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It’s not the item....it’s the story


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Like many of you, I have lots of “car stuff” that just seems to follow me home. Some of it is valuable and rare, but most of it isn’t. Just interesting things that I like and not terribly valuable. Signs, literature, books, “accessories”, you know what I’m talking about. 
 

last week I was given this reproduction Packard sign. It is one of those reproduction signs from aluminum or some shiny inexpensive metal. I doubt the sign cost more than 25 dollars off eBay, and I do have some signs that are north of 1,000 dollars......but this cheap knock off sign is my favorite and will proudly be portrayed in my garage.  It’s the story that makes it special. About a year ago I met a patient with a bad cancer diagnosis. He needed some care and coordination from me but was devastated and not sure he wanted to fight and go through what might be needed to have a chance at life and health. I won’t go into all the details of what he had to do, and it was complicated by COVID issues, but he has a clean bill of health, a positive attitude, a great wife who stood by him and supported him like a lion to help get him through all of this. I did some things for him (very minor in the big scope of things), but he stopped in the office with his wife last week smiling and wanted to give me this sign. He reached out behind the scene and contacted my staff and asked about my interests. He was so happy as he gave this to me. I love this sign,  and see him living and smiling when I see it. I don’t care that it is a cheap reproduction. IT IS THE STORY. 
 

What do you have in your collection that is so very special to you, even if it’s not an expensive item, but the story or 

person that gave it to you is why you cherish it?

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Cannot top that Story John.  My "good stuff" largely came from dad, (who is buying gas and oil again...) and some I bought with him at Hershey and other places, and a ton of smaller stuff I bought with my wife who has a good eye and can be a tough negotiator.  Last lot of bigger stuff came from a gas station & general store that changed hands 6 or 7 years ago after multi generations, I know the authenticity and wish I bought more.  So a lot of it has meaning beyond the market value of the item.

 

Apologies in advance for the mess.  Pump a gift from dad, he found it on a farm and restored in Texaco colors.  Exide battery tray came out of general store in ME.  

 

Esso oil drop stuff mostly found over the years by my wife.  She also picked up the Apenn war jar locally, for $5.00!!  For CT locals, the bell is a 2nd place trophy from the annual Belltown show we won w the 39 Packard.  A pal has a complete collection, 3rd through first, won over three years with his model A roadster.

 

Most everything we have has a story associated with it, but your patient story is great.

 

 

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One more for the day.  At 13 or 14 couple weekends of helping cut firewood got me not one but two 32 Ford grill shells right out of the barn.  

 

One was for commercial, I gave it to my HS shop teacher who had a complete 32 pickup except it had no grill! What are the odds of that?

 

This one I kept and while I wish I kept the as found grey primer finish, I love it.  Thought of selling once or twice but why? Plus, still thinking of that traditional hot rod build...

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2 hours ago, Steve_Mack_CT said:

Cannot top that Story John.  My "good stuff" largely came from dad, (who is buying gas and oil again...)

oh no Steve, any stuff that “came from dad” is exactly what I’m talking about. 
 

And I love all your cool stuff. The pump, the Exide tray, the air delivery, and the 32 grill. Keep that stuff that your dad gave you! 

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11 hours ago, John Bloom said:

 I don’t care that it is a cheap reproduction. 

A well chosen gift from the heart with value beyond measure.

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Gift from my son a few years ago.  MB SL ad, he liked the cutaway view and was excited to tell me about discussions with frame shop about how to best present since it was a two page spread.  In my office, A favorite!

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Pull up a chair, pour a wee dram of good single malt Scotch and slide back in time with me to 1973.   The U.S. Navy had us stationed in Scotland, and in our spare time, we traveled many winding back roads, through small villages soaking up as much history and local flavor as we could during our three year visit there.  Yes, I was collecting automobilia even back then, and small country garages in out-of-the-way places were favorite stops. What I saw was often captured in photographs. Some things I managed to bring home, but much was simply not available.

 

On one weekend trip near Loch Ness, on a corner descending a hill, I spotted an old garage almost hidden under a highway overpass.   It took a while, but we eventually found some roads leading to a small village with a single road going through. The town was ancient, and after little exploring, we followed that road to a dead-end.  At that road's end was the old garage.  When the newer highway was put in, the road through town was cut off and that garage became isolated along with the rest of the village.  

 

Time had also passed this old garage.  It was still adorned with early porcelain signs, and demanded a closer look.  An early Bowser gas pump leaned slightly and obviously had not been used in ages.  As we approached the building we could see the garage door was open a crack, and someone was working inside.  An elderly gentleman was working on bicycles.  An old wood stove kept the chill off.  After getting over his surprise seeing a "Yank" in the doorway, we struck up a conversation - first about his memories from the WWII era when American soldiers were often seen in the area.  Like a lot of others of that generation, he was forever grateful for the contributions the American's made to the survival of Great Britain.  Curiosity for my interest in early automobiles gave him the opportunity to let me learn the history of that old garage.  His father had started the business for wagon repair and blacksmithing. By 1907 he was repairing automobiles.  Glued to the wood slat back wall of the garage were the shredded remains of an old poster advertising the Scottish made Argyle automobile dating to the 1900s.  He showed me where roof beams had been cut away to bring a tall limousine into the building for repairs.   The place was an Aladdin's cave of discarded brass lamps, wood coils, early spoke wheels, rusting tools, and boxes of wonderful things from the teens.  New unused clincher tyres (correctly spelled!) hung from pegs along the wall. 

 

I did not take photos and did not risk our new friendship by asking to buy things.  My memory captured the images, the smells, and the stories that day. 

 

We had to go back, and within a few months we did that.  Now too cold to work in the shop, we entered the front office.  Another old wood stove warmed the small room.  The shelves there contained treasures.  A pile of old service manuals and owners brochures for cars like De Dion Bouton, were piled high at the end of the counter.  Shelves behind the cash register had small metal strips attached to them advertising "Clincher tyres" "Carbide for Motor Lamps" and "Lodge Spark Plugs."  We sat back into a couple of old chairs beside the stove and as we talked, I glanced up into the open rafters.  There was some kind of old sign laying face-down across the opening and I could make out some red lettering at one end - "P&H  Lamps."  On this visit, I was given a small burlap sack filled with old spark plugs from the scrap bin.  The owner was amazed at my interest in them.

 

But-in the Navy, duty-stations do change, and upon learning we would soon return to the United Sates, one last visit to say goodby was necessary. 

 

We left, with just the story, some plugs, a few great memories, and a wonderful friendship.

 

Fast forward a few years.   After completing four years stationed in the Baltimore, Md area, we had a second chance to return to Scotland for another tour of duty there.  It was a fantastic time, picking up where we left off with the antique car club there, seeing old friends again, and exploring.   One of our first stops was a return visit to that old garage.

 

Not much had changed except the weeds surrounding it.   The old guy was still fixing bicycles for the neighborhood children.  We quickly renewed our friendship and retired to that front office for a wee-dram of Scotch and another story.  This time-not so good.  The highway was to be reconstructed and widened.  The interchange would be enlarged.  The Government had bought the property and it was doomed. His home nearby would be spared, but the old garage would be demolished.  Everything would be sold at auction and he insisted that I must attend.  I wouldn't miss it but lamented the fact that this virtual living museum would be erased from all but our memories and a few objects that I more enjoyed seeing in their natural habitat than carrying home for my own private viewing.  

 

Without asking if I wanted anything, he remarked that he wondered why I never tried to buy things from him -like everybody else.   When I told him these things belonged to the old garage, he smiled, and said he'd like me to have one thing to remember the place and our good times together.  He then reached around the end of the counter, and pulled out that P & H Lamp display.  He commented on the many times I'd gazed up at it, and asked questions about it and its history.   He had pulled it down from the rafters dusted years of wood-stove soot off, and had it ready to give to me as my souvenir.   My attempts to refuse the gift were rebuffed quickly, and as we loaded it into the car, he ran back inside and came out with a box, carefully packed with all the lamps that were on the display when he took it down. 

 

I did attend the auction and bought those great metal sign strips from the edges of the shelves, plus a few small things and some brass items.  But, it is that lamp display that remains one of the neatest things in my recreated old auto parts store on the second floor of my car barn.  

 

It's my own piece of Scotland.  Sometimes I'll sit in the old rocking chair up there, looking around at the old auto parts store I've created, sipping on a little single malt Scotch, enjoying the history represented there.  My eyes always turn to that display though, because that old garage in Scotland is really what inspired what I have today.  

 

First photo - the lamp display  Second photo shows the shelf-edge signs advertising Tyres and Acetylene Lamps.

Terry

 

 

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Terry........ wow, you can paint a picture!

 

sign me up to buy that novel you need to write where the handsome renaissance sailor, who collects vintage car memorabilia gets the girl after meeting her when she comes rolling out from under his Bentley on a creeper after fixing it at the local garage. 
 

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 I already had the girl and she drives an MG.  Here she is giving our Daughter a ride.

Terry

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Edited by Terry Bond (see edit history)
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