Caroline C. Morris
“What America wants, America gets in a Chevy!” In 1959, Americans were deep into their love affair with the automobile. After two decades of economic depression and war, cars symbolized Americans’ hopes in the 1950s for prosperity, comfort, and a happily-ever-after. The V8 engines, “Magic-Mirror” acrylic lacquer, and tail fins were mass-produced, but seem tailored to the individual needs and desires of consumers. “The 1959 Chevrolet is more than a restyled car,” promised General Motors’ advertising. “It’s your kind of car. Shaped to reward your new taste in style.”
If you wanted to buy a Chevrolet in La Crosse in 1959, Ray Hutson Chevrolet had you covered. Located downtown at 4th and Cass Streets, the Ray Hutson dealership sold now-classics such as the Corvette, the Impala, and the Bel Air, among others. This potholder in the Historical Society’s collection suggests that Ray Hutson was a wise businessman. Most mid-century dealers focused their advertising efforts on men, but Ray Hutson understood that car-buying was a family decision. What better way to reach the family than to put an advertisement in the kitchen?
Ray and Don Hutson opened the Chevrolet dealership in 1953, and Ray Hutson operated it downtown until he moved the business to Mormon Coulee Road in 1967. His son, Mike Hutson, became president in 1983, and operated the dealership until it closed six years ago. General Motors was in a weak position going in to the 2008 economic recession, and declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. As part of the corporate reorganization required by the bankruptcy code, General Motors closed over a thousand dealerships, including Ray Hutson Chevrolet, which closed in July 2009.
This article was originally featured in the La Crosse Tribune.