The North Bend Eagle

  Cerny saleA mix of bidders and curious onlookers swarm the auctioneers at Saturday's [July 12, 2014] Cerny Auto Salvage and Wrecker ausion. Rita and the late Bob Cerny hve been running an auto business in North Bend since the '50s.

Bidders salvage parts, tools at Cerny sale

by Nathan Arneal
Published 7/16/14

It started as a place to dump chopped down trees when North Bend was hit by a tree disease half a century ago.

The person who lived by the acreage just north of North Bend said, “You can put trees out here. Just don’t turn it into a junk yard.”
Little did he know.

Fifty-some years later, the ground that started as a tree dump and grew into a salvage yard and auto parts business is closing shop. Cerny Auto Salvage and Wrecker sold off its equipment, wreckers and yes, piles of rusting car bodies in a sale that attracted hundreds on Saturday.

Bob and Rita Cerny started a body shop along Highway 30 in North Bend in the late 1950s. They bought an acreage about a half mile north of town on the intersection of Highway 79 and County Road S with the idea of dumping trees there. Tired of the auto body business, the Cernys began an auto parts and salvage business in 1958. By the mid-60s, the Cernys had acquired enough land north of town that Cerny Auto Parts and Salvage moved out there full time.

watchRita Cerny, second from left, and daughter Jeanne Fredrickson watch from the background as the remains of the family business go to the highest bidder.

Bob Cerny passed away in 2009, and son Tom, who had been working along side his dad for several years, stepped in to manage the business. Bob’s wife Rita kept up her end of the business, doing the bookkeeping and keeping everything in line.

Now, Rita is ready to move on.

“I’m at the age where I just don’t want to mess with it any more,” she said. “It’s time to retire. It’s getting to be too much responsibility.”

For three months trucks have been hauling out the piles of junked cars to sell for scrap. A couple dozen antique car bodies in decent shape were sold separately at Saturday’s auction, the oldest of which was a 1936 Oldsmobile. Antique car parts available at the sale dated back to the Ford Model A, which was manufactured between 1927 and 1931.

Rita Cerny and her family kept a watchful eye as the cars, wreckers, shop equipment and spare parts were sold off one by one.

“I’m anxious for it to be over with, yet it’s kind of sad to see it go,” Rita said. “Bob always really wanted to stay out here, but it’s just too much for me to handle. So most of us decided it’s just best to sell and enjoy our life a little bit.”

The business kept the Cernys busy for parts of seven decades, and that includes their six children and numerous grandchildren, most of whom put in time working in the shop at some point.

leaveA buyer takes his haul to his vehicle.

All of the Cerny sons, Mike, Steve and Tom, operated auto businesses out of the shop at one time or another. Oldest daughter Colette used to clean copper for reuse. Youngest daughter Jeanne changed tires. Middle daughter Diane brags that she was the only one who didn’t have to work in the shop because she had a job at the city pool. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t sacrifice for the family business.

“Dad would call me up (at college) and say, ‘What you doing this weekend?’” Diane Treat said. “Ohhhhh... I’d know right away. He needed a part off my car. Sure enough, I’d go back and the grill would be gone, the back seat, the bumpers. One time he needed the hood, so he cut off the whole vinyl hood and welded on another one. And there I go down the road back to school.”
Jeanne drove a blue car with a yellow trunk because the original was called into service.

Running a wrecker service meant many Christmases were interrupted by calls to go pull someone out of a snowy ditch somewhere. It also meant frequent calls at all hours of the night.

At one point early in their careers, Rita thought it might be fun to accompany Bob on one of the wrecker calls. It was a habit she quickly broke.

“When he first got his big wrecker there was a truck that was rolled onto its side,” Rita recalled. “I thought, ‘Oh, I’m going to go watch him.’ Oh, my, I was so scared to death. I thought, ‘That cable is going to break. Something is going to happen.’ Here he was lifting up this big old semi. I left and I never went to watch him again. It scared the heck out of me.”

Not all of the calls were so scary. Granddaughter Natalie Treat remembers the time a Nesquik milk truck tipped over. While Bob hooked up the wrecker, the grandkids were scooping up all the chocolate and strawberry milk they could.

“Our fridges were full,” Natalie Treat said.

While one Cerny business is closing up shop, that doesn’t mean Cerny Auto Parts is disappearing altogether.

Tom Cerny, Bob and Rita’s youngest son, will keep the name alive as he opens his auto parts and wrecker business in North Bend. He will move into the building just east of the post office, where his wife used to operate her Floral Creations shop, and prepare to push the Cerny name into its eighth decade of business.

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