Cooperative Garages Provide Mechanic Savings on Car Maintenance Costs

Reverend Maynard Krider and auto mechanic Vern Clavette open a Maine garage co-op helping Mainers save money on car repairs and mechanic labor costs.

| September/October 1971

"If I could just get my car running I could go out and look for a job. I have to make some money soon, my car needs a new engine."  

Life in Maine sometimes seems a struggle between man and machine. Between man and his own automobile. In the summer, men are ahead. Almost anything will run . . . on bald tires . . . with broken windows rolled down. Anything that starts goes.

But the odds change in winter. The battle becomes grimmer. Snow and cold move in and only the strong survive. The poor must struggle hardest. The man who can buy a new car every two years hops from warranty to warranty and the manufacturer has to keep him driving. But for the poor—faced with six dollars an hour labor charges and exorbitant prices for oil and parts—it's not easy.

Even a do-it-himself mechanic has to lie in a foot of cold slush, often taking time off work to catch the daylight. Still there are some tools only a garage has and he eventually has to spend some cash like everyone else. But now, in two Maine towns, people are finally breaking that cycle of repair-to-work-to-repair by organizing Cooperative Garages.

In a garage on Pine Street across the river from the Kennebec Pulp Paper Company in Madison, Vern Clavette is tuning up an old Chevy. Vern used to work up Main Street at Flannagan's Chevrolet where the rate for a mechanic is six dollars an hour. Vern was making $1.80 an hour there. As resident mechanic at the Co-op he makes two dollars with a raise to three if he's hired permanently.

Vern stops working on the Chevy. "This might have cost fifteen dollars somewhere else," he says, "but at this garage we don't charge for mechanic work."

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