Catching up with Mama! The star of classic ‘Mama’s Used Cars’ commercials talks to News 2

Local News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – If you watched local television in the 80’s, 90’s or early 2000’s, you likely caught the antics of David, the clumsy, careless but kind-hearted son of white-haired pearl-wearing “Mama.”

The comedic pair were local celebrities – we all waited to see Mama rescue David… from himself.

News 2’s Carolyn Murray recently caught up with Mama and found her witty, wise and celebrating 100 years of life.

“My name is Mary Elizabeth Armstrong, and I am 100-years-old,” she said. “Everybody calls me Mama.”

For more than 30 years, Mama filled TV airtime with her side kick, David Simmons.

They had scripts, but often just worked off each other.

“If we made a mistake, David would say ‘keep on going.’ We had many mistakes,” she said with a laugh.

Thirty seconds of home-grown humor almost overshadowed that they were in the business of selling cars at Palmetto Ford’s ‘Mama’s Used Cars.’

The duo became as familiar as your next-door neighbors.

“David and I did the commercials almost 30-something years,” she said.

When asked who came up with the idea that would become the stuff that gives locals a laugh, Mama said: “Manly Eubank. He called me one day and told me he wanted to do a commercial about a mother and a son, and he would like for me to be the mother. I said ‘Manly, I don’t know how to do that, and I am too fat for television.”

She enjoyed being on television. “Oh yea,” she said. “I couldn’t help but enjoy it.”

A widow of more than 55 years, Mama started “acting” late in life. She was in her 70’s – her mind stayed sharp as a tack but needed a break sometimes during tapings.

“I would take my walker and put it near me and would kind of lean against the car and we would do the commercials,” she recalled.

Sadly, David Simmons passed away in 2017. Mama said they became close over the years.

“He was more than just a boss, he was a friend,” she said. “He took good care of me like I was his mother.”

Her great grandson, Trey, said he had no problems sharing her with everyone. “It wasn’t odd, I enjoyed it,” he said. “I believe it was back in elementary school and I brought Nana in to come and talk. And I was like this is my great grandmother.”

The coronavirus pandemic keeps her home these days, but those times when she did venture out, she saw stares and heard the calls, “Hey, Mama, I want a car!”

Born the year women got the right to vote in downtown Charleston, Mama says she has been blessed to see and hear more than most.

“I really don’t know why God kept me here,” she said. “I’m still here and I’ll be here ‘til the good Lord says come home.”

Libby “Mama” Armstrong is proud to share that she is the mother of five children, 10 grandchildren, and eight great-great-grandchildren.

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