I am a sucker for old history and great stories and that is exactly what I received as I interviewed Judi Caron a long time Nevadan. Judi and her Husband Tom are the owners of Nevada Speedometer in Sparks, Nevada. But the Speedo business was not the dreams Judi had set her sights on when she was younger. Her love for animals was a passion and being a Veterinarian held a strong place in her heart. She dreamed of caring for those fury creatures so many of us love. But little did Judi know it was only a dream.
In the 1920’s Judi’s Grandfather started a Speedometer Business in Sacramento, California as a Stuart Warner repair shop where Judi’s father learned the trade. Then in 1944, Judi’s father enlisted in WWII serving his country proudly as did many of our veterans then and now. When Judi’s father left the service he landed a job working for Pacific Bell. He married the love of his life. Only working for Pacific Bell for a short time when Judi’s father took over the business for her grandfather since he was no longer able to do so. Judi’s dad’s was taught to be honest and a proud man which included working hard and having good morals.
One day, Judi’s Grandfather kept reinforcing to Judi’s dad that he needed to have a good job so when it was time to retire he would have a good retirement, so he made a big decision to leave the business in Sacramento, California and head a little further west to Sparks, Nevada ,where he started Nevada Speedometer and still resides today on Marietta Way. His wife, Judi’s mother and the 5 kids were not able to follow since housing in the Reno/Sparks area was limited, so they stayed in Sacramento, California to allow Judi to finish her High School years. In High School Judi took to her math and Science classes like fish to water. She loved the unknown. Finding out the reason and solutions to just about anything was really exciting to Judi and these classes gave her just that, excitement.
Science and Math classes were the driving force empowering her to solve things in her life. Little did Judi realize, this would be one of the most important lessons she would learn. Judi looked at Geometry like most people look at Crossword puzzles. It was very challenging and she enjoyed every minute.
Due to the lack of housing in the Reno/Sparks area, Judi’s dad found himself commuting from their cabin in Cisco Grove, California each day to Sparks, Nevada. This was a time when gasoline was 42 cents a gallon. We could only wish for those prices today. Since her father traveled quit a distance over the summit of Interstate 80, at times he would experience driving through rain, sleet or snow. This made the commute quite intense, but Judi’s dad was committed to being to work on time. Judi’s mother worked hard to keep the family together so she would load up the kids and head to the Cisco Grove cabin on the weekends when Judi’s dad wasn’t able to travel down to Sacramento.
In 1970, Judi graduated High School and had her eyes set to enter UC Davis to start her Veterinarian schooling. Judi’s mother was working for Payless Drug Store in Sacramento and was able to get Judi a job answering phones, then later was promoted to stocking and receiving. It wasn’t the greatest job, but like all her adventures, Judi always came out of it learning valuable lessons. The knowledge she took with her from this job was priceless and would help her tremendously later in life. I always say, treat each job as a learning experience and take from it all that you can.
Out of High School, Judi was in the market for a good used car. Her dream machine was a Triumph TR4, yellow with tan interior. A friend of her father’s was a used car Salesman in the Sacramento area so Judi asked him to began looking for that perfect car. The phone rang one day and it was the Car Salesman informing Judi he had a great car, which Judi asked what kind it was. The friend told Judi it was a 1968 ½ Mustang California Special that was his nephews and was for sale since he was off to College to also be a Veterinarian. This car did not excite Judi one bit, but the friend talked her into looking at it. When Judi took one look at this car she knew this one was for her. You see, it had a Veterinarian sticker on the back window and Judi felt this was an omen. She had to have it. Since the salesman knew Judi and her dad, he allowed Judi to make monthly car payments of $68.44. Today, we might jump at the chance to have that amount for a car payment, but to Judi, this was a lot of money at that time.
Since Judi only needed 3 credits to enter College, in 1974 she figured that she could move to Sparks, Nevada with her mother and siblings to obtain a residency , so she could attend College as an out of state student. The tuition was much less that way. Her mother was offered a job in Reno, Nevada at the new Payless Drug Store that was to open soon.
After Judi moved back home and out of work, her mother was getting tired of Judi being at home so she strongly suggested to Judi that she needed to get a job.
Judi began looking for jobs in the local newspapers classifieds and saw an ad for Harold’s Gun Club which had an opening for a score keeper. Judi had no idea what a score keepers duties were, but she applied for it anyway. Judi arrived at the gun club for the interview along with a few others who also were in search of a job. While waiting Judi couldn’t help but notice these three male patrons who were hanging around the office area. After awhile, one of them walked up to Judi and asked her if she wanted a soda. Judi couldn’t help but thinking, a soda, what a strange guy. She was not interested in what this guy might be thinking, so she ignored him especially since this guy had this ugly purple hat on. Judi could tell that this guy was different, but little did she know, one day he would become her husband.
Judi landed the job. While at work, keeping score for the shooters, she began to meet some important men around town who always spoke very highly of Judi’s father. She always respected her father and hearing all the wonderful things that people were saying about him really warmed her heart.
After only being in town a few years, her father became very well respected. Reno was a small town then and word of mouth could make or break your business. Some of the customers that would came in to the shop to have their speedometers repaired, were very prominent people about town. Everyone who met Judi’s father was very impressed with his honesty, hard work and dedication to perfection. This kept them coming back.
Judi, not interested in the Speedo business found more important things to do, like learning to hunt and shoot. Her Grandfather on her Mother’s side, who she described as looking like Colonel Sanders, was an outdoorsman and he passed that passion onto Judi. Because of it, her shooting skills were top notch. Let’s not forget about fishing, Judi loved to fish, so much so that when Judi found out she was pregnant and quit her job, she would pack a lunch for her dad each day. This gave her and her father a great excuse to head down to the fishing hole just down the street and leave a sign on the door “Gone Fishing down the Street” just in case customers needed to find him.
One day while Judi was at the Speedo shop she began to answer phones to help her dad. Without knowing what type of questions the customers might inquire about didn’t intimidate Judi one bit. After all, she was always up for a good challenge. Remember, she loved the unknown.
Her Payless Drug days were beginning to kick in along with her math skills. You see Speedometers work off of mathematics. The gear ratio (revolutions) is really made up of math. Judi would watch her father closely making the adapters for the different type of vehicles you needed to calculate the rear end ratio, tire sizes and speedometers. They all equate to math. Knowing how many revolutions to ratio allows you to compute what type of adapter you would need. This was like butter to Judi. She loved pulling out her slide ruler to calculate the variables. This of course was not sitting well with her dad since this type of math was not what he was familiar with, but for Judi, math was a breeze. Because of her ability, Judi was able to help her father reduce the number of adapters added on a vehicle right down to one and simplify the process, In the long run, saving customer’s money.
Judi then began to look at the other aspects of her father’s business like, how do you know when to re order parts. Her father’s system was to reorder when he ran low. Judi started to organize the ordering process, shipping costs, new products and began a large stack of notes in which she still refers to today as references.
Judi started to become comfortable helping her father at the shop. On one afternoon, her father was making a cable for a customer so, Judi determined to learn how she tended to a customer who came in to have a cable repaired. The customer handed the part to Judi and explained what he needed, so she proudly took the part to her father grease and all and revealed what the customer was looking for. Her father had this surprised look on his face and began to explain to Judi that girls do not get greasy. Grease does not come off of girls hands like they do a man’s. Once the part was ready, so to please her father, Judi washed her hands, grabbed the part with a rag working hard not to touch it and gave it back to the customer.
As time went on Judi’s father began to realize she was sincere about learning this business, so he began to teach her all the tricks of the trade in making speedometer cables. It was at that time when Judi found out that it was now acceptable for her to get grease on her hands.
Judi became thirsty for knowledge and began to teach herself by reading the books her father had on hand where she learned the various types of Speedo’s, fuel tank sending units and gauges that her father repaired. With Judi’s ability in advance mathematics things were starting to click, I’ll bet that slide ruler was never far from her side. Judi wanted her father to know she was there for him. They became quit a team.
With foreign cars starting to invade America, the Speedo business became challenging, Judi and her father would need to conquer how to convert Odometers to Kilometers and with Judi’s wiz for math that was a breeze. Her father was impressed. And to think, she wanted to be a Veterinarian. Amazing how our lives can be empowered by turn of events.
The auto industry was changing and Judi was up for the challenge and mastered it on every revolution. Even the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles would pay Nevada Speedometer a visit just to check calibrations on vehicles they suspected might have been tampered with. They would also set up stings so Judi and her father would work with DMV when they had individuals who wanted them to alter the Speedo’s. Having integrity and great morals never allowed them the temptation.
Judi and her husband Tom have maintained that outstanding reputation in the community Judi’s father worked so hard to obtain. As I was finalizing the interview, Judi explain how she calculated the ratio for the engine, tires, rear end and transmission on any given vehicle which equated to the correct gear a customer was in search of. Just listening to Judi, you could absorb the love she had for her father and how she empowered herself by never giving up. Her body language was evidence enough to demonstrate her passion for this business. It was very impressive. I have been a mechanic for over 41 years and I must say I learned a lot in this interview.
So if you ever need to keep that Speedometer turning true, give Judi or Tom a call, they definitely have a lot to offer.