COOLIDGE — When Robert “Bob” Hendrie moved to Coolidge with his family from Michigan in 1949, he was not expecting to like the new town he was to call home.
Coolidge, however, quickly found a way into his heart.
“I dreaded making the move because I grew up in Clare, Michigan,” said Hendrie, who was a fifth grader and attended the Intermediate School when he moved. “But as it turned out, Coolidge was absolutely the most wonderful place to grow up that you could imagine.”
Years later, Hendrie is among four people who will be inducted into the Coolidge High School Hall of Fame on Sept. 20.
The Hendrie family moved to Coolidge when Robert’s father, Jay Hendrie, decided to help a long-time business partner establish a Buick dealership in Coolidge. According to Hendrie, the two men had previously partnered together to run a Chrysler dealership in Clare, which closed down not long after the start of World War II.
The Hendrie Buick Pontiac & GMC dealership was located at 777 S. Arizona Blvd. The dealership was considered one of the oldest consecutively owned and operated Buick dealerships in the western states.
The business also played a critical role in serving the local community, especially public schools. Hendrie Buick routinely lent vehicles to be used in homecoming events and also allowed the high school’s agriculture department to borrow pickup trucks for academic purposes.
During his time in high school, Hendrie was part of the baseball team and was also a member of the Letterman’s Club. He graduated from Coolidge High School in 1957. After graduating, Hendrie said he played American Legion Baseball for about a year, something he enjoyed very much.
He also joined the Arizona Army National Guard, severing from 1958-1966 as a platoon sergeant as part of Company B First Battalion 158th Infantry Division. After returning from his training with the National Guard, Hendrie then attended Arizona State University.
But it was not long before he realized that college was just not the path for him. After a semester at ASU, he decided instead to head to Flint, Michigan — at the time known as the “vehicle city” because of the concentration of vehicle manufacturers located within the area — where he attended a seven-week dealer management training school.
He then returned to Coolidge, and began working at the dealership. He started out as a car salesman, before eventually becoming the service manager. He worked in the body shop and service department for 30 years, before he eventually became the co-owner.
Hendrie managed the business for 12 years before he retired in 1999 and sold the dealership.
“It was a very enjoyable lifetime,” he said of his time at the dealership.
In addition, Hendrie also took pride in being an active member of the Coolidge community, participating in a number of local organizations including the Coolidge Chamber of Commerce, the Coolidge-Florence Elks Lodge and the Coolidge Jaycees. He was also a member of the Coolidge DeMolay.
Additionally, Hendrie was a member of the Coolidge Public Library Advisory Board, and he was elected to the Coolidge Unified School District Governing Board, where he served for two terms.
Although he now lives in Payson, Hendrie still looks back fondly on his time in Coolidge.
“I really enjoyed growing up in Coolidge,” he said. “When I got there, we had everything. We had two theaters, we had a drive-in theater, we had the Hohokam Country Club, and we had three swimming pools.”
While things have changed for the city since those days, Hendrie said that he is confident that “Coolidge will thrive again.”