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21st National HCCA Tour and Swap Meet
Apr. 12-14, 2012

Bakersfield 2012
Diane, Lynn and Jeanne pose in front of Annie after completing the large-car tour at Bakersfield. (Whitney Haist)

This is the 21st year for the big HCCA tour and swap meet held annually in Bakersfield, California. The tour is held on Thursday, April 12, and the swap meet is held Friday and Saturday, April 13-14, at the Kern County Fairgrounds. Early Friday is typically the prime time to be on the swap field and the good stuff goes fast. People and vendors are generally vacating the field by noon on Saturday.

Bakersfield is widely respected as one of the few remaining swap meets in the country that restricts itself to prewar items. In addition, the swap field is small enough that a reasonably ambulatory senior citizen (like Lynn) can easily visit every booth over the course of a day. Consequently, it is a premium hunting ground for people seeking parts for their horseless carriages.

Typically the April weather in Bakersfield is dry with temperatures ranging from somewhat cool to mildly hot. Unfortunately the forecast for this year was for a cool and wet event. In spite of what people say about the accuracy of weather forecasts, the National Weather Service had this one nailed a week in advance.

Jeanne and Lynn trailer Annie, their 1914 KisselKar Touring named in honor Ann Klein (founder of Universal Tire and the car’s owner from 1949-2007), to Bakersfield on Wednesday. Lynn is briefly moved to display her in the DoubleTree parking lot on their afternoon arrival, but quickly returns her to her covered trailer as the skies open up with semi-serious rain by 5 PM.

Bakersfield 2012 Bakersfield 2012
Jeanne and Diane (left) enjoy conversation before the tour. A 1925 Model T speedster (right) is one of about 30 cars staged for the tours.

Thursday AM, Lynn and Jeanne see fellow BAHCC (Bay Area Horseless Carriage Club) member Donna Jones and her beautiful 1914 Model T pickup during the assembly of about 25-30 cars for the big- and small-car tours. The annual“big-” and “small-car” tours at this event have less to do with the size of the cars and more with the distance they travel. For example, this year a large Pierce-Arrow leads the small-car tour and a 1903 Curved-Dash Olds (a small car) has toured with the large cars in past years.

BAHCC members Diane and Whitney Haist are planning to follow the tour in a modern car and accept Jeanne and Lynn's invitation to share a ride in Annie. Although they raise the car’s top, open a light blanket for the ladies’ laps, and Diane tightens the hood of her jacket around her face, one can believe that the back seat of a touring car may still be too windy and cool for the ladies. Still, Jeanne and Lynn find that touring is more fun when it is shared with friends, either old or new.

Stanley Steamer well-travelled T National Cemetery police patrol car
A Stanley Steamer (left) is the featured car at this year's event. A plethora of national and international event stickers indicate that this Model T (left-center) has been around. Jeanne (center-right) relaxes on Annie's running board at the Bakersfield National Cemetery. A Ford Model T police patrol car (right) receives attention from the police.

The large-car tour is great fun and it motors somewhat over 70 miles through the valley and into the surrounding foothills. The first major stop is at a relatively new Bakersfield National Cemetery. Later they enjoy a delightful BBQ lunch in a public park. Local residents stop to admire the cars and talk with the owners. The local police are attracted to the Model T patrol car. They take turns being photographed in the car and enjoying rides in it with the owner.

As the day progresses it becames increasingly overcast and dark. Although it threatens rain, none materializes.

A small party of BAHCC members gather for dinner at a nearby Basque restaurant. The party included Mark Cerruti, Doug Durein, Diane & Whitney Haist, and Jeanne & Lynn Kissel. The food is great and many courses accompany the entrée orders. Lynn had been trained as a young man not to waste food and consume everything that is served, but the proprietors of this restaurant lay waste to that instruction as much more food than any of them can consume is brought to the table.

Knowing of the forecast heavy rain for Friday the 13th, the opening day of the swap meet, Lynn doesn’t go for my typical “we’ve got to be on the field by 6 AM approach” which generally annoys Jeanne. Instead he opts for a more leisurely arrival around 8:30 AM. Although the ground is wet and the skies were dark and threatening, it is not currently raining. “Maybe this is going to work out after all,” Lynn thinks as he parks their 6000 pound Excursion SUV on the field.

But by about 9 AM the sky opens and the rain descends by the buckets full. Although Lynn's SUV is full of stuff, including a popup tent, club banner and cooler full of sodas for his planned Bay Area Horseless Carriage Club official booth, he leaves everything in the vehicle and walks the field under a large umbrella, instead. It appears that only about 1 in 10 vendors put out merchandise for sale.

One of the few active sites is that of BAHCC members Don and Joyce Azevedo. It is hard to find a moment to talk with Don who is busy responding to a constant stream of people. Joyce, who appears to be cold and wet, is easier to engage in conversation. During his visit, Lynn sees Don complete multiple transactions. Now here’s a family that knows how to work a swap meet!

Lynn sees other BAHCC members on the field including Don Johnson and Scott Henningsen. John Morrison, Tony Wolleson and Pam Johnson were spotted huddling under a tent. Did Lynn see Charles Ebers?

Friday PM Saturday AM
Queenie is stuck in the mud on Friday afternoon (left). On Saturday, two tractors are pulling vehicles off of the field (right).

By 2 PM Lynn decides to return to the hotel where Jeanne has strategically decided to stay. That is easier said than done!. The Excursion can not push itself through the soft field and flounders in the mud. Queenie (their name for the tow vehicle, as in the HMS Queen Mary) needs to be assisted by a professional towing service. Yikes!

Later that evening, Jeanne and I join Diane and Whitney at a table for the official banquet and auction that follows. Whitney scores a cap with a Studebaker imprinted on it, and Lynn buys a large glass jar cast as a touring car. Unsure of the original purpose for this 3-5 gallon container, it has a slot had been cut in its lid to form a coin jar. Lynn plans to add a note to it like “Help with a Down Payment on Jeanne’s Pierce-Arrow” and see if he can get others to help fill it with coins.

On Saturday it rains a little, but by then the soil is deeply soaked and the aisles are heavily chewed up by vehicle traffic. There are two tractors on the field actively assisting trucks and motor homes as they inevitably got stuck trying to leave. Attendees adopt a technique of cruising up one side of an aisle and crossing at the ends where the ground is firmer. Then they would walk back down the other side to avoid having to cross the deep, muddy ruts in the middle of the aisles.

Some eastern philosophies hold that opposites define each other, that they’re two sides of the same coin: love & hate; good & bad; hot & cold. One wet year in 21 at Bakersfield isn’t that bad, but Lynn will surely appreciate the swap meet much more next year when he doesn’t have to jump puddles and muddy ruts, or hire a towing service to pull his rig off of the field.

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Copyright © 2015 Lynn Kissel
Last updated: Apr. 22, 2012