Twin grandsons Max and Miller Moon love to visit Steve Moon at the CMS Garage in South Carolina.
Within minutes, the energetic three-year-olds are off to a more exciting room — the body shop.
"They don't want to sit in here with me," Steve Moon said, showing a photo of the two toddlers trying to get as close as possible to a quarterpanel under reconstruction.
Steve Moon can relate. Born one year before his father helped start the CMS Garage & Body Shop in the spring of 1952, Steve Moon never wanted to be anywhere else.
"In my case, I think it was genetic," he said as he and his father talked shop history January 20. "For as long as I can remember, there was no doubt in my mind about what I wanted to do. I've never wanted to do anything but be in this business."
Lee Moon, part of a trio that started the business 64 years ago, saw it coming.
"He grew into it," Lee Moon said of his son, who took over the business when Lee and late brother Haskel retired on the same day in 1986, after more than 30 years on the job. "He's been working in here since he was real young, sweeping floors and picking up parts."
Steve Moon was in the perfect spot for that. Serving as parts pickup man was easy in the 1950s and '60s, when the garage and body shop at 800 S. Main St. in Anderson was surrounded by auto dealerships.
"I was 12 years old and didn't have a driver's license. But the Chevy and Ford dealerships were right across the street, and the Oldsmobile dealership was right next door," Moon recalled. "And a NAPA parts shop was within walking distance."
The duties were often less valuable in the early 1960s than Moon sees them in retrospect.
"Sometimes I hated it, because all my friends were playing after school while I was working," Steve Moon said. "Looking back now, I realize it was a blessing to be learning so much about a business when I was that young."
Steve Moon (left) listens to his father, Lee Moon, who started the CMS Garage and Body Shop in Anderson.
Photo: Ken Ruinard
The shop was also a learning center for Lee Moon, a Royston, Georgia, native who came to Anderson in 1946 after serving in the Army. Older brother Haskel, a gifted mechanic, was working at Charlie Ballentine's Ford dealership at the time, and helped Lee get a spot on the staff.
"That's where I learned about automobiles," Lee Moon recalled.
The job helped Lee and Haskel build a strong relationship, as brothers and co-workers. When they retired, they shared many hours golfing and camping. Haskel, who was nine years older than Lee, died in October at age 98.
(L to R) Lee Moon and his brother Haskel Moon check the electrical circuit in Buck Fulp’s 1930 Ford Coupe race car in 1053. The bill for the work was $957.32.
Photo: Courtesy of CMS Garage
"He was my best friend and brother," Lee Moon said of Haskel, his across-the-street neighbor for 55 years.
They modeled a family unity and a spiritual bond that remains on display daily at the garage, which in 1968 relocated to a larger facility a few blocks south on Main Street.
Today, Steve leads an 11-person staff that includes sons Jason, 38, and Travis, 37.
They're part of a busy team that repairs an average of 20 cars a week. The shop — unusual in its ability to offer both mechanical and bodywork service — uses four modern tow vehicles.
"The Good Lord has blessed us," said Steve Moon. "I pray for this business every morning, and God takes care of it."
He's also convinced that God has taken care of a cancer problem diagnosed two years ago, and that now makes him passionate about helping the Kids Cancer Foundation by donating hair.
That explains the pony tail and the long beard of recent months, which get plenty of heckling from his parents and friends.
While the family connection remains strong at the shop, much has changed since the early days. The supply of work was also high then, but Lee Moon couldn't afford a staff of 11.
"Three of us put together $500 to get it started," Lee Moon recalled. "We needed every tool you can imagine, and Anderson Auto Parts let us buy those on credit.
"In just a few days, we had more business than we could handle," Lee Moon recalls.
Leaning over a hood until 10 p.m. was routine, Lee Moon said.
"We had so many autos to repair, we didn't have regular hours," he said.
In that first year, Moon and others built a wrecker by mounting a boom on the back of a used pickup that was purchased from Tom Hughes' well-drilling company.
And while far more cars are rolling on Anderson roads today, Lee Moon remembers busy days for his wrecker and mechanics.
"The bodies of the cars were good back then — the metal is not as thick now as the cars were in the 1940s," he said. "Today, they make them lighter so that they get better gas mileage."
Under the hood, Moon said, today's vehicles are clearly superior.
"Back when I started, the motors weren't durable," he said. "You might go 30,000 miles in those 1940s Fords and need new rings and an overhaul."
That helped accelerate a business that is still rolling, several thousand repairs later.
Thank you Independent Mail for reprint permission.