Written by John Starkey
Joe Watson has been taking care of radiators since 1945, but no longer. He has sold his business, Watson Radiator at 521 E. Irving Blvd., and will try something new: retirement.
“The guy next door bought it,” said Watson, referring to the nearby business, Latino Travel. “He’s going to tear it down and use it for his parking lot and for a private drive for his employees.
“This old building was about to fall down, anyway.”
With the clock ticking on that transaction, Watson was preparing for the removal of the shop’s entire contents, purchased by Centennial Radiator in Dallas.
“They already took all my radiators, and they’ll be by in the next day or so to clear out the rest of this stuff,” Watson said. “Antique tools and such. Even the picnic tables in my workroom.
“This place is pretty busted up. It used to be a mechanic’s shop back in the 40s. When I first moved here in 1971, I added onto it. This was my workspace, and it got pretty cold in the winter.”
It will take hard manual labor to dismantle the old shop – leveling it down to dirt. But that figures, it took hard labor to get the business going. Watson and his father first took over a blacksmith business at the original location, 112 N. Britain, in 1945, when he got home from the war. While he was building up the business, he also served as one of Irving’s first paid firefighter. Watson said he worked hard, and he did some hard playing, too. He raced cars, and he drank.
”I’m an alcoholic,” he said. “I blamed it on my World War II nerves, from when I’d been in the Merchant Marines, so I thought it gave me an excuse to drink.
“I almost died from it in 1966. The insanity of an alcoholic is, as soon as you survive something like that, the first thing you do is go out and look for a liquor store.
“That didn’t last long. I got the shakes and asked my doctor for a shot to help my nerves. He told me not to come back. He said I should get a 45 and a bottle of whiskey. Both would kill me, but the 45 would be quicker.
“I ended up in Alcoholics Anonymous on June 27, 1969. That was my last drink.
“I think God let me live so I can tell other people my story about AA.”
At one time, Irving supported four radiator service shops, but business began to decline during the 80s. That’s when automobile manufacturers began using aluminum and plastic components instead of copper and brass.
“You can’t even get a copper and brass radiator anymore,” said Watson. “I was barely making enough some months to pay my tax and utilities here. What saved me was the tower out back,” he added, referring to the communication tower on the property. Leasing it out allowed for some cash flow, but now even that has lapsed.
So Watson decided, finally, it was time.
“My wife, Lavillas (“Bibbles”), was the one who wanted me to sell it,” he said. “If I dropped dead or something happened to me, she wouldn’t know how to get rid of all this stuff.
“It takes around 30 days to close out the deal, so I’ll get a chair and a telephone, set them up front and just prop up my feet to say hello to anybody who drops by.
“And all my customers, I’ll refer them to Centennial.”