Nob Hill History

Billy Bear & the Bow & Arrow Automotive Company

The Jones Motor Company was established in 1939 by Ralph Jones. Mr. Jones was a good citizen and had an architect named Tom Danahy design the Art Moderne building with white stucco, summit inca red brick coping, and a flat roof. A microbrewery is now located in the old Jones Motor Company facility.

In 1944, Bow & Arrow Auto Sales set up shop just west of the Jones Motor Company. The Bow & Arrow Car Company also sold new and used cars but they were considered much less prestigious than the Jones Motor Company. Bow & Arrow Auto Sales occupied the corner lot of Central & Tulane at 3400 Central Avenue.

Competition was fierce between Jones Motor Company and Bow & Arrow Automotive Sales. Jones Motor Company had the advantage of higher name I.D., more advertising budget, better word of mouth, better product line & Mr. Ralph Jones was a prominent businessman, civic leader, president of the Route 66 Association and the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.

In 1944 however, Bow & Arrow Auto sales out performed Jones Motor Company. Why? Because Jerry "dog eye" Robbins, owner of Bow & Arrow , made use of a secret weapon... a one- of- a kind , out of this world, promo sales gimmick ...and to this day this point of sale stunt is still considered Albuquerque's best on -premise sales Promo.

Almost to this very day in 1944, as part of a Washington's birthday sales promotion, Bow and Arrow Auto Sales brought a big black bear to Albuquerque. Billy the Bear would take on any customer. Billy the Bear wore a muzzle and customers had to fill out a form saying they understood the risk. Customers furthermore were equipped with special gloves & were also required to wear a custom canvas suit for safety's sake.

Now the legend of Billy the Bear is quite remarkable. Usually the story is used to support the underdog. How a less known business was able to overtake a prestigious business. But I like the story for other reasons. A man named Butch Henderson was notorious bully. Butch was known for being aggressive, tough, and liked to show-off his fighting skills. He entered the ring against Billy the Bear and was having trouble exerting his power over the fierce bear. Ol' Butch Henderson got desperate. He broke the contest rules and took off his gloves thinking his bare knuckles would wound the bear. Butch began striking the bear with his bare knuckles, but instead of slowing the bear down, this bare knuckle ploy backfired because Billy the Bear got super irritated and annoyed and almost killed Butch the town Bully.

This whole promotion sort of had a bitter-sweet component to it. Though it served to fuel the publicity engine for Bow & Arrow Automotive, it also left onlookers feeling sad and awkward. There was something un-natural and immoral about albuquerque citizens fighting the glorious bear. The city council banned the practice of exhibitional wrestling bears and Bow & Arrow Automotive closed in the winter of 1945.

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