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Billy Lamm is a two-tire-gauges-in-the-pocket kind of guy.
Lamm, 82, has been looking after automobiles at Lamm’s Service Station in Sims since he was 21.
“I started here in 1956. My full name is William Selby Lamm, but I go by Billy,” said the veteran mechanic
Lamm was born and raised about a quarter of a mile from Stotts Crossroads.
“My father was a farmer. He had a country store and a garage,” Lamm said.
On the wall in Lamm’s “office” hangs his father Selby Lamm’s certificate from the Nashville Automotive College dated March 1, 1929.
“He was one of the first mechanics there was around,” Lamm said.
Lamm’s father built the business in Sims in 1954 after his original country store on Old Raleigh Road burned down.
As a young man, Lamm traveled around for a while, going to Chicago and to Washington, D.C., before returning to Sims to work for and to learn from his father.
“I didn’t go to trade school,” Lamm said. “It was good to have somebody like that to call on. I learned a lot from him. My dad and myself were some of the first that inspected cars around here.”
Automobiles have changed in ways over the years, but Lamm said they still need to have the oil changed, tires changed and general upkeep.
“You just keep them maintained, just like you did then,” Lamm said. “They have just got a lot more accessories on them like air conditioning, electric windows and doors and door locks and stuff like that.”
Lamm’s business now declines to take on major engine repairs and instead focuses on minor repairs, brake work, tire sales, tire repairs and inspections.
What he does have is what motorists will need to get their car back on the road and headed where they need to go.
Serpentine belts hang from the ceiling waiting to fix a breakdown.
“That one belt covers everything,” Lamm said. “If that belt breaks, you better stop.”
“Most of the people that were my customers when I started here, if they were as much as 30 years old then, they aren’t living,” Lamm said.
Sims has changed over the years, Lamm said.
“At the time I started here, there was about 10 or 12 little establishments here,” Lamm said.
“It’s just like it is with all the rest of the towns,” Lamm said. “Most of the businesses that were here when I started have closed up. I’m the last one. There ain’t nobody else here that was here when I started. Everybody’s dead.”
At one time, the service station was a real gathering place, but now the chairs still arranged around the heating furnace in the side room are empty.
“There used to be a lot of people here when I sold beer, but then some of them started running their mouth at the people coming in here to pump gas and I just quit it,” Lamm said.
Lamm has a sense of humor. He pulls a Styrofoam mannequin sporting eye shadow and lipstick off the top of a shoulder-high Cannon safe.
“I found this out in the trash with a sign on it,” Lamm said. “You know what it said? ‘I ain’t got nobody.’”
Around the corner a bumper sticker is plastered to the side of a filling cabinet topped by automotive magazines.
“Politicians & Diapers Need to be Changed For The Same Reason.”
Lamm still carries a few packs of snack crackers, peanut butter wafers, raisin creme pies and Tootsie rolls, but they share the shelves with hub caps and alternators.
A horseshoe hangs from the turn knob on a partially filled gumball machine from an era when 5 cents could buy two gumballs.
“I have tried to get out of that stuff,” Lamm said. “You can’t do everything.”
He admits that it is tough to compete with the convenience store or the new Dollar General in Sims.
Near Lamm’s desk, under a counter heaped with motor magazines and tire guides, he has two deep drawers filled with suckers and hard candy to give out to customers’ children.
“I give that to the little children. I used to give a whole lot of them away,” Lamm said.
One customer, Ray Wells, a resident of Sims, has been coming to the service station all his life.
“I have been coming here every since I was knee high to a grasshopper,” Wells said. “I have been doing business here for a long time.”
Everyone in Sims seems to know Lamm.
Janie Bayer, of Sims, had to replace a tire Tuesday.
“I don’t hear anything bad about him,” Bayer said.
“He’s the right one to make a movie star out of,” Wells said.
Lamm’s, located at 6311 U.S. 264 Alternate, is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
Located 9 miles west northwest of Wilson on U.S. 264 Alternate
Population is 346
Interim mayor is Rhonda Payne
Incorporated in 1930
Over the next few Saturdays, the Times will be featuring residents in Wilson County’s small towns.