For More than 60 Years, Berks County, PA, Technicians would Gather to Share Repair Tips – UnderhoodService

For More than 60 Years, Berks County, PA, Technicians would Gather to Share Repair Tips

Having met regularly since 1947, a group of technicians from the Berks County, PA, area that made up the Independent Automobile Repairmen's Association have decided to disband their organization.

Having met regularly since 1947, a group of technicians from the Berks County, PA, area that made up the Independent Automobile Repairmen’s Association have decided to disband their organization.

Below is the article as it appeared on the Reading Eagle Press website.

Mechanics group disbands after more than 60 years
Independent Automobile Repairmen’s Association disbands after more than 60 years

Originally Published: 5/17/2010

Members of the Independent Automobile Repairmen's Association at the group's final meeting are, left to right: Ernie Musser, Brecknock Township; Bob Katzaman, Bern Township; Paul Lesher, Spring Township; Jim Althouse Jr., Wyomissing; George Freeman, Spring; Jim Althouse Sr., Wyomissing; and Jerry Hartman, Fleetwood. (Courtesy of Bob Katzaman)A Berks County group of grease monkeys met last week to talk shop one last time.

Members of the Independent Automobile Repairmen’s Association have announced they are disbanding the organization after more than 60 years.

The group of Berks County mechanics and others involved with auto repair had been meeting regularly since 1947 to keep pace with the ever-changing automotive industry.

Group president Bob Katzaman of Bern Township cited dwindling membership and financial shortcomings as reasons for the group’s demise.

In its early years, the repairmen’s association had more than 100 members, and there were 71 members in 1971. That number shrank in more recent decades, falling to just 16 this year, Katzaman said, making it impossible to continue.

"It was good while it lasted; it was a fun group," said Katzaman, a 76-year-old retired mechanic. "But you got to do what you got to do."

The auto industry’s evolving landscape has made it hard on "the little guys" who often filled fire halls and banquet rooms for the repairmen’s monthly meetings.

"Back then, a mechanic had to depend on any information they could get from others," said Leon Neiman, the group’s vice president and a member since 1948. "There was a real reason to get together."

Valuable tips and information shared at those meetings is now available at the click of a computer mouse, said Neiman, who operated Reading Auto Radiator Works on Spruce Street until 1990.

"Back in the old days, garagemen were known as grease monkeys," added Neiman, 85, of Temple. "It was more of a dirty job, and a mechanic had to know a lot."

Now, computers transmit that information to anyone with a few minutes to learn, he said.

The overall decrease in independently owned repair shops contributed to the group’s disbandment. Members said large oil companies stepped on toes as they moved in on the small shop owners’ turf.

Those large vendors have taken many of the small shops’ gasoline customers – a large source of income for mechanics who also make their living silencing rattling mufflers and stopping leaks.

Convenience stores are providing high-demand gasoline products at prices the small shops just can’t match, Katzaman said.

"All these big companies have come in and pushed us little guys out of business," he said.

Katzaman owned a repair shop on Schuylkill Avenue through 1990, specializing in transmission work.

Association members have seen the end coming for some time, but many were still upset when the decision to disband was finalized Tuesday night.

"After 63 years, it’s just sad," Katzaman said.

To read this article on the Reading Eagle Press website, visit http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=220498.

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