The 1947 Cadillac convertible sitting on the street in Hamilton Missouri is in mint condition. With just 54,000 miles on it, the beauty deserves an appreciative whistle from anyone who passes.
But when you learn the history of the car, who its original owner was, even non-gearheads take notice. This is the last vehicle owned by James Cash Penney – the original J.C. Penney for whom the 1,100-store retail chain is named.
Fewer than 2,000 people live in Hamilton Missouri today and certainly J.C. Penney was their most famous citizen. After graduating from high school here – a school now called Penney High School – he moved west to make his fortune, eventually opening a store under his own name in Kemmerer Wyoming.
But he came home to Hamilton often and became friends with a young grocer named Dean Hales. It was to Hales that Mr. Penney sold his Cadillac a few years before his death in 1971. He was 95 years old.
There’s a little museum in Hamilton, about 90 minutes northeast of Kansas City, that tells the history of the Penney Company, with lots of cool items donated by the company and the family. And you can see the house in which J.C. and his 11 brothers and sisters were raised.
And if you’re lucky, Dean Hales will be out and about in J.C. Penney’s 1947 Cadillac Convertible. If you’re really lucky, he’ll take you for a ride in it.