San Jose Historical Museum Collections

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The Four Wheel Brake Garage was built around 1907. The photo above depicts a "new" addition to the garage built in 1914 by Wolf and McKenzie in the Mission style. Prior to hawking Detroit-built luxury cars, Clarence Letcher built his own custom automobiles. He was one of the first auto enthusiasts in the country.

Clarence had milepost signs put up all over California indicating how many miles you were from San Jose's Letcher Garage. You could literally follow the signs into San Jose - there to get your car serviced or pick up a brand new Pierce-Arrow. On a large sign over the garage it read - The End of the Road.

Around 1925, Clarence married Helen Permian. It was his second attempt at marriage. The second marriage didn't fare any better than the first, and Clarence took up with a blond divorcee by the name of Ann Bennet. He would tryst with her in a room he rented at the St. James Hotel.

On July 2, 1926, Mrs. Letcher drove to her husbands garage, in a last ditch effort to win over her "car guy." She met Clarence at the garage, and they engaged in a short conversation. It apparently did not go to her liking, because she pulled out a 38 caliber revolver and shot him in the head, she followed through with another shot to the heart, before turning the gun on herself.

Clarence and Helen were laid to rest in a double burial at Oak Hill Cemetery - but only for a short time. A will was found indicating Clarance wished to be cremated, and his ashes spread over Mt. Hamilton. The bodies were disinterred and Clarence's wish was carried out. Helen was laid to rest in Oakland Cemetery, beside her mother.

So it goes, around St. James Park.

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