Ford and Mercury dealership. At the time of the sale Patchett was providing forty-two Central California school districts in sixteen counties with bus transportation using a fleet of 221 buses, most of which carried 66 passengers.

In 1972 the Associated Press interviewed Patchett, who was 91-years-old at the time. The story of “America’s 1st School Bus” was carried in many of the nation’s leading newspapers on May 24, 1972:

“Newman, Calif. (AP) — In September 1914 about 20 youngsters clambered aboard a converted Model T Ford which its designer said was ‘the first motorized school bus in the United States. Until then, students got to school on their own, either by walking, on bicycle, horseback, wagon or a lift in the family car, said Franklin A. Patchett.

“That lone bus developed into a fleet of 220 leased to 42 California school districts before he sold Patchetts Bus and Transportation Co. in 1968, Patchett said.

“Soon after Patchett acquired an auto dealership in 1914, he recalled, a Newman school trustee told him: ‘Patchett, we've got to figure out a way to get these kids to school.’

“That started me in the bus business,’ said Patchett, 92. Patchett's bus utilized a Model T truck chassis. The rear wheels were removed and sprockets installed for a chain drive. A wooden passenger compartment with benches was mounted on the truck frame. Patchett said inflatable tires were placed in front and solid rubber tires in the rear. The bus was powered by a 20 horsepower engine.

“When the Newman Elementary School District needed a larger bus, Patchett built a trailer that carried 10 to 15 students. Girls rode in the bus and boys in the trailer until the trailer overturned in a ditch. ‘Nobody got hurt, but the next day we got letters from the boys saying they refused to ride in the trailer anymore,’ Patchett said. ‘We built another bus right away and it took care of that.’

“Other school districts learned of the buses and either purchased them or contracted with him to transport their children, Patchett said. Patchett estimates he constructed between 700 and 800 buses by 1937 when he sold the manufacturing end to Gillig Brothers of San Francisco.”

Franklin A. Patchett passed away on June 22, 1975, just three years after the preceding interview, he was 94 years old.

For a number of years Patchett was also involved in a Modesto, California Ford dealership - Patchetts & Wight (with Gordon A. Wight b.1898-d.1964) - who in 1937 constructed an all-new art deco facility at Ninth and L streets, Modesto. Patchett eventually sold his share in the firm, which survived into the 1970s as Griswold and Wight Ford, Lincoln-Mercury and today operates as Heritage Ford, Modesto.

The original Patchetts Transportation / Patchetts Ford-Mercury dealership at 1147 N. Street, Newman, California is currently a school bus service depot for First Student, North America’s largest provider of school transportation services. Patchetts Ford recently moved to an all-new facility at 5200 North Golden State Boulevard in nearby Turlock, California.

© 2015 Mark Theobald for Coachbuilt.com

 

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References

George Henry Tinkham  - History of Stanislaus County California, pub. 1921

Bill Brunette – Newman Diamond Jubilee: 1888-1963, pub. 1963

Barbara Ewing Powell - Chronicle of the Century; Newman 1888-1988, pub. 1988

   
 
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