Dennis McBride of Grantsville had an enchanted childhood.“I was spoiled rotten,” he said, pointing at a black-and-white photograph of him on his fourth or fifth birthday more than 70 years ago. He was dressed in a white shirt and tie, leaning against the side of a 1936 Cord automobile.
“There’s my dad’s Cord, and there’s me,” he said. “I remember that because it was my birthday. That’s why I’m dressed up so much.”
That year, McBride had two wishes: to ride fast in the Cord with his father, Aaron McBride, and to go for a ride in an airplane. He got both.
Although he treasures the memory, in some ways it was also an ordinary day. Dennis McBride spent a lot of time with his father and uncles, George and Art McBride, and with Garth, Joe and Bill Edde. In those days, the Edde brothers operated an airport and flight training school on property that had been part of the old McBride farm.
While hanging out with these men, Dennis McBride learned to love cars, planes and motorcycles. He watched friendships cement between people who shared those interests.
He also experienced changes that included the rise and fall of the American wrecking yard culture.
McBride’s mother died when he was young, and after that, he tagged along wherever his father went. He has fond memories of coming to visit his uncles, Art and George McBride, on south Center Street in Grantsville. George McBride had a pet monkey, a badger, and a turtle.
“He had everything you can imagine,” McBride said. “It was like a zoo over there.”
And then there were the cars.
“Everybody had cars,” he said. “Art had 300 or 400 cars around his house and his garages and stuff.”
When he had a chance, McBride said he would walk next door to the airport.
“I’d go over to the office, and when I’d go in there, they’d say ‘Denny, you came over, huh?’ I’d say ‘yeah,’ and they’d give me a cream soda and an Almond Joy,” he said.
One day one of the Edde brothers asked McBride if he wanted to go for a ride in the airplane while he trained a new pilot.
“Boy, that’s all it took,” he said. “Every day I’d sneak off, every time I had a chance, I’d go up in the air with all these people who were learning how to fly — and I was only 4 years old.”
McBride’s father was the mechanic for the airport.
“He was the best mechanic you ever saw,” McBride said. “He worked on airplanes. He would work on anything, and there was nothing he worked on that he couldn’t fix.”
“Aaron McBride loved cars,” he said. “He was a car man.”
McBride remembers a time when his father served on the Grantsville City Council. He came home angry one evening because the city had voted to auction off a 1916 fire truck along with other old road equipment and vehicles.
“It was Grantsville’s first water truck,” he said. “Can you imagine a ‘16? It had wood wheels and everything.”
McBride said his dad bought the fire truck and talked his buddies into helping him restore it.
“It took them three years, and they tore it down in their spare time and they rebuilt it,” he said. “It’s gorgeous now, and it’s the only one left in existence that’s original.”
Aaron McBride’s love of cars extended to his involvement in a museum in Wendover.
“Richard Dixon owned the building, but my dad would have a nice car, and he’d take it out there and put it in the museum,” McBride said. “He had a lot of cars out there, real rare cars like Cords. He loved Cords. In fact, he helped build those when they were new, in Auburn, Indiana. He helped design the transmission shifter.”
According to McBride, his father was as interested in history as he was in cars. He photographed the hanger for the airport as it was being built, racing out on the salt flats, and even the inside of the airplanes.
“He wanted to save stuff,” he said. “My dad loved history. He would take pictures of everything. … He kept everything. My dad wouldn’t throw anything away.”
That’s how McBride Auto Wrecking got its start. Before the interstate was built, travelers passed through Grantsville on their way to Wendover. His father and uncles all had car garages and a towing service. They started the wrecking yard in 1930 with the cars they brought in.
“When a car would break down between Grantsville and Wendover, they’d go out and pull them in,” McBride said.
Most of the time, bringing in a wrecked car was a drag-and-drop deal. At one time, there were around 4,000 cars on McBride’s property. Now McBride estimates there are between 700 and 800 cars left in the wrecking yard.
“This was the sixth wrecking yard in the state of Utah to be licensed,” McBride said. “Of course, now it’s got to go.”
Modern regulations make it so wrecking yards can only keep a vehicle for 90 days before it has to be crushed and recycled. McBride said he has until June 15 to clean the old cars out of the wrecking yard, which will then become a new subdivision.
McBride will be able to save the tiny Texaco station that served as his father’s office. It was built small and unanchored so that it could be moved.
Even the Texaco station is a salute to the past. It has black and white tile floors and a red refrigerator created from Aaron McBride’s old toolbox. The counters contain items like salt and pepper shakers shaped like oil pumps, car scrapers, marbles, and other items for which people once traded S&H Green stamps. Behind the counter, shelves are lined with one of every kind of oil can that the McBrides could find.
And there are photographs on the wall. One shows an aerial view of the wrecking yard. Another features two Cords, side by side.
Having the wrecking yard was a great way to meet a variety of people. McBride spent time with Ab Jenkins, a professional racecar driver and mayor of Salt Lake City, and Andy Granatelli, who broke 29 world records in 12 hours in one of the last-made Avanti Studebakers.
Aaron McBride also became good friends with Agnes Rothschild. She willed her Gran Turismo to him when she passed away.
“I still have that car,” McBride said.
And there was Burt Munro, whose story was featured in the movie “The World’s Fastest Indian” and played by famous actor Anthony Hopkins.
“Where do you think he got the parts when his Indian broke down?” McBride said. “He got them from my dad.”
For McBride, the loss of the wrecking yard means a hitch in the future. Car collectors and people who use old cars for transportation have relied on wrecking yards like this one to maintain their vehicles.
“When this is gone, I don’t know where they’re going to get parts,” he said. “They’re so hard to come by. This is a one-of-a-kind thing.”
McBride knows of one other old wrecking yard in Utah, but it has fewer cars left than in his. There are one or two wrecking yards in Idaho, but he doesn’t know of anything in Nevada or California.
The demand for parts continues, though. In early March, McBride shipped a frame for a 1968 Chevy to Ohio because the owner couldn’t find a part any closer.
“I was able to save it, but can you imagine shipping something that far?” he said.
McBride still keeps and treasures a few old cars. He has the Studebaker that belonged to Andy Granatelli, an old Indian motorcycle that Burt Munro worked on, and his favorite — a 1956 T Bird.
He’s also got the 1916 fire truck.
For McBride, collecting these cars is like collecting memories. It’s a way to reconnect with simpler times when he spent his mornings looking at cars with his father and uncles and his afternoons in the skies with the Edde brothers. He said he had a fun time growing up.
“They were craftsmen, more than we are now,” he said. “My dad used to say he was a jack of all trades and a master of none. They were into everything.”