Wheel Tracks Articles Archives

The 50s (Part II)

Near the end of the decade there were two entirely different silhouettes. Dior designed the “Sack” dress, which later became the chemise, a no-waisted dress that was short and narrow at the hem. In 1958 Yves Saint Laurent produced the second, the trapeze dress, with narrow shoulders, no waist and a triangle shape.

In 1955 Roger Vivier, working with Dior, designed the stiletto heel, a much higher and slimmer look in high heels. The very slim high heel consisted of metal reinforcement and a very pointed toe. Fantastic designs appeared with embroidery, feathers, lace, beading, rhinestones, satin and even fur.

Marilyn Monroe and Jane Mansfield perpetuated this look, along the with eye shadow, penciled eyebrows and short haircuts. Many women wore half hats with their suits and cocktail outfits. Short veils on flowered hats and novelty beach hats were popular, as were turbans.

Handbags consisted of the Wilardy Lucite box, clutch bags were made of a variety of fabrics including alligator, lizard and snakeskin. Novelty designed included the three-dimensional straw animals and fish.

Menswear took on a conservative look. The “Mr. T” silhouette with narrow lapels and soft construction. Men chose gray or blue flannel suits worn with pinpoint collared shirts with narrow small-knotted stripe or solid ties. The all Dacron or rayon suit appeared and was worn year round. Hats had tapered crowns and narrow brims.

For the casual look, the fifties man had many choices. The Eisenhower jacket was a waist-length blouse styled jacket with slant pockets, zipper closure in many color variations. Madras sport jackets & polo shirts were popular as were Bermuda shorts in native prints. Colorful tapered resort slacks, Hawaiian shirts and the Ivy League look with button down collared shirts in a variety of fabrics and colors became very fashionable.

For the first time the style conscious American teenager had fashions designed especially for them. Rock N Roll star Elvis Presley and actor James Dean influenced teen fads from haircuts, to suede shoes and felt skirts.

Girls wore sweaters buttoned backwards and accented them with costume jewelry scatter pins. Cinch belts, bobbi socks, cuffed jeans and hair set in rollers. Boys wore pink shirts, khaki pants, leather jackets and greased hair. Beaches, drive-in movies and soda fountains were the new centers for teenage activity. The fifties led the way to the upcoming “youth explosion” of the sixties.

Are you ready? The Shelburne Fashion Show is just weeks away, and I am hoping to have an even bigger venue than last year. What a wonderful job you all did! Got a friend with an old car? Invite them to not only participate in the car show but also in the fashion show. We have a lot of fun and the best reward is seeing all the smiles.

(Missed Part I? Read it here…)

The Truck Story

Truly, I need to start with my annual trip to the All-Chrysler Show at Carlisle Fairgrounds in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the second full weekend in July. This particular trip would have been in 2000.

Arriving on Wednesday PM prior to the show, myself and at least ten other friends were pleased to find a 1956 Dodge, Long Box, ½ Ton truck in the Car Corral. The owner had left a note with the truck stating he would not be on the field until Saturday AM. When I was able to make contact on Saturday, another customer already was showing great interest. Through the day, I kept returning to the truck just to find out that the interested person hadn’t made his mind up yet. Eventually the customer gave the owner a deposit and, though I was disappointed, I figured it was “meant to be”.

I left a phone number for the seller of the truck just in case he could shake another truck out of a barn in the West Virginia area he was from. The truck he sold appeared to be a fair truck for a fair price and was not getting a lot of attention because it was original and didn’t have a “Hemi” under it’s hood.

On Sunday evening, after arriving home, my stepson, Colin, said there was a message to call this gentleman in WestVirginia. I was surprised that he might have found another truck so quickly. It turned out that the Car Corral buyer arrived home to NYC and apparently found out that his wife wasn’t as “excited” about his purchase and declined to receive the truck.

The seller agreed to deliver the truck to me in Vermont for the asking price. He said he would grab his brother-in-law for the company, drive up Sunday, stay over, do the deal on Monday AM and drive home.

So… now I owned a 1956 Dodge, blue, Long Box, ½ Ton from West Virginia with 47,000 miles on it. Since I already owned a 1947 Plymouth Sedan, a 1952 Dodge ½ Ton, Low Side truck that I had previously restored, my “family” and “room” dictated that something had to go.

I placed an ad in Hemmings and my 1952 Dodge truck ended up with a wonderful family in Stowe, Vermont; when it could have gone literally “anywhere”. We were very pleased. I also had placed an ad in the Burlington Free Press, which I’ll refer to later.

So… I used this truck for the summer of 2000. Now we finally come to February 2001. Snow is everywhere. I receive another phone call from Joe, my newfound West Virginia Mopar truck supplier. He tells me that he went to an auction in Virginia looking to buy some lumber to add onto his car storage area. Well… in a building at the auction was a 1956 Dodge, Short Box, High Side, ½ Ton pick-up with 22,000 miles on it and a title to prove it. He offered them all he had in cash, but was $700 too short and they wouldn’t accept the offer.

While driving back to West Virginia, he thought of his Vermont “connection”. He just wanted to see someone who likes Mopars own and use this fine automobile. I thanked him for thinking of me, but my motor home and trailer were truly “buried” in snow and I really couldn’t afford it.

Well… after a week of me stressing over my premature decision, I weakened and returned a call to West Virginia. My new Mopar friend said he’d drive the 75 miles to see and I said that he shouldn’t go through all that. I suggested just a phone call, maybe.

A week later I called him again and he said he had looked into it again and it had been sold. I was so… disappointed. I asked if he knew to whom and he replied, “Yes to me”. After I sat down, he informed me that he couldn’t afford it either, but he paid the price, trailered it to West Virginia and was storing it in his garage until our spring, be it July or August, and I could come to get it.

I asked, “What if I can’t afford it?” and he said, “We’ll see what spring brings”. So… April 2001, Joe Paradis, another long time active VAE member, accepts my invitation to travel to Hedgesville, West Virginia and pickup a pick-up. The trip was a very memorable, fun time. One conversation was truly interesting though.

Joe asked me if I had seen this truck or a picture of it and I said, “No”. He said, “You mean we’re traveling to West Virginia to get a truck you haven’t even see a picture of?” and I said “Isn’t that nuts?” To which he replied, “No, I’ve done it a couple of times myself and they turned out just fine”.

We had left Essex Jct, Vermont at 8 PM on a Monday evening and were back at 11 AM on Wednesday. The truck has since been taken apart, blasted and repainted in and out with its original color. I have driven it for pleasure and to work for over 3,000 miles since its purchase. In July of 2002, shortly after its restoration, we went to Carlisle and received two (2) awards at the All-Chrysler Show. We’ll maybe see you there in 2003.

The truck is all it was “hyped” to be and more. I’ve met a great friend in West Virginia and had a great trip with a VAE friend to boot. Joe also was a big help with truck pick-up bed and sideboards. I guess you maybe thought he only did plaques.

Now… back briefly to my first ‘56 Dodge truck. When advertising my ‘52 truck locally, a neighbor five blocks away, answered the ad, but really wanted the ’56 because of its “long box” for bicycles. I told him it wasn’t “for sale”. Well, when I advertised the first ’56 upon returning from West Virginia a year later, this neighbor just about “ran over” and now owns it…. Bottom Line… Finally.

The ’52 Dodge I restored is in Stowe, Vermont, the ’56 Dodge I purchased through Carlisle is five blocks away and our candidate from Aroda, Virginia is with me, in Vermont. Who could ask for anything more… But, that sounds like a musical.

Memories of Herbert Ball

Herbert was Marvin’s grandfather and Marvin sent along this great picture of Herbert with his 1919 “T” Ford.

Marvin writes… “I have a snap shot of him and the “T” when it was near new. Scrap drive of WWII was the end of that Ford. My cousin and I played in it when I was a wee lad out behind the barn. My family settled in on the Long Point part of Ferrisburg in 1792. They moved from Bennington. Does this make me a real Vermonter?

Being on the lake, they sold “cool” to the blacksmiths, and later sold gravel to the railroad. The Ball family was one of the first to sell leases to campers at Long Point. My grandfather had several farms and two wives but not at the same time. On one farm he sold gravel to the town for years. The old timers would do anything for a nickel and lived well, back then. Others in the family had sawmills in Charlotte and Shelburne.

The Saxbys Remembered

Last month, our club recognized early members Bob and Marion Saxby in awarding them a “Big E for Auto Enthusiasm”.

We had lost track of these early members and wondered about them, thankful for their significant contributions in our beginning years. 3 members responded early with the news that both had passed on from their retirement home near Morrisville. The Lincoln, sold in NY State, had received a bit of a face-lift and appeared at Stowe some years ago.

Our thanks to Doris Bailey, Bill Billado and Adrian West for their responses and information. Adrian knows most about the family history, Doris about Bob and Marion personally, and Bill about their former great car.

Should our readers want to know more, these folks would be happy to talk with you. We just wish that we had recognized these true enthusiasts a little earlier.

Thunder Road Update

Emanating from Quarry Hill in Barre Town on the 27th of July 2003, will be the exhausts of classic and chrome vehicles of VAE members and guests. The 2nd annual cruise-in event on Sunday between 1 and 4 P.M. will raise funding for Camp Ta Kum Ta, Vermont’s camp for children with cancer.

The 2002 event raised $800. Member and track host Ken Squire will MC the action with a possible assist from Buster the wonder dog. Plan on being entertained under the tent with complimentary ice tea and having your vehicle photographed on the track for VAE’s archives. Ken will oversee the closing ceremonies, which include car door prizes and appropriate awards. Dash plaques will go to the 1st 150 cars that register. Ray Tomlinson, Gene Napoliello and Ken Squire are waiting for your call along with the children who will directly benefit.

If you can’t attend, make your donation check payable to Camp Ta Kum Ta- and send to:

Gene Napoliello, 169 Balsam Rd. Waterbury Center, VT 05677

Your gift will be acknowledged at the cruise-in and in Wheel Tracks. Thunder Road hats will also be given by the co-chairs to members participating in the Thursday evening, July 24th cruise around the track at intermission and the Barre Home Coming Parade on Saturday, the 26th.

Dash plaques for last year’s participants are now being retro-fitted as well. Plan to attend or donate to this special day for Camp Ta Kum Ta.

Enthusiast of the Month – Dale Lake

Mr. Buick, before Bob Jones saw the light and stopped restoring Model T Fords, was Dale Lake. Dale lived in the house he was born in on a rural road in Ripton. I suspect Pev Peake got him involved formally with the “old car people” but Dale’s interest had always been there.

Dale gets this month’s “BIG E” award, again, after his death. Many of us remember Dale, as does Bill Billado in the following recollection…

“Dale Lake had collected a whole lot of cars and parts and it was Dale that came up with what I needed to put my 1935 Buick 69-C back on the road. This car gained its collector car status at Dale’s in the mid-fifties and eventually found its way to St. Albans in the hands of two other early icons: Gael Boardman and Lanny McHall.
Dale provided the parts and also teased me with his extensive collection of “old iron”, none of which was for sale at that time.

As time passed, things changed in Dale’s remote neighborhood. Folks from “down-country” started buying up parcels of the beautiful acreage and when in sufficient numbers, they decided that they were not impressed with Mr. Lake’s hobby interests, so the battle began! As you can surmise, Dale was not the victor in this legal scrap.

It was at a VAE Meet at the Lincoln Inn where Dale made a tearful plea for the membership to “come and get ‘em” before the crusher deadline arrived. Well, that summer consisted of a season-long VAE hallmark event. Every single weekend, in good weather and bad, the gang was there, competing and negotiating for “who got what”. Among the regulars that I can recall were Tom Beebe, Larry Johnson, Doug Kelly, Roy Martin, Kip Matthews, Tom McHugh, Rod Rice, Gardiner Spencer, Ray Unsworth, Al Ward, Ed Welch, Clark Wright and myself. A lot of man hours were invested, but we got the job done and many treasures were spared the axe.

Anyone who visited Dale’s old iron mecca understood that it was an all day event. He had many a yarn to spin and plenty of sage advice on how to keep our cars in tip-top condition. On one such visit Dale admonished that if one ever had occasion to do a motor job on an Isotta Fraschini, one should seriously consider flipping the car onto its roof somehow, because that would afford the easiest access to the “innards”. He swore he’d done it from the bottom up and it worked real slick.

Although Dale was cordial to all who came to see him, he would always step outside as you approached, never allowing anyone into the house where he lived with his very elderly mother. You can imagine our surprise when during one of the last visits to Ripton, Dale invited our small group of “regulars” into his home. We all looked at each other with expressions of amazement and disbelief… We had finally arrived.“

Dale was Vice President and VAE President in 1959. He made almost all the meets in his only transportation, “an old car”. His “Well, you know…” preceded some of the most interesting and entertaining automobile comments I ever heard. He was a great guy and a 14-carat Enthusiast.

The 50s (Part I)

After the war, women left their wartime factory jobs and returned to the role of homemaker. Families thrived in the suburbs with station wagons, picture windows, backyard, casseroles and Emily Post. Donna Reed was the perfect picture of the happy housewife dressed in the standard daytime shirtwaist with full circle skirt, and belted waist.

A fancy apron was added to wear at home in the kitchen. Of course, she never left the house without the short white gloves, flowered hat perched on the back of the head and suitable handbag.

Taffeta strapless ball gowns, many in black, with full skirts and wide-collared evening coats, extravagant cocktail dresses in lush colors, fabrics and accessories, were worn for evening wear, along with elbow length gloves and coordinating hats. Mink stoles, cashmere sweaters with fur collars, and jeweled embroidery were the coordinating features.

Chanel returned to designing with her signature cardigan suit and low sling-back shoes. Skirts were mid-calf and pleated at the waist to give fullness. Pucci designed silk scarves, dresses, blouses and stretch bathing suits in bold patterns of purple, pink and crimson.

Poodles were top dog, and appeared on skirts and jewelry. Costume pearls were worn as every day jewelry. Rhinestone-studded sun glasses were the crowning touch to any outfit.

Toreador or Capri pans worn with appliquéd sweaters and ballet slippers were the mainstay of the casual outfit. Circle skirts were made in felt with appliqués of everything from poodles to plants and lobsters.

(Read more in Part II)

Best Restoration of 2002

What appears to be my last act as 2002 President of VAE is the selection of Best Restoration Award. First of all, I had no idea how difficult this decision could be!

There were six exceptional entries for this award, all deserving to be a winner. After studying photos, restoration information (even some albums of the rebuild process) my decision was made.

The award goes to Mark Bennet of Warren, who received a handsome plaque for his 1960 Thunderbird, retractable top convertible. A beautiful restoration of a very complex automobile. Mark is to be congratulated on his award, as are all of the entries in this past year’s event.

The time and expense spent on their projects are not to be taken lightly and shows a dedication and love of the hobby that is unique to the fascinating world of automotive preservation.

Car Estate Planning

In resent years, I have heard VAE members speak of how they want the club to go and to be remembered. I feel this opportunity is in our hands. The VAE members, who have been in the club for years, have done great things with their automobiles, which, in return, have provided them great pleasure.

In speaking with these people and going over to their shops, I find that they have great collections of “project” cars, trucks and lot of boxes of parts.

The overwhelming drive of car collectors to start new projects and the reality of “Not enough time and not enough Money” means many of these cars are going to be at Estate Sales. The other result is a spouse left with old cars and old parts and looking for any means of disposal.

I believe that the solution lies with those who have three or four (or more) car projects, which they will never get to. It is to seek out people, men or women, who are younger and have car interest. Go to High Schools, Vocational Arts programs, automobile repair or similar locations of education.

The first time I went to VT Tech for the fall VAE meeting, I was approached by two students, while I sat near my 49 Packard having a sandwich. Their interest was working with older cars. This was my first hand experience with younger people having an unfulfilled desire to restore and own old cars.

For those interested: Find younger people interested in cars and have them come over to your shop 2-4 times per month and work on a “project” car that you have most of the parts for, get it running, then give them the car with extra parts.

Another idea would be to give a car to an auto repair school and become an assistant to the instructor. This could do two things for you: help to clean out your shop or barn and give you the opportunity to teach and interact with younger people.

At this time, I think it will be difficult to find young people who are willing to spend $10K – $15K on a resorted Model A when they can get a old corvette for the same price. The early VAE members back in the 40’s & 50’s could buy any old car they wanted for $50 – $100.

I know everyone feels the favorite car has great value. The true value is only what someone else will pay. I would hope that the greatest value would be the value to a first time owner, at the beginning of their car addiction, when money may be scarce.

In closing, in order to avoid the termination of your passion for old cars at the time of your demise – do some Car Estate Planning and pass along the “Fever”! I feel we could and should now pass on cars, which we will never get too, to interested younger people. Pass on the passion and the car addiction while we still have some say on where and how it will go.

Enthusiast of the Month – The Saxbys

In this, our 50th year, the VAE is recognizing people, past and present, who have really exemplified our name – Enthusiast. In recent months we have cheered people, both living and dead, but this month our award goes to a couple who we have lost track of completely.

It is our loss, as Dr. Robert and Marion Saxby were super Vermont Auto Enthusiasts. In our early years, from their home on Brooks Avenue in Burlington, they were a steady force: keeping our records, arranging meetings and holding us on track.

With a young family of their own and all the pressures of a young doctor, the Saxby’s really helped us when they might have been honestly excused from such efforts.

Marion was club secretary for a number of years and Bob lent stability to the Board of Directors. Later the family moved to the spacious Beeman house on High Street in St. Albans, with its grand carriage house. Having this neat space, they bought (from Peveril Peake) their outstanding ‘33 Lincoln Double Windshield True Dual Cowl Phaeton.

It was a beautiful and quite original 12-cylinder Lincoln of real classic status. They deserved the car and we all enjoyed it at meets. We lost track of the Saxbys when they moved to upstate NY some years ago. There was a rumor that the Lincoln had been sold… we hope to another good home.

But most of all, we want to thank them more properly than we did when they were here with us… to do so, we award Bob and Marion Saxby a Great Big E. Thanks for everything you did for all us Enthusiasts.