Dec 30, 2013

Future Work...

Over the last year, I've spent quite a bit of time in Corpus Christi, Texas.  I've been working with a wonderful team of hard-working people from my company, Camber Corporation, and equally-dedicated personnel from the Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi.  The hard work has paid off, as described in this video:

I think I know where I'll be working over the next several months...
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Dec 29, 2013

The Quest for Perfection...

Last week I went out to Dan Shady's shop and he had my banjo out on a workbench.  We had finally acquired the square nuts that he wanted to braze to the backs of my spoon-hooks so that we could insert screws into the nuts to tighten the tension hoop, thus stretching the clear plastic head.  From this angle, the banjo looks fantastic!

Unfortunately, on the other side of the banjo, there are three empty brackets.  Dan indicated that there were differences between some of the hooks and he didn't feel right about having unlike hooks on such a beautiful instrument.  So I did what any red-blooded American banjo builder would do -- I got on eBay and found some more World War II-vintage Navy spoons.  I could only find two with the "USN" imprint, but I found two plain ones.  I'll make hooks out of all four and once they're finished I'll put the two plain spoons adjacent to the neck attachment.  Everything will be symmetrical.  Here are the new "hook-blanks."

Dec 28, 2013

Good Eats...

The Weber "Bullet" Smoker
A couple of weeks ago, one of my co-workers (who happens to be a competitive barbecue chef) walked by my office with two huge beef briskets sealed in plastic.  I asked if he and his dad (the other member of the cooking team) were about to enter a competition.  He informewd me that these briskets were for Christmas presents.  He and his father were going to cook them that weekend and give their friends individual packages of beautifully cooked meat.  I've been thinking of brisket ever since.

Yesterday, Mary Ann and I stopped at Star Market in Huntsville and picked up a 13.5 lb. choice brisket which has been on the smoker for about 6 hours so far today.  It has 4 or 5 more to go, but it already looks pretty darn good.

Dec 25, 2013

Merry Christmas to All...

From our house to yours, best wishes for a blessed Christmas and a healthy, happy New Year.  The following video from King's College captures the spirit of the season far more eloquently than I could hope to do...

Dec 24, 2013

Extra Special Tree...

This year, Mary Ann found some exquisite glass icicles to adorn our Christmas tree.  Combined with the pinpoint lights, I think it's one of the prettiest trees I can remember.

Dec 8, 2013

Banjo Boys - Chapter 27

Clint bundles up to shape his rim on the router table outside
I had been on a business trip and got home late Friday night.  Clint suggested that we not meet for breakfast, but rather, that he would bring breakfast up to the shop so we could spend more time on building our banjos.  He arrived with biscuits and coffee around 8:20 AM.  It was a very cold, blustery day, but the rains had apparently passed.  I had moved Winston (the '32 Plymouth) outside, so we could work inside the garage with the big door closed.  It worked pretty well.  Upstairs, we lit off the kerosene heater and within an hour, it was toasty warm.
Zoey inspects the heater
We had several goals today.  Clint wanted to finish gluing his rosewood on the edge of the maple rim.  He also needed to cut or sand it down to the surface level of the maple rim and then cut the angled bevel to form a "knife edge" along the outer edge of the rosewood where the leather head bends at a right angle toward the tensioning hoops.  Clint also hoped to get his last inlay placed in the hollow area created by the ogive cut we made last time.  He also thought he might have time to cut the outer profile of the peghead.

I was less ambitious.  I hoped to sand, dye, and oil my rim, 
Clint does his last inlay
since I already had finished shaping and smoothing my rosewood edge.  I also thought I might get a chance to further shape the back of the neck -- a tedious, slow, handcrafting process.

Clint finishes up his rim
Clint began by routing the relief for his last inlay and gluing it in place.  He then glued and clamped the eight pieces of Honduran rosewood that will form his "tone ring" along the top surface of the maple rim.  We ran into a slight glitch at this point.  Apparently, he had two sets of eight pie cut pieces and they were not quite the same thickness.  He glued some pieces from each set, so now the top surface of the glued rim was not all at the same height.  The solution was to run the entire rim through the thickness sander several times, removing a few thousandths of an inch each time, until we had a flat, continuous surface.  Then, Clint was able to sand the inside surface flush with the maple rim and run it on the router table to form the tone ring knife edge.  He then could sand everything smooth.

After he finished the rim, he clearly marked the profile of his peghead and cut it out on the bandsaw, followed by lots of detailed sanding to clean it up.
I finished sanding my rim and applied the tobacco brown dye that would bring out the beautiful curly maple grain.  Then I applied the first of many coats of Tung Oil.  I was really happy with the results.

I decided it was too late in the day to start on the neck and besides. the Auburn-Missouri game was about to start which would decide the SEC championship...

Nov 24, 2013

Strange Truck Problem...

I drive my truck a lot.  It's a 2003 model and I have driven it nearly 220,000 miles.  It has been very reliable, until Thursday.  I had just finished teaching a scheduling class, went out to the truck, turned the key.  It turned over but would not start.  I managed to get a ride part way home and Mary Ann came to get me.

Now the debate was, "Do I take it to the Ford dealer or to my friend, Deron Shady?"  I called Deron to see if he wanted to attempt the job.  He indicated that he was very familiar with this engine and that he'd be glad to take it on.  Friday morning, the tow truck delivered the truck to Deron while I was at his shop.  As soon as the tow truck left, Deron said, "I've got a suspicion."  He got into the truck and started it.

It seems that Ford used a Passive Anti-Theft System (PATS) on my vehicle -- and a lot of others also.  Inside the head of the key is a tiny magnetically activated radio transmitter.  When the key is inserted into the lock, it passes through a magnetic field that causes the transmitter to send out a brief coded pulse.  The computer in the vehicle recognizes the pulse and activates the engine's ignition system.  On my truck, something had gone wrong with that sequence.  Deron had turned the key over or inserted it at a different rate or something, and it worked.  I left it for him to check out further.

In the meantime, I've ordered two replacement programmable keys.  His experience is that merely replacing the old keys often fixes the problem.  I sure hope it takes me another 220,000 miles.

Oct 29, 2013

Homecoming at Oklahoma

This past weekend, I visited my friends Forrest and Sue Frueh in Norman, Oklahoma.  It was homecoming weekend with lots of alumni and a good home football game (OU beat Texas Tech 38-30).  Here's one of the sights.  More about the trip later...

Oct 20, 2013

Celebrity Sighting...

Yesterday, I saw Alabama Coach Nick Saban at Woody Anderson Ford in Huntsville.  Wow!

Oct 19, 2013


Today, Mary Ann and I decided to go through my ties.  Some are for Summer, some needed cleaning, and others simply needed to go to Goodwill.  Here was the scene when we had them all spread out for sorting:

I don't like to get rid of things.  Some of these ties date back to the seventies.  My closet is much lighter tonight!

Oct 12, 2013

The Metal Shapers...

There's a group of people all over the world who are interested in the somewhat esoteric subject of metal shaping.  Given a piece of sheet metal, what is required to form, bend, shape, and fabricate it into some new object?  Naturally, the Internet has enabled many of these folks to get connected in forums such as and and a Yahoo! metalshapers group.  It was a matter of time before they would decide to gather in some common location to exchange knowledge.  I got to see one of these gatherings this week.
I first became aware of this intriguing interest group several years ago through my friend Dan Shady.  Once a year he would disappear for a week to attend a metal shapers' get-together somewhere in the midwest.  The early history of these gatherings is described on the metalmeet site.  In fact, much to my surprise, I learned that the very first such gathering, FormFest 2001, took place right in my backyard in Huntsville, AL!  These gatherings have now proliferated and take place in lots of locations around the world.  I'm sure that the expansion of TV shows related to automobile and motorcycle fabrication has expanded public awareness in the metalworking craft.
One of the people who hosts a metalworking event is Kerry Pinkerton of Harvest, AL.  This week, about 15 metalworkers from as far away as Sweden assembled at Kerry's home for the "DixieLand Metal Shapers Gathering."  Kerry's lawn becomes a parking lot, with trucks, trailers, and RVs everywhere.  Dan Pate, from Minnesota, is a regular attendee at this event and hauls a huge gas-fired griddle on which he cooks breakfast every morning of the 5-day assembly.  Steve Hamilton travels all the way from Fond du Lac, WI.  A family from Rockford, MI, was in attendance.  Another gentleman, Brent Click, came from Greenville, SC.  And of course there was Per, whose last name I never learned, all the way from Avesta, Sweden.  Per has a website displaying some of his work.  One of my favorites is his homemade motorcycle helmet:

Dan Shady treated the gathered clan to a barbecue feast on Friday night and invited me, for which I am grateful.  The food and fellowship were both great.  Dan's son, Deron, and grandson, Daniel, were both there and I enjoyed seeing them.  The group had a tool exchange, in which every participant makes and donates a tool for another member.  There was an abundance of good will and camaraderie   The projects were so varied as to defy description.

Oct 5, 2013

Scottish Outing....

Today, Mary Ann and I went to Sharon Johnston Park near New Market, Alabama, to attend the North Alabama Scottish Society's Scottish Festival.  Here's a little taste:

That's the Ian Sturrock Memorial Pipe Band.  They are a performance and competition band based in Birmingham, Alabama.   The band's sponsors include GUINNESS® as well as the St. Andrews Society of the Middle South and the Caledonian Society of Alabama.  The ISMPB also operates with the support of partner organizations Birmingham Irish Cultural Society and Irish Society of North Alabama.  According to the band's Website, they "perform regularly around town with the traditional Irish pub band Jasper Coal and lead Birmingham's Annual St Patrick's Day Parade."

As we were driving to the festival, I jokingly asked, "I wonder if they'll be serving Haggis?"  I had heard of some Scottish dish made of God-knows-what entrails and offal that was one of those "must-try" experiences if a person ever went to Scotland.

Wouldn't you know that one of the first food vendors we saw was Hamish's Kitchen, "The Frying Scotsman."  And there on the menu, big as day, was Haggis!  It was described in all its delectable goodness -- "Sheep (Heart & Liver), Beef, Oats, Barley & Onions, Steamed."  I had fish and chips, thank you.

The festival is a delightful event.  Of course the perfect weather contributed to that.  But the park is a perfect venue with plenty of parking space, clean rest room facilities, lots of space, a pretty lake, a nice performing venue, and plenty of picnic tables and shade.  Highly recommended.

Sep 27, 2013

The America's Cup Race...

15 September 1962 President Kennedy waves to the America's Cup crew of the "Weatherly". Aboard the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., off Newport, Rhode Island. Photograph by Cecil Stoughton, White House
I was recently listening to the radio when a commentator began lamenting the pitiful performance of Oracle Team USA in the 34th America's Cup competition. He rambled on about the embarrassment of both failed technology and lackluster team performance that had allowed Emirates Team New Zealand to build up an 8 to 1 advantage. Obviously, the next day was only a formality in which Team USA would once again be trounced.
This year's finalists
Thus, I was really surprised on Wednesday when someone at the office started talking about the final race in the series and the unbelievable comeback of the American team. I had no idea! Oracle Team USA had reeled off seven straight wins to even up the match. Wednesday's event was the nineteenth and final race in this "first to win 9" competition. And to top it off, the Oracle team won on Wednesday in one of the most remarkable rallies in American sports history.

This news reminded me of my involvement in an America's Cup that took place over fifty years ago. I had recently reported aboard my first ship, the U.S.S. Hugh Purvis, a Sumner-class destroyer of World War II vintage. It was the summer of 1962 when we were informed that we might be an escort vessel in support of the upcoming America's Cup competition to be held in Newport, Rhode Island, our home port.
  That year, the America’s Cup competition would be run by the New York Yacht Club, since they were the current holder of the cup.  They held a competitive regatta to determine which boat would represent their club.  Bus Mosbacher’s Weatherly, Paul Shields’ Columbia, and Ted Hood’s Nefertiti competed for the opportunity to defend the cup.  Weatherly, a Phil Rhodes designed boat that had been originally built for the 1958 competition, won the right to face the challenger.  Weatherly had undergone significant changes since the 1958 cup races.  The challenger was Gretel, the first Australian-built 12-meter racing yacht.  She would be helmed by Jock Sturrock (Is that not the greatest athlete’s name ever???).

Nefertiti -- One of the ships
eliminated during trials
During these years, the race was a real gentleman’s event.  It took place off the coast of Newport, Rhode Island.  Each morning, there was the ritual procession of vessels down the bay and past the old Brenton Reef lightship (about to be decommissioned, as the new Brenton Reef light tower was nearly finished and would soon be placed into service).  This maritime entourage was made up of the escort ships (three navy destroyers and two Casco-class coast guard cutters), the judges’ and officials’ boats from the yacht club, the competitors themselves, Weatherly and Gretel, and finally hundreds of pleasure craft of every description.  The party atmosphere was palpable.

The ships' formation
The navy and coast guard vessels had been scrubbed and painted and polished for weeks.  After all, the President and First Lady would be among the spectators.  The procedure each day was fairly straightforward.  We would proceed to the “operating area” in which that day’s competition would take place.  The large government vessels would form a vee formation with the competing sailboats inside the vee and all pleasure boats outside.  Only the judges and officials could be closer to the competitors than the navy and coast guard ships.  My ship, the Hugh Purvis, was the flagship of the vee formation, which included the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (DD-850), the USS Newman K. Perry (DD-883), the USCGC Barataria  (WHEC-381), and another cutter whose name I can’t recall.

JFK and Jackie observe the race from the "veranda"
aboard the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (DD-850)
The President’s entourage embarked each day on the Kennedy, named for the President’s brother, a naval aviator who had died in an aircraft explosion in 1944.  The navy had removed the #2 5-inch gun mount and created a “President’s veranda” on the 01-level forward of the superstructure.  The story circulated at the time was that the veranda had been planked with teak, but photographs taken on that platform lead me to conclude that a canvas surface was installed on the deck, probably to provide a non-slip surface.

Each of the escort ships was used to carry VIPs to the daily race.  We had a few Medal of Honor winners, a couple of Congressmen and their parties, and an Indian Princess among our distinguished guests.  I specifically recall Admiral Joseph James “Jocko” Clark, a veteran of both World Wars and Korea, and the first Native American to graduate from the Naval Academy.  Admiral Clark was the recipient of the Navy Cross, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, and the Navy Commendation medal.  He was typical of the passengers that we had aboard for the Cup Races.

A souvenir cup from the race
The White House had provided the chefs and stewards who fed our distinguished guests each day.  Our ship, as well as the other two destroyers, had completed the Fleet Remodeling and Modernization (FRAM) program, during which a small helicopter hangar had been installed aft of the stacks on the 01-level.  This hangar became the food service area, with a spectacular buffet each day.  Nothing was spared.

The warships lined up in formation as we reached the site of the day’s competition.  Maintaining steerageway was a challenge because we were moving so slowly much of the time.  Each day’s competition involved a total course of 24 nautical miles, but some days’ courses were triangular whereas others were windward-leeward.  The first leg of each course was always into the wind.

Gretel surfs through to windward of Weatherly
 in the 1962 America’s Cup - Maritime Productions Collection
At the end of each day’s race, we’d proceed back into Newport Harbor up past Coaster’s Harbor and Coddington Cove to the Navy piers, where transportation awaited our guests.  The city of Newport awaited them and thousands of other spectators.  There were dozens of parties each night, including many held at the renowned mansions of Newport.  But that’s a story for another time…

Sep 14, 2013

The Power of Color...

The necktie shown above was a gift from my grandchildren.  (Remember, when I married Mary Ann, I became an instant Grandfather!)  Not long after I received the tie, Mary Ann found the socks.  On Thursday, I just happened to wear them together.  I stopped at Costco on my way home to pick up a few items.  As I was checking out, the cashier looked at me and said, "Man, I gotta have that tie!  That is so cool.  Will you sell it?"  I explained that I couldn't possibly sell it - that it had been a gift from my grandchildren.  Then I lifted up my foot and pulled up my trouser leg.  "I've got matching socks," I announced.  He looked, as did the other people in line.  "Oh, ma-a-a-a-n, I gotta get those.  Where do your grandchildren live?  They sure didn't buy them in Huntsville!" he said.  I explained that the Glade family lives in Iowa.

There's a man who works at Costco who now believes that Iowa is a fashion center.  That's the power of color!

Sep 13, 2013

The Diana Singing...

Campers at "the Singing"

For many years, a little town not far from my home has been the site of a remarkable a capella singing event.  It began one evening in July, 1969.  A gospel meeting had just been completed in Diana, TN.  Brother William Sanders of Diana had led the singing, and Brother Tom Holland, then of Henderson, TN had been preaching.  The two of them were talking about an all-night quartet singing being held in Nashville at the Ryman Auditorium.  Bro. Sanders questioned, “If people will go to hear quartets sing all night, why wouldn’t people come sing all night?”  Further discussion between these two led to the decision to try to have an all-night congregational singing.

According to the Web site of the Diana Singing, “The first Diana Singing was conducted in October of 1969 at the Diana, TN Church of Christ building.  Bro. Sanders had agreed to spend the necessary time preparing for the singing.  Because he was a member of the Diana Church of Christ, he secured permission for the singing to be held there.  There were no operating funds but Bros. Sanders and Holland invested $15 to have cards printed advertising the first all-night singing.  However, it was Bro. Sanders enthusiasm for the singing that became contagious, and when time for the first singing arrived, hundreds of people were on hand.”
Over the years, it’s been held every June and September.  What started inside a small rural church now overflows a huge tractor shed built just for this event.

I learned of this event through my immediate boss, who is an active singer and will be attending the event this weekend.  He and about 3,000 others will join voices in what promises to be truly “a joyful noise unto the Lord.  Here’s a sample from a previous Diana Singing.

Sep 8, 2013

A Visit to the Glidden Tour...

My old friend Jim Kahrs called a few weeks ago to inform me that this year's Glidden Tour was going to be in Chattanooga.  He thought it would be a good opportunity for him and Sheila and Mary Ann and me to get together to look at a few cars and break bread together.  Today we did just that.  I forgot about the time zone change so even though we were early, we were late!  We had lunch at Sticky Fingers.  Then we went back to the Choo Choo Hotel complex and Jim and I wandered among the cars.  The girls got to relax and talk -- something they never had previously had the opportunity to enjoy.  Can you spot the 1932 Model PB Plymouth roadster?

According to Wikipedia, "
The original Glidden Tours were held from 1902 through 1913. They were named after Charles J. Glidden, a financier and automobile enthusiast, who presented the AAA with a trophy first awarded to the winner of the 1905 tour.
At the turn of the century automobile travel was difficult as the road systems around the world were generally not well suited for the horseless carriage.
To bring more awareness and sponsorship to the event, the AAA announced that the tour would be a "reliability and endurance" tour, a type of road rally. This attracted automobile manufacturers who competed to test their vehicles and use the events for advertising.
The tours were grueling events: cars broke down, were damaged by accidents, and encountered nearly impassable roads. Drivers and teams did repairs on the run and helped out other drivers having difficulties."
The tours were revived in 1946 by the Veteran Motor Car Club of America (VMCCA) and have continued since with antique cars traveling pre-marked routes and stopping in local towns to show off their vehicles, with many participants dressed in period costume. The event is now jointly coordinated by the VMCCA, the American Automobile Association (AAA), and the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA).  Vehicles must have been manufactured on or before 1942.
No modified cars or hot rods are accepted, and the vehicles may not display any advertising of a current nature.  The coveted silver Glidden trophy is still presented to the winner of the event although the treacherous travel of the early tours is rarely if ever encountered today.

Sep 7, 2013

Young Man in Rumble Seat (Still Life)...

The Model A
A few days ago, my friend Clint Rankin and I went out to the shop where my '32 Plymouth roadster resides.  As we walked in, I noticed there was a 1931 Model A Ford coupe that I hadn't seen before.  It belonged to a friend of Deron Shady, one of the fellows who is working on my car.  I saw that the rumble seat was open and asked Clint if he'd ever been in a rumble seat.  With a little guidance on where to step (There are little step plates so you don't have to step on any painted surfaces.), he was soon in the place of honor!

Aug 31, 2013

Automobilists of the Upper Hudson Valley...

Even as a kid I had a passion for old cars.  I attended local automobile club meets and longed for the day that I'd get my first car.  My brother Bill and I worked at a gas station one block from Union College, so we got to work on lots of student cars (remember, Service Stations actually serviced cars in those days).  As a result, we got to work on lots of Model A Fords, which were cheap and plentiful in the early fifties, and owned by many students.  It wasn't long before Bill and I were the "go-to" guys if you needed your Model A rewired or repaired or overhauled.  In addition to our regular job at Louis Brzoza's College Garage, we had a pretty lucrative backyard business working on Model A's.

One weekend Bill and I attended a meet of the Automobilists of the Upper Hudson Valley, known more commonly to its members as simply "AUHV."  I joined the club that very day (probably in 1952) and remained a member for many years.  It was a remarkable and very energetic club.  It had been founded in Troy, New York, in 1950, by a gentleman named Keith Marvin and a group of his car-loving friends.  The stated aims of the club were ecumenical compared to many of the one-marque organization: "
The AUHV (Automobilists of the Upper Hudson Valley) is an organization of persons interested in the collection, restoration, preservation and operation of antique, classic, special interest and sports cars. The Club encourages an interest in automobiles, their construction, design, history and related subjects, and discourages actions or philosophies detrimental to these aims."

As a result of the club's open mindedness, the variety of cars that showed up on any given weekend was remarkable.  One might find a relatively recent MG-TC sports car parked next to Pauline Snook's gargantuan 1915 Crane Simplex.  There were always an abundance of Model T's and Model A's as well as a generous sprinkling of early brass-era cars and heavy classics.

The members whom I particularly remember are:
Arthur Lee Homan, who, along with Keith Marvin, published a book entitled "The Cars of 1923," so chosen because that year produced more different brands and manufacturers than any other.  This book is a scholarly text with drawings and detailed information about dozens of American automobiles manufactured during the 1923 model year.  There are over well over 150 manufacturers represented -- a great resource for anyone interested in the 1923 model year.  Mr. Homan was a frequent contributor to the club's magazine, "The Automobilist," and published a history of the Moller Automobile Company, manufacturers of the Dagmar car, in 1960.

Keith Marvin
Keith Marvin -- Keith was the editor of the Troy Record newspaper and a walking encyclopedia of automobile-related information.  He was an Army veteran of World War II and worked as a staff and faculty member of the Hoosac School in Hoosick New York from 1944 to 1948.  Upon his induction into the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association (ALPCA) Hall of Fame, part of the citation read, "Keith was a fancier of early Rolls-Royce automobiles and wrote extensively on the pleasures associated with owning one.  Keith was a member of: The Society of Automotive Historians (SAH) and President in 1986 and 1987, Antique Automobile Club of AmericaClassic Car Club of America, Co-founder of The Automobilists of the Upper Hudson ValleyEuroplateThe H.H. Franklin ClubThe New Brunswick Antique Auto ClubThe Rolls-Royce Owners' ClubThe Sir Henry Royce Memorial Fund, Honorary member of The Stutz Club, the Horseless Carriage FoundationVeteran Motor Car Club of America, Board member of Larz Anderson museum in Boston, Voitures Anciennes du Quebec, VFW, Sons of the American Revolution, Mary Warren Institute and the Willys-Knight-Overland Registry.  

 wrote or co-wrote seven books and published more than 3000 articles on automotive history, including feature articles, news items, obituaries, and book reviews for more than 70 publications.  He was a guest columnist for the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association (ALPCA) newsletters and Roger Haynes' Tags'n'Stuff.  He was the recipient of the Peter Helck Memorial Trophy in 2003, the Byron C. Hull award for automotive history in 1962 and the Carl Benz Award from the SAH in 1985 as well as several awards for research and writing from the AACA.  Keith believed in simple easy to read license plates and was not an advocate of the optional graphic types.  He was a champion of the obscure makes of American cars of the 1920s.  His writings comprise in many cases the only written record of a forgotten period."  

To say that Keith was a "joiner" is an understatement!

One of the Snooks' Crane-Simplex automobiles,
now in a Maine museum

Pauline B. Snook
-- Pauline and her husband Frank lived in Schodack Center, New York, where Frank had an automobile repair shop.  They were both avid fans of large, luxurious, pre-World War I autos.  Among their cars were several very rare Crane-Simplex vehicles that the Snooks had rounded up and saved from the scrap heap starting in the 1930s.  Pauline was quite a mechanic herself and fearlessly attended meets driving one of the enormous Simplexes.  We often formed caravans to drive to meet locations, and I recall more than once Pauline's huge vehicle bringing up the rear with a prominent sign on its stern, "Antique Car Caravan - Caution - Do Not Pass - We Pull Over Often."  When we arrived at our destination, a common sight was that of Pauline covering one of the huge running boards with a table cloth and carefully placing the contents of a large picnic basket as she sat down to enjoy her lunch.

Bruce Armer sets up the
"Mother-in-law Seat"
on a 1904 Pierce Stanhope,
1 cylinder, 8 H.P.
4-passenger Runabout

Bruce Armer
-- Bruce was an engineer who worked at the General Electric Company in Schenectady.  Over the years, I recall Bruce owning a number of different early cars and he was a fellow who offered his help to many different members of the club.  Remarkably, our paths crossed many years later in an event that I described in an earlier blog entry.

Hollon B. "Bob" Avery -- Bob Avery had two sons who were close to my age and he took me under his wing when I joined the club.  One of the cars I own today is a 1948 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet.  Bob had one identical to mine for a long time before it was destroyed in a fire.  He certainly influenced my decision to buy the car I have.  He also had a beautifully restored 1914 Model T Ford touring car that we often took to meets.  He would come by the house and pick me up and later drop me off.  When I was somewhat older, Bob went back to the home where he'd grown up in New Hampshire and retrieved the remnants of a 1932 Model B Ford convertible coupe that he had owned when he left for the navy during World War II.  Regardless of the car's decrepit condition, Bob proceeded to perform a miraculous restoration which turned the car into a national prize winner.  He left the upstate New York area and we lost touch, but many years later made contact again through the Lincoln-Zephyr Owners Club.  After we made contact again, Margo and I visited Bob and his wife Marjorie a couple of times in their retirement home in Glasgow, Kentucky.

A 1931 Packard Series 840 exactly
like Owen Fraking's
Owen Fraking -- Owen was a Packard lover.  He acquired a small stable of very elegant and beautifully crafted cars, every one a Packard.  And he drove them.  And he was a man who offered to help any club member who needed assistance with anything mechanical.  One of his cars (my favorite, as a matter of fact) was a long-wheelbase 1931 Packard Series 840 DeLuxe Eight Sport Phaeton.  That very car, having passed through a few other caretakers since Owen's death in 2000, was sold at auction in 2010 for $198,000.  Owen certainly had good taste at a time when a decent 1930's Packard could be had for a few thousand dollars.
A 1929 Mercedes SSK exactly like Earl's

Earl Pfannebecker
-- Earl lived in Latham, New York, only about 15 miles from my home.  His house, an old rambling farmhouse, looked as if it had seen better days.  But crouched next to it was a gorgeous, state-of-the-art, climate controlled, 10-car garage.  He owned a number of very exotic and valuable cars.  In the early 1950's, he imported the first 1929 Mercedes SSK to be brought to the USA.  This was 
the last car designed for Mercedes-Benz by Ferdinand Porsche before he left to found his own company.  It was a stunning car and a huge hit whenever he drove it to a meet.  His car was written up in the Salon section of Road and Track magazine and they described it thus: "This car is the owner of Mr. Earl Pfannebecker of Latham, New York."  I also recall Earl's Cord L-29 Cabriolet, another magnificent machine.  And a search for Earl's name on Google today reveals that he owned Serial No. 66 of the Ferrari Series 375 plus.  I don't know what Earl did for a living, but he must have been very good at it to have been able to afford such a fabulous stable of fine vehicles.

Peter Helck in his studio
Peter Helck -- Mr. Helck was an internationally recognized artist who was perhaps best known for his automotive art, although he produced prodigious amounts of illustrations, advertising art, and what we today would call "fine art."  He was a very close friend of Keith Marvin.  Peter Helck was the proud owner of the 1906 Locomobile speedster known as "Old 16" that, as a youngster, he had seen win the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup race on Long Island.  As he described in his memoir, "Another factor in shaping future art objectives was the 1906 Vanderbilt Race. Here I saw my new-found friend Poole crouched beside driver Tracy in booming flight down the oil-soaked North Hempstead Turnpike. Who could have guessed that the 13-year old witnessing his first auto race would many years later own this very car, the Bridgeport-built Locomobile widely known now as 'Old 16'."  

On one occasion, I had driven with my brother to an AUHV meet in Altamont, New York.  It was raining cats and dogs and 
Old 16
attendance was low.  Suddenly, everyone's attention turned to the thundering behemoth plowing through the muddy fairground.  It was Keith Marvin wearing a rain-drenched slicker, replete with bevel-paneled aviator goggles and a leather helmet, driving Peter Helck's car, Old 16.  He stopped directly in front of me and motioned me into the other bucket seat, the navigator/mechanic's seat.  I climbed in and off we roared for a few laps around the old fairgrounds dirt track.  And times being what they were, I doubt if a single soul there gave the slightest thought to liability or any of the other reasons that today would probably make that joyous scene very unlikely.

The club was an energetic, friendly, and competent organization.  They knew how to party, but they were also sincerely dedicated to the restoration and preservation of historical vehicles.  I ran across an old newspaper article about one of the club's meets.  Note below the variety of cars represented - from Fords to Ferrari -- and distance people drove to participate.  It exemplifies the broad areas of interest that existed in the club and the lack of parochialism that unfortunately pervades many more recent car clubs.  Very few members even owned a trailer.  It was unheard of to trailer a car to a meet.

The Amsterdam Evening Recorder, on October 13, 1959, described a meet held by the AUHV the previous Saturday in Broadalbin, New York.  "Attending the meet Sunday with their antique or sports  model cars were Virgil Clow, Greenville, 1931  Ford; George Scokol, Scotia, 1929 Ford; George Bornt, Amsterdam, 1935 Terraplane; Anthony Sifo,  Schenectady, 1937 Cadillac; G. Shenandoah, Syracuse, 1938 Jaguar; James Zimmer, Syracuse, 1959  Chevrolet Corvette; Bob Sharp, Schenectady, 1953 Jaguar; Owen Fraking, Schenectady, 1932  Packard; Bernard Schaeffer, East Greenbush, 1926 Dodge Brothers;  Harold Elmendorf, Gloversville,  1923 Ford; M. W. Jewett, Schenectady, 1931 Ford; H. Bradford Albany, 1928 Pontiac; Ernest Bundy,  Cobleskill, 1926 Rolls Royce; Bruce Armer, Selkirk, 1932 Hupmobile; Vernon Magee, Oak Hill, 1917 Dodge; John Gerken, Scotia, 1922 Studebaker.

Walker LaRowe, Northville, 1922 Hudson Phaeton; Fred Soule, Hudson, 1949 Willys Jeepster; Pauline Gypsum, Albany, 1930 Buick; Harvey Gallagher, Amsterdam, 1920 Model T; Gus Elliot, 1923 Model T; Edward Sutton, Duanesburg, 1927 Model T; Charles Rothermel, Kinderhook, 1926 Ford; Sam Napoli, Troy, 1924 Dodge Brothers, Roger Chase, Syracuse, 1924 Model T; Clayton Thomas, Bovine Center, 1941 Packard; Kenneth Watkins, 1916 Buick; H. Cole, Ballston, 1930 Chevrolet; Robert Elmendorf, Johnstown, 1929 Ford A; William Tanner, Johnstown, 1930 Ford A; Douglas Maidment, Gloversville, 1930 Model A; Pauline Snook, Castleton, 1915 Crane-Simplex; Earl Pfannebecker, 1931 Rolls Royce.

George Herold, Schenectady, 1929 Graham Paige; Morris Safford, Guilderland Center, 1923 Model T ; David Ormiston, Gloversville, 1915 Model T; James Cook, Gloversville, 1931 Franklin; R. J. Dunham, West Glenville, 1922 Jewett; Robert Mehl, Ballston, 1941 Packard; John Englis, Broadalbin, 1959 Volkswagen; H. Lee, 1951 Ferrari-Vignale; Ronald Kosinski, Broadalbin, 1929 Ford Club Sedan."

Aug 26, 2013

Great Find...

Sunday was part of “Restaurant Week” in and around Huntsville.  Mary Ann and I had decided to go out for an early Sunday afternoon dinner (or late lunch) at one of the many local restaurants that were running promotional specials.  We decided on a barbecue place that we’d never visited, the New Market Barbecue in New Market, Alabama.  We were very pleasantly surprised.
We each ordered a pulled pork plate with ribs as our second meat.  This included two sides and a dessert.  We tried the smoked mac and cheese (honest!) and cole slaw.  Mary Ann had the chocolate pie and I had the peanut butter pie as our desserts.  I also got a sampling of their brisket to try.  Everything was very good.  The meats were moist and tender.  The meat was falling off the ribs.  The side orders were tasty, fresh, and generously served.  The desserts, all home made in house, were wonderful.  The provided sauces were OK, but I prefer a wider variety of sauces than I saw.

The young man who waited on us was friendly and very helpful, recognizing that we were new and not familiar with the menu.  While we were eating, one of the owners, Libby Webb, came by to welcome us and make sure we had gotten everything we needed.  She was bubbly and outgoing and very enthusiastic.

We will definitely go back.  As a special bonus, they were running a giveaway for folks who “liked” them on Facebook.  I entered and got an email after we got home notifying me that I had won third place – a large bottle of their special Barbecue Rub.

Aug 25, 2013

Farmers' Woes...

The 1932 Model PB Plymouth in front of a non-blooming cotton field
Today I took my 81-year-old 1932 Plymouth business coupe for a little early morning jaunt.  We cruised around the neighborhood past corn, soybeans, cattle, horses, and cotton fields.  It was partly cloudy and about 70 degrees.  Because of all the rain we've had in July and August, everything is uncharacteristically green and lush.  Mary Ann read in the paper that the wet weather may be disastrous for the cotton farmers.  Apparently it delays the formation of the flowers, which in turn delays the formation of the cotton bolls.  The Florence (AL) Times-Daily reported on the situation recently:
"Fewer farmers in northwest Alabama have grown cotton in recent years because of increased costs and unstable prices at harvest time. Franklin County farmer Thomas Murray said he still grows some cotton on his 1,250-acre operation “because I’ve always had good luck with it.” He also grows wheat, corn and soybeans.
“This has been the coolest and wettest year I’ve been around in more than 30 years,” Murray said. “The weather has been mean to the cotton crop. We were 30 to 45 days late getting it in. We usually have it planted in April, but it was May this year because it was cold and wet. We just haven’t had the 95- and 100-degree heat we need for cotton, either.”

Murray said his cotton crop yielded about three bales per acre last year. “This year I hope to make a bale per acre,” he said."