Dec 31, 2012

Boys' Day Out

I work with a lady who occasionally brings her 8-year-old son, Evan, to work.  Today, Evan and I took off for lunch and a visit to my hot rod project.  He got a real kick out of the Shady Boys, the shop, and the car.

Dec 30, 2012

Did you ever see...

...the innards of a Kindle?  I saw this for the first time as I changed the battery in my beloved Kindle.  Mary Ann gave it to me a couple of years ago for Christmas and I was really lukewarm about the whole notion of electronic "books."  Since then, I have grown to love it.  It's in my briefcase all the time.  But finally about a week ago it died.  I found a Web site - - that sells replacement batteries along with the tools needed to install them.  And they provide a video instruction for every model of the Kindle.  One week later and we're back in business!  Ain't technology wonderful???

Dec 29, 2012

Banjo Boys, Chapter 3...

Today Monty came up to cut fret grooves in our "Dynaflow" banjo necks.  Clint is taking a well-earned vacation with Sarah over in Asheville, so there were only two banjo boys present and accounted for.  
Fret cross-section
During the last couple of weeks, I had built a miter box to guide the blade of my fret-cutting saw.  The saw has a couple of features that make it special.  The "kerf" or width of the blade is such that the tang of a banjo fret will fit tightly into the slot that it cuts.  Also, the saw has a device that limits how deeply into the wood it can cut.  You don't want to cut much past the depth of the fret tang.  Monty and I measured, marked, and cut each fret groove very carefully, since the position of these frets will determine the accurate intonation of the finished instruments.  Here are the results:

Dec 19, 2012

Dec 8, 2012

Banjo Boys, Chapter 2...

Monty Love and Clint Rankin -- 2 of the Banjo Boys -- Measure twice, cut once.
Back on November 22 I started the story of the Banjo Boys.  Today was our first official get-together to actually build anything.  Clint and Monty showed up right on time at 9:00 AM, ready to work.  I had already moved my table saw outside to minimize the amount of sawdust we would create inside the shop.  I also had my new band saw at the ready, along with my 6" belt sander.

Bob and Monty cutting a board
I had a 60-something inch long maple board that was 2 inches thick.  It was a clear gorgeous piece of hard rock maple that I have had for at least 20 years.  It needed no further seasoning.  It was about 6 inches wide, so if we cut it in half lengthwise and transversely, we'd have four perfect blanks for banjo necks.  We managed to get that far with all our digits still intact.
Clint setting up clamps
The next step was to determine how far we could angle the headstock (where the tuning pegs go) without running out of wood.  Most banjos seem to have about a 15-degree slope, and that worked out well with the thickness of wood we had to work with.  We then used my jointer (a tool I respect profoundly since it removed part of a finger a few years back) to ensure that the fretboard surface and peghead surfaces were both flat for gluing.  We also had to glue "wings on the headstock area to make it wide enough for the design we intend to use.  Each of us will end up with a slightly different banjo purely based on choices we'll make along the way -- design of the headstock, veneer material for the fretboard and peghead, mother-of-pearl inlay design, hardware choices, color of stain, etc.

We next applied the 1/4 inch thick fretboard veneer, gluing and clamping it carefully.  We amazed ourselves at how much glue can ooze out of a joint as it gets clamped, and how many ways there are to get that glue all over one's self.  After we glued the fretboard, we came in the house for a really fine lunch.  Mary Ann outdid herself with a wonderful hearty soup, Santa Fe soup, made with ground turkey, Rotel tomatoes and corn and chili seasoning.  We had that along with tortilla chips and salsa.  She followed this up with fresh (still warm) pumpkin bread for dessert.  Thanks, Mary Ann.  You helped make this a very special day. The food was perfect and the four of us also enjoyed Clint's wonderful stories about his genealogical research.

The walnut veneer on the headstock
After lunch we began on the veneer for the headstock.  Of course, every piece of wood we touched required two or three cuts and sandings,  We oozed a lot more glue as well.  Clint is using ebony that he acquired on eBay, whereas Monty and I decided upon a beautiful piece of walnut that I had saved many years ago.  I think it's going to look especially nice when the fretboard has some pearl inlay in it and is darkened by an oil finish.

We finished up and cleaned up the shop and were done by 5:00 PM.
The fruits of today's labor

Dec 3, 2012

Small World...

My humble 1932 Plymouth
In 1998 when I drove in the Great American Race for the first time, I borrowed the precision speedometer I needed to be competitive.  A few weeks before the rally I contacted the precision speedometer company to tell them to ship my instrument.  They advised me that they had forgotten about my order. the plant was being relocated, and all the parts for my speedometer were packed in boxes en-route to the new location.  I was devastated    Then I remembered that I had met a gentleman a few months earlier who had driven a 1927 Chrysler in an earlier Great Race.  His name was Robert Bentley, a Huntsville veterinarian.  I called him and he loaned me the much-needed instrument, saving the day.   

Last Sunday, I decided to drive my 1932 Plymouth down to Hazel Green, Alabama, to pick up lunch.  The car needs to be exercised every so often, and it was a perfect day.  As I pulled into the parking lot, I spotted a gorgeous 1941 Cadillac convertible sedan.

Dr. Bentley's beautiful 1941 Cadillac
I recognized it immediately as one of Bob Bentley's cars.  I parked next to it.  People coming into the restaurant must have thought there was a mini-convention.  Dr. Bentley and I had a nice chat and then went our separate ways.

What are the odds for such a chance encounter???

Nov 24, 2012

Weekend in Nashville

A few weeks ago, Mary Ann asked me if I'd be interested in going to Nashville to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular at the Gaylord Opryhouse Theater.  This is something we had discussed in the past and not ever done.  I said I'd love to go.  So Mary Ann got on line and bought tickets for the 8:00 PM show on Saturday, November 17th.  We also decided we'd stay in the Opryland Hotel, something we'd never done before.  I can now report that it turned into a wonderful adventure.

We left home around noon and headed north.  I wanted to stop in Franlin briefly on the way to Nashville.  I was in the market for a replacement bandsaw for my shop, and the Woodcraft store in Franklin had the model I was interested in.  We stopped there, the price was right, we loaded up the saw, and we continued to the hotel without incident.

The Opryland Hotel is beyond belief.  It is the largest non-casino hotel in the Continental United States outside of Las Vegas A few statistics are in order:
  • 2,881 Guest Rooms
  • 109,465 square feet (10,170 m²) of ballroom space
  • 319,000 square feet (30,000 m²) of exhibit space
  • 6 full-service restaurants which include The Old Hickory Steakhouse, Cascades American Cafe, Solario, Ravello, and Findley's Irish Pub.
  • 3 lounges including The Falls, The Jack Daniel's Saloon, and The Library at Old Hickory
  • 8 eateries which include STAX Hamburgers, Paisano's Pizza, Häagen-Dazs, Christie Cookies, Conservatory Café, Wasabi's Sushi, and Coca Bean.
  • 14 retail stores including Amelia's, Savannah's and Miss Scarlet's, the three of which are women's fashions stores, Alexzander Kalifano's, a jewelry shop, the Magnolia, and Delta Necessities Stores, Signature, Cowboys and Angels, Delta Gifts and Decor, Bushels and Baskets, The Opry Shop, Bookmark, Sunny G Children's Boutique, and Johnston & Murphy.
  • Fuse Nashville Nightclub which specializes in an assortment of gourmet food and cocktails, including the signature "Cotton Candy Martini".
  • Relâche Spa and Salon which offers a variety of massages and upscale services featuring a full-service salon, sauna, shopping boutique, as well as a fitness center which is open 24 hours. Relâche also houses the hotel's indoor pool and one of the outdoor pools.
  • The Arcade which features many games and prizes.
We got to our room and cleaned up, then walked around the property for a while to figure out the lay of the land.  We also wanted to find out where the theater was in relationship to the hotel, and whether there was a shuttle bus to take us to it.

We dined at the Cascades American Cafe, and had some of the best prime rib we have ever enjoyed.  It was a terrific dining experience.  Then we went to our room to change into theater-going duds.  We were excited.  We found the bus stop with no trouble, loaded up immediately, and in about three minutes we were walking toward the entrance of the theater.  One surprise was that as we entered the theater, we were given a pair of 3-D glasses and told, "Now don't lose these, and put them on when Santa tells you to."  We entered the theater and found our seats.
The Opryland Theater evokes memories of the Ryman -- wide and shallow, with pews instead of theater seats, and having extensive balcony seating.  It is, however, much larger than the Ryman Auditorium.  In just a few ninutes, the show began.

Everything about this show was better than I could have imagined.  The lighting, sound, choreography, and costumes were all as good as one can ever see or hear.  The talent of the performers was terrific.  The level of energy and enthusiasm was superb.  I can't say enough.  Needless to say, we both really enjoyed the evening.  I highly recommend the experience.

After we returned to the hotel, we wandered around the vast interior, window shopping, people watching, and taking lots of pictures.  We got a good night's rest and had an uneventful trip home on Sunday.  It turned out to be a nice way to kick off the Christmas season.

Nov 22, 2012

Banjo Boys...

Some readers may remember my foray into the world of cigar box guitars.  That effort resulted in the instrument shown above.  Now, there's a new adventure in the works.  It all started one day when my friend Clint Rankin mentioned that his wife, Sarah, wanted to learn to play the banjo.  I said, "You ought to build her one."  That started the ball rolling.

Jenes Cottrell in the 1970s with
one of his turbine ring banjos
An internet search for various terms like "home built banjo" and "building a banjo" led us to a little-known character from the 1970s named Jenes Cottrell.  According to the West Virginia encyclopedia, "Traditional musician and craftsman Jenes Cottrell (September 14, 1901-December 7, 1980) was descended from the earliest settlers of Clay County. Known for their farming and trading, the Cottrells also worked with wood. During the arts and crafts revival beginning in the 1960s, Jenes Cottrell became one of the best-known practitioners of the old ways. He made toys, rolling pins, chairs, and canes, and he put in chair bottoms of woven wood splits. He had a fine foot-powered, spring-pole lathe which he used to demonstrate his skill at festivals throughout West Virginia and beyond. He drew people as flies swarm to sugar. Somewhere along the way Cottrell had begun to make banjo rims using aluminum torque converter rings from 1956 Buick transmissions. He quickly became known for making and playing banjos."  
The turbine ring

We then found a Website of a young man named Chris Dean who had researched Cottrell's banjos and built one of his own "Dynaflow banjos."  Then we ran across some YouTube videos of a fellow who had built such a banjo and had recorded the construction sequence and some of his playing.  Clint and I were intrigued.  If we could find the transmission part - the "turbine ring" from a 1953-1958 Buick Dynaflow (no easy task) - it might be fun to try building one of these instruments.  Then Monty Love joined the crowd.

Chris Dean's finished banjo

Clint is a Pit Bull in an internet quest.  Within a day, he located a junkyard in New Jersey that had a pile of Dynaflow transmissions.  Within a couple more days, there were three turbine rings on their way to Huntsville.  Watch for progress reports over the next few weeks.

We are officially the "Banjo Boys."

Thanksgiving Breakfast Treat

This morning, Mary Ann surprised me with a baked French Toast dish done somewhat like an upside down cake.  The glaze forms in the bottom of the baking pan as the toast is cooking.  Absolutely wonderful!!!

Nov 3, 2012

Ron Thomason's "Arithmetic"

Ron Thomason is a great performer.  He is the lead vocalist and mandolin player in a band called the "Dry Branch Fire Squad."  Periodically, Ron writes in a blog-like way on a Web page he calls "Installments."  And he is, in my humble opinion, a very, very good writer -- incisive and analytic but always eloquent.  He recently posted an article titled simply "Arithmetic."  Highly recommended reading...

Oct 23, 2012

Kentuck 2012

Recently, Mary Ann and I replaced the countertops in our kitchen.  We chose a light marbleized Corian material.  It dramatically changed the "feel" of the room, since the countertops had previously been a deep red formica.  You can probably anticipate where this is going -- obviously the room needs new wall colors, etc., etc., etc.

Mary Ann had rightly concluded that we probably needed to decide what might be hanging on the walls to help us decide what color might look best on those walls.  It's all about texture and harmony and complementary hues.  So the quest began to find just the right wall decoration.

Fortunately, we had run across a terrific juried art show many years ago that is held every year in October.  It's called the Kentuck Festival of the Arts, held in Northport, Alabama, and now in its 41st year.  We made plans to attend this past weekend to see if we might find something that would be just the thing for the corner that needed brightening up.

Mary Ann had done her homework.  She had started with the list of exhibitors on the Kentuck Web site and looked at the Web pages of as many artists as she could find listed.  So by the time we arrived on Saturday morning, she was well aware of several artists whose works interested her.  We began the quest.

Within the first half hour, we arrived at the display of an abstract painter from St. Louis named Sharon Spillar.  As soon as I saw Mary Ann's reaction to this lady's work, I felt we had found the right source.  Then began the challenge of selecting the "right" pieces that would all be complementary.  We ended up purchasing two panels 30" by 10" and six smaller accent panels, each about 8" square.  Here they are on one of Ms. Spillar's display panels at the show:

They are done in acrylic, over which the artist applies a glossy clear acrylic seal coat.  They should be absolutely impervious to any airborne contaminants that a kitchen can produce.  They look striking set in place in our kitchen.  Now, of course, we need to decide on wall coloring and do the painting.

Saturday evening, we proceeded to a restaurant in Tuscaloosa that had been recommended by Kay Brown, a colleague at Camber.  The Cypress Inn proved to be a marvelous choice.  Our table overlooked the Warrior River and the sun was setting during our meal, so the ever-changing scenery was just perfect.  What a treat!

We awoke Sunday morning to another beautiful day, and Mary Ann had planned even more surprises.  We got cleaned up and loaded the car and proceeded to Five Points South in Birmingham, a really quaint part of town.  We had a nice lunch at Fuego Cantina, then proceeded to walk along Eleventh Avenue, past the Highlands Bar and Grille, then through their parking lot toward a large mansion undergoing restoration.  This turned out to be the home of sculptor Ira Chaffin.  Mary Ann had located him through her search for a carousel horse carving school, something I had expressed an interest in for several years.

Mr. Chaffin opened his animal carving studio to us and took us on the grand tour.  We saw several projects being completed by his students.  These included a local surgeon now working on his fifth animal and a grandmother who started with zero experience and is now working on a most impressive lion, her second animal!  Here are some examples from his studio:


We spent an hour or so talking with Mr. Chaffin, after which we returned home, tired but pleased that we had found the decorative items we had hoped to find, done so much and learned so much.

Oct 7, 2012

Dr. George M. Sutton Remembered

A few weeks ago, I ran across a post in a forum of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) in which an individual was trying to sell a couple of framed Stark Davis-painted "bird advertisements" for 1928 Lincoln Automobiles.  I didn't make an offer on these particular ads, but it turns out that I knew a little bit about their origins.

In the early 1970s I took a job as Superintendent of the Power and Chilled Water Plants at the University of Oklahoma.  I worked with another engineer by the name of Bob White.  Bob happened to be an artist and was at that time the president of the Norman Art League.  One day he came to me with an unusual request.  Bob had somehow discovered that I had learned and practiced decorative italic writing and had on occasion done presentation certificates.  The Norman Art League wanted to formally recognize the life's work of Dr. George Miksch Sutton, a world-renowned bird artist who was a Professor of Ornithology at the University.  Bob asked me if I would be willing to do a presentation parchment scroll for Dr. Sutton's recognition banquet.  I was honored and agreed to do it.

I received the parchment on which I would do the work along with the art league's text of the presentation scroll.  It was not brief.  It went on at length about Dr. Sutton's myriad achievements.  As I read it, I kept wondering how I could lay out that many words, along with some elaborately illuminated letters, in the limited real estate available.  I had three or four weeks to complete the assignment.

I don't know how other calligraphers work, but I know that after 15 or 20 minutes, I have to quit because my hand will start to tremble from the sustained tension.  Remember, you only get one chance at getting it right.  The ink sinks indelibly into the paper-thin leather.  There's no erasing.  As soon as I dip the pen into the ink, I am tense.  So, night after night, I labored through the wordy presentation.  I left room in a few locations, around the first letters of significant words at the beginnings of paragraphs, so I could come back later to embellish those letters with colored inks and gold leaf.  The final result was fortunately very impressive.  No misspelled words, no spilled ink, nothing left out.  Everything fit and the size of the italic font remained consistent throughout.  I was thrilled.

The presentation night came and went.  Bob informed me that Dr. Sutton had been deeply moved by the entire event and was particularly impressed by the beautiful certificate.  The art league sent me a lovely note expressing their gratitude for my services.

A few weeks later, I receved a phone call at the power plant.  It was Dr. Sutton.  He asked if I could meet him at the bird collection section of the museum.  He wanted to "meet the man who created that beautiful certificate."  I was very moved and agreed on a mutually convenient time to meet Dr. Sutton.  I had seen this world famous teacher on campus over the years but had never been formally introduced.  When I met him at the museum, he was warm and most gracious.  He gave me the "grand tour" of the bird collection that represented his life's work.

There were literally thousands of birds, carefully stuffed and mounted in hundreds of sample drawers.  Each tiny carcass was labeled, describing the identity of the example and the dates and locations where each was collected.  Dr. Sutton related stories about many of the examples.  Some he had collected on various expeditions.  Others were donated.  Many species were incredibly rare or extinct.  The collection was obviously a valuable and irreplaceable treasure.

He then shared some of his life story.  His interest in birds started at a very early age and he had joined the American Ornithologists' Union at age 12.  In 1916, as a teenager, he had sudied under the world famous bird artist, Louis Agassiz Fuertes.  After a rather stormy undergraduate career (He led a student revolt against mandatory ROTC and was temporarily expelled.), he graduated from West Virginia's Bethany College in 1923.  By age 27, he was the Pennsylvania State Ornithologist.  In 1929 he went to Ithaca, New York, to pursue his Ph.D. under Dr. Arthur Allen.  His long career had taken him all over the world, including a stint in the Army Air Corps during World War II, during which he tested arctic survival gear.  He had previously spent considerable time studying arctic birds.

Dr. Sutton had come to the University of Oklahoma in 1952 and had become an institution.  And everywhere he had gone during his long career, he had painted images of birds - hundreds and hundreds of birds.  He had published dozens of articles and books illustrated with his incredibly detailed bird paintings.  And on that day in 1972, he presented me with several artists proofs from his most recent book, "High Arctic."  He had personalized and signed each one.

Then, as the gracious Doctor showed me some more of the museum, he asked about my interests.  When I mentioned my interest in antique cars, he related a story about those Lincoln bird advertisements.  He was employed by the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh in the mid-1920's and had made some acquaintances at the Ford Motor Company,  In 1927, after Henry Ford had acquired the Lincoln Motorcar Company, his son Edsel had come up with the idea of producing some custom-bodied Lincolns colored to resemble the bright foliage of birds.  They had hired the famous commercial artist, Stark Davis, to paint the advertisements and the company had enlisted the services of George Sutton to help them decide on the colors and species of birds to use in this promotion!  And now, some 40 years after I met this remarkable gentleman, these ads crossed my path a second time...

Sep 30, 2012

John Weathersby Declares War on Imports!!!

In 1978, shortly after Margo Burge and I started dating, we attended an airshow in Long Beach, Mississippi.  We had noted on the advertising posters that hot air balloon rides would be available.  Both of us thought it would be fun to take a ride suspended below a balloon.  On the day of the show, it was too windy to launch balloons, but that didn't stop us from pursuing the quest.

As we approached the fields where the show was being held, we spotted a bus with an attached trailer that had the words "Weathersby Balloon Enterprises, Indianola, MS."  As we approached the bus, the door opened and out stepped a person dressed in a very furry (and warm-looking) gorilla costume.  Almost immediately upon my inquiring about a balloon flight, that gorilla-person invited us into the air conditioned bus and offered us a drink.  This was at about 11:00 AM and it was clear that the folks on the bus had been enjoying their adult beverages for a while.  It was definitely "party time."

We were to learn that the gorilla man was John Weathersby, the owner of a Chevrolet dealership in the central Mississippi city of Indianola.  He was married to Sally Sayle Weathersby.  It turned out that he was also a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity and had graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1962, the same year I graduated from Rochester.  We were soul brothers!

A few weeks later, Margo and I drove to Indianola, where John had offered to take us up in a balloon, but again, it was too windy.  I did eventually get a balloon ride, but that's a story for another time.

John invited my brother and me to come to Indianola one weekend to witness his "War on Imports."  Let it be noted that John is a man with big ideas who is not shy about expressing them.  Chevrolet had just introduced the Chevette the previous year, and that had inspired John to go after the imports.  And in his typical way, he would do it in a spectacular fashion.

As Willy and I arrived in Indianola early on a sunny Saturday morning we noticed a lot of activity in the open field adjacent to John's dealership.  A light plane circled overhead trailing a banner that read "WAR ON IMPORTS!!!  WEATHERSBY CHEVROLET."  You could smell barbecue cooking and bleachers had been set up, along with a speaker's platform.  At one end of the field, there was a large circle in which was located a Fiat sedan.  A sign declared that only kids 12 years old and younger could use the provided sledgehammers to destroy the Fiat.  (By the end of the day there wasn't much left.)

The hapless Fiat
At one point, during the morning's festivities (while John was welcoming all comers over a PA system and roiling up the crowd with disparaging commentary about imported cars) someone drove a Renault onto field, followed by a local Fire Department entourage,  They doused the car with a flammable liquid and incinerated it to the cheers of the crowd.

The flammable Renault
There was a band concert by the local high school band, skydivers arrived around noon, and then it was time for the main event.  A fairly nice Volkswagen beetle (It had the fabric fold-back sunroof) was driven onto the field.  The crowd was asked to take their seats in the stands.  I heard a rumbling sound and wondered what it was.  Soon enough, two US Army National Guard tanks came around the corner and proceeded to opposite ends of the field.  John then introduced an army officer who was clearly the commanding officer of the crews in those tanks.  He stepped up to the microphone and commanded them to attack.  The two tanks rumbled toward the center of the field.  The first one to reach the VW proceeded to run one of his treads over the driver's side of the car.  Glass popped out of its frame as the car collapsed under the weight of the massive attacker.  Then the second tank followed suit, running it's tread over the passenger's side.  More noise, more glass, less car.

The car was now perhaps 18" high.  The tanks proceeded to a point near where the commanding officer was standing at the podium.  He turned to one of the tank personnel, whose head was emerging from the tank's hatch.  "Jimmy, grind that son-of-a-bitch into the ground!"  ("Ground" was pronounced in such an intense southern drawl that it seemed to have at least three syllables!)

Different car; Same concept...
The tank then proceeded to straddle the VW and commenced a left and right rotation by using its treads moving in opposite directions.  It twisted back and forth several times as the car simply got squashed into the soft ground.  The crowd went crazy!  John had won his war (at least for the moment).

Over the years I lost contact with John Weathersby.  I noted the other day that his dealership is no longer in business.  We all know the long-term effect that imported cars had on GM.  Yet I'll always recall with pleasure that sunny Mississippi afternoon when John waged his slightly crazy personal war to the delight of so many.

8-1-2015 Today I ran across the following obituary dated September 2015 from the Jackson Clarion-Ledger:

John McDonald Weathersby


Funeral services for John McDonald Weathersby, 76, of Indianola will be at 1:00 p.m., Wednesday, September 30 at First Presbyterian Church, Indianola. He died peacefully Sunday, September 27 at his home. Burial will be at 5:00 p.m. at Oddfellows Cemetery, Lexington under the direction of Boone-Card Funeral Home, Indianola.

Well, we've come to the end of a long and interesting road. Mr. Weathersby, known far and wide as Trader John, was the owner of Weathersby Chevrolet in Indianola from 1967 until he retired in 2002. Weathersby was considered a Delta Legend for his outgoing, colorful personality and as the creative force behind countless wild promotional events and festivals that he organized, hosted and inspired throughout the region. He was an avid pilot, a pioneer in hot air ballooning, enjoyed scuba diving, camping, but most of all, he loved people, and they loved him. It has been said that Trader John squeezed more life out of his 76 years than others could do in multiple life times.

He is survived his wife, Jane, of more than 20 years; his three adult children, John M. Weathersby, Jr., Sayle Weathersby Roberts, and Rials McWilliams and their families. He loved his God, his family, his friends with intense passion and total abandon. There will never be another one like him. God's speed Trader John. You'll be missed, but in no way forgotten.

The family received friends Tuesday evening at John and Jane Weathersby's home.

John Weatersby has apparently flown his last balloon in this earthly sphere...  Godspeed, John, my brother.

Sep 17, 2012

Glenmoor Gathering Trip

The Beautiful Glenmoor Country Club
For the past seventeen years, there has been an event in northeast Ohio called the "Glenmoor Gathering."  It is an invitational car show of extremely high quality.  I have known about it for several years and had thought about going, but the stars never quite aligned.  Then a few months ago I ran across an advanced notice of this year's show -- the 18th annual.  The featured marques included steam cars, micro cars, supercharged cars, Tuckers, and Allards.  That last one caught my eye.  Mary Ann's maiden name was Allard.  What could be more perfect?  I suggested that we go.  Mary Ann agreed, and we bought our tickets in advance.  We even made motel reservations several weeks early!

The event is held at the Glenmoor Country Club outside of Canton, Ohio.  The main clubhouse, built in the early 1930s, served for many years as a Catholic seminary, at one time housing 400 seminarians.  The land on which it was built was donated by two bachelor farmers, who later donated a total of over 400 acres to the seminary.  After it was closed, the entire property was purchased by investors who developed an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus golf course to complement the fabulous building.  The original building also houses dining and hotel facilities.  It's a perfect setting for an exceptional car show.

The festivities started for us when we attended the Saturday afternoon  Grande Salon Antique and Classic Car Auction put on by Classic Motorcar Auctions, a local firm.  Mary Ann had never been to a classic car auction, so this was a thrilling thing to see.  There were some very nice cars, but bidding was tepid at best.  Some good buys were evident.  Examples from the auction results:

After the auction ended, we drove around to the front of the clubhouse, where we saw several dozen exotic cars parked on the lawn.  We found a parking place and began wandering among the Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Maseratis, Tuckers, and Allards.  Some of the owners were cleaning up their cars for the next day's show.  Others were simply chatting with infrequently-seen friends.  We were especially impressed with the Allards.

According to Wikipedia,
"Allard Motor Company Limited was an English car manufacturer founded in 1945 by Sydney Allard which operated from small premises in south London. Car manufacture almost ceased within a decade. It produced approximately 1900 cars before his death in 1966.  Allards generally featured a large American V8 engine in a small, light British sports car body, giving a high power-to-weight ratio and foreshadowing the Sunbeam Tiger and AC Cobra of the early 1960s. Cobra designer Carroll Shelby and father of the Corvette Zora Arkus Duntov both drove Allards in the early 1950s."

No two of the cars we saw were identical.  It was apparent that each of these cars was custom built.  Here are a few of the Allards, Tuckers, and other cars that we saw on the lawn:

At one point, as we were looking at an unrestored, but exceptional, 1936 Lincoln Model K Touring Cabriolet, I asked a nearby spectator if he knew whose car it was.  He informed us that he was the owner.  The gentleman's name was Myron Vernis, and he is the Food and Beverage Manager at the Glenmoor Country Club.  He was one of the original group that started the Gathering 18 years ago!

The car was most interesting.  After Henry Ford bought the financially strapped Lincoln Motorcar Company in 1922, he essentially "gave" the company to Edsel, his oldest son.  Edsel recognized the importance of style in selling cars, so he commissioned several major custom body manufacturers to build Lincoln bodies.  The Brunn Corporation of Buffalo, New York, became the favored provider of town cars and convertibles: soft-top broughams, cabriolets, victorias and dual-cowl phaetons.   Mr. Vernis' car was the personal car of Herman Brunn.  It was exquisite.

After we left the club, we went for coffee at a nearby Starbucks and used the Internet to find a dinner restaurant.  We luckily selected Papa Bear's Italian Restaurant and had an outstanding dinner.

The "modest" Dining Room of the Glenmoor

After a good night's rest, we arose Sunday and checked out of our motel to proceed to the Glenmoor.  We encountered heavy traffic waiting to get into the grounds but eventually arrived and got a parking location fairly close to the clubhouse.  They were serving a buffet lunch in the dining room, which was originally the chapel for the seminary.  The lunch was really exceptional -- every choice was prepared and served beautifully.  Then we proceeded to the "Gathering."  Words can't describe it.

There are tents with artists showing their works, tents with automotive model builders of every kind.  One tent housed the work of Louis Chenot of Carl Junction, Missouri, director of mechanical engineering for Leggett & Platt, which supplies automotive interior systems.  Lou is the most serious kind of car modeler imaginable.  This Duesenberg took six years and an estimated 15,000 hours to build.
The 1/6 Scale Louis Chenot Deusenberg Model -- It Runs!
There were hundreds of cars on display.  The earliest I saw was a 1901 Packard, restored to perfection.  There were cars of every decade and every interest group, including modern hot rods.  These pictures may give you some idea:

We enjoyed the cars until about two in the afternoon.  The weather couldn't have been more beautiful.  Then we headed back home.  We had decided to try and drive the entire distance so I'd have a day at home before I had to leave for Texas on a business trip.  We made it home around 1:00 AM, tired but with great memories.  We'll be going back.

Aug 27, 2012

A Night on the Town...

The Tedeschi Trucks Band on Stage
Each year for the last twenty-some years I have attended Merlefest, a music festival honoring the late Merle Watson.  And each year, some individual or group whom I've never heard of absolutely dazzles me.  At this year's Merlefest, both Mary Ann and I were blown away by the Tedeschi Trucks Band, named for its founders, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks.  This is a substantial (11 members on stage) bluesy band with a wonderful sound.  Susan and Derek are both world-class guitarists and Susan's clear and intense voice is perfect for the music that they perform.  And I kind of felt like a moron when I returned from Merlefest and all of my musician friends already knew of the individuals and the band.

A few weeks ago, I went to the Tedeschi Trucks Website to see if they had any new CDs.  I was very fortunate to hit their Website only a few minutes after tickets had gone on sale for a late summer tour starting on August 25th in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, only a couple hours' drive away from our home.  I jumped in and bought two seats.  They were in the center of the fourth row!  Then I called Mary Ann and told her we had a date!

We drove down to Tuscaloosa on Saturday afternoon and checked in to the motel.  I still have over 300,000 Hilton points from the years I worked for Gary Humphreys and lived in a hotel, so we were guests of the house.  We cleaned up and headed out for dinner, ending up at a very nice restaurant called Chuck's Fish.  After a really pleasant dinner, we headed for the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater.

The concert was spectacular.  The opening act was the venerable B.B.King and his band.  They were the perfect warm up to get the crowd in a "bluesy" mood.  During the intermission, we met up with our friends Melissa Haydel and Manny Pimentel whom we know in Huntsville.  Then we returned to our seats for what to us was the "main event."  What a treat!  For the next two hours, we reveled in the Tedeschi Trucks sound.  It was wonderful.

After a good night's rest and a leisurely morning, we hit the road.  We decided to have brunch at a place recommended by the Urbanspoon Website.  Our destination: the Magic City Grille, a downtown haven of Soul Food, where we enjoyed (for the first time ever) the soulful combination of Fried Chicken and Waffles. As one reviewer put it, "If tastes good and is probably gonna kill you then they'll have it on the menu."

It was a great weekend.

Aug 12, 2012

Great Gift!

Mary Ann and I recently celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary.  She wanted to come up with a unique idea for a gift and she really outdid herself.  She knows how enamored I am with 1932 Plymouth automobiles.  These cars had an optional hood ornament in the shape of a "flying lady," a kind of angelic figure with wings and head thrown back proudly leading the car into the breeze.

A few weeks ago, Mary Ann expressed an interest in starting a radiator mascot collection and asked if I had a spare flying lady that she could have.  I informed her that the only one I had was going on the roadster, but I also agreed to keep my eyes open for a decent one on eBay or in some other advertising that I run across. I didn't know why she really wanted it.

She had seen an internet source for cellphone chargers in which an individual was using old airplane parts as the base for the chargers.  She got the inspiration of making a cellphone charger for me based on a Plymouth flying lady!  After looking for a few weeks, Mary Ann found one on eBay, probably not quite good enough to restore, and acquired it for this purpose.  She knew that a hole would have to be cut in it to accommodate the connector, so she didn't want to use a really perfect candidate.

Keeping everything a secret, she proceeded to take the mascot out to Dan Shady, who crafted a gorgeous walnut base and mounted the whole assembly.  Here's the result:

Thanks, Mary Ann.  I love you.  This gift was perfect!  It will occupy a place of honor on my desk.