At a young age Teri Jo Felkel had her hopes set on one day becoming an artist. Her passion for creating was more than a young girls dream. But as she grew older, Teri realized that there was more starving artists out in the world than those earning a living at it. She knew becoming an artist would not be a road traveled during her lifetime. Growing up, Teri wasn’t very social and pretty much kept to herself, you see, she was born with very light skin which restricted her outside activities and if she stayed out in the sunlight for extended periods of time there would be serious side effects.
During High School Teri decided to enroll in a Welding class thinking it just might be her calling. Not long into the class, Teri learned that she had an eye condition putting the brakes on any future dreams of becoming a professional welder. Her doctor was very clear informing her that Welding was something she could never pursue.
Teri being the type of person who was always up for a Challenge, decided to take Auto Shop. This was an indoor profession which could turn out to be just what she needed. Once enrolled in the class, Teri’s parents wanted to help motivate her, so for Christmas that year, they gave her a 1968 VW Square back. Well, it worked, Teri loved the car and knowing that it was in need of an engine rebuild, she decided to use this opportunity to give the bug an overhaul. Teri eager to learn everything she could about auto mechanics, she dove in head first, removed the engine and began the overhaul process. Tearing the engine down was exciting to her but absorbing all the knowledge at her finger tips was even more energizing.
After arriving at Auto Shop class one day, Teri took one look at the VW engine and it seems the male colleagues decided to show their appreciation for Teri’s existence in the class by being so kind as to paint the engine a bright Pink color. I guess this was their way of accepting a female touch to the classroom. Thinking it was rather funny, Teri was not offended by it at all, she accepted the gesture as it was intended, one of the guys.
Being shy and not very social, as Teri explains it, I didn’t have many friends, but I was still liked among my circle of classmates. Most of Teri’s free time was spent hanging out with her High School Auto Shop classmate. Let’s call him Jim. Teri remembers the time Jim took her to the Drag Races, as she reflects back, it was then her love for automobiles was beginning to evolve. She recalls, “The drag races were so loud and fast and I loved every minute of it”. So much so, that she knew right then and there being a mechanic was her destiny.
Mechanics did not come natural to Teri, but it soon became her life. The drive she had to learn every intimate part of what makes a car tic, became a mission. During her High School senior year, her uncertainty on which trade school she would attend came to light one day when the only Technical School that set up a booth during career day was Wyo Tech Institute. Teri was lucky enough to have graduated at the age of 17 and eager to move into the next chapter of her life. After learning about Wyo Tech, she was mesmerized and ready to sign up.
Because mechanics was not as natural to her as being an artist, everyday her love for wrenching grew stronger and soon become second nature. Teri pursued her studies at Wyo Tech and the years there proved to be rewarding and offered her the ability to graduate in 2001. Her mind full of fresh exciting knowledge of the newer version automobile, Teri was ready to move back to Bishop and start her career as a Female Grease Monkey. Disappointment came early in her career since Bishop did not seem ready for the towns very own Female mechanic! It is very hard to understand at times when you are qualified for a job, yet those doing the hiring are not up to the challenge of bringing on board a female to do the job.
After many days of submitting applications, Teri finally landed a job in Mammoth, California working for A&A Garage. The owner was kind enough to take Teri under his wing and just starting out, he allowed Teri to use his own personal tools. Being fresh out of Trade School and not having all the necessary tools it would take to do the job, the owner was still willing to give her a chance.
If this sounds too good to be true, your right! There was a small catch, the one condition to her employment at A&A, was cleaning up the owners mess. After all, not all mechanics are tiddy. Not exactly her dream job, but when opportunities arise, you must be ready to dive in. Teri was never one to shy away from hard work, so this challenge never raised an eye brow.
Once she was done with her shop cleaning duties, the owner offered her the chance to remove an engine from a customer’s Subaru. Not working on many foreign vehicles in her studies, especially Subaru’s, Teri took to wrenching like a real pro. She even surprised herself at how easy the task was on the removal of the engine. Teri was blessed to have worked for A&A for a short time and then said enough, it was time to move on. Leaving A&A behind was rewarding since what she learned would stay with her forever.
On the path for another job, Teri found work at a Mobile Service Company. It didn’t take long for her to realize, this was not her cup of tea. I always say a job is like a pair of shoes, they look good in the beginning, but after you try them on, sometimes the feeling just isn’t right. This job for Teri was like a new pair of shoes.
One day while working in the field on a service call, Teri had the pleasure of meeting Bob Felkel who was a customer at Keoughs Hot Springs. Bob used the Hot Springs for therapy do to an injury which gave Teri and Bob the opportunity to become very good friends. Right out of the gate, Bob was very impressed with Teri and never once was he intimidated by her mechanical knowledge. This friendship would turn into a lifetime partnership.
Teri’s boss at the Mobile Service was very giving when it came to offering his experiences. She listened and absorbed everything like a sponge. As we learn in life, sometimes situations can turn negative in a second and in Teri’s case, it did. As Teri’s friendship with Bob grew into a relationship she realized that the mobile work just was not her dream job so she decided to move on. Looking at her life in the Rear View Mirror, she realizes that her experiences were stepping stones into the future and who she was about to become.
With Bob at her side, pounding the pavement for her next assignment in life, she was able to land a job working for Mono, County Road Department. Already familiar with field service work, Teri was hired to handle field calls and maintaining the Sheriff’s Office vehicles. A fellow employee for the Road Department was taken by Teri’s knowledge, tenacity and hard work so much so that they became very good friends. Her coworker offered all his knowledge and experiences he could hoping to one day open a shop together. Not as boyfriend/girlfriend, but as friends and partners. He became Teri’s idol, but for whatever the reason, his dream never transpired.
Having a vision of one day opening her own shop, Teri knew it was time to stop chasing a dead end road and made the choice to return to Wyo Tech and registered in Diagnostic and Smog courses. She had no idea what she was getting into. Teri moved in with some female friends who made the learning much easier and helped out on the financial side of things. When it came to graduation, Teri took the spot as Top Of her Class and Smog Certified. What an honor for someone who never was really interested in the automotive world prior to her High School Auto Shop. It just goes to show you that if you really want something bad enough, you can achieve it.
Out of school and looking to the future, Teri returned to Bishop, California where her roots began and started searching for a building to rent in hopes of opening her own Repair Shop. It was time to take charge of her career and spread her wings. Since the town was not filled with an over abundance of warehouse space, Teri found a location where she ended up taking a small bay inside a Muffler Shop. As the owner of the Muffler shop was amazed at her ability to diagnose and repair vehicles he felt this might be a great opportunity for both of them.
Knowing that she needed to find a spot she could call her own, Teri met up with Steve Garrison, an owner/mechanic who had his own location. He allowed Teri to rent 2 bays inside his shop. Here is a guy who was willing to offer a female mechanic a few bays in his shop but was almost certain that Teri would succeed and to this day, they maintain a very professional relationship. Teri hopes to one day purchase the business from Steve, but in the meantime, things couldn’t be better.
Steve is still working in Bishop at Marsh’s Automotive and is a great advocate of Teri’s and because of it, she was given the opportunity to transform from small time mechanic to Owner of TJ’s Firing Line and calling it home. Now that Teri was stable with her professional life, it was time to advance her relationship with her boyfriend Bob, so they finally moved in together.
Bob, not having the mechanical ability as Teri, he supported her with every move and works at the Firing Line doing all the office work. Teri chuckles, “Bob also does the laundry while I play in the grease all day”.
Teri over came many challenges to fulfill her dreams the end result, a Professional Female Mechanic and A woman of substance. So if you’re ever in Bishop, California look her up or just stop by and say hi. TJ’s Firing Line 386 Sneden St.