Remembering President Reagan

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We turn the clock back to 1982, in the early days of July, with a trip planned to travel to Palmdale, California. The high point of a normal Palmdale weekend would usually be the bookmobile arriving from Los Angeles, or tickets to the matinee performance at Western Auto, but on that weekend the space shuttle, the fourth mission STS-4, was arriving on Sunday, July 4th, astronauts Mattingly and Hartsfeld at the conn.

That in mind, I went to Senator Howard Cannon’s office on Booth Street and wrangled a VIP invitation to Edwards Air Force Base, where the shuttle was landing. No problem, I was a good Nevadan. We journeyed to Palmdale on July the second, and on the third, a Saturday, we went to the large NASA hospitality building in Lancaster – adjoining Palmdale as Sparks adjoins Reno. To give credit where due, the name “Cannon” rocked the staff, and the kids were treated like kings – tours of past Gemini capsules, “rides” on moon landers, and other courtesies – and we left with four human passes, one for my Suburban’s windshield and some cool NASA baseball caps like the big guys wear. We were warned the landing had been delayed until 9:02 AM that Sunday (tomorrow) morning from 8:53 AM so we changed our plans accordingly.

The view of the Mojave Valley foothills that Saturday night was breathtaking – the firelight of Coleman lanterns and campfires ringing the valley – Caltrans estimated that a million people had come to the hills to watch what was planned to be the last west coast space shuttle landing, ever. At oh-dark thirty on Sunday the Fourth of July we left for Edwards AFB, and upon entering the base, the Suburban was checked from cellar to attic, and beneath with mirrors – for at 9 o’clock the night before it was announced that President Ronald Reagan was coming to witness the shuttle landing. We walked interminably across a parking lot, and I have a photo to this day of a large – make that huge – Rosey Grier look-alike Secret Service agent, who met all at the gate with “Take my picture!” then smiled a display of Ipana-ad white teeth – the purpose to make sure all cameras were indeed cameras and not guns or bombs or whatever. Nice guy.

At thirty minutes before 9 AM three tall young pilots, ramrod-stiff, flat-bellied in their powder blue NASA flight suits, arrived at their parked blue-and-white T-38 jet chase planes; the assembled ladies en mass all went ga-ga, the pilots kicked the tires and lit the fires, taxied out, rolled, and climbed out like a trio of homesick angels to points unknown. A moment later, the baseball-stadium-sized Diamondvision TV screens came to life, and the PA system carried the voice from NASA Houston, who was controlling the shuttle’s landing. The shuttle was over the Santa Barbara Channel Islands, the chase planes transmitting images of it. “You are four miles downcourse, altitude one-oh-two thousand feet” – basically straight up from Edwards. “Valve off your hydrazine,” and the shuttle complied with a vapor trail; the chase planes laid day smoke – all four aircraft now in full view from Southern California.

“We’re coming down,” announced Hartsfeld, and did they ever – straight down, 40,000 people on the Edwards tarmac puckered, expecting the craft to bury itself in the desert. At the last moment, it leveled, the gear fell and the tail split into a brake, and the three T-38s strained to stay above it, using their dive boards, landing gear and full flaps. The shuttle stopped. 9:02 AM. How did they know that a whole day earlier?

Ronald Reagan, in the same western-cut informal duds he’d wear on his ranch on a Sunday morning, and his Nancy approached the podium and made a few remarks. He then cleared the NASA transporter for takeoff, a modified 747 with the shuttle Challenger recently completed at Palmdale’s Plant 41 mounted atop it – both aircraft in a paint scheme similar to Air Force One’s – to fly the new shuttle to Florida. The 747 rolled, and I watched it – it never climbed out – just flew across the desert. Interesting…

A few minutes later, joined by the crew of the Columbia that had just landed, Reagan made a few more remarks. Then, turning to the audience, he concluded his speech with that great Reagan smile and “Nancy and I want to thank you all for coming out in this hot sun, and we want you to go home now and have one Hell of a Fourth of Jul….”

The 40,000 people, and millions at home watching TV, never heard the “y” in “July,” only the deafening whine of the transporter’s four engines and the roar of the three T-38s, all four in a tight formation, coming up from behind the audience treetop high over 250 knots and pulling. They dropped their right wings in unison to the American flag behind the podium, just as the Marine band from NAS Miramar cued the Stars and Stripes Forever – John Phillip Sousa never heard it played any better. The planes leveled their wings then climbed rapidly over Reagan’s shoulder as we viewed him, holding their formation in a left departure into the haze.

Our Fourth of July weekend had begun, the Challenger was away on its first trip to Cape Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan, in his western White House Levis and a goat-roper shirt on that hot Sunday morning, had shown us the nexus of presidency and showmanship in its highest form. Dry eyes among 40,000 people: zero. Photos of the flyover by the surprised crowd: zero. Offers to re-enlist into the services: 14,307. Pride in the US of A: Priceless.

• • •

Have a good week; thanks for that morning, Dutch, and God bless America.


© Reno Gazette Journal 2002

Leave the driving to us

Bishop Manogue Bus copy

This column © 2001 Reno Gazette-Journal

A fortnight ago in a treatise about Stead AFB I noted that “…there was only one high school in Reno until 1961” and proceeded to recall that all the high school students in town could fit into two 66-passenger school buses.

            The remark endeared me to many a Manogue High School graduate, who called en masse to remind me that there was indeed a second high school in Reno in 1961 – their alma mater, then as now on a site just east of the University of Nevada campus. The thrust of what I was writing was that Reno High was the only school in Reno with a bus program. But, when life hands you a lemonade, a writer makes lemonade: In talking with one of the Manogue alums who was kidding me about my gaffe, Nancy Howell Spina, the topic of school buses inadvertently arose.

            Starting closer to the beginning, a word about Manogue, formally Bishop Manogue High School. The school’s name came from Bishop Patrick Manogue, who contributed to the education of miners’ children during the Comstock gold rush and was later the first bishop of the Sacramento Catholic diocese.   The school opened in 1947, in a couple of old barracks in a beautiful meadow at the old Flick ranch by the Truckee River near the present southeast McCarran Boulevard (it’s now utilized by Sage Winds school). Within a decade it had grown and was relocated to a campus near the University of Nevada in 1957. Manogue’s new campus is south of town by Zolezzi Lane. (Arrowcreek Drive, to the newcomers.)

            Nancy told me that a bus made the loop around Reno picking up Manogue students to transport to the school’s original location, which back then you had to pack a lantern and a lunch to drive to. “A bus, you say?” I asked. “A bus,” she replied. There I was prepared to get myself off a hook by saying that Manogue never had a school bus system and get myself into yet-another jam. But you read it here first: Bishop Manogue High School indeed had a school bus system, in the 1940s. There were two high schools in Reno in 1960. Finally, we wish Manogue’s leadership well in completing their new campus.

• • •

On the topic of schools, Reno High School Alumni Club honcho Joe Granata tells of a bit of school apparatus that has been around longer that it might appear. There’s a strong probability that the flagpole at Wooster High, which spoiled Reno High’s place as the only PUBLIC! High school in Reno when it opened in 1961, was the same pole that was originally installed in the front courtyard of the Reno High School on Fifth and West Streets in 1913. (I almost wrote “the original high school”, which it wasn’t.) Take a look at the flagpole next time you’re traveling down East Plumb Lane past Wooster – that baby’s been around for a long time.

            Now, I’ll solicit some reader help, maybe from Dale Sanderson, Washoe County School District’s great facilities manager: I think, but have never been able to prove, that the scoreboard that originally clocked basketball games in the old Reno High (later serving as Central Junior High) gymnasium, was later relocated to Vaughn Middle School on Vassar Street near Kietzke. It’s a classic scoreboard/timer with a revolving hand, not the contemporary 00:00 electric numerals – the words I’m groping for might be analog and digital. Last I saw it it was hanging unused in the Vaughn gym, alongside a modern digital scoreboard. It might be nice – if it is indeed the old Reno High gym clock – to relocate it to the Reno High Alum Center on Booth Street someday, or at the least be aware of its heritage and not trash it as pre-WWII junk.

• • •

 

Flyin’ with Ty Cobb on Air Force One…

AF1_factsheet

 

Off to San Francisco for the weekend?  Let’s see; reservations on Lombard Street for a couple of nights, done; a call ahead to see if the kids are available for a visit, check; pick a couple of joints for dinner in the Marina and the Buena Vista for eggs Benedict, easy; gas up the pickup, or the ragtop? – let’s see what the weather is the morning we leave.  No sweat – we’ve done it all before; let’s not complicate our weekend.

            But instead of a couple, let’s plan a trip four hundred close friends from the Beltway, this one a little further in advance.  We’re off to Geneva, the one in Switzerland, and instead of the kids we’re meeting the heads of state of a half-dozen world powers so we better bring an interpreter or a half dozen.  We’ll start five months in advance and make reservations for our group in five Geneva hotels – reserving rooms on a onesy-twosy basis is burdensome so we won’t mess around – let’s just book the whole Maison de Saussere, the Fleur de Eau and three more for a week or so.  Better get a hundred rooms a little early ‘cause we’re sending some guys over to make sure the accommodations are up to snuff and to scope out the traffic.  And, White House chefs to check out the bill of fare in the restaurants we’ll be eating at.  We don’t want to get POTUS or FLOTUS heading for the Tums when they get back to their rooms.  POTUS, of course, is the President of the United States; FLOTUS the First Lady O-T-U-S, but you figured that out (we’ll have a couple of American doctors with their own instruments unit and extensive medications aboard, just in case the food or a health issue gets too gnarly.)

            A word about where my mind was when I strung all this together on a dismal evening: My old childhood buddy, later Sigma Nu frat brother Ty Cobb the Younger has been speaking around our village about his life and times as a National Security Council advisor to President Ronald Reagan, and writes a fine column of his own in the Gazoo every now and then.  At breakfast at the Gold-n-Silver last week I told him that I abhor anything political, but getting President Reagan to a world leaders’ Summit conference, of which Ty went to four, now there would be a fine column through a Homefinder’s eyes.  Ty loaned me the weighty three-volume White House planning document for a November 1985 Summit, in which his name appears liberally – T. Cobb – and I can even tell you from the documents, if asked, where he rode in Marine One helicopter from the White House to Andrews AFB (right next to C. Powell).  That’s how intricate the trip planning for these sojourns was and probably remains.  In one volume, the American delegation leaving a formal dinner at a Swiss mansion with other heads of state is assigned, from POTUS on down to the Official Photographer, which of the three elevators in this palace they will be riding in, and who will board and disembark the elevators first and last.  Leave nothing to chance, as John Ascuaga counsels us.

Bags fly free

            The planning document volumes are made available in advance to the participants of the trip – White House staff, the military branches involved, the State Department, Secret Service, press – and contain an incredibly intricate, virtually minute-by-minute itinerary of the four-day trip. A facility at Andrews AFB was clearly indicated, with an arrival time at some God-awful hour of the morning.  That many folks have a lot of luggage and it appears that unless one lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue most schlepped their own bags, with instructions to leave them open – they were inspected before loading (T. Cobb always opted for carry-on).  From that point their walking route to which airplane – AF One or the several support planes – was mapped.  According to Ty, the most salient issue for the whole trip for most was not some vast life-changing worldwide issue being debated by the heads of state of the world powers at the Summit, but who got to get there on Air Force One.  Ty flew aboard it on many occasions to several Summits, a thrill he likens only to driving the Vagabond Touring Association’s ’34 Ford school bus, uninvited, into Kezar Stadium during an East-West Shrine Game in his college days. I recall that Saturday also. Gingerly…

The limousines arrive in a C-5B

The volumes held drawings of the eleven venues and hotels for the Summit, both of their interiors floor-by-floor and topographic drawings of their exteriors and driveways, including vegetation that could block a photographer’s view or conceal an assassin.  Walking routes the delegation will take within a ballroom or disembarking Air Force One at Cointrin Airport in Geneva – who leaves by the front steps or through the aft door – are clearly delineated.  Where the limousines and vans (hauled in by a C-5B prior to the delegation’s arrival) will be parked by Air Force One and the support planes and who will ride in each, where the honor guard meeting the President and First Lady would stand; the locations available to photographers, and the route the motorcade would use to depart the airfield are clear, and according to Ty that’s the way it had to be, period.  Some of the documents weren’t classified; it’s a pretty safe bet that other, tighter Secret Service maps showed routes to a designated hospital and other security protocol.  Interestingly, one sticking point that had to be worked out was whether Secret Service agents could carry their firearms in neutral Switzerland.  I don’t know the eventual outcome of that negotiation and wouldn’t ask.  And, the planning volumes indicated Air Force One by its tail number 26000, the Boeing 707 in use then – parked alongside the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Cal. now is 27000, the last 707 used as Air Force One. 

The event times during the four-day summit?  Leave us not forget that Geneva is a bunch of time zones ahead of any of the four in the US of A. and in the final evaluation these ritualistic and formal handshakes between eight world powers weren’t being choreographed just to go on live TV in some morning between “Regis Live” and “General Hospital” – prime time is the operative word for live formal events at a Summit and some of them were some pretty strange hours of the day in Geneva.

The three volumes were a thought-provoking read of the highest level of worldwide statesmanship, and Ty’s first-hand insight brought to light some facets of such a trip one would never think about without his narration.  Thanks, Tyrus…

Have a good week; summer’s right around the corner, trust me, and God bless America!

 

© Reno Gazette Journal  Jan. 10, 2006

 


 

Mumbles rides again

Simplex

 

Following our score of column visits to a bygone downtown Reno, one denizen was destined to accept his place in posterity.  This column was inspired by a voicemail from Realtor John Utter: “John Gascue and I were talking over lunch about a weirdo newspaper delivery guy who used to work in downtown Reno – call me and I’ll tell you more.” My initial thought was that this topic defines the luncheon fare of two aging Sigma Alpha Epsilon alums that have sold one too many buildings or spent one too many years as principal of Reno High School.  I called Utter: “I know who you mean without hearing any more. His name was Peanut Butter Joe, the old guy on the Simplex.”  (We later agreed he was probably younger then than we are now.)  Peanut Butter Joe, he was, owing to PBJ’s daily nutrition regimen in the form of 13 beers (Acme) and a jar of Skippy’s peanut butter (crunchy) at Harolds Club’s second floor bar as the guest of no less than Pappy Smith himself.

            “Oh, no,” John spoke.  “His name was clearly ‘Mumbles.’” That appellation was born out of Mumbles’ tendency to ride his cycle about the village mumbling incoherent epithets – unprintable on this website – at passersby who would get in his bike’s path, and, uh, expectorate at all of the town’s six taxicabs.  “And he rode a Vespa, not a Simplex.” 

            I concede Utter’s Vespa as to being accurate over my Simplex, having grown up with John and knowing that were Morganna the Kissing Bandit riding a Vespa, Simplex, Ariel Square Four or anything else downtown clad in naught but Santa’s boots and two squirts of Gucci fragrance, John would notice her bike first.  John’s wife Anne Marie’s brother then entered the fray: Tony Lesperance, whose journalistic background came primarily as the head goat-roper for the University of Nevada – (OK, an aggie professor and great guy who ran the University Farm until he retired) – volunteered, “No way.  He was ‘the Bombardier’.  Everyone knew him as that because he always wore a World War II flight suit with a bicycle clip on his pantleg.”  Well, Gascue, Utter and Breckenridge sensed that Lesperance might be a bit shaky, so we brought in a higher authority, this time a big-gun real-deal newspaperman. 

We call in the heavy artillery:

A call was placed to Warren Lerude, who before becoming a Pulitzer Prizewinner, if that’s capitalized, was a circulation director for the Nevada State Journal, the freight that Mumbles or Peanut Butter Joe or the Bombardier delivered on his Vespa.  Or his Simplex.  And, to add further credence, almost overkill, to Warren’s immense credentials, he’s a fellow Sigma Nu alum. “You’re all wrong.  You are obviously speaking of ‘Bicycle Eddie,’ a central cog in the wheel of the 1950s journalistic community, who none of the papers’ staffers in the old building on North Center Street would tangle with for fear of being, uh, you know, on.”

So there you have it, BPS readers [Blue Plate Special, my website where I guess I published this melarkey]. Were you to be downtown Christmas shopping 60 years ago, holiday cheer abounding, Bing Crosby’s pipes crooning White Christmas from the speakers on the roof of the Byington Building, the little animated shoemaker in the window of the Nevada Shoe Factory on Sierra Street bedecked in his annual Santa Claus outfit, the kids skating on the Truckee being chased off by Reno’s Finest, an S.P. cab-forward mallet locomotive laying a haze of smoke along Commercial Row, Vic Charles swinging the Salvation Army bell at his yearly post in the warmth of the Arcade Building, a Marine deuce – OK, big green truck – parked at Second and Virginia to put presents for the needy in, you’d probably run afoul of this legend, in his flight suit and hollering at you, banging on the side of your Nash Metro, cutting off an old lady as he turned his Simplex/Vespa into Douglas Alley. It’s high time that Bicycle Eddie, the Bombardier, Peanut Butter Joe, Mumbles, or the dozen other names that we remember him as, now be enshrined in the great pantheon of the rich heritage of our town that I struggle so diligently in monastic solitude to painstakingly research, a gift for those who will follow us.  And yes, once a year at Christmastime [when I first wrote this column], I am permitted by the Gazoo editor to use run-on sentences that would make my favorite and dear RHS English teacher Roberta Kirchner cringe [Bert passed away – now she revolves in her grave].

• • •

Have a good week, and God bless America.

 

July 11, 2007


 

A turkey lays an egg

Comet

The non-sensical piece that follows has run innumerable times, usually proximate to Thanksgiving, in the Gazoo when I wrote those columns, on my website when I had it years ago, and a couple times in the SF Chronicle when I sent it in (I didn’t really write it; I merely stole it from someone who told it in a joke and turned it into a news story.) It may be true, or not. The photo is a vintage British airliner, a Comet made by the forerunners of the Airbus consortium. A friend asked me over the weekend, are we going to read that stupid turkey story again? Yes you are; here it is. Maybe the next post will be of some substance. Or not. Happy Thanksgiving to All!

~ ~ ~

Early in the maturation of jet airliners, British aircraft engineers, addressing the dilemma of strengthening pilots’ windscreens against bird-strikes at low altitude, think a Canadian honker vs. a FedEx Airbus getting together over Peckham Lane after takeoff. They knew the United States had much experience with this matter and contacted some Southern California aeronautical engineers, who supplied plans for a rudimentary catapult that hurled a standard, store-bought turkey at a test windshield at a calculated velocity for analysis.

            The British guys fashioned a catapult, and soon after sent the Yanks photos of a test cockpit with the windshield shattered, the pilot’s headrest in smithereens, a gaping hole in the bulkhead behind the pilot’s head and the flight engineer’s console behind that bulkhead totally demolished. Other photos depicted another huge hole aft of the console in the next bulkhead separating it from the crew lavatory, which was also trashed.

            A few weeks later, the Brits received a telegram from the Americans: “Next time, thaw the turkey.”

           

If you’re after the Thanksgiving flood story, click here

Our own favorite America’s Cup skipper

Goodyear_blimpEndeavourKathyStars

The challenge for the America’s Cup rules the high seas, or at least the high Bay of San Francisco. Traffic, lodging costs, restaurants and life in the City generally are screwed up to a fare-thee-well as this continues, and will continue through September.

We of the Black Bear Diner Gentlemen’s Coffee, World Dilemma Solutions, Laudable Opinions, If-a-rumor-is-not-heard-by-9:00 a.m.-sharp-we-start-one, and other general BS as may properly come to our attention, have our own favorite skipper, in a shot taken when she was at the helm of an America’s Cup yacht, the one that won in 1987, the Stars & Stripes; she’s seen here putting it into a tight upwind turn, the 110-foot mast heeled over, the “grinders” cranking on the windlasses, a lass thoroughly in charge.

As a matter of fact, she actually took the conn of the vessel a few years ago in San Diego Harbor, where it is made available for day tours by its owners, who I don’t think now include Dennis Connors, its master in 1987. But I could be wrong.

She’s a local lady of my acquaintance since our childhood, and did indeed several years ago crew the return of a Transpacific race yacht back to the Mainland, a journey that many forget must occur after the Transpac races, that eastbound journey into far less hospitable seas than the more publicized westbound race to Hawai’i.

She’s definitely no stranger to Blue Waters. We’ll just know her as the Lady of the Stars & Stripes (by the way, the accompanying photograph is of the Endeavour, a 1932 defender of the America’s Cup.)

And here, we’ll do a little lobbying: The boats currently pitch-poling all over the Bay, fighting with each other like wee kiddies on Jessie Beck Elementary’s playground and going through the owners’ money like shit through a tin horn, don’t have names. They’re known collectively as Emirates, the Kiwi team, and as Luna Rosa, the Italians, but with no names on the transoms. (Actually, no transoms either, but these are sailboats in name only.) What happened to yacht names like Stars & Stripes? Proud names that went into sailing history – Dauntless, Defender, Resolute, Mayflower…? Courageous and Intrepid? (Twice each, twuly…)

Goodyear Tire, shortly after WWI, decreed that its publicity balloons, slow and stately, emulated blue-water sailing ships, and so would be named for America’s Cup defenders, and called their first airship Puritan, after an early Cup defender. Ranger, Enterprise, Columbia, America and Stars & Stripes, and a few more, and the ones named in the last paragraph, followed the Puritan into the early 2000s – “Spirit” took over the series of names, “Spirit of….” the three airships based in the United States.

Now, what would Goodyear had done with the names in use today, or rather, not in use? Shameful, I say.

And the final Goodyear blimp note: Years ago, Goodyear was successful in wresting from the FAA a series of consecutive tail numbers for its blimps, through, I think N2A through N12A. Lowest numbers in America, save for one, that one emblazoned the tail of a DC-3 donated to the FAA by Standard Oil.

And recently, the FAA ceded that coveted number to Goodyear, for airship Spirit of America, November-One-Alpha.

Cool.

Sail on, Lady of the Stars & Stripes – blue waters ahead, fair winds, and a following sea….

Rumors of my passing are exaggerated…

Jeepers

Things have been a bit busy in July, coupled with a relocation of the Old Reno Guy global corporate office. But I’ll be back.

In honor of Hot August Nights, please observe if you will the Old Reno Guy chauffeuring a friend from San Francisco, in the staff limousine, a totally-restored 1966 CJ-5A Jeep, easy to 66restore in that it has no doors, windows, cranks, roof, minimal upholstery and if it becomes soiled it may be thoroughly rinsed off with a garden hose. It has a stock GMC V-6 engine, three-on-the-floor (six counting the transfer case), turn signals and back-up lights which were optional equipment in 1966, I know, because I bought a ‘ 66 in 1966 from Cal-Vada Jeep on West Fourth Street at Chestnut,  oh, OK, Arlington.

I’ll be back in a few days. Karl

How far we came in a ’64 Studebaker

Wagonaire

While reading on the web of the newest Jeep wagon I was flat slapped like a gut-shot cougar by an automobile writer’s prose: “…A bruiser car. Everything about the new 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, with its pugnacious nose, its monster 20-inch wheels with massive P295/45 tires, its snarling 470-horse V8 engine, shouts that here is a big, bad bully of a wagon…

“…This one, with the 6.4-liter V8 ripped from the dragstrip headlines, is meant to say something. It’s aggressive, it has that deep exhaust rumble…” – and then the writer goes on (and on) to compare it with a double-jack, water-back drink in a bar, leaving some doubt about where he drinks or why he goes to a bar in the first place. One steers this beast from the “cockpit,” by the way. God save us…

“…Stomp on the gas pedal on a freeway on ramp (after the requisite check in the rear view mirror) and those 470 horses will emerge loudly from those exhaust tips and ramp you swiftly up the ramp – the car’s zero-to-60 times are regularly under five seconds and it’s said to have a 160 mph top end…”  Somewhere about here I sensed that he might be getting orgasmic at his keyboard and I was tempted to click off this site before it was X-rated. This writer does get close to his cars. He did mention that this particular Jeep, er, Snarling Bruiser was approaching $70,000, which for me would be too much for a Jeep if had twin GE J-47 turbojet engines, a wet bar and a Barca-Lounger seat behind the wheel.

My thoughts returned to the Wagoneer of old, that sprung forth in the early 1960s while I was driving a Jeep “Station Wagon,” a two-door, four-passenger box with a tailgate that was probably the best all-round Jeep that Willys, and later Kaiser, ever built. My neighbor got a “Wagonaire.” A Studebaker. A good-looking car, or wagon. It ought to be; it was designed by Brooks Stevens, the American industrial designer who gave the world a design for some kitchen appliances, the full-dress Harley, dolled-up luxury passenger railcars, the Excalibur automobile (which looks a lot like a pre-war Mercedes, but that’s OK), and last but not least, the Wienermobile. With a sliding back roof the Wagonaire could haul a refrigerator home from Montgomery Wards or a tree from Arlington Nursery, if need be. With a Studebaker engine. Built in Canada. And Kaiser picked up on it, Studebaker exited the auto business after a hundred years of cars, trucks, Army Weasels, Navy Ducks (like the ones on Fisherman’s Wharf) and every other configuration of weird vehicle known to man.

Kaiser called it the Wagoneer. It was built from parts from every automotive body, brake, engine, transmission, electronics, hubcap and rear-view mirror company in the Detroit Yellow Pages, not unlike the seven blind men building the elephant. And it sold like hotcakes, some say more in the northern Nevada area than anywhere in the world. And with such dubious reliability that owners would put “lunching” on placards on their windshields if they pulled off the road to picnic, knowing that other Wagoneer owners would think that they’d surely broken down.

And they kept selling, constantly being improved and made increasingly luxurious. The last one rolled off the assembly line in 1991. 

Not a bad run, at that – from a 6-cylinder Wagonaire in 1964 to the last V-8 Wagoneer in 1991, to the Grand Cherokee of today with massive 20-inch wheels and a snarling 470 horsepower that’ll knock your, well, you know, right into your watch-pocket if it gets away from you on the on-ramp.

How is it in the snow? Or hauling home a tree from Arlington Gardens, like the Wagonaire of old? We don’t know. But it’s fast. And this guy can sure as hell write.

Getting back to work

HarrahBoardTeaser

No particular post tonight, just seeing if this still works. The photo’s a teaser, a few of the 17 guys in the picture that I’m going to turn into a little game for locals, to see 17 old friends and their cars a hoot and a holler outside of town. I’m now trying to get names of all 17, almost have all of them; only one remains with us, sadly the others have passed away. Come back in a day or two and I should have it posted.