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Car Hobby Auto Make You Young

Millard Young and his award-winning 1934 Ford Phaeton.

By Sherry Kughn
JSU News Bureau

23 September 2004 — On a dewy September morning in Piedmont, Millard Young, Jr. hooked a charger to a dead battery in one of the antique cars in his barn. Mr. Young's shepherd dog Sassy lapped water from a nearby cast-iron pot and watched her master work.

The scene contrasted sharply with one that took place a month earlier and hundreds of miles away. At Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester, Michigan, which is sometimes referred to as “an American castle” because of its elegant architecture and mystique, Mr. Young's burgundy 1934 Ford Phaeton won the prestigious Most Significant Award from Ford Motor Company at the Concours d'Elegance show sponsored by Ford, DaimlerChrysler, and General Motors.

From the winning Ford's highly-polished burgundy fenders to the soft leather seats and carefully aligned screw heads, Henry Ford himself would have felt proud as he viewed a car like this (perhaps this very one).

Mr. Young's hobby of showing antique cars has taken him many places, including the home of Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan; Hershey, Pennsylvania; Pebble Beach, California; Amelia Island, Florida; and Petoskey and Bay Harbor, Michigan, to enter one of his four antique cars in competitions.

His interest in buying and restoring antique cars resulted in awards for all four cars. A 1928 Lincoln Dual Cowl Phaeton won a national first prize in a car show in 1981 and first place in the Classic Car Club of America's Museum (CCCA) in 1996. His 1934 Ford Phaeton in 1982 won national first prize at the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) show in Dearborn and a blue ribbon at Meadow Brook in 2001. His fourth car is a 1912 Ford Model T touring car, which won a Ford award in Philadelphia and a blue ribbon in Petoskey. Mr. Young holds membership in the AACA, the CCCA, and the Early V-8 Ford Club.

Mr. Young became interested in cars as a teenager. When he was a student at Piedmont High School during the early 1950s, he and his siblings needed transportation. He bought a broken-down 1928 Model A Ford for $75 and repaired it. Later, he became acquainted with Claude Merrill, another car enthusiast in Piedmont, and learned more about repairing and refinishing cars. Mr. Young also grew to love cars through working with his father, M.V. Young, who owned service stations in Piedmont, Jacksonville, and Centre. The elder Young also taught his son to value education and made sure he attended and graduated from JSU.

“I was the first Young with a degree,” said Mr. Young, who was JSU's 2003 Alumnus of the Year. “I thought my success in life depended on that degree.”

His knowledge of business administration, his major, was tested many times in his father's oil company, which owned five stores. In spite of the lifetime of work his father had put into the business, Mr. Young said there was only about $5,000 in profits at the time of his father's death in 1963 to divide among the children.

It was up to Mr. Young to turn the business around. He and his sister bought out the other siblings and worked hard to expand their father's business. They weathered the gasoline shortage of the 1970s when overhead expenses were high and there was almost no gasoline to sell. The crisis bankrupted some companies, but the Youngs managed to find enough gasoline to keep the business alive until the economy improved.

“The only time I didn't have time for antique cars,” said Mr. Young, “was in 1972. Back then it was [a matter of] survival in the business world.”

In 1980, Mr. Young bought out his sister's interest in Young Oil. The operation, which he reorganized again in 1994-95 with his own children, now operates ten Grub Mart convenience stores. The company also supplies gasoline to about 40 other businesses throughout the area.

Mr. Young serves as CEO of Young Oil, which is also run by his sons, Vernon III and Brian. But not all of the Youngs have the same enthusiasm for cars. On the September morning after the Ford's big win, the boys helped their father get another car ready for competition. Vernon eased one of the Phaetons out of the barn after its battery had recharged. He wrinkled his brow when he heard static coming from the interior of the car and discovered the radio that had been left on, which explained the dead battery. Brian dusted away cobwebs with a cotton mop and watched his brother and father check oil and gasoline levels. He said he preferred hunting deer instead of maintaining antique cars.

A fondness they do share is affection for JSU. Both brothers are JSU graduates, as is Mr. Young's wife, Ann, a retired elementary school teacher who often travels to car shows with her husband. Other JSU graduates are Vernon's wife Scarlett, both Young sisters, Karen Young Kiser (who also holds a degree from the University of Alabama) and Pam Young. Brian's wife Jennifer is currently a JSU student.

“JSU is just our school,” said Mr. Young. And those few words explain the many years of support the family has given the university.

The Young family has sponsored benefit tournaments for the JSU golf team, chartered buses for fans to attend away football games, sponsored athletic programs, established the M.V. and Ruth Young Scholarship fund in memory of Mr. Young's parents, and sponsored the computerized sign at Pete Mathews Coliseum.

Mr. Young also is a member of the JSU Foundation board and a charter member of the Honorary Coaches Club (now called the Gamecock Club). In past years, the Young family combined their interest in antique cars and JSU by hosting the Antique Automobile Drive-In, with proceeds helping the JSU International House. Mr. Young is currently on the International House board and the JSU Foundation board. He is active in the community, serving on the Piedmont School board, the Jaycees, and the Masonic Lodge Lozahatchee 97.

“JSU educates young people,” said Mr. Young, “and I agree with that.”

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