Mr. O'Brien was the oldest son of a stern, tough Irish immigrant policeman. He worked as a messenger boy at Postal Telegraph, as a linesman for the telephone company, and eventually as a produce manager at a grocery store. He married Clara Johnson in September of 1929, and they invested their life savings in a fruit and vegetable market on the corner of Prospect and Olive Streets. This was during the Great Depression years.
One hot summer day, Mr. O'Brien took their old pick-up truck and what little cash they had to buy a load of watermelons at the wholesale produce market. As he was driving down Virginia Avenue and Fountain Square, he noticed an unusual number of people waving at him and he naturally waved back. Mr. O'Brien, who was a very good catcher in semi-professional baseball and had turned down a chance to play professional baseball because his wife was pregnant, proudly thought that many of these people recognized him because of his baseball talents.
However, he soon discovered the true reason for these waves when he looked in his rear view mirror - the tailgate of the truck had dropped down and his entire load of watermelons had fallen out on the street behind him - one at a time - for blocks and blocks!
His Irish temper took over. He drove the truck back to the store and gave the keys to the truck and the store to "Pop" O'Brien. He told him to sell everything and keep the money. Then he caught a streetcar to Jones and Maley and started to sell cars that same day. Less than two years later, on January 12, 1933, he started his own Desoto-Plymouth dealership - "Sullivan and O'Brien" - at 501 Virginia Avenue.
Since that time, the O'Brien family has continued to grow in the automobile business. On October 1, 1962, Mr. O'Brien's son, J. Thomas O'Brien, opened a new Northside Chrysler Plymouth dealership, and in 1972 the original dealership on Virginia Avenue moved to its current location in Greenwood. On February 1, 1990, O'Brien Toyota Scion was added on Shadeland Avenue. On October 24, 2002, we relocated our Northside dealership from 5102 N. Keystone Avenue to its current location on 96th Street. And on March 1, 2011, O'Brien FIAT became the first studio in Indiana and the 11th in the nation to help launch the return of FIAT to America.
The O'Brien Automotive Family is now in the fourth generation of automobile sales and service. In over eighty years, we've come a long way since our watermelons...since 1933.