By Brad Sears
Hershey Pa: Hershey is known world over as the town that Chocolate built and proudly advertises that fact with the downtown district street lamps being the shape of Hershey Kisses. The smell of chocolate permeates the air giving the manufacturing town a truly sweet smell. The climate and soil around Hershey produces a vibrant green growth of grass that makes the entire are look like a well groomed golf course.
During three seasons of the year it is tourist town with the world class Hershey Theme Park, Chocolate World, Chocolate Museum, and more. However for the second weekend in October the old car crowd invades town for the Antique Automobile Club of America’s annual swap meet and show, the largest in the country and possibly the world.
The event was held at members homes until 1942 when it grew too big for private homes. The show continued to grow and was finally moved to Hershey Stadium for the October show in 1954 with the paved parking lot reserved for the 2,000 plus cars that showed up for the Saturday show. The surrounding grass fields were used for the for the swap meet. The problem with this was it is prone to rain in October in this part of Pennsylvania. The first year that I went to Hershey as a vendor, in the mid 1960’s, we were on the field the day before the show began and had tables set up, merchandise displayed, and tables covered for the night waiting for opening day.
Sometime during the night we woke to the sounds of rain falling on the roof of the truck mounted camper. Oh well, that means that we can sleep in in the morning as there will be no one venturing out in the rain to look at old car parts.
Wrong….. When I poked my head out the camper door in the morning the isles were full of people looking for stuff. They wore garbage bags for rain coats, carried umbrellas, and a few hardy souls were clad in T shirts, swimming trunks, and boots. Within an hour the wonderful green grass had become a quagmire of black mud. During the morning I watched as the wheels of my old Ford pick up sink into black goop. First the tread area disappeared, then the sidewalls, and finally the mud flowed through the spokes in the wheels.
By the end of the show there was only one way to get the truck, camper, and trailer of unsold auto stuff off the field was behind a D-8 Caterpillar bull dozer. In spite of this the Hershey show became Mecca for the old car crowd and now all of the swap meet fields are paved.
An out growth of the show has been the founding and opening of the AACA Museum in 2003. The attraction for me on this trip was the Bus Museum that occupies part of the bottom floor of the building. As so many of us in the RV fraternity now drive diesel pushers that are based on bus chassis I thought that it would be a good take.
The displays are, as all AACA displays, well done and pristine. The busses range from a 1950’s Chevrolet Chassis school bus to a Trailways Golden Eagle from the era when the driver wore a uniform resembling an airline pilot and the on board stewardess was a snazzy as an airlines stewardess. The display also includes the bus that was used in the movie Forest Gump, as well as examples from the teens through the sixties.
The automotive displays are again either museum quality restoration or a few as found in the barn examples of machines from the turn of the century through the sixties.
The cost of entry is $10.00 for adults, $9.00 for seniors, age 4-12 $7.00, and children under 4 are free. Museum hours are 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and the museum is located just off route 39 one mile west of Hershey Park in Hershey, Pa. For more information check out www.aacamuseum.org.