February 1962, more than 50 years ago, John and Teresa Friemoth arrived in Idyllwild. Although born in Long Beach, John moved with his parents back to Ohio where he grew up. Western Ohio, near Lima, is where he and Theresa met, married and managed a young family until his father invited him back West.
His father George was working in California and visited Idyllwild in the late 1950s. It seemed to offer better possibilities. He got a job working with Burt Sarvera at his garage, the Idyllwild Garage. About 18 months later, Burt wanted to retire and offered the business to George.
He thought about the offer, the town of Idyllwild, and Ohio. He called his son and offered him a partnership in the garage business. John and Teresa, a little warily, visited Idyllwild in July, before making a decision. While investigating the small mountain town, they stayed in the County Park.
But the couple with two small children decided this was a good investment for business and family reasons. “I was living in Ohio and working in a factory. Seemed better to go into business with my Dad,” John said.
But they left a large family in Ohio. Teresa had seven siblings. “We all lived within 90 miles and got together on all the holidays,” she said. “I missed the family.” But they visited and this may explain why their California family lives within 50 miles.
Steve is managing the family business. Steve’s sister Lori and brother Jeff, both live in Hemet.
The original tow truck was a converted milk truck, John said. Its maximum speed was 45 miles per hour, which was a significant limitation. He once was pulled over on the freeway for going too slow and was reprimanded.
“Don’t bring this on the freeway again,” the CHP officer said, according to John.
Teresa said she and John met at a church social in Ohio, and were married in April 1954.
Seven years after the family partnership began, George retired and John had the business himself. But Steve always seemed interested in cars and spent a lot of time in the garage.
After graduating from Hemet High School, Steve went to the University of California, Riverside. He considered a career in biology and possibly medicine, but after graduating in 1980, in an earlier poor economy, he returned to the garage and the second father son partnership germinated and blossomed.
The family business is not the only family tradition. Both John and Steve have served as volunteer firefighters. John was involved for 33 years before retiring and Steve is one of the few remaining members of the paid-call company.
Fifty years later, both John and Teresa say Idyllwild is different. “There’s more people,” she said. “Then you knew everybody by their first names.”
Today, John is still at the garage, but not every day and often you can pass Teresa walking home along Highway 243.