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The Beckers of New Braunfels

Caption: Becker Chevrolet, 474 W. San Antonio St, ca. 1930.

Caption: Becker Chevrolet, 474 W. San Antonio St, ca. 1930.

By Tara V. Kohlenberg —

I blink my eyes and the town is growing, changing, faster than ever before. That is why I’m drawn to write about the houses and downtown buildings that were old and classic when I was a child. These buildings have connections to people. I want others to know the importance of those connections and for the history to be recorded. Today, we also talk cars.

If you were to look around our ever-expanding New Braunfels today, one could count approximately seven car dealerships. Back in 1949, when the community was much, much smaller, there were actually thirteen dealerships. The Chrysler Dodge dealership was begun in New Braunfels by the Becker family ninety years ago.

August B. Becker, originally from Frelsburg, Texas, moved his family to Seguin in 1921 to run a dairy farm. While in Seguin, he worked for Seguin Motor Company. Becker Motor Company, known then as Becker Chevrolet, was founded on November 16, 1928, by August and his son-in-law, Louis Niemeyer. It was originally the holder of the Chevrolet dealership, which they bought from Jess Sippel. Becker Chevrolet was located in the Forshage Building at 474 W. San Antonio St. Earlier in the year, I told you about the historic Holz-Forshage-Krueger building on W. San Antonio St. and the long line of automobile dealerships that filled its spaces. Becker was there for five years.

August Becker did well with the Chevrolet brand, but he did not like that General Motors required all financing be done through them. He also took issue with GM’s practice of sending cars to the dealer whether they wanted them or not. In 1932, Chevrolet shipped sixty new cars just as the new 1933 model was coming out. The Becker sales staff went door to door in a thirty-mile radius of New Braunfels until all the units were sold. It was the last straw for August Becker and the Chevrolet franchise was sold to the Kruegers in September of 1933.

When the Beckers were trying to decide what franchise to seek out, the agent for the Dodge Division of Chrysler Corporation loaned them a demonstrator for a week, which sealed the decision for Dodge. Upon taking the Dodge franchise, Becker Motor Company moved to the Baetge Garage on South Seguin Avenue. It was located where the Wright Building now stands across from Naegelin’s Bakery.

In 1935, Becker Motor Company moved down the street to 300 South Seguin Avenue, which is now a parking lot for First Protestant Church. About this same time, Niemeyer was bought out by August Becker’s son, Walter. Sometime later, August’s other sons Leroy and George also joined the partnership. The building that they occupied on the corner of South Seguin and Coll Street was owned by Marvin Jarisch. At the end of World War II, Jarisch obtained the Kaiser/Frasier franchise (predecessor of Jeep) and wanted his building back.

Property was purchased at 547 South Seguin Ave. from Mr. Silvers. Being 1945 and the end of the war, building materials were hard to come by. They constructed the new Dodge dealership out of material salvaged from the demolition of two warehouses at the Landa Mill’s property adjacent to Landa Park. Concrete blocks were not available, so they were made at the building site. Who would ever suspect that sparkling white/gray stucco building was made from salvaged materials? The basic design of the building was sound and has served well for more than 75 years.

The dealership continued to change and grow. In 1946, returning veteran George E. Becker bought into the business. In 1957, August Becker, the founder, passed away. In 1959, they added the DeSoto franchise, but by 1961, it was out of production. In 1966, Walter and George E. Becker bought out their brother, Leroy.

Becker obtained the Chrysler/Plymouth franchise when Ruppel Auto Co. (just a couple of doors down from them) went out of business in 1972. In 1973, the partnership reorganized as a corporation with Walter Becker, brother George Becker and Walter’s son, Arno. After Walter retired, his daughter Cora Jane Becker Welsch and her husband Fritz Welsch became stockholders.

Becker Motor Company has grown, survived a couple of fuel crises and the near bankruptcy of Chrysler Corporation. Yet, it was still consistently a recipient of the Five Star Achievement Award for 34 years. On October 22, 2001, after 73 years, Becker Motor Company signed a Buy-Sell Contract with Kahlig Enterprises.

On March 4, 2002, Bluebonnet Chrysler Dodge opened their doors in the Becker building. They embraced the community, the history, and even the iconic blue and white neon sign greeting customers. They have continued to grow, taking over the old dental office next door and filling the showroom floor with office cubicles. Bluebonnet has even continued the tradition of super achievements, ranking number one in RAM truck sales nationally. Now it is their turn to move. Bluebonnet Chrysler Dodge RAM has purchased ten acres between I-35 and Old 81 to continue what the Becker family began.

I hope the old WWII era building and its iconic blue and white sign will still be loved after they leave.

Caption: Becker Motor Co., 300 S. Seguin Ave., ca. 1940.

Caption: Becker Motor Co., 300 S. Seguin Ave., ca. 1940.


Caption: Becker Motor Co., 547 S. Seguin Ave., ca. 1946.

Caption: Becker Motor Co., 547 S. Seguin Ave., ca. 1946.

Sources: Sophienburg Museum & Archives; Wes Studdard, Bluebonnet Motors.