Jun 2, 2009

Back to the Past...

The Cars on Display at Guptill's Arena

This weekend deserves to be documented. It all began several months ago when I was notified that the Lincoln Zephyr Owners Club was planning to conduct a meet at Latham, New York.

I have been a member of the LZOC since the early 1970's. For several years, Margo and I were the membership chairmen of the club, and I developed and maintain the club's Web site. On that Web site, among other features, I have for several years included a calendar of events that might interest members of the club. For any major club event I usually create a special Web page describing the details with links to the host hotel, a map of the area near the site of the meet, a link that permits the user to print an application form, and a schedule of activities. So I was not simply being notified that a meet was going to take place in Latham, near Albany, New York. I was also being asked to create the Web page that would publicize it to our club members who use the Internet.

Coincidentally, I was born and raised in Schenectady, New York, so I saw this as an opportunity to not only attend a national meet of the club, but also to visit my old “stomping grounds.” I had lots of frequent flier miles stored up from my recent years' travel, so I talked it over with Mary Ann and decided to go to the meet. She had to stay at home to keep the gift shop open, but she encouraged me to go. It had been several years since I had attended a club event and I also saw it as an opportunity to renew some old and very dear friendships.

I planned to fly to Albany on Friday morning as early as possible so I'd only have to use one day of vacation. I knew that the Concours d ‘Elegance and judging were planned for Friday afternoon. My hope was that I would arrive in time to get a few pictures at that event while the cars were on display. I made it in time. My flights to Atlanta and from Atlanta to Albany both arrived early. I picked up my rental car and dashed up the road to Guptill's Arena, a 1950's-era skating rink in which I skated as a kid.

The front parking lot of Guptill's was the site of the car display. What a perfect setting. And as I expected, I started seeing a lot of familiar faces – John McAdams, one of the founders of the club in 1968, and his lovely wife Ellen; club President Jerry Emery and his wife Roz; past club president Al McWade and his wife Charlotte; Jerry and Mary Richman, Carolyn Henderson (the Chief Judge of the club), Tom Brunner (club Treasurer), and many more.

After we returned to the hotel, the technical seminar proceeded, hosted and presented by Ed Spagnolo, of Color-Ite Refinishing Company of Bethany, Connecticut, a car restoration business of long standing. Ed and his associates probably have more experience with high-quality restorations of Lincoln-Zephyrs (1936-1948) and the early Lincoln Continentals built on the Zephyr Chassis than any other restoration shop. He came equipped with a computer full of PowerPoint show-and-tell presentations of restorations, unique problems and solutions, and great personal stories. The audience really appreciated his sharing of experiences.

Friday evening was concluded with a social hour at our host hotel, the Century House Inn, a delightful buffet dinner, beautifully presented, and our traditional parts auction. Jerry Richman was his usual entertaining and fund-raising self as the auctioneer. Fines were levied for talking, laughing, and other innocent behavior. Ultimately, through the generous contributions of the Lincoln Motor Car Division of the Ford Motor Company and many club supporters, we raised over $2,000 for the club’s treasury.

Saturday morning’s activities opened with a “poker run” in which participants drive to five predetermined locations to gather playing cards. At the end, the best poker hand wins a prize. I was asked to staff one of the locations, so I drove to Schuylerville, New York, to the residence of General Philip Schuyler, a revolutionary war hero. His residence is now maintained by the National Park Service as part of the Saratoga Battlefield National Historical Park. I handed out cards to each of the club members who drove to my location. It was thrilling seeing these wonderful vehicles being driven and enjoyed.

The Philip Schuyler Home, Built in 1777

After the last car had visited my site, I decided to take the guided tour of the Schuyler residence. The park ranger who escorted me through the house, Joe Craig, was exceptionally well informed and the hour flew by. Then I headed back to the hotel where a bus was to take us to a private collection of very early cars that are located in Schenectady, my home town. Traffic was very heavy. I made a couple of wrong turns. By the time I got back to the hotel, the bus had left.

Fortunately, Debbie Schneiderwind, one of the club members hosting the meet, was still at the hotel. She very graciously took me to the location of this incredible automobile collection. Amazingly, as we approached the site, I realized that it was within a block of one of the schools I attended as a kid. Small world!

The Gerald Sichel collection is made up almost entirely of automobiles from 1915 and earlier. As I entered the building, I knew I was in a very special place. To top it off, when I met the curator and caretaker of the collection, it turned out to be Bruce Armer, a fellow whom I had known 50 years ago when we were members of the Automobilists of the Upper Hudson Valley, a local car club. Bruce and I exchanged reminiscences and I had a chance to savor these magnificent cars. Then it was back to the hotel to get ready for the Awards Banquet.

Some Scenes from the Sichel Collection

I had a couple of hours to spare, so I gathered up my cameras and headed back to Schenectady. I stopped to pay my respects at the cemetery where my brother Richard, sister Ann, mother, and maternal grandparents are buried. Then I proceeded to the neighborhood where I grew up. I took some photos of the house I lived in for 18 years, the garage where I worked and pumped gas, and some of the neighboring streets. Then it was back to the banquet.

The club President, Jerry Emery, asked if I could act as the official photographer, so I flitted around taking pictures as the awards were made. I didn’t envy the judges who had to decide on best this and best that since there had been so many gorgeous cars presented at the meet. At the end of the evening, I was shocked to hear my name as the host, Harold Schneiderwind, presented me with a beautiful desk clock in recognition of my service to the club. It was a total surprise, and a very considerate gift.

At the end of the evening, I think everyone agreed that this had been an exceptional weekend. Harold and Debra Schneiderwind did a terrific job of preparing for and hosting the meet. The hotel staff had been superb. The accommodations and food were excellent. We all considered ourselves fortunate to have participated.

Ed & Pam Avedisian's "Best-in-Show" 1940 Lincoln Continental

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Bob, I wasn't aware that you are from Schenectady. I was born at Ellis Hospital in 1933. My parents left Schenectady in 1955 when GE decentralized their operation to Roanoke, Virginia. I had already left home by then and never returned to Schenectady. Dave Cole's late wife, Barbara, was also born at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady. Small world!! Phil Knapp LZOC #539. Round Rock, Texas.