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History of Freeland, Pa.
John Tancin's garage, tire and auto supply businesses

On August 30, 1929, a local newspaper carried the following item:
Established Business in Freeland
John Temshia, who conducted a vulcanizing and auto repair shop in Upper Lehigh, during the past several years, is now established in Freeland, having secured shop quarters in the Adolph Zimmerman garage in the rear of his business place at the corner of Main and Washington streets.

Fire alarm card with John Tancin ad [To note about that newspaper article above: Those non-Slovak newspaper reporters really had a hard time getting the Slovak names right in those days. In their defense, though, at least in this case, my grandfather had a pretty thick accent.]

At some earlier point in the 1920s, my grandfather John Tancin had started a tire repair business behind his home in Upper Lehigh, where he lived at 58 Main Street. He had come from Slovakia in 1908 and worked in the mines in Upper Lehigh before beginning this new business venture. In 1929 he moved his business to 520 Washington Street, on property rented from Adolph Zimmerman in Freeland at Washington Street just below Main Street, behind Genie Boyle's bar, and that move is what the newspaper article quoted above is reporting. In addition to being behind (south of) Genie Boyle's, the garage was also behind (east of) Adolph Zimmerman's Centre Street store.

John Tancin at his garage on Washington Street, 1939 Amazingly, this garage is captured on the black and white DVD now available from the Freeland Historical Society that shows views around Freeland in the 1930s. A little more than 2 minutes into the film you can see the garage and also my grandfather and my teenaged father working on someone's car! (Both are wearing caps, in case you get a chance to see the DVD.) For me, seeing this was like a time machine and I'm so grateful to the person who shot that film all those years ago, and to the people who have preserved it and made it available now. This still shot captured from the film was made by Ed Merrick.

Here is an interesting relic from that time, courtesy of Bob Celentano. It was a common practice to distribute cards containing the borough's fire alarm codes, to which were added an advertisement for a local business, in this case my grandfather's tire shop. Here's a larger view. [There are some interesting features about the alarm codes, such as for example the "riot alarm," to be explored at another time.]

In the late 1940s John Tancin bought a property at 301-305 Centre Street, Freeland, which some years earlier had housed a bottling works and some other businesses run by Peter Timony. There my grandfather opened an auto parts, tire repair and gas station business there. The front of the shop is shown below, along with one of his return address labels and a view of his garage.

Auto Supply Store of John Tancin, Sr. Mailing label for John Tancin business. Garage of John Tancin, Sr.

John's sons helped him in the early days of his business. John Jr. and my dad worked with him at the Washington Street garage, and then all of the sons worked in the garage at Centre and Carbon Streets, while their father worked in the auto supply store. Son Joe left early to move to Hazleton. George, John and my dad kept working for my grandfather, my dad leaving in 1955 to start his own tire business. Most of the extended family lived in three apartments that were also on this property, and some of the family still live there today.

Business solicitation letter. At right is a form letter that my dad Steve put together for his fathere to solicit business from other tire dealers, probably in the early 1950s. Click here for an enlarged view that's a little easier to read. I remember that 62-J phone number from the days when we lived above the shop. An interesting sideline about this phone number: I recently had an opportunity to see a Hazleton area phone book from 1952, and found that the only Tancin listed in Freeland at that time was my mother, who was a registered nurse and needed the listing for her job. So the family business was apparently not yet "online" in 1952, so I'd guess this letter is from 1953-1955.

However, I wonder about that, because although neither my grandfather nor his business are listed in the 1952 phone book, both are listed in the 1937 phone book, at the Washington Street address!

John Tancin, Sr. died in 1965. His son Joe had gone some years earlier to work for General Tire Company in Hazleton. John Jr. and George continued to work in the garage at 301 Centre Street for some years, then finally closed down the business. The auto supply store had been closed some years earlier. Steve built his own garage in Freeland in 1955 and ran a used tire / tire repair business until his death in 1991. To this day I run into people in Freeland who remember Tancin's tires and who were regular customers of my grandfather's and uncles' or my dad's businesses.

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