Editor's Note: This is the 263rd in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.
HUNTINGTON — For years, youngsters would dream that Santa would bring them a fancy new bicycle for Christmas.
For some lucky boys and girls, that dream came true when they found a top-of-the-line Western Flyer bike under their Christmas tree — one that Santa had picked up for them at the Western Auto store in downtown Huntington.
From its introduction in the 1930s through the 1960s, a Western Flyer bike was guaranteed to make you the envy of the other kids in your neighborhood.
Western Flyer brand bikes, tricycles, wagons, scooters and sleds were sold by the Western Auto Supply Company generally referred to as Western Auto. Partners George Pepperdine and Don Abnor Davis started the company in 1909 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Originally, it was a mail-order business for replacement auto parts. It established its first retail store in 1921, and grew quickly as automobiles became increasingly more common.
At one point, there were more than 1,200 company-owned Western Auto stores nationwide, usually located in metropolitan areas, and more than 4,000 associate stores.
These were franchised operations, usually located in small towns. The company's associate store program was the first of its type, pioneering the way for modern-day franchise operations.
Western Auto was primarily known for its Western Flyer bikes and its Performance brand tires.
Other private label brands it sold included Davis Tires (likely named for Don A. Davis, a Western Auto founder), Tough One Batteries, Wizard Tools, TrueTone electronic productions and Citation appliances.
The typical Western Auto store had room for only a limited inventory of merchandise. But, like Sears and Montgomery Ward, the company regularly published catalogs that offered a myriad of items.
In Huntington, Western Auto operated a store on the northwest corner of 3rd Avenue and 10th Street for nearly 35 years, from 1941 to 1975. The building was demolished by the city's downtown urban renewal program. Today, the site is part of Pullman Square.
After changing hands several times, the Western Auto chain went out of business in 2003.