James Patterson started working as an automobile technician at Brooker Motor Co. on South Hamilton Street in 1971, and he fondly recalls there wasn’t a computer in the place. But the shop at Brooker Ford on Shugart Road where he works now is filled with computers used to analyze all of the electronics in modern vehicles.
“When I started in 1971, you got a ticket and it said ‘Change the oil, fix the brakes, pull the engine, do the transmission.’ You did the whole thing,” he said. “We had to start specializing because you cannot cover all the fields now. There’s just too much to keep up with.”
Patterson, 63, will retire this month after almost 42 years as an automotive technician, all of them with Brooker.
“He’s not only a great technician and a great employee, he’s a great person. He has great heart. We are going to miss him,” said General Manager Allen Brooker.
Born in Chatsworth, Patterson completed with honors a two-year program in automotive technology in 1971 and joined Brooker Motor Co., a Chrysler-Plymouth dealership. He went to work at Brooker Ford at its original Walnut Avenue location when it opened in 1972.
“I’m not going to miss the fast pace, but I’m leaving behind some good friends,” Patterson said.
For the past 23 years, his son James has worked with him at Brooker.
“I’m going to miss him a lot,” the younger Patterson said. “He was always my go-to guy if I had any questions. I’ve always had an interest (in automobiles), and he encouraged me to take it as far as I could.”
The younger Patterson was certified as a senior master diesel technician a couple of years ago. Allen Brooker said just 2 percent of automotive technicians earn that certification.
The elder Patterson said his other son Joe was adamant that he wasn’t going to work on automobiles. He attended Georgia Tech, graduating with honors with a degree in chemical engineering.
“After he graduated, Ford made him an offer, and he works for them as an engineer in research and development,” the elder Patterson said.
He said he plans to do some farming after he retires.
“My dad was a farmer, and I’ve always enjoyed gardening,” he said. “One thing I won’t be doing is working on cars.”