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June 5, 2005 - The Hershey (PA) Auto Museum is "Sweet"

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World’s Laziest Journalist

June 6, 2005

By Bob Patterson


Ideally an automobile museum should not only display some interesting vehicles, it should also convey to visitors the entire driving experience that was available when the cars on display were brand new in the dealer’s show room.


The Antique Automobile Club of America Museum 161 Museum Drive, Hershey Pa 17033 (717/566-7100), not only has a wide variety of cars, but it also includes a diner, a drive-in movie theater, and a collection of buses so that someone visiting the collection is very likely to react to the experience by recalling a great many personal memories related to the various items.  Thus an enjoyable museum experience is a reasonable expectation for any person who likes motorized vehicles (i.e. most guys).


The diner, complete with its original Wichita phone book, took a detour through San Diego before landing in the AACA Museum.  The small eatery is fully equipped and it’s difficult to inspect the display without wanting to find a waitress and order a burger.


The drive-in movie theater is small but functional and the museum plans to show classic films from the fifties that were favorites of the folks who patronized the “passion pits.”  This columnist could not help but suggest that the person responsible for selecting the films to be shown make sure that he (or she) considers including Kiss Me Deadly starring Ralph Meeker in the assortment available, because that particular flick featured both a 54 Corvette and a 1955 Thunderbird.


The 1955 film, which was directed by Robert Aldrich, was called to mind because the AACA’s special display, when we visited, was a Corvette collection that included some prototypes, racing examples, many on temporary loan from the Chip Miller collection, and production models.  The selection of American sports cars from Chevrolet was topped off by a black 1954 roadster that was found in Kansas with just 74 miles on the odometer.

Black 1954 Corvette...
Click on image to enlarge...

The flicks that have already been picked include films that were particularly popular with the make-out crowd such as Creature from the Black Lagoon.


Journalists who visit this museum will find that it will be a challenge to accurately describe the car collection and the facilities while maintaining a neutral tone.  Columnists and critics (are there critics who assess museums per se?) can add qualifying adjectives such as “fabulous,” but a reporter who is assigned to do a feature about this home for interesting automobiles in pristine condition will find that it is a challenge to turn in the story without letting any trace of enthusiasm creep into the writing.  Cars tend to unleash the boy in any man (and ladies can usually enjoy the “knee-jerk” predictability of that reaction by guys).


[As this column was being written, conservative talk show host Michael Savage detoured away from his usual topics to describe his personal reactions to seeing this year’s Indianapolis 500 race, and even he could not restrain himself from putting a positive “spin” on the story that involved cars.  Usually when radio talk show hosts discuss a political subject they insist that Mainstream Media reporters should maintain an unbiased objective tone when covering a story.  Rip up the rule when it involves cars.]


The folks who restore cars have competitions called Concours d’Elegance (with the one in Pebble Beach being the automotive equivalent of baseball’s World Series) and after visiting the museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, we wondered what would happen if some of the car restoration judges were to visit various car museums and annually give awards for the quality of work being done and then put on display at those places. 


Some car museums seem to be parking structures with large spaces that are separated by velvet ropes, so one that augments the vehicles by including a diner and a drive-in theater and has some cars on a display stand (easier to check the undercarriage that way), would surely be a contender for the top prize.


Some movie critics seem to greet each new studio release with a stream of praise that seems to be the verbal version of the fire hose method riot police use to dampen the enthusiasm of demonstrating students (mixed metaphor alert), while others try to give their readers a clear indication of the cost to enjoyment relationship that paying admission would produce.  This columnist will attempt a similar evaluation by saying that most guys who like cars (isn’t that redundant?) will find the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum is very much worth the effort to see and ladies who can compete with the men on equal terms will find this attraction well worth the time, travel, and money involved in visiting it.


The US Navy has always used the phrase “well done” to convey a seal of approval.  Back in the Sixties the hippies would substitute “groovy” to signify quality.  These days (according to reliable sources) young people denote excellence by saying “sweet!”  This museum, without a doubt, is “sweet!”


Hershey, Pennsylvania promotes itself as “the sweet little town with a lot to offer” and the folks who live there seem to epitomize that community spirit when a lost traveler asks a stranger for directions and when the public relations staff at the museum proved to be the equal of the best that Hollywood has to offer.  (Yes, a columnist who writes for a small online magazine [that is read around the world] can honestly say that, if he has dealt with Ruthie Craine at Warner Brothers and others of that ilk.)


The line that we came up with after visiting Hershey was - “It’s like Disneyland done with enthusiasm that is genuine.”


Sir William Rootes has been quoted as saying: “No other man-made device since the shields and lances of the ancient knights fulfills a man’s ego like an automobile.”


The disk jockey wanted to play a cut of Dina Shore singing See the USA in your Chevrolet, to bring this week’s column to a conclusion, but we will override his choice and ask him to play Nelson Riddle’s instrumental version of Route 66 and so we’ll pop the clutch and squeal our tires (which will get us a big fine in California) and peel on out of here for this week.  The next time our column will be headlined “Wet the ropes!”  Tune in and see what that’s all about.  Until then, have a great week in all four forward gears.


[Note as journalistic luck would have it, the photographer who worked with us on this car-oriented installment of this weekly column, also worked with us on the 1961 Auto show at the Coliseum in New York City and then later in the Sixties on the races at Watkins Glen.  We’ll have to make an effort to team up on these stories more often.  His pictures may accompany this column or they may appear on a separate page elsewhere in this issue of Just Above Sunset.  Making that decision is why beloved editor and publisher Alan Pavlik gets the big bucks.]


Copyright 2005 – Robert Patterson

Photo copyright 2005 – Bill Hitzel




Editor’s Note: Photos here… June 5, 2005 - Kisses from Hershey


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
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