37 Seaham Street Homesville, 2286 Australia
After taking my wife Marg to England to celebrate her father's 80th birthday (the first time all the family were together for over 30 years), I decided to revisit America and do all the things I missed last time. Three years ago, Marg and I drove from Miami, Florida, to San Francisco, California, visiting a number of engine people on the way. After numerous letters to friends and acquaintances and the purchase of a standby airline ticket, I flew into New York late on October 4, 1994.
An airport bus dropped me at Lee Pedersen's door and, after a lightning tour of his collection of hot air and gas engines, we set off in his van to the Hershey, Pennsylvania, Meet, stopping at a motel at 12:30 a.m. for some sleep. (What with jet-lag, I was a real mess!) Next morning I was stunned by the size of what is the biggest swap meet in the world. Nine thousand sites, and about 28 miles if you walk all the way round it! We stayed on site with Bob and Kath Barrett, who are very hospitable people, and for the next two days I literally walked my feet off, seeing only about a third of what was on offer. As my carrying capacity was very limited, I only made a few small purchases; this was most frustrating!!! I spent one of the coldest nights of my life in the back of Bob's pickup! Frost the next morning, but a good sunny day ensued.
On October 6 p.m., Dick Shelly collected me and, over the next 2 days he and his wife showed me around the Amish area; took me to the Kinzer Rough and Tumble Museum where I met more engine people; and saw a lot of new (to me) motors and other equipment. I also inspected Dick's workshop where he produces his wonderful models.
Being so close to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I could not miss out on a visit to the GEM headquarters. Here I met the ladies who produce our magazine. (Not only do they do a top job, they are good lookers, too. Hi Girls!!)
At noon on October 8, I caught the bus to Washington, D.C. There, after finding a room at the Harrington Hotel, I set out to explore the wonders of the Smithsonian Museums (something I have wanted to do for many years). I was not disappointed! What a fabulous place. For two days I wandered, glassy eyed, through wonderland. All too soon it was time to move on again. I flew to Cincinnati, where I was met by Dabby Whitham, who drove me to his home in Vevay, Indiana. The scenery was breathtaking as all the trees were getting their autumn colors. That night, Brent Rowell drove over from Lexington with a couple of hot air models and collected some photos of my Quirks hot air fan. We spent a pleasant evening in Dabby's workshop. The next day, October 11 (my birthday), we drove up to see John Burns at New Carlisle, Ohio, who showed us his superb model Reid and Bessemer engines, along with new projects still on his drawing board. He and his wife are both real nice people. After a quiet Thursday around Vevay, I left at 6:30 a.m. Friday the 13th and flew to Detroit, to see the Henry Ford collection. I again spent the next two days in wonderland; however, my legs and feet were real sore from all the walking. A 5 a.m. start on October 16 saw me on my way to Jackson, Michigan, to stay with Homer and Ouida Ferrell. A quick stop at the State Fair, a wander round the local flea market, then on to inspect their new home (they had moved since I had last seen them). I arrived a day after their daughter's wedding, so a state of shock still existed! I visited Vernon King and saw his 80 HP Fairbanks Y twin running. What an impressive sight and what an achievement for a couple of older enthusiasts! Over the next three days, I was shown around by Clinton Edwards (who I did a bit of trading with!!), Hay-ward Anderson, Joe Spell and, of course, Homer (who thinks I'm pretty good at fixing Fairmonts!!) It was with a feeling of sadness I bade farewell to these good folk to move on to my next stop.
On Thursday, October 20, Homer drove me to Natchez, where we met up with Robert and Delores Mayeaux, who took me on to their new home in Pineville, Louisiana. This stopover allowed us four days of catching up on the news since we last met. This also included seeing a few nice collections, playing engines and trying some 'White Lightning' (what hit me?), also watching a couple of very good videos of the old oilfield engines. Again, the time went too fast and, on Monday, October 24 at 4:30 a.m. I flew off to Florida to see Alan Phillips to learn a lot more about hot air engines. (Another of my interests.) Alan and his son met me at Orlando Airport and drove me to his home where I met his wife Betty. These lovely people looked after me until Wednesday the 26th, showing me around, showing me lots about Stirling engines and introducing me to another top model maker, Joe Hanson, from whom I learned a lot of new tricks. I also saw an aircraft museum, where a number of WWII planes are being rebuilt an amazing project.
After another early trip to the airport, I was on my way to San Antonio where Frank and Rita McCutcheon met me (I kept them waiting an extra hour as I missed one flight, no seat available). During my four days with them at Canyon Lake, I bought some vital supplies for my model engines (plugs, etc.), and went to see Ray Ellison's amazing collection of rare mechanical treasures (I am still stunned by what I saw there, pure magic!). I also revisited the Alamo, and central San Antonio, which is one of the prettiest city centres I have been to, with its sunken river walk, good shopping areas and parks. Frank and I discussed a lot of topics in his workshop and we played with his new engines too!
On Monday the 31st, I flew to San Diego, where I stayed the night and took a quick trip over the border into Mexico. I then went by bus to Los Angeles. A look 'round the city centre and another bus out to the airport saw me on my way to Phoenix, Arizona, for a stopover of six days with Nelson and Nancy Gnepper at New River. A trip to Jerome, to see Don Robertson at the Gold King Mine and loading up for the E.D.G.E.T.A. show, plus shopping for more essential bits to take home took care of three days. The two day show was a winner for me, as I saw how to run a silent auction properly (MY first effort left a little bit to be desired!!) I also saw a lot of engines we don't see in Australia, along with a very well run tractor pull. I was most impressed with Bob Shepherd's Watusi cattle; one was over six feet across the hornsnow that is BIG!! Monday was taken up with returning Nelson's gear to his home, then an early night prepared me for the next leg.
I flew into San Jose to be met by Dick Hamp, who showed me all around his area and, over the next few days, introduced me to a few kindred spirits. We covered a machinery show, a flea market (more vital stuff I couldn't do without!!) and then he broke his golden rule. Dick drove me to San Francisco, (he hates the place!), and dropped me off with Joe Tochtrop, where I spent my last night. We discussed his models and spent a very pleasant evening together. Next morning saw me on my way to the airport with two heavy boxes of model castings that Joe had kindly allowed me to have sent to his home, not forgetting my travel bag, which by now was about to burst with all the extras I had picked up on the way. After a hurried farewell to Joe, I was loaded onto the 747 United plane for the 14 hours flight to Sydney.
Marg was waiting for me at journey's end and drove me back to Newcastle. It took me three days to get over the jet lag. I am still not quite back into my old routine. I keep drifting off into memory land, thinking of all the events which went into the making of the most enjoyable trip of my life.
Thanks, mates, one and all, for all you did for me. You are all special in my heart, and I will never forget you.