37 Seaham Street Holmesville 2286, Australia
After my doctor told me some major ironwork was called for on my knees, I decided that I had better bring forward the U.S. trip that was quietly fermenting in the back of my brain.
After the wonderful time I had three years ago (GEM May '95) I wanted to see a few shows this time, as well as see old and new friends. To cut the planning stage short, what was to be a four week trip turned into eight! It could have been longer, too, but my wife Marg reckoned that I would be gone too long as it was. Grass grows, etc, etc. The time chosen would allow me to take in five shows, so tickets were bought and all the letters sent out to people to visit.
After being awake for thirty hours and three plane trips, I arrived at Dayton, Ohio, airport at 6:00 p.m. on August 19 and was met by John Burns, who took me to his home where I was made most welcome by Becky, his wife. A night's sleep and it was off to the Portland, Indiana, show.
At this point I must say that, although I had heard that this was a big show, nothing could have prepared me for the sight that I was faced with! Over three thousand show engines. I can't guess at the tractor numbers, and of the Swap meet Section words fail me! Over the next few days I bought lots of stuff I couldn't live without, met with Jim Cross, Charlie Morse, and so many other great engine folks that there isn't enough room to mention them all. Saw so many new (to me) engines and models that the camera ran hot, and my voice dried up from talking and laughing. A truly wonderful engine show.
On Wednesday the 27th, after a very happy time with John and the crew, I flew to Fairfield, Iowa, where I stayed with Jim and Pat Fiedler for the duration of the Old Thresher's Reunion at Mount Pleasant, Iowa. This show had a much wider appeal for the general public. You name it and it was there! Steam, crafts, trams, trains I walked my feet off over the five days and still never saw it all. Again, I met up with lots more of the goodhearted folk who play engines, bought more tools, etc. (which I loaded onto Dick and Josie Shelly to collect at trip's end). At both shows, I spent time with Ken and Robert Branson. A couple of nature's gentlemen! We had a few laughs together and they gave me a ride to Rockford, Illinois, where I caught a bus to Milwaukee. (Twenty-four hours to go sixty odd miles! Buses ain't the fastest way of going!)
September 2 through to the 5th allowed me to visit Brad and Cherie Smith, Richard and Lynn Daoust and Carl Vogt. All much better model makers than I will ever be. Again, the hospitality was tremendous and I got to meet and see more top engines and owners.
On the 5th, a 3:50 a.m. start got me to Austin, Texas for a visit with O. B. Molloy and his wife, Billie. Three days later it was over to Pineville, Lousiana, to stay with old friends Robert and Dolores Mayeux, Nick, Glenda, Ron and Rita Bettevy. During this time I had a lot of catching up to do with news and happenings, so the time flew by. I saw alligators and oil wells for the first time, too. The time flew by too fast. It always does when you are with nice people. All too soon, time moves on.
On Monday the 15th, I had a ride with Gloria Yerby to Thipodaux, Louisiana, via Morgan City, where I was amazed at the size of the oil rigs being built in the area. Huge isn't the word! After spending the night on the university campus, I got a bus to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, via New Orleans, where I was collected by an old mate, Homer Ferrell, and taken over to Columbia. There I heard from my wife that her father had passed away. What a shock! I didn't know what I could do for the best. However, she insisted that I complete the trip. A very sad situation.
Over the next two weeks I visited with Clinton and Tena Edwards and Anthony and Carol Goodrum, enjoying their company and seeing a lot more of the surrounding country. We attended a very pleasant show at Gautier, Mississippi, held by the Mississippi Fly-wheelers. This was a nice laid back affair, more like the type of shows we have in Australia.
I was horrified to learn that Ouida, Homer's wife, had smashed her new car only two days after getting it. However, it could have been much worse, as she escaped with bruises and no broken bones. As to the car, I haven't heard its final fate.
On Sunday 28th of September, I flew to Washington, D.C. then Amtraked to Aberdeen, Maryland, to visit Paul and Colleen Gray. I contacted Paul after his article on his Fairfield engine in GEM. This led to our meeting up on the trip. During this stopover we visited the Edison Labs at Orange, New Jersey. A real must-see. Other people seen were Dave Reed of the Otto Engine Works, and Jay Peters of Breisch Peters Models. Both were most helpful to me. Paul took me around some of the most enjoyable countryside I saw in America. Again, fine food, fine folk, who could ask for more out of life?
I originally planned on spending some time in the Smithsonian Museum again this trip, but due to a religous men's meeting, the whole place was booked solid. This caused a rapid rethink, and on October 2nd, I left for five days in Philadelphia where I did the tourist thing, and saw all the major sites of interest. I got sore feet but it was worth it. A fascinating city to visit. While I was there, Marg told me that Mary, my sister-in-law, had also died of cancer! Another shattering phone call! What next?
At 8:00 a.m. on the 7th, I headed off for Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to be met by my old pal, Dick Shelly, who arrived in his new car (one day old!). What a welcome! We then called in on the lovely ladies of GEM-land who were real pleased to see me, as I was them. As an aside, most of us don't appreciate how much effort goes into the production of our magazine. Ladies, our thanks!
The next few days were spent at the Hershey Swap Meet, Hershey Pennsylvania. Dave Landers acted as driver 'cause. he had the parking space! Thanks, Dave. My good friends the Barratts and Lee Pedersen made me most welcome at their swap site. I sure needed those few drinks and the use of a chair after walking around that enormous swap meet. I, of course, had to buy more 'good junk' and then it was time to say goodbye to friends, once again.
Only one more day to go! Down into Dick's basement to pack up all the stuff I had bought. I tell you, it's amazing how much stuff goes into two boxes of 70 lbs. each (the plane limit); three sets of model castings, tools, you name it, it went in. The main problem was moving them!
Saturday the 11th was a day spent at Kinzers Rough and Tumble Museum where I spent a full day admiring the tremendous display of rare engines, etc., that are now on show, along with saying goodbye to the friends who were there. A last night at the Rodeway Inn Motel and I was dropped off at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, airport for the long flight home.
I was met by my wife and son at Sydney after a very crowded flight. It sure was nice to be back! It's nice to travel, and it's nice to come home again.
It is now two weeks after getting home and things are settling down to the usual routine. All the photos are in the album and are being admired by the local engine lads. All that remains to do is to try and thank all of you who made this trip such a success for me. Thanks, mates, each and every one of you! Cheers!