By James Calemine
On Tuesday, November 20, I revisited Old Car City in White, Georgia. Old Car City stands as the oldest classic junkyard in the world. Within these almost 40 acres exists 7 miles of trails, over 4,000 vintage vehicles and all kinds of folk art.
Car City owner Dean Lewis (b. 1937) runs the operation. His parents once owned a general store across the street beginning in 1931, and that’s when the family entered into the car dealership and junk business.
“I’ve lived here all my life,” Lewis told me from behind his desk. A picture of Lewis and Jay Leno sat nearby. “Yeah, Jay scheduled an episode for his show here, but they had to postpone their visit.” Everywhere is art that Lewis created–signs, paintings and thousands of styrofoam cups Lewis paints on.
But, most people visit this singular place for the abandoned vehicles, which includes Johnny Cash’s 1946 truck (that appeared in the 1983 film Murder In Coweta County as well as the Andy Griffith show), Elvis Presley’s last car he bought (a Lincoln) and just about every model of car, truck, bus, tractor or bicycle one can image on the vast property as trees grow around and sometimes through the vehicles.
When I asked how he obtained Johnny Cash’s truck, Lewis said: “I just went in my billfold and kept digging (laughs). I used to go on salvage sales years ago and this place called one day and said they were selling Johnny Cash’s truck that was in the movie Murder In Coweta County, and I bought it.”
Regarding how Lewis came upon Elvis’ last car, he told me: “Back in the 8Os when I was promoting cars and parts to sell I found an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution that they were selling a car that belonged to Elvis down in Columbus, GA., and I got that one.”
Lewis’ painted signs can be seen everywhere along the trails. One says, “22% of Americans want Bruce Springsteen to write a new national anthem.” Or, “You might be a redneck if all your golf balls come in egg cartons.” Another one reads: “Black pepper repels rats”.
His work reminds me a little of Howard Finster, but Lewis leans a little more towards comedy. The 2 Ton Flower Pot, Noah’s Ark, the Tree of Knowledge, VW Micro Bus and the Car Art Circle are sights to behold. I shot over 500 photographs on Tuesday. Check out my Instagram or Twitter page for more photographs…
After this article, I’m sure the hipster journalists and photographers will immediately schedule a pilgrimage to Old Car City. You’re welcome. Tell Mr. Lewis I sent you…