Dennis Leary, our Spotlight of this issue, is a delight to speak
with. He was born in 1930, and grew up in Walnut Grove, Ca.
He was the second of four children. He had an older sister,
and a younger sister and brother. His Dad was a Rancher, and
they grew a wide variety of agriculture.
When World War II broke out in 1941, Dennis was 11 years
old. During those years, he said “drivers were needed”. If you
could reach the pedals of a vehicle, you were allowed to drive.
When Dennis turned 12, he was already driving on the highway. He got his license at age 14. I asked
Dennis if he was always interested in cars. He answered a definite “yes”. He then fondly recalled a time
when, on his Dad’s Ranch, he would go out after dinner, and start nearly all the equipment and trucks that
the men parked. He would drive ten feet forward and back. Sometimes he left they key “on”, and the
batteries would be dead in the morning. The men would come out in the morning and say “he’s been out
here again”. Years later, he found out that he was called “an awful nuisance”. We all had a chuckle at this
Dennis loved his first car. It was a 1935 LaSalle. His dad bought another car in ‘42, and he eventually
gave the La Salle to his son. He said that the 1935 looked very similar to the Labhard’s 1937 Imperial.
Dennis recalled that his dad said he would do ‘anything’ do drive. One of his summer jobs was to help
sand the roads. When they sanded roads, they oiled the roads first and then put sand over the oil. It
wasn’t the easiest job in the world. He loaded and unloaded sand every day, to get the job done, but he
got to drive the truck, and that was his joy.
Another fond memory which Dennis always considered an “adventure” was to visit the car dealers to pick
up their catalogs. A couple of times he remembers going to Earl C Anthony Packard Dealer in San
Francisco. He recollected that their Showroom was very spectacular. He just loved those adventures of
visiting the car showrooms.
Back in the 40’s, his hometown of Walnut Grove was a ‘thriving’ town. By 1947, there were several car
dealers that included – Chevrolet, Ford, Kaiser Frazer, Pontiac, and GMC trucks. I was disappointed
because he did not mention Chrysler, but happy to hear that in Isleton, a few miles down the road (and my
Mom’s hometown); there was a Dodge dealer where his parents bought two Chryslers. Today, Walnut
Grove and Isleton are shadows of the towns they once represented, but still a delight to visit, if you don’t
The 1966 Imperial that Dennis now owns, originally belonged to his parents.. Dennis ordered it for them
from a Dealer in Lodi, Ca. His parents picked the color. The license plate frame is still the original. The
reason the Imperial was purchased was that the front seat was a divided bench seat. He had a tall Father
and a much shorter Mother. They drove often, and many times across country. They would always split the
driving chores. Every hour they would switch. In the past, when they took their turn at driving, they would
have to pull the seat closer to the accelerator for his Mom to drive. His Dad, being so tall, would have to
endure his knees to his chin, as he sat on the passenger side. During their car shopping trip one year, they
visited the Imperial dealer in Lodi. When his Mom saw that the Imperial had separate controls for the split
bench seat, she knew they were going to buy the car. It wasn’t a true bucket seat. It was a bench seat, but
they could individually adjust it. The ’66 Imperial won her heart. After she drove the Imperial for 100,000
miles, she was ready for another car. He did not want them to trade the Imperial in, so he bought it from
We had a chuckle during our interview when I asked Dennis if he was mechanically inclined. He said he
“thought so”, but he also said that when you have “better mechanics working with you”, he wouldn’t be so
sure. I am sure Dennis was being humble. I am sure the learning opportunity to learn more about the care
of your own car is enjoyable.
Dennis served in the Air Force for four years. He served one year in Korea. When he served his time in the
Service, he returned to ‘The Ranch’, and worked with his Dad and brother.
Dennis has been a member for many years. He has hosted two Christmas parties at his beautiful ranch
home in Walnut Grove. At the last Christmas party, which Ken and I got to attend, Dennis gave us
mementos of his family’s produce label. His favorite memory of the Car Club was when John Tennyson
came to Dennis’ rescue, when the power steering hose on his Imperial gave up just as he was driving into
the parking lot for an annual meeting around the Napa area. He is still soo appreciative of John fixing the
power steering hose on his Imperial. Dennis continues to enjoy the club activities near home in
Sacramento. Along with his Imperial, Dennis cherishes his other classics which include a ’49 Ford, and his
’69 Ford XL Convertible which he is also very proud.
Thank you, Dennis for sharing with us. You are a valued member of IOANC member.
Dennis' '66 Imperial
Dennis with his '66 Imperial,
at one of the State Meets
Below is a photo of Dennis' beautiful
Ranch home and his '66 Imperial
Dennis' ' 69 Ford XL
Dennis' '66 Cadillac