EVERTON – The tick of the clock isn’t the only tell of time at the two-bay garage on Everton’s main drag, where a window air conditioner buzzes in the corner. Tucked behind the shiny, black upholstered chairs and competing with the chrrrring of the phone, the AC unit is loud, as if it needs to remind you it’s there on a steamy summer morning.
That’s not the case for Kenny’s Station, an auto shop in Everton that’s a landmark — both in the small Dade County town and of another time. Of when the future was unknown for Larry and Lynn Kenney, two 20-something brothers who walked through the door of a business that would become their future.
The Kenneys bought the place in 1973, and for 50 years — with one to go — the brothers have continued a world where hard work and hands could fix cars without computers.
“Lynn had just got out of the service, and he kind of wanted to stay around. This come up for sale, and we just bought it. Him and me together,” says Larry, of the boys who grew up in nearby Greenfield. “Our dad was a mechanic, and he kind of rubbed our nose in it pretty heavy.”
“I don’t think I ever had a day that I didn’t look forward to coming to work.”
He relaxes in one of those black chairs in the concrete-block shop, a place with signs proclaiming welcome for fishermen, friends and perhaps other folks with stories to tell.
But not electioneering, as a sign on the bulletin board declares, or perhaps change for simply change’s sake. No computer is seen, but there is a clipboard that commemorates the National Fire Group’s Western Department’s 50th anniversary in 1938.
A concession to progress, though, is that air conditioner. It was added just this year.
“It don’t cool much, but it helps,” says Lynn.
Age offers a special mind’s eye when peering through the shop’s large glass windows and seeing what Everton used to be.
Things were different a half-century ago for the small community in southeast Dade County. A cafe was on the end of the garage, and those were only two of several stops in the town.
“It’s changed a bunch. At that time, there were a half-dozen businesses up main street,” says Larry, giving examples: Shops for barbering and beauty, and another filling station and a town bar, which “opened up shortly after we opened up here,” he says.
Today, nearly all of Everton has faded into the past save the school, a few churches, a gas station out on the highway and the post office.
“I look for it to go one of these days, too,” he says of the latter, a small standalone building up the street.
A note of hope, however, is the community center across the way from the service shop. Larry speaks of many fish fries he’s helped organize. They began years ago to raise money for the building, but continued to support other local needs.
“That was a big thing back then,” he says of the center. “But we’ve had a young bunch take it over now, so it might pick back up, I think.
“I hope it does.”
A young fellow stops by for a vehicle inspection, which along with service work is one of the main things they do these days.
“We’d used to try anything,” says Larry. “Used to, we never would turn down anything. If they wanted their motor overhauled, we’d do it. It’s changed a lot.”
Part of “everything” was hydraulic hay beds, which Lynn “put more on than anybody else in the United States,” says Larry.
“I got into the muffler business, the exhaust business,” he continues. “At one time, I’d do six or eight systems a day. And then the car companies got to putting stainless steel on and they didn’t rot out, so that kind of slowed down.”
It hasn’t been either of their only jobs for quite a long time. Larry sells insurance, and Lynn — who came back after a few years away in the oil fields — works with school buses, both behind the wheel as a driver and under the hood. The latter role also finds him outside and tools in hand on that hot summer morning, trying to figure out what’s rattling when a bus rolls down the road.
“I’d turn the heater on, and it’d like to vibrate the whole dash,” says Lynn.
Turns out, after he pulls out the part, a mouse was stuck inside.
“I believe he was alive when he started,” he says. “That’s a first.”
Belts and hoses used to line the walls of the shop, but they largely were driven away and haven’t come back. Like those mufflers, they don’t wear out like they used to, seems like.
A fellow friend comes by and gets some air before walking inside, taking a long drink at the water fountain, and pulling up a barrel to chat for a few minutes.
“Whatever you need done, they’ll do it,” he says.
He’s one of many who have sat around the shop when life allows. In winter, a woodstove — removed for the summer — is reinstalled to give a cozy centerpiece. And on days less likely to fry fish, the brothers have been known to make some in a small cooker inside the shop.
“A lot of times, there’s company that comes in. In the wintertime, we’ll usually have dinner,” says Lynn. “Fried potatoes and fish — that’s all we have. Usually, there’s a crowd in here. Here it’s been so hot that we haven’t had very many people in here.”
The ties developed there are remembered long after the chairs are pushed back and folks stand up to leave. One of them, a man by the name of Paul Clabough, looks down from a framed photograph on the wall, as if eyeing an empty chair in the corner.
“He sat here every day,” says Lynn, gesturing to a chair near where he sat to take a break on the hot summer day. “We stuck that picture up there two years ago. He died of COVID.”
For years, Paul had his own key and some days would get to the shop before the brothers. He might get the fire going in the old woodstove, or at other times, go out and pump gas for customers — back when the brothers sold gas.
All those things are just memories now.
A program from Paul’s funeral is pinned to the bulletin board near the door. Even though the community couldn’t keep him, they helped him keep a piece of the shop with him forever.
“We put that key in his casket when they buried him,” says Larry.
With each sunrise, the service stop’s legacy becomes longer and the days become shorter.
Last year, Larry had a stroke. While he still comes to the shop most days, he says his days of doing car work as he once did are likely done. Lynn continues, but for how long?
For today, the door remains open, and the air conditioner remains on.
This story is published in partnership with Ozarks Alive, a cultural preservation project led by Kaitlyn McConnell.