We arrived in Illinois Saturday a week ago. I had to fly east to New York for some work, but in the meantime Sue stayed with old Friends Mary and Ken in Schaumburg. I spent the week in Sherburne in the Chenango Valley area of New York, about 50 miles southwest of Syracuse. Surprisingly it’s a still a pretty rural area. I drove to Norwich the other night for dinner at Gus’s Steakhouse and on the way I discovered Northeast Classic Car Museum. Before I left on Friday, I went over to the museum for a visit. It’s a collection of over 150 cars and a few motorcycles stretching from the early 1900’s to the 1980’s. Most nicely restored, but there were still a few barn finds on display. The museum seems to focus on cars made in New York State. It was started by George E. Staley, an entrepreneur who served in World War II as a fuel system specialist for Bendix Aviation. Staley’s expertise gave him an opportunity to tune up the famous B29 Enola Gay before it left the Pacific Ocean island of Tinian to drop the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. After the war, Staley started a business on Long Island to refurbish aircraft components. He retired in 1994 to his family farm in upstate New Y0rk. Staley began his collection with almost 90 cars. The collection was the world’s largest accumulation of Franklin automobiles which were manufactured locally in nearby Syracuse from 1902 to 1934. Franklins were a favorite of aviators, Charles Lindbergh was a loyal customer. This connection inspired the company’s “Airmen” series cars that sported a spinning propeller hood ornament (one is in the hood ornament collage). Staley took the high standards he applied to his business and his restoration shop to the museum. Many cars on display have picture albums showing the history of their restoration. On the west wall of the main reception area is a huge painted New York State map chronicling the 116 different makes of cars produced since 1894. From Buckmobiles, made in Utica from 1903 to 1905, to the famous Pierce-Arrow brand made in Buffalo, New York was apparently a hotbed for automobile manufacturing.
I particularly enjoyed the collection of 1950’s cars. I remember most of them from when I was growing up. Cars were emerging from the dull models of the war years and immediate post war year that you could get any car that you wanted as long it was black. By the end of the 50’s, most cars had enormous tail fins and were huge. As quickly as they appeared between 1957 and 1959, they were gone in 1961. One of my favorite cars was the 1961 Chevrolet Impala. There was a 1930 Henderson motorcycle on display that I saw last summer at the Frist Art Museum in Nashville as part of an Art Deco period display of cars. I’m amazed at some of the car museum we’ve found as we travel across the country. I’m glad that the people that loved cars were able to accumulate the resources during their life to preserve these magnificent automobiles.
I arrived back in Schaumburg on Friday night. We’ll be here until Tuesday morning when we’ll hit the road again. Stay tuned.