BETTER TO FILL YOUR HEAD WITH USELESS KNOWLEDGE THAN NO KNOWLEDGE AT ALL
Henry Ford was instrumental in the founding of Cadillac. The brothers Stanley, famous for their steam cars, were also manufacturers of quality violins and were the cornerstone for Eastman Kodak. The Dodge Brothers were responsible for the rise of Ford Motor Company. The origins of Chevrolet were as an import.
My fascination for obscure history dates to the era of the Corvair. Admonishment from dad about this trivial pursuit was, and still is, followed by one of his signature quips, “I suppose its better to fill your head with useless knowledge than no knowledge at all.”
With gentle nudging from dearest friend, I took the initial steps in sharing this fascination through the written word. That was in 1990.
My first published piece entitled Myloe’s Marvelous Mechanical Menagerie was published in Hemmings Special Interest Autos. As exciting as it was to be published right out of the gate, I harbored no illusions, it was not my polished writing style or the quality of my photographs that clinched the deal.
It was the fact that I had discovered an amazing time capsule that exceeded the wildest dreams of the most passionate automobile enthusiast. Myloe’s Fort Auto Parts in Huachuca City, Arizona had officially closed at some point in the late 1960s after something like a half century of operation and more than two decades of Myloe purchasing and stashing vast quantities of outdated dealer stock.
As I began sharing my fascination for obscure automotive history doors soon opened that allowed me to share a second passion, travel on the back roads, the dusty desert tracks, and the old highways. In the twenty years since the adventure that spawned this blogs subtitle began, I have written six books, almost a thousand feature articles, and received an unknown number of rejection notices.
In yesterday’s post I noted that thoughts were being given to a new book, a deviation from previous work. The idea is to use the fascinating things learned about automotive history and the amazing places discovered through writing as a backdrop for the chronicling of a twenty year career as a writer.
The writing has provided previously unimagined opportunity for travel to some of the most fascinating places, such as Endee in New Mexico and Williamsburg in Virginia. It has also opened thousands of secret time capsules such as the discovery of the Desert Classic “Cactus Derby” races held between 1909 and 1914.
However, the greatest reward has been the people met along the way. There was the amazing and irrepressible Myloe at Fort Auto Parts that used an unrestored 1918 Buick to run to the liquor store, an event that came to an end when the Highway Patrol informed him that the unlicensed car without operational lights would be impounded if it was seen on the road again.
It was in the research for the book profiling the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company that I met Bob Yost, a World War II pilot who had the vision in the 1950s to preserve vintage nitrate photos from the infancy of the automotive industry as slides. It was on this project that I also met Keith Marvin.
Keith and I soon began a lengthy correspondence that moved beyond discussions about his founding role in the Society of Automotive Historians, the research behind the encyclopedic Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805 to 1942, and Cadwallader Kelsy loaning him a car for his honeymoon to topics as diverse as missionary work with Native Americans and the rise of the National Socialist Party in Germany during the 1930s.
Friendships with people as diverse as Bob Waldmire, the sage of Route 66 that roamed the highway as a living time capsule from the era of Woodstock, Clyde McCune, a former justice of the peace and cofounder of the town of Truxton, and H.P. Pemberton, a walking, breathing history book of automotive history remain the most rewarding aspect of my twenty years as a writer. These are what make the hours of hard work, frustration, and anemic financial compensation worth while.
All of this is circulating in my head without a format as I meditate on the next book. Meanwhile, I have an encyclopedia to finish, an interview with Jay Leno, another grand adventure on the road less traveled with my dearest friend, another Thanksgiving to celebrate, a grandson to spoil, and a job that pays the bills as well as supports the writing habit.