Growing up as a car enthusiast, Randle Montgomery will never forget the automobile he owned when he went on his first date as a North Mecklenburg High student in the mid-1960s: a 1957 Chevrolet, two-door hard top.
Montgomery, who now lives in Cornelius, eventually made cars his livelihood. He owned his own auto body shop for 20 years until he retired in 2005. Montgomery is still interested in beautifying automobiles as much as he’s ever been.
Nine years ago, he bought a 1993 Corvette and stripped it of its running gear, engine and transmission, and put the pieces into the frame of a 1957 Chevy two-door sedan 150 series. It’s slick enough that he displays it at car shows around the southeast U.S.
“When I was young, I had ‘55, ‘56 and ‘57 Chevrolets,” said Montgomery, 68. “That’s the way it is with old cars. People want what they had when they were younger. I just liked 1957.”
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People who show cars also like being around people who show cars and when they congregate at events, many of them view it as a sort of homecoming.
For example, Montgomery and 69-year-old Huntersville resident James Deason share an affinity for Chevy classic cars. Deason owns a 1955 Chevrolet two-door 210.
Deason has a story similar to Montgomery’s. Deason says he owned 1956, ‘57 and ‘58 Chevrolet models when he was growing up. As he was nearing retirement age, he shared with his wife that he desired to purchase a 1955 classic, which was one of the models from that ear that he missed.
In 2010, Deason retired from the structural services division of Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation. True to his wish, he bought his 1955 Chevrolet shortly after.
Just a couple years later, the car was stolen during a visit to Tennessee for a car show. It was never recovered but Deason found a similar model in 2014, which is the one he owns today.
Deason used to attend one or two car shows every weekend. But he was diagnosed with liver cancer last year and doctors told him he might have 6-12 months to live.
Deason says doctors have him on “a miracle drug” and that he is responding well. Now he’s told he might make it a couple more years. His health issues have mildly set him back. Now he goes to shows only three times a month.
Montgomery and Deason both attended the Town of Huntersville’s Second Annual Top Deck Car Show on March 25. There were a couple other draws to the event besides showing off their automobiles.
The event was supported by the Sons of the American Legion, Huntersville Post 321, an auxiliary of American Legion Post 321, which was raising money by selling concessions and tickets for a 50-50 drawing. Montgomery and Deason are both former members.
“That’s the kind of show I like to go to, where the money is supporting a good cause,” said Deason. “Churches have a lot of shows. I’ll go to any show that’s supporting a good cause.”
The Sons of the American Legion was raising money to support one of its members who is fighting the same type of cancer Deason has.
Doug Greene, a 52-year-old Huntersville resident, was diagnosed with colon cancer in August. After chemo treatments, doctors found a mass in his liver when they were operating on his colon in January.
Coincidentally, Greene’s father was one of the American Legion members who coordinated the organization’s first car shows in the early 1990s. Doug Greene has been heavily involved in coordinating the shows in recent years, but he barely made it to the recent event.
Greene is weak on his feet and walks with the support of a cane. Sons of American Legion members have aided him by mowing his grass and making minor repairs to his home. One of the members drove him to the car show.
“If there’s anything I need, I don’t even need to ask for it,” said Greene. “They step up to the plate.”
Joe Habina is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to help?
For information on how you can contribute to the American Legion’s efforts to support Doug Greene, contact organization member Sam Putnam at 704-619-2356.