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Posted in ROUTE 66
March 17, 2010

OPENING THE TIME CAPSULE

It has been a slower day than usual at the office which has provided numerous excuses for working outside and enjoying the seventy degree day. Now, with lunch I am contemplating a new display for the shadow box counter top. The post yesterday and a customers comment about the counter top being a time capsule led to viewing my office/museum with a fresh perspective. So, as a first time customer I see a wide array of vintage hubcaps, framed automtoive advertisement from the 1920s and 1930s, a grill, a mural, shelves filled with things as diverse as antique roller skates and oil cans, and some original photos portraying scenes along Route 66. The 3′ x 6.5′ counter top is our crown jewel if I do say so. Counted among the treasures are a book published by Good Housekeeping magazine in 1960 entitled, “Handbook for the Women Driver.” I find it fascinating how much reaction this draws, some are offended and others simply laugh. None, however, are aware that it is a very benign, very practical book that covers a wide array of topics from how to check oil to avoid being ripped off by a garage. The Kelly Blue Book from 1926 and the N.A.D.A. guide from 1948 also receive a wide array of comments and spark many question. For some it the memories invoked and for others it is astonishment at the prices.As an example, in the 1948 guide a 1937 Dodge 1/2 ton pick up truck has a retail value of $425. The 1926 Blue Book indicates the factory list price for a 1920 Packard six-cylinder sedan was $4950 but the retail price was a mere $400.Promotional material from long defunct companies such as Hupmobile REO, Mitchell, Nash, and Essex, also draws a great deal of comment and questions. Likewise with ones for the Gremlin, Lincoln V12, and Checker. I have always found automotive advertisement to be quite fascinating. How do you convince a customer that a Ford is better than a Chevy or that there should be such a price difference between a Crown Victoria, Lincoln, or Mercury?Older automotive promotional items are true time capsules that reflect many facets of society from fashion to technology. I have one for the Jaxon, a steam powered vehicle built in 1903, that reads, “So easy to operate a child, or even a women, can drive it!” Ouch!On more than one occasion I have been asked by customers and visitors to the office, as well as those who read my books and feature articles, if my home office is as much a museum as this. The answer is yes and no. It is more like some deranged old uncle’s attic or shed. Books are in piles and on shelves everywhere. Subjects run the gamut from a 1907 automobile repair guide and a Chilton’s guide for the 1998 Jeep, to the history of the medical profession in Nazi era Germany, the influenza epidemic of 1918, and a 1916 book by Emily Post about her cross country automotive adventure.Perched on and behind these are enlarged covers of books I have written, big promotional posters for the Cadillac V16, a wide array of maps from a 1929 Rand McNally Atlas to a National Geographic map of historic trails in the United States.

In the midst of this is an island with my computer, printer, and scanner and a couple of small files. Most of the piles are kept behind wooden folding doors but on more than one occasion the creaking and groaning of wood gives cause to reflect on just how long they can be held at bay. If there were a moral to this long winded tale it would be this, my world is truly a delicate balance between the past and present, an odd sort of place where the two not only meet but on occasion overlap. I suppose that is why topics pertaining to the good old days seasoned with praises for the conveniences of the modern era dominate so much of what is written by me. On a final note, if you find yourself motoring west or east on the old double six. In addition to the ecclectic collection, I also have brochures from a number of Route 66 attractions and with a latent talent for telling folks where to go, lots of directions for places often overlooked.

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