“You meet, as Miranda Lambert recently said in a song, ‘All kinds of kinds’ here,” said Mike Garland, media specialist for one of the largest automotive swap meets in the world.
This past weekend marked the 40th anniversary of the Spring Carlisle extravaganza on the dusty fairgrounds of a small agricultural town in rural Pennsylvania.
I was here to videotape the automotive pickers, hoarders, hobbists and collectors searching in vain for that rare car part or cheap find. Characters sprouting grungy beards and dirty overalls, fitted with Duck Dynasty baseball caps and t-shirts espousing their love of guns, littered the midway. Many made me a bit more than nervous.
One jokester leaned into my camera while I was recording and whispered a famous television crack in a heavy southern accent. “Hey blondie, you know why they call television a medium? Because it’s neither rare nor well done!”
He roared with pleasure as I grimaced uncomfortably.
The joke is actually by the late great ‘Golden Age of Radio’ humorist Fred Allen but it’s that kind of nostalgia, political ribbing and long-standing shenanigans you’ll find at Carlisle.
The subject of my documentary is a familiar Albany fixture that runs a Mobile gas station and repair shop in downtown Albany. Every year, George Dunbrook bristles with excitement as the swap meet nears. His efforts to repair and restore his ’46 Ford knows no bounds and on this occasion it was the engine coil and distributor that needed replacing.
Would he find the part at Carlisle? He went searching through rows and booths littered with what I would call junk but Dunbrook would call treasures. Odds are good he would find the gems but it would take hours and a little luck to do so. Oh, and a hot Italian grinder with all the fixins helped rejuvenate the search.
Eureka! After lunch, Dunbrook found the parts for sale at the vendor tent of a surly curmudgeon from Binghamton. The Ford parts peddler lightened up when he knew Dunbrook was in the buying mood.
On camera, the two spoke in a classic car language unique only to them – subtitles might be needed for translation in the doc. Finally, a fair market value was set and the trade was official.
Dunbrook was going home with the last remaining ingredient to drive his vintage vehicle back onto the road for the summer. I was returning with hours of humdinger moments from a surprisingly entertaining day of tires, tail lights, clutch pedals and, to my surprise, this nifty find – a radio controlled model airplane.
Who would have thought I’d find something I’d want? The F4U Corsair bent-wing bird was broken beyond repair but disparate collections are reasons why Carlisle continues every year.