In the 1950's Bobby Thomas Sr. was a caddy at Thunderbird Country Club in Rancho Mirage, CA. In those days, Bobby trekked two 18 hole loops per day for Thunderbird Country Club golfers. Caddy's were called "loopers" back then. Golf cars were nowhere to be seen.
One day Leonard Firestone, having extreme hip pain, wanted to know where he could buy an "electro-caddy," or electric golf car. Thomas knew of a Redlands dealer at the time and secured one for the former U.S.Ambassador.
As Bobby Thomas' son "JR" told the Desert Sun in an 2014 interview - "It all started with that one order". From that first sale, Desi Arnaz and Ray Bolger followed Firestone's lead and bought their first golf cars as well.
Bobby Thomas Sr. was a pioneer in the custom golf car business on the West Coast, and counted former presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Gerald Ford, former vice president Spiro Agnew and crooner Frank Sinatra among his many clients.
Among "JR" Thomas' memories of high-profile clients are the time Spiro Agnew peered over his shoulder as he did a service call and the time Leonore Annenberg walked in with her maid and wanted only shades of off-white for her golf car.
One of "JR's" favorite pieces of celebrity lore is the story he heard a hundred times from his father.
As "JR" remembers his father saying, it was the 1970s, and Frank Sinatra had just entered the store alone, sans entourage. Sinatra looked at a golf car that looked like a Rolls Royce. "How much is this one?" "Five thousand dollars", Thomas Sr. said. That was too expensive for Sinatra, who bought a $3,500 golf car instead. On his way out the door, Sinatra stopped. He looked over his shoulder and said "And I'll take the $5,000 one for the old lady."
A star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars was dedicated to Bobby Thomas Sr. on Dec. 11, 2007 at 235 S. Palm Canyon Drive.
Bobby Thomas Sr. passed away at the age of 82 in the Fall of 2015. Now his son, "JR" Thomas, is taking on the legacy of his father's outgoing personality, his likability, his philanthropy and his win/win business practices.
"JR" Thomas is currently dispensing all of his golf car acumen in the old Electric Car Distributors building at 74-441 Hwy. 111 Rancho Mirage, CA 92270. Bobby Sr. instilled in his son a great sense for being strong and independent and with his father's blessing the new name will be "JR THOMAS GOLF CARS!"