|Memoirs Part 1|
|75 Years with Palette, Paintbrush and Wheels|
|From the July-September 1981 issue of Bulb Horn|
I am sure I wanted to be an artist from the beginning. This prime urge was intensified during school days when I had encouragement from drawing teachers while accumulating less than passing grades in most of the other subjects. I got by in chemistry only because my full-color sketches of our laboratory experiments intrigued the department head. He was a weekend painter, having his own studio not far from the school.
Even before 1900 I was drawing locomotives and trains. Inspirations were close at hand in New York City at that time. The New York Central's double track along the Hudson River was active with both freight and passenger service. Thrills were close at hand with the twice-daily run of the commuting express, The Dolly Vardon, pulled by a sprightly little 4-4-0. Steam, of course. Then east of Central Park was the Central's four-track system. Emerging in glorious roar amid steam and smoke from its Park Avenue tunnel were several hundred trains daily. Even New York's celebrated elevated railways were powered by steam. Over this complex project three thousand trains hauled six hundred thousand passengers every day. Small boys in New York, with or without talents in drawing, were happily aware of all this smoke-belching activity.
Then came the Automobile. In 1903 one of these contraptions parked at any curb was immediately surrounded by the inquisitive of all ages. If left unattended, the juveniles kicked the tires, explored the controls, honked the bulb horn and then scattered swiftly upon the return of the owner or chauffeur. All cars in motion were greeted by young voices bawling "Get a horse!"
By that time my drawings still favored steam engines, but autos were cutting in seriously. However it was in 1905 when a kind providence supplied the makings of a true auto addict, with consequent passion for depicting this specie. A well-to-do cousin (whose father owned a Rambler) visited us. At his departure he presented me with copies of Motor Age and The Automobile that carried the illustrated reports of the recent Gordon Bennett Race in France. Then shortly after came the day when an exhaust-barking Simplex stripped chassis pulled to the curb on our street. Its driver gave a warning glance at the swarm of small boys converging on the scene, and then entered the doorway of number 118. On his subsequent return and being assured that the swarm had respected his dissuasive glance-even to abstaining from testing the bulb horn-the driver sensed the appeal in the eyes of the onlookers. Arthur Gilhooly and I were invited to share the front seat (sturdy soap box) and two companions permitted to cling to the rear gas tank attachments. Followed a thundering get-away and a test run through Central Park and up the steep grade of upper Lexington Avenue.
The young driver proved to be Al Poole, already known to me by reputation. He had been riding mechanic for popular Joe Tracy in the 1904 and 1905 Vanderbilt Cup Races, would ride again with "Daredevil Joe" in 1906 and later, as driver, became the record holder (with Cy Patschke co-driving) in 24-hour racing.
This little spin on the naked Simplex, those that followed, the gift from my cousin stimulated my interest in portraying cars, fast and noisy ones preferably. I contrived ways of including such in my drawings for the school's monthly magazine and its yearbook, on both of which I was art editor. Another factor in shaping future art objectives was the 1906 Vanderbilt Race. Here I saw my new-found friend Poole crouched beside driver Tracy in booming flight down the oil-soaked North Hempstead Turnpike. Who could have guessed that the 13-year old witnessing his first auto race would many years later own this very car, the Bridgeport-built Locomobile widely known now as "Old 16".
I had also been inspired by the display of spirited racing prints by French artist E. Montaut in Brentano's window. I thrilled to the distortions that added so much to the aspect of speed and to the color that hinted at the grandeur of European racing. I was no less interested in the work of a handful of American artists who found the automobile an irresistable subject. Edward Penfield, famous poster designer, emerged from his long obsession with fashionable horse-drawn vehicles and produced equally stylish motoring covers for Collier's Weekly. Another Collier's headliner, Walter Appleton Clark, chose such drama-laden subjects as the Gordon Bennett and Vanderbilt Races. Indeed, Pierce-Arrow advertising in the 1908-1912 period employed the talents of a remarkable group of poster artists: Wilkhack, Treidler, Francher, Penfield, Gil Spear, others. These ads were a powerful influence. They still look good to me today.
During summer vacation, 1911, I had my first formal art instruction at the Arts Students League on West 57th Street, a mere 70 yards from Broadway's "Auto Row". Nearest of the salesrooms was Fiat's, hung with Montaut posters, and where on occasion I glimpsed the great Ralph DePalma and the lesser great Ed Parker. Around the corner was the U.S. Tire Building where observing eyes focused on others of the Row's distinguished personages: Joe Tracy, Alfred Reeves, Fred Wagner, Fred Moscovics, Ed Korbel. North and south were the expansive showrooms of the finest domestic and imported cars. In front of them at the curb were their "demonstrators" which included Peerless, Packard, Lozier, Palmer-Singer, Simplex, Stearns and, personally more appealing, Renault, Panhard, Mercedes and other exotic foreigners. Art study in this environment left its mark.
Came an unexpected job on the art staff of New York's largest department store, so I left high school, not unhappily, in my third year. From Autumn 1911 to Summer 1915 (a long stretch in the eyes of youth but a mere split-second from present perspective) I had art staff jobs with eight firms. This seeming transience was due to, 1, better offers elsewhere; 2, seasonal layoffs; 3, my refusal to punch a time clock and, are the case if smaller department stores, declining to sell gents' neckwear during the Christmas rush. Two jobs were with movie produclng companies, Lubin in Philadelphia and World Films in New York, where I produced posters which, it was hoped by my employer's "would elevate poster standards" in that tumultuous entertainment fleld. That I was fired by World's Louis Selznick after two weeks suggests that the standards had not been elevated.
The only one of the eight jobs that related to cars was that with automobile press agents Korbel and Golwell. 1 had won the Poster Competition for the Brooklyn Art Show, and these gentlemen offered me the post of "Art Director" in the advertising agency they had just acquired. Such was the scale of operatlon that the only art direction pertained to my own work, drawings for such forgotten clients as Motometer, Allen Tire Case, others still more remote. However, before my bosses were legally restrained from operating in both press agentry and advertising (deemed as mortal sin), and because of their handling the publicity for 24-hour Racing, various endurance tours and the New York Auto Show, I found myself orbiting in a most agreeable atmosphere. It was cars every minute for the six months I was with K & G. Eight jobs within four years plus increasing outside work had supplied experience and confidence and by 1915 I felt I was ready for freelancing. That Summer I took my Mother to Callfornla, and, while attending the lavish Panama-Pacific Exposition, trod those palaced and palm-lined thoroughfares with reverence. Four months earlier the Vanderbllt and Grand Prlze races had run over a circuit within these magnificent confines.
The jump into freelancing had its risks, but I contrived to keep busy with movie posters for Universal Films, furniture drawings for department stores. My brother Henry's job hours permitted considerable soliciting of New York advertising agencies which resulted in national advertising assignments in the automotive field: Republic Trucks, Exide Batteries. Hoping to climb to the top fast, I submitted a cover sketch at prestigious Collier's Weekly, a portrayal of DePalma's new Mercedes for the Indy "500". As Col. Patterson was the owner of both Colller's and the Mercedes this seemed opportune. Its prompt rejection proved otherwise. Better luck was had with a cover sketch for the new Sheepshead Bay Speedway Program. On rare occasions, unfortunately, one of these covers turns up to embarrass its maker.
Although my brother's efforts were limited to about six hours weekly, his personality and salesmanship brought substantial results. With our entrance into the Kaiser War he enlisted in the Navy immediately. I did likewise considerably later by which time I did the first of a long series for Fisk Tires. Art Director Burr Giffen (creator of the Time-to- Retire urchin for which he received $10) became a major patron, and this connection portended much for the future. Upon my Navy discharge I resumed with Fisk, and in late 1919 was called in to assist on an extravagant project. Fisk had envisioned a series of 24-sheet posters to be executed by the top artists here and abroad. Maxfield Parrish had already finished his. The great British muralist Frank Brangwyn had agreed to do one, but matters were at a standstill as to subject. His first sketches had portrayed a world at war, but now the war was over.
At that time Brangwyn enjoyed great international recognition. Along with most of my fellow artists I marvelled at his genius and still do. I was asked to create a sketch in which the master could employ all the pageantry and riotous color for which he was celebrated and then go abroad to enlist his interest. I found this great man, in the midst of a huge mural, kindly-disposed to American artists. His mural assistants frequently had been Yankees. He had also given private painting instruction to "that American millionaire motor chap" Charles B. King, known to all of us. Brangwyn pronounced my sketch as "saucy" and agreed to follow through . . . on condition that I lay it out in full scale in rough form in color prior to taking it on.
This condition would alter my plans, that of serving in reconstruction work in badly shattered France. On hearing this Brangwyn advised, "Reconstruction in France? Rather reconstruct your art, what?" Few young artists could have ignored this advice, particularly as it inferred his interest in my own work and thus just might offer prospect of serving as his mural assistant. Besides, I had fallen in love with London.
I found lodgings close to Brangwyn's studio in Hammersmith, set about getting the Fisk panel laid out, followed the advice on "reconstructing my art" via much drawing and painting from nature. The results were always shown to Mr. B, and I profited greatly by his criticisms. I was never happier, but the prolonged stay was diminishing my savings. I decided to solicit work from the publishers of the plush motoring monthly The Motor Owner. Luck was at hand. The Art Editor knew my work. The interview ended with afternoon tea and an order for six full color covers. This publication also serviced its advertisers with artwork and much of this came my way, all in full color, for such firms as Packard, Crossley, Napier, Sunbeam.
With April came the reopening of Brooklands vast motordome after its wartime siesta. The sight of this enormous arena was breathtaking, more so than most of the racing because of the British fetish for handicapping, a throwback to their equine age. However drivers soon to become world famous were regulars during that season: Malcolm Campbell, Henry Seagrave, Tim Birkin. Already famous as trans-Atlantic flyer, Harry Hawker also joined Brooklands racing elite. The cars offered startling extremes from spidery Gregoires to massive 19-litre hybrids plus a sprinkling of seasoned G.P. Dietrichs, Indy Sunbeams and revamped Essexes. I made trackside sketches from which I developed more finished drawings for that oldest of motor journals, The Autocar. But my most cherished Brooklands experience was as passenger on a ferocious 30-98 Vauxhall driven by Ivy Cummings, the best-known woman driver of that time. In gratitude I made her a small painting of her Vauxhall.
Meantime the Fisk painting hung in suspense, awaiting Brangwyn's wind-up on his mural. But prodding messages from Fisk and plans to meet my mother in Spain induced the master to promise action shortly. This would be at his country place in Sussex. I spent a week with him there, painting landscapes, sketching Gypsies. Only on the final day could I cable New York, "Brangwyn at work on Fisk painting."
There followed a delightful month with my mother in Spain. After her departure I remained in Madrid, drawing constantly, studying the masters in the Prado, planning further travels. With diminishing funds I sought means of revenue, and, through the kindness of a young Austrian (somewhat mysteriously known as both Herr Taubs and Senor Reyes) who had wide connections, was introduced to Count Enrique Traumann, Benz concessionaire for Spain. For this uncordial personage I made a few drawings for Benz advertising. From other sources I did a series for Gaulois Tires and a full color program cover for the Royal Spanish Opera. This was pretty good going for a foreigner unknowing in the language and it enabled travel to Morocco, Algiers, Sicily, Italy and back to London.
At year's end the Brangwyn painting arrived in New York. I followed shortly and was gratified to see how my thinly-painted "lay-in" had been expanded into a pageant of thickly-applied pigment of exquisite color. All that remained of my contribution was the automobile.
As a result of the Brangwyn association my interest veered toward mural decoration. A couple of awards at the Beaux Arts for mural compositions gained the post of mural assistant to William DeLeftwich Dodge, a giant of a man whose impressive murals at the Panama-Pacific Exposition had bowled me over in admiration. The job at hand comprised two 12 x 60 foot panels for the Nebraska State Capitol. Dodge's demands upon an assistant were extreme, from daylight to dusk, in studio temperatures frequently near 100. But if he at age 54 could take it so could I, his junior by many years. Upon retiring each night he'd stand at my bedroom door, his huge bulk clad in a nightgown, a burning candle in his hand like a king-sized Fisk Tire Baby and proceed to reminisce about fellow painters and his student days in Paris. Those six months were a grand experience.
Spain called again, as did England, and now married, Priscilla and I settled in a studio in Hammersmith. I was painting seriously now, still favored with Brangwyn's interest and encouragement. The way to British recognition was then via the Royal Academy. I submitted three works, one gaining acceptance and given some space in reviews. "pay work" was resumed with full page drawings of London's markets and Cockney characters for the Graphic and Bystander weeklies, and my motor clients were still active. This fact permitted a ten-week tour of the British Isles, my wife, my mother, myself and enormous piles of painting gear crammed aboard a Ford-T tourer. Our single misadventure happened in the only thoroughly unlovely town in Cornwall, St. Blazey. On descending a hill, a horse being driven by an elderly lady took fright. I stood on everything, came to an abrupt standstill, but vital Ford parts were strewn over the road. St. Blazey's only garage and its solitary hotel were owned by the same profiteering gentlemen. This unfortunate coincidence was costly in time and money, and is not, please note, characteristically Cornish. All in all it was a grand tour and a highly productive painting spree.
At Brooklands in 1923 the giant hybrids, often comprising surplus aero engines in vintage frames, thundered spectacularly over the rough high-pitched bankings. Imagine, if you can, a 127 x 178 mm Liberty V-12 power plant of 27,059 cc and a 1907 Benz gearbox nested within an Edwardian chassis, galloping manfully on the straight but becoming an unwieldy fearsome pile of metal on the steep slopes of Brooklands. Such was motor racing in England circa 1923.
Saner by far was the French Grand Prix at Tours, and memorable also for the sole British triumph in G. P. racing before that exalted designation came in for indiscriminate use. Here Seagrave's 2-litre Sunbeam outlasted the trio of very fast blown Fiats. Here also Voisin and Bugatti entered weirdly-designed machinery, non-conforming in the fullest sense. As a spectacle Tours fulfilled the image of Continental racing as set forth by Jarrott and Gerald Rose in their unforgettable books.
While we were abroad things had happened in New York. The beautiful old studio building had been sold to the Grand Street Boys Association, a club of successful men who had fought their way to affluence from the ghettos of New York. I moved to less inspiring quarters in the Miller Tire Building where, amid the pungent fumes of rubber, I did a series of ads for rival tire makers Kelly-Springfield.
In 1926, in harmony with those expansive times, I acquired one-half of the upper floor of an old carriage house on the East side, and had its 30' x 75' area converted to studio needs. The six years in this grand shop are a cherished memory. Soon I had agreeable next door neighbors, one of them being Dean Cornwell, at that time America's top illustrator and already on his way to becoming equally famous as a mural painter. These were the rocketing stock market days and the contagion afflicted everyone from bootblacks to corporation heads with artists, unfortunately, included. Work was plentiful and clients generous. On occasion an Art Director, well pleased with a job, would phone his satisfaction with, "Pete, that drawing went over big with the client. I'm adding a couple of hundred to your bill!" There was a three-year campaign for Tarvia, another of equal duration for Ford Trucks. There was a terrifying assignment for Canadian National comprising full color paintings, half-tones and line drawings, about 125 pieces in all. The deadlines ,necessitated 17 hours a day for several weeks, a long hard pull.
By far the most satisfying commission was for the Steinway Collection which housed the works of eminent American and European artists. I was asked to render my personal interpretation of Sibelius's "Finlandia" For the single heroic figure I used Gustaf Pierson for the model because of his startling resemblance to the great Finnish runner Nurmi. However, at no time did I dare mention the theme of the painting. Pierson was a Finn-hating Swede!
My good wife Priscilla and I went abroad in 1927 and traveled in Italy extensively with a lovely little 509 Fiat Tourer. The means by which a driving license was acquired in Rome was profoundly devious. We were advised by a linguistic courier that "the man to see" was Signor Clemente Paoli, an elevator operator at the Court of Justice. With extreme misgivings I followed instructions and turned over passport and other credentials to this jolly little gentleman during a "conference" in his elevator between the third and 4th floors of the Court House. The constant buzz of impatient would-be passengers, some of them black-robed Justices, was completely ignored during our informal transaction.
The following morning I returned by appointment, was given a "Driving Test" in the office of a harassed office clerk, said test being made while seated in a chair where I demonstrated the flexibility of my feet for pedal action and the firmness of my grip on a steering wheel. I passed with honors. Matters were squared with buoyant Clemente, my personal papers returned, and our tour got underway.
Painting the grand landscape was the number one objective, but motorcar interests were to be enriched also. We were in time for the first running of the great Italian annual, the Mille Miglia, and became immediately aware of the hazardous conditions under which this race was conducted. The roads were not closed. Normal traffic, although warned, was not restrained from using them. As for the spectators, here was the same disregard for safety as had prevailed at the old Long Island Vanderbilt Races, only more exuberantly displayed. The roaring O.M.s, Fiats, Alfas and Italas, skimming miraculously past wine carts, sedate limousines and the intruding crowds, were we soon learned, completely in character with Italian highway deportment.
En route to Milan we spied a sleek red P-2 Alfa sparkling in the sunshine at a filling station. Our interest in this beauty effected an invitation for a spin from the prideful attendant. I'll never forget the terrific impulse of its acceleration, or its deceleration either. After the exciting ride the driver proudly removed the seat cushion I'd been sitting on, pointed to some faded blood stains, and disclosed that the ex-owner had perished in an appalling crash with this car!
As Monza's famed circuit could be traversed for a slight fee we took the little 509 around for a few laps. Loaded with luggage and painting materials, we managed to get the needle up to 100 kil. But we were not always that volant. Once on a long upgrade in the Abruzzi Mountains the engine sputtered then died. We were out of gas. Daylight was fading. A group of small boys offered advice, unintelligible to us. Suddenly we heard the healthy roar of an approaching car ahead. It topped the crest of the grade as can only Alfas driven by audacious young Italians. He pulled up with a screech, having noted my good looking wife, and another "transaction" was underway. Alfa petrol was drained, bottle by bottle, into the tank of the Fiat. In gratitude we insisted on presenting our rescuer with a quart of Spumante. Off he went with a wave and a roar. But before we reached the next town, a mere mile from the crest, we were again in trouble. It took the next morning to cleanse the Alfa's dregs from our fouled feed lines and carburetor!
Back in New York Coolidge Prosperity and those "good times" still prevailed. Pay work was now shared with serious painting. I was sending to exhibitions, winning a few awards, had a couple of oneman shows of landscapes and portraits and resumed study in private classes at night.
While engaged with the Ford truck campaigns the weirdest sort of coincidence threatened the cordial relationship I enjoyed with N. W. Ayer, Ford's advertising agency. One of the pictures, to be rendered in two colors, purple and black, had to show a Ford van unloading at a swank cleaners and dyers in a smart suburban town. I chose Bronxville, New York, then as now filling these qualifications. While sketching suitable store fronts I encountered an old high school mate. Past incidents were recalled, old friends discussed. I asked, "What ever became of that big footballer Mittell?" He told me enough for that name to stay in mind for several days. With the drawing near completion I considered adding the name of a firm on the van's polished panel, hit on the name of the footballer Mittell but discarded it as being overly Teutonic. The derivation, F. Martell, looked and sounded more like fashionable suburbia.
Two months later N. W. Ayer phoned. Had I seen Walter Winchell's column? I replied I never read his stuff. "Well, read him this morning" was the advice from Philadelphia. "Then call me back." Winchell had written about as follows. "Perhaps the artist responsible for the Ford Truck ad in the current issue of the Saturday Evening Post had his tongue in his cheek, but it is no laughing matter for the widows and orphans of those slain in the Purple Gang warfare involving Detroit's cleaning and dying industry." He further disclosed that the Purple Gang leader was a notorious racketeer serving time; his name, F. Martell.
There were a few worrisome days for all concerned in Ford advertising, but my explanation was accepted and I continued to work on the series. As expected, Winchell failed to print my explanation. Not much later the great man's chauffeur-driven limousine very nearly clipped me while I was crossing West 50th Street.
While occupying the stable studio I came to know personally one of my boyhood idols, Joe Tracy of Vanderbilt Gup fame. Before becoming aware of his devious skills in practical joking I gladly accepted his invitation for a weekend of camping in the Poconos. Fortunately not for a longer period as it proved to be 48 hours of misery. I met him at his laboratory in Rutherford a few minutes after the appointed hour. H is displeasure with this tardiness was undisguised. He then prepared to lash several lengths of 2 x 4 beams between the fenders of my DuPont convertible, apparent necessities for our camping expedition. Upon my mild protestations the stuff was returned to the lab.
Upon setting off I was instructed to follow closely his guidance through the towns en route. His Chevrolet Coupe had accelerative capacity well above that of the DuPont, but I did my best. I was close enough to observe the old boy lifting a canteen to his mouth, then turn his head to the left and eject a spray which smacked against my windshield. The wipers were useful for several milks. I followed my guide into a busy town. As the Chevie exited at the far end, l was stopped by the police for running the wrong way on a one-way street. By the time I had eased out of this situation my host was in foot-tapping impatience because of the precious time lost.
On arrival at the campsite at dusk, a bleak windy spot, my ineptitude in rigging tents was obvious so l was assigned the task of placing our provisions in "the only safe place around herej" the branches of a nearby tree. I had hoped to hear lengthy reminiscences of his racing days but boyhood hero was sullen and uncommunicative. Then in Indian fashion we followed a trail through the woods where every footfall on the blanket of old leaves made conversation impossible. Mr. Tracy now became highly eloquent and also highly annoyed with my repeated, "I didn't get that."
I was awakened after a miserable night on the hard ground by stones hitting the canvas. "Wake up, man," came the command "You've got to see the sunrise." The weekend was survived. I arrived home completely exhausted, also bewildered. Tracy's "short cut" directions for returning to New York had added miles to the trip. Nevertheless we became fast friends but all future camping invitations, offered with a smile, were just as amiably declined.
Thanks to Old Joe I learned of the whereabouts of his old racing comrade, the young Simplex tester from 96th Street days, Al Poole. Meeting him again after 20 years was the renewal of a firm friendship lasting until his death in 1959, seven months after that of Tracy.
Came the Crash, the end of the phony prosperity, shortly to eradicate security for millions. My own work continued for a spell, then dropped off gradually. Having purchased a farm in the country needing costly renovation of house and barns, I felt the need of giving up the spacious East Side studio for a less expensive one on 47th Street. In company with so many others, our investments were sadly shattered.
During the boom years a few old cars had been acquired; sounder investments by far than the so-called securities of that day. These consisted of a 1904 chain-drive Mercedes with an unsympathetic 1915 White touring body; a 1907 Renault Town Car which had belonged to Albert R. Shattuck, past President of the Automobile Club of America. The Mercedes today, fully restored with authentic coachwork, is owned by likeable VMCCA Member Roland Beattie. The Renault, due to Joe Tracy's persistent efforts on behalf of the Thompson Products Car Museum, is now in that Collection's present plush environment. For those interested in inflationary trends, I think the Mercedes cost $200, the Renault $75. Another purchase at that time, a Mercedes-Knight Tourer of 1921 (still ours) cost $500.
Of my 47th Street Studio I remember only that it was too small, that I had no immediate artist neighbors and that the ground floor premises were occupied by a benevolent institution, The Opportunity Shop, where donated merchandise was offered at very low figures. The Depression was at its worst. The Bank Holiday was on. Even the non-profit Opp Shop was feeling the stress. Its Manager knew of my interest in early cars. Was I interested in an elegant Brewster Town Car at $100? l felt obliged to decline. Apparently no on else had $100 to spend so recklessly because this good chap would appear from time to time with easier terms', $75, then $50! On the fourth occasion, at $35, I decided yes. I still recall his smiling rebuke, "You chiseler," justifiable perhaps from his point of view.
With improving conditions, a far better studio was leased on East 53rd Street opposite Mr. Winchell's hangout, The Stork Club. Shortly after locating here and while having lunch with my wife and old friend Dean Cornwell, the latter mentioned his forthcoming trip to Italy for the purpose of studying the Florentine frescoes preparatory to a mural for which he had been commissioned. "Any chance of coming along?" he asked me. My understanding wife replied "Why not!"
And so it came to pass that Dean, his V-8 Ford Convertible and myself sailed to Europe. We docked at Liverpool, the car going on to LeHavre. We spent a happy day with Brangwyn (now Sir Frank) in Sussex, thence on to France to collect the V-8 for a few days in Paris prior to Italy.
This pause permitted attending the LeMans 24-Hour Race during those magic hours from dusk to the blackness of night. Britain, as so often, supported this event liberally, this time with 23 entries consisting of squads of Rileys, Astons, MGS and Singers. Opposing were 17 French starters and a handfull of Alfas from Italy, two of the latter in the hands of topflight Britishers. Drama is always to be had with fast cars crashing through the night, and at LeMans is the extra bonus of the carnivalesque. But for this viewer, then and again in 1951, deep gutsy enthusiasm was lacking. l've painted the subject three times, never with marked gusto. Certainly the finest cars and pilots evoke the plaudits of tens of thousands year after year, and no one views their astounding mileages as less than miraculous. Above 2800 miles now! For me the old Twice-Around-the-Clock grinds at Brighton Beach and Morris Park where anything between 1000 and 1250 miles was record-going had higher appeal, historically and sensually.
The frescoes in Florence held Cornwell's attention for ten days. My interest was the dynamic landscape further north in that mountainous area just south of little San Marino, the mountain Republic. Thus the V-8 was generously turned over to me and I put up at a miserable little (and the only) hotel in Novefeltria. Here and in the grand neighboring hills I painted every daylight hour, awakened each morning by operatic arias sung by the town's street sweeper. Poor old man. In time he was forbidden to fill the morning with song and promptly died!
Friendships were made among the locals, three of whom had once lived and worked in the United States. All longed to return, but Mussolini was not letting potential soldiers out of the country. In fact, during my stay and unknown to me had been the crisis of Brenner Pass. I was aware, of course, of the army contingents that suddenly occupied Novefeltria, but did not know the significance of this mission.
One day, while painting on a hilly roadside, a corps of Bersagliere came pumping up the steep grade on push-bikes, their faces flushed and sweating under gasmasks. Zipping past them in a cloud of dust was an officer and his driver on a motorcycles sidecar combination. Upon spotting me the cycle was brought to a throbbing standstill. I'll admit to some misgivings when the officer approached, but was immediately relieved on being addressed in English and learning about his own painting aspirations. Apparently there was nothing suspicious about a foreigner sketching in this area of army occupation. During our amiable chat, with heavy armored vehicles now grinding up the grade and supplying a more purposeful aspect to these maneuvers, the sidecar driver was contentedly picking flowers in the nearby field.
When leaving this paintable countryside to join Cornwell in Florence, my new-found friend Umberto came to see me off. As the Ford was being refueled for the journey over the Passo del Muraglione Umberto reported the comment made by the man at the pump. "He says he is so sorry to see you go away. He likes your car because of its eight thirsty little cylinders!"
Economic conditions at home were improving and upon my return time was shared with advertising, magazine and exhibition painting. My first love, steam locomotives, got a hefty renewal at the Worlds Fair where the finest examples of this species, past and present, were beautifully displayed. I did a set of tempera paintings when these mammoths were made even more impressive by the floodlighting at night. These were given a one-man show at a Fifth Avenue gallery. None sold. I gave a few to admiring rail fans and was prepared to present one to that excellent railroad historian, the late Lucius Beebe, but his critical inspection of these works evoked nothing but profound silence.
Nearing completion now was the fabulous Roosevelt Raceway where Vanderbilt Cup Racing was to be revived. I hoped to be of some use in designing posters or program covers but was given a brisk runaround at Steve Hanigan's press bureau. I decided to try the Raceway's General Manager, the man whose dream of revived Cup Racing was at a point of realization, George Robertson, the Vanderbilt winner of 1908. He was not exactly displeased upon learning that I had seen him in this race and many others, but was enormously surprised and delighted to know that his old Locomobile No. 16 still existed. He had long believed it forever gone.
This brief interview began a lasting friendship. It also inspired the Raceway to contact the owner of the Loco, Joseph Sessions, foundry man of Bristol, Connecticut. Arrangements were made for a one-lap exhibition run just prior to the start of the revived Vanderbilt. The interview also resulted in my doing a poster and other jobs for the two Cup Races, 1936 and 1937.
Robertson did indeed drive that exhibition lap and then wondered how he'd been able to "handle the brute" for four hours at high speed 28 years before! But the revival was no howling success. Because the pretzel-like pattern of the circuit demanded moderate pace, sports writers commented caustically about the mild mph achieved by the world's top participants. This speed, said they, was uniformly bettered by the customers who drive to the race in their own cars.
By 1937 the circuit had been greatly simplified, permitting 160 mph and above on the finishing straight. Unlike the Italian triumph of Nuvolari and Alfa the year before, this race, signifying the German takeover in classic racing, was won by Rosemeyer's Auto Union with Seaman's Mercedes a close second. As before, our contenders were nowhere although Rex Mays's 3rd place in an elderly 8-C Alfa gave a degree of comfort to American enthusiasts.
I think it was at about this time when a hardy group of young amateurs, the Collier brothers as prime movers, organized the Automobile Racing Club of America, later SCCA, and staged a so-called Briarcliff Race Revival. This was run over semi-private roads not too distant from the 1908 Briarcliff circuit. In spite of the few entries and the varied concept of what constituted sports car machinery (Rileys, Austin 7s, souped-up Overlands) these backyard G.P.s were spirited entertainment and initiated the trends that were realized at Watkins Glen a dozen years later.
My work in advertising art had by this time won the Harvard Award for an industrial series for Westinghouse; four Art Directors Medals in New York and similar top awards in Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland and Chicago. Now less time was given to work in the fine arts field. Sales in this category continued to be negligible. Besides, many of the new trends were a complete divorce from tradition to which my loyalty, wisely or not, was firm. I still believed in Brangwyn's edict "Go to Nature" so there were painting sprees locally and in New Orleans, Texas and Arizona, shared by my ll-year old son Jerry who displayed very promising talent. However, as fine as it was, this Southwestern landscape thrilled me far less than had the mountainous regions of Spain and Italy.
Joe Tracy was now a frequent visitor at my New York studio, and he conducted some of his consultation and research projects at this address. Time and again he proposed we visit Mr. Charles B. King and other early-day auto personages, but my preoccupation with work prevented. I responded promptly, however when Joe suggested we run up to Bristol, Connecticut and have a look at the old Cup-winning Locomobile. We were cordially welcomed by Mr. Sessions and led to the nest-like garage built expressly to house the veteran. Legend told of the proud owner's annual spin, the annual ticket for speeding and the twelve-month recess prior to the next penalization. The car was in excellent condition, and its existence prompted inquiries about the fate of the sister car, Tracy's reserve in the 1906 Vanderbilt and first in the 1908 running when driven by Joe Florida. Sessions believed its l6-litre engine had been installed in a boat and the chassis scrapped. Thus No. 16 was the sole survivor of the three racing specials designed by A. L. Riker for big time racing. The first, with a 7 x 7 power plant and built for the Gordon Bennett and Vanderbilt of 1905, had long since passed into oblivion. The fate, alas, of too many automobiles of historic worth.
The advent of the three major clubs, VMCCA among them, was the first significant step toward the preservation of early cars. Prior to this there had been far-sighted sentimentalists dedicated to rescuing forgotten relics. As early as 1936 George Waterman, Kirk Gibson and Paul Cadwell (all founding fathers of VMCCA) had already accumulated 200 antiquities. But it was the clubs, their publications and their meets that fertilized a minor hobby into a nationwide fanatical interest.
The date of my VMCCA membership is vague, nor can I remember the date on which I attended my first meeting of the New York Chapter. But I do recall vividly the warm greeting extended by Alec Ulmann, Dean Fales and Leslie Gillette. Perhaps the attendance was less than twenty, but the fraternal atmosphere was immediately evident, and one may be excused for stating that with the fantastic growth of our clubs much of the intimate companionship has faded. I never had the wish to serve officially in club affairs, but I have been anxious always to help with drawings and articles for the Bulb Horn, Antique Automobile and other club publications. In this connection, I got to know such good friends as John Leathers, Everett Dickinson, Walter MacIlvain and the equally agreeable staff members of the other club journals. Their dedication may be judged by the scope and quality of our magazines today. Our counterparts in England express their wonderment with "But how do you do it?"
Upon the death of George Sessions and through the established friendship of Joe Tracy with the Sessions family Locomobile "Old 16" came our way. This was an important moment in life in Boston Corners, and it furthered our association with Old Joe. His visits here were more frequent, and we observed with deep satisfaction the pal-like comraderie shared by 12-year old Jerry and the 65-year old motor veteran. I'm sure the youngster gained much from this companionship.
Tracy came into VMCCA, was made Honorary Member and thoroughly enjoyed the status of rejuvenated celebrity. Consistent with this concern for racing's past, the New York Region organized a series of meets; Simplex Night, Vanderbilt Cup Night, Mercer Night, to which were invited guests who had known fame in days past: DePalma, Robertson, Ralph Mulford, Al Poole, Herman Broesel. Mercer Night brought several surviving executives of the old Trenton marque. All were stunned and unbelieving upon learning the current value of T-head Raceabouts.
With the war the ranks dwindled. Water Levino and Ed Bennett appeared when leaves permitted. Hemp Oliver and Austin Clark were far less available. The more elderly standbys, Leo Peters, Joseph Reutershan, Charlie Stich, Bob Bohaty, Sam Baily, Harold Kraft plus the exuberant Ulmann-Gilette team kept the New York Region moving. Jim Melton could be counted on for the Christmas Annual, one of these made memorable by his soul-stirring rendering of "My Boy Bill."
It was around 1942 when the Automobile Old Timers was founded, due mainly to the initiative of Frederick Elliott whose entire life had been spent in the regulatory provinces of automobiling. He had been the youthful Secretary of A.A.A. almost at time of its birth. His name is encountered on endless committees supervising trade practices, road improvement, all forms of motor competition. Whether or not A.O.T. was his inspiration, it was his wide acquaintance throughout the industry and his skills in enlisting support from those of influence that built this organization into sufficient membership to stage an annual luncheon attended by 500 or more A.O.T.s from all over the country.
At these luncheons, usually at the Hotel Roosevelt, citations were awarded to men renowned in the auto world, most of them truly "old timers." Charles Kettering, Julian Chase, Charles B. King, W. K. Vanderbilt, Jr., had been so honored, as would be this writer 24 years later. Consideration of similar recognition had been given Frank Duryea, an eventuality fraught with complexities because of the unsettled claim as to which of the Duryea brothers, Frank or the late Charles E., were to be credited with the building of America's first gas-propelled automobile. The feud had long and not always gently advanced. Among those on the rostrum this day was Frank Duryea. It seems likely that most of the guests were aware of the conflicting claims, but if not, were soon to be. Frank's newphew Jerry visited table after table in a petition drive to have his uncle's citation awarded posthumously to his father. In this crusade Jerry was brushed-off, for the most part good humoredly as he was generally liked and probably admired for his family loyalty.
The meal over with, attention was directed to the awards ceremony. When Frank Duryea was called to receive his, Jerry strode forth, faced the rostrum and heatedly protested this action. The big banquet salon was suddenly shocked into total silence. Frank's thin face paled. The proceedings were held in suspense. The tense situation called for immediate rescue. This was promptly given by arch-diplomat and pioneer automotive promoter Alfred Reeves. He poured on the proverbial oil with such tact that Jerry's retreat was possible without great loss of face as the presentation was made to his uncle Frank. The situation was further relieved by the hasty call for the next recipient.
All present had witnessed a bit of drama, involving human behavioral conduct, reaching an unforgettable split-second climax, and then brought under control by a suave and accomplished trouble shooter.
During the early forties, the War years, most of my work was for clients closely involved in the war effort: Mack Trucks, G. E., Timken, railroads, air lines, Republic Steel and other heavy industrials. I was less lucky with work for various Government bureaus. Of many poster designs submitted, only two had been published. Work for the steel corporations was particularly attractive as it necessitated sketching within these thrilling environments, at times a bit hazardous. The year 1944 brought a turning point. As a freelance for 29 years, commissions for early motoring and racing subjects had been infrequent. Some of these have been referred to. The rest comprised a few fiction illustrations and a 3-year campaign for Champion Spark Plugs in which racing scenes were incidental to the giant display of the product, the plug.
The turning point came when Esquire asked me to contribute to their series, "Great Moments in American Sport." They had me down for Bobby Jones, Babe Ruth or Man of War. I countered with the Vanderbilt Cup. "But that's a Bridge tournament" was the Editor's rejoinder. It took a carefully-done sketch (on speculation) to convince Editor Geis that the first U. S. victory in classic auto racing, Robertson's and the Loco's win in the 1908 Vanderbilt, was indeed a great moment in American Sport.
With enthusiastic acceptance of the finished painting, I was immediately prepared to follow through and thus flashed Mr. Geis with a sketch, hopefully executed, of another "Great Moment", the 1912 Indy "500" where Depalma's Mercedes had led from the 10th to the 496th mile, faltered, then limped to a standstill. Driver and mechanic pushed the stricken car for a lap in a desperate but fruitless effort to win. The sketch was okayed and was the basis for six more subjects all close to the heart, and for which Founding VMCCA Member John Leathers wrote stirring commentaries. The set of eight were ably promoted in the magazine, by exhibitions of the originals in major cities (two of the paintings disappeared along the wayl) and by a limited edition folio, copies of which were presented to important people in the auto industry. This fortuitous gesture was, according to Esquire, largely responsible for Detroit's Golden Jubilee in 1946. Plans for this celebration were at the point of withering because of general apathy. However, a committee member produced this folio, showed it around with the resultant verdict "By Golly, there's still romance in the Automobile!"
Negotiations with Esquire had been unique and educational. At the outset I was assured of receiving their "top price." Although unknowing of Esquire's rates, the figure offered was well below that of the general magazine level. Upon approval of the preliminary sketch I was again assured of the "top price" now at a 50% increase above the first quotation. Laughingly I suggested resuming negotiations a bit later when this climbing scale could possibly escalate to an honest "top price."
Twenty years later fan mail still arrives proving the ever-growing interest in the vintage periods. Accordingly, about ten years ago Austin Clark, with Esquire's blessing, republished the set in deluxe style.
Despite the War's gas restrictions, meets were contrived, one for China Relief (consider that one in view of subsequent world affairs!) at Fairfield, Connecticut. Melton zeal for the resounding success of this benefit stirred me into donating a half-dozen paintings and drawings for auction, the returns from which might have kept a solitary Chinaman in opium for an hour. Later the enterprising Ulmann-Gillette leadership slated a two-day meet at the Helck residence at Boston Corners. About 30 cars appeared, arousing much local curiosity as to the means by which these gas-burners got around rationing. We were lucky in having Depalma, Tracy and Poole give the affair a note of distinction, further embellished by the presence of Herb Fales' guest, Geoffrey Smith, long time Editor of The Autocar of London. A deeply sentimental note that day was an exhibition run, at a snappy pace, by the Loco, Tracy driving, Poole at his side, quite as I had seen them 30 years before in the Vanderbilt.
The War's end allowed more ambitious club activities, and in 1946, thanks to Jim Melton, his wide influence and a handful of go-workers, the first Glidden Tour Revival was presented. Some 150 cars of wide range of HP and mph participated. As Tracy, Poole and Robertson were unavailable to co-drive the Loco, I contacted Frank Lescault, a distinguished driver of Matheson, Palmer-Singer and Simplex cars in track and road racing circa 1908. A word about Lescault seems fitting. As Sheriff, he was the only Democrat and Roman Catholic ever elected to office in Schoharie County, New York, and a most-loved character in his community. Less commendable was his road deportment on the Glidden, a jovial disregard for all the official restraints. Otherwise he was a delightful companion with a wealth of anecdotes enthralling to all listeners. Good old Frank, now gone, but affectionately remembered for his geniality and all-around goodness. Knowing these virtues, it was with shock and disbelief that I heard the following from one of his friends and racing contemporaries. "We were a fast-living crowd, wine and women, a don't-give-a-care sort of existence. I'm afraid we were a pretty rough bunch." A pause, and then, "Not as bad as Frank Lescault, you understand, not THAT bad!"
Our Glidden "team" included Jerry and that fabulous chap, Charles Lytle, race historian whose photo collection must be the most comprehensive in existence. Charles assisted in driving our "service" station wagon but his quest for photos frequently carried him off the Tour route. Because the Tour had been excellently publicized, in towns along the way were curious oldsters whose lives had been spent in connection with cars. In Rochester we met Billy Knipper, veteran of road and track. Then there was the sad-faced little character in Buffalo, W. E. Vibert (better known as Curley) who had been Spooner and Wells' ace photographer and personally responsible for hundreds of camera shots of the original Glidden Tours and the major road racing events in the East. Poor Curley, his collection of plates and prints had perished in a fire. In dejection he rid himself of his studio, cameras and all equipment. Mourning for these losses had become occupational.
On a couple of occasions when leaving the Loco unattended in roped-off areas allegedly being patrolled, we returned to find seventyish-aged strangers sitting at the controls with focused cameras clicking merrily. One intruder countered our objections with who's got a better right? Wasn't I in the Loco pits that day when George won the cup?" All along the line we found gentlemen of all ages who claimed to have been factory hands in Bridgeport.
Speaking of the aged, there was a notable one, most fittingly, on the Tour, Colonel Augustus Post, writer, artist, musician, balloonist, headline hunter and White Steamer pilot on the first original Glidden!
We ran again in the 1947 Glidden, a tour through New England, with the late Frank Lescault again as co-driver. I recall the dash through pouring rain on the way to Portsmouth, the pelting drops stinging hands and face, a thoroughly enjoyable sensation, but one Frank chose to avoid. He followed our spray in the station wagon. Jerry and I were thoroughly soaked and chilled, but the cheery blaze in the Wentworth Hotel's fireplace, a change of clothes and the congeniality of such jovial Gliddenites as Les Taylor, George Crittenden and Bob Bohaty restored us to cozy well-being. Another recollection is the sight of Charles and Marion Bishop struggling to the summit of Mt. Washington in their gentle-powered Delaunay, giving this elegant lightweight undeserved punishment. The Chaynes' tour car was a 1910 Buick in such pristine condition as to have impressed everybody. Then one day Charlie appeared from nowhere at the wheel of the gargantuan Bugatti Royale! Seeing it WAS believing, I suppose. Beside this mighty apparition the hundred-odd tour cars (and there were some exotic numbers, be assured) paled into insignificance.
The Tours have continued annually ever since, attaining popularity and elegance perhaps unforeseen even by poor Jim Melton.
An outstanding Club achievement was New York's first Antique Auto Show in March 1948 at the 71st Regiment Armory. The three major clubs, VMCCA, AACA, HCCA and the young SCCA pooled their administrative and publicity talents and displayed about 80 cars (from 1896 to 1922) for seven days to an audience of 30,000 curious New Yorkers, with generous recognition in the New York dailies and the news weeklies. Nothing before or since so alerted a jaded city to the historical significance of the automobile. Credit for this success is due Show Manager, the late and popular Jerry Duryea, and VMCCA officers Austin Clark, Alec Ulmann, Henry Finn and the numerous committees served by most of those prominent in inter-club affairs at that time.
For us personally the Show was momentous. "Old 16" was voted the Grand Prize and its presence brought together the four who had served as its crews in 1906 and 1908, Tracy and Poole, Robertson and Ethridge as well as other racing notables of that period. Particularly welcome at our stand were Larry and Eleanor Riker, most fittingly as Larry's father, A. L. Riker, was Locomobile's Chief Engineer and de- signer of "Old 16." Gift-bearing sentimentalists brought photos, armbands, signal flags, badges, all cherished mementos from the Long Island Cup Races. Car-minded Gary Cooper fiddled with the Loco's controls while TV technicians did their stuff. 1'11 always remember the kindness of hotel owner Jack Stack (deceased) in giving my mother a tour of the show aboard his lovely curved-dash Olds. Some of the outstanding exhibits, alas, have gone West, literally. The New York-Paris winning Thomas Flyer, bought at the Show by Austin Clark from Paul DuPont, is now splendidly restored in the Harrah Collection as is also Mel Brindle's elegant boat-bodied Crane Simplex. I believe the ex-Cameron Peck 1913 Peugeot, second placer at Indy, 1914 is in Briggs Cunningham's Museum in California. All overtures notwithstanding, the 1909 shaft-drive Mercedes Tourer stil I remains an Eastern property, Charie Stitch's.
It may have been in the thirties that the thought of doing a book was given consideration. At that time the American Lithographic Co. exhibited a batch of my racing sketches. The hint of a book may have come from Ralph Stein who saw this little exhibition and stated that it had been a factor in creating his interest in early cars. But it was not until 1947 after the Esquire set had indicated a potential audience, that the book was projected sufficiently to submit to publishers.
Fellow artist and friend Bill Schaldach had become Editor of Countryman's Press, producers of fine books on hunting, fishing, outdoor life generally and a subsidiary of Barnes Publishing. Just as things looked promising some publishing misadventure scuttled the subsidiary and my friend's job as well. Again prospects loomed favorable at McGraw-Hill until that firm decided on doing it as a $5 item, on which scale the artwork would be drastically limited. At Macmillan the script and dummies were left for consideration. In time these were returned in the original wrappings which appeared never to have been opened.
Author friends insisted that my cause was futile without the services of an agent. But in years of freeIancing in my own profession without this aid, I felt no need to do anything about it. Anyway, there was no rush. Every reading of the script disclosed need for improvement, and, just as often, new thoughts on format and illustrations were considered and executed. This rehashing, tucked in between assignments, was to go on for years.
Quite apart from drawing and painting early automobiles have been experiences with fellow addicts of an acquisitive nature. One such, a kindly old chap who gave still older inmates of nursing homes leisurely rides through the countryside, indicated a passionate wish to own my 1926 American Rolls, a monumental sedan in reasonably good condition. He had set aside a small sum, his Hobby Fund, which, together with two mechanically-minded nephews who would restore the car, was offered as a basis of exchange. After 15 years of resisting his gentle but firm approach the Rolls became his treasure. Within five months it was being advertised as a rare bargain at approximately five times the figure at which he bought it!
There was also the Cole Roadster with a distinct racy flair. An engaging young man by the name of Cole felt strongly that the association of names could be far more meaningful if he possessed this car. There was the sacred pledge that once in his ownership the roadster would be fully restored by himself, and take its place as a beloved family member for untold Cole generations. Unlike the Rolls enthusiast, this applicant was not toting octogenarians on motoring tours, nor did he mention "hobby funds" but he exuded sincerity. I liked him and he got the Cole for what l had given for it, about $150. 1 saw that car again 10 years later, fully restored, not by Cole, in Tony Koveleski's fine little museum in Scranton!
AlI this recalls an earlier period, the depression years. That they hit people in high places was evidenced by the classic machinery languishing in used car lots, at filling stations, awaiting offers. One such was a magnificent 1929 Pierce-Arrow doublecowl phaeton displaying a sign, "For Sale $35." There was the J-Duesenberg for $100. And the 1907 American Mercedes for which the owner paid a small fee to have it removed from his estate!
Future depressions are not apt to afford another transaction as per the following one effected in this vicinity in the somber thirties. We'll call one of the principals a playboy with a hide-out in the Berkshire Hills. The other was a baker, whose wife decided that unpaid bills of $100 for bread and rolls had reached the limits of expanding debt. Wishing to preserve domestic peace, the baker confronted the delinquent with a demand for settlement. The playboy had no such cash. Was there anything in the house that might compensate? There was not. How about a car? There were several in the garage. The baker, pointing to his sedan, replied, "I gotta car," and made his frustrated departure.
The baker's wife was resolute and uncompromising, so husband tried again. Soon convinced that coin of the realm was not forthcoming and with no other alternative in prospect, he became the grumbling owner of a 1912 Locke-bodied Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost! Domestic harmony restored only after slow enlightenment proved this acquisition to be meaningful. The baker and wife have long since been ardent addicts and prize-winning participants.
With my obliging cousin's gift of the motor journals back in 1905 began my accumulations of all such. Through purchases, trades and presents, by having as friends such mutually-minded devotees as Bob Cochrane, Charles Bishop, Josef Reutershan, Charles Lytle, Leo Peters, Austin Clark, Bob Doty and that unforgettable accumulator of Americana generally, the late Alex Telatco, my collection, though restricted to the 1895-1925 period, is considerable. I had hopes of adding to it in a big way when the library of the venerable Automobile Club of America -- another sad victim of the depression -- was advertised for sale at auction. These hopes rocketed sky-high when a mere handful of interested persons appeared to inspect the several thousand bound volumes, the framed posters and photos. Then suddenly the auction was called off ! My attorney made inquiries. These disclosed that the Bendix Corporation had in a private and seemingly irregular deal acquired this voluminous treasure for a trifling $500!
As for the Bendix bargain, it lay forgotten for some years. Fortunately, before neglect reduced it to a mouldy mass it was rescued and presented to the Public Library.
The bulk of this was shipped to South Bend and dumped not too reverently on a cement basement floor. However, several hundred volumes escaped this fate. Quite by chance I discovered about 300 of these in a small store on Canal Street whose main stock consisted of an indiscriminate range of merchandise and assorted junk. l bought as many as I could afford at 50 cents per. Among these was one of those rare lucky finds that bring on Collectors' Palpitation, a huge leather-bound scrapbook which had been prepared for the A.C.A. This contained full news coverage of the 1905 Vanderbilt plus sixty-five 8 x 10 Spooner & Wells photos of that great race. This bargain compares favorably with that of the Connecticut baker's Rolls-Royce.
In 1948 that remarkably successful illustrator, AIbert Dorne, created the home study institution known as the Famous Artists School. It was flattering to be among the dozen chosen to be founding faculty members. Dorne and Fred Ludekens prepared the Basic Course, a 24 lesson textbook, intelligently organized and beautifully printed, which remains the foundation of the enterprise. For the Advanced Course the twelve of us wrote our own books of instruction, each designed to attract students believed to have personal interest in our particular and singular working methods. The best part of a year was given to writing and illustrating my course.
The published courses won wide acclaim for their layout and typography quite aside from their merit as means of instruction. Enrollments in the Basic Course were immediately forthcoming on a level with Dorne's anticipation. However that brilliant fellow's judgment as to similar appeal for the Advanced Courses had been overly optimistic. Only Norman Rockwell and Al Parker had great numbers of starry-eyed student admirers. The egos of the rest of us were somewhat deflated by the modest enrollments for our Courses.
For four or five years I corrected the work of my students. As this meant graphically-demonstrated means by which their works could be improved plus typed analysis and criticism, teaching via correspondence was time-consuming, on occasion six or seven hours on a single assignment, but also very enjoyable. In time the Advanced Course was merged with the Basic and the later Painting Course.
At the time of the school's founding, teaching art by mail was viewed by many as suspect, and with cause. One nationally known school had not revised its course for 27 years. When our Basic Course Lesson No. 16 brought drop-outs and other evidence of fading student interest, Dorne concluded that this lesson, not the students, was the cause. No. 16 and others later were reorganized for improved clarity. Our humble beginning in a little cottage on Boston Post Road has become an institution having about 115,000 students in art, writing and photography. The School's instruction fostered the traditional art fundamentals: sound drawing, perspective, representations as offered by nature, most of which is scorned by the avant-garde. My personal work for exhibitions continued traditional and was thus recognized by one of the few remaining art bodies unaffected by the radical movements, the National Academy, to which I was elected in 1950. At the present there is slowly emerging a return to recognizable subject matter in painting. The astounding success of realist and traditionalist Andrew Wyeth may be viewed as significant.
The following year provided a delightful return to Europe, a three month tour in a beat-up Austin station wagon with convivial Charles Lytle and my son Jerry. In his third year at R.P.I., Jerry was given last minute permission by his draft board for this period. That this was to be a strictly non-art pilgrimage was evident upon arrival at LeHavre where Lytle awaited us with a precise itinerary and the shabby conveyance he had engaged to expedite this program. In short, we would attend the major races, become acquainted with their personnel, investigate historic circuits and personally meet the veterans who had raced over them.
As to the latter, during the war years Charles had been generous with food and goody packages. As an avid collector of racing photos it was possible to believe he was not seeking forms of reciprocity from these elderly gift recipients.
Off we rattled for LeMans and the 24-hour Annual. At the Auto Club de la Ouest, amid the frantic onslaught of press representatives clamoring for credentials, our Charles demonstrated those rare diplomatic skills which recognize no frustration. He returned from this linguistic melee with pit and general passes for three! We toured the famous circuit, alive with preparations, police, soldiers, building activities, tents, parking spaces and always the stout barricades all around the course. Each of us drove a lap, noting the characteristic landmarks: Virages, Hippodrome Cafe, the Esses, White House and the long climb to the colorful tribunes. As rain fell we parked at the pits to partake of the life-behind-the scenes. We met Henry Lallement, Dunlop racing chief, and that well known company asset, "Dunlop Mac". Many familiar faces were present, Briggs Cunningham, Alfred Momo, George Rand, John Fitch, George and Mrs. Weaver, George Huntoon, Tom Cole, Sam and Mabel Baily, Bill Spear.
Night practice was interesting viewed from the Cunningham pit. Rain fell heavily, dropping from the helmet of Weaver as he paused during his 300-mile jaunt in easing-in a new bench-tested engine. Opposite the pits stood the thousands without cover in the downpour. The biting roar of fast cars, the floodlighting, the wet, the jostling of intruders in the pit, Kay Petre and gals in slacks, all provided a colorful spectacle during the night hours.
The day of the race we visited Cunningham's garage and saw his trio of contenders in last-minute preparation. In fact the rear ends were out of all three and the engine of one about to be remounted. This with the race within a few hours of starting here we met that booster of New York VMCCA projects, Alec Ulmann, his wife Mary and "little Eddie". Conforming to Lytle planning, we visited the home of the late Victor Hemery, French racing ace who had forsaken Darracq to drive for arch-foes Mercedes and Benz. The year before Hemp Oliver had a cordial meeting with the old champ a few months before his suicide.
The race, for all its attending glamour, seemed less interesting than the preliminaries just preceding its start. Charles continued his pursuit of people "we should know," while Jerry, with or without consent, photographed such notables as Louis Chiron, W. F. Bradley, Luigi Chinetti, Louis Rosier, Laurence Pomeroy. Most impressive personage was the official starter, the venerable Charles Faroux, in magnificent plus-fours and a wide-brimmed Borsalini with cavalier flair.
Leaving LeMans en route to Chartres we glimpsed a super railcar skimming over the shining rails at lightning speed. Was this one of Ettore Bugatti's much publicized creations we wondered? In Chartres we parked in the plaza of its grand Cathedral, finding its unsymmetrical facade quite like both of its impressions painted by distinctly-opposed "modern" painters Soutine and Utrillo. The interior seemed to cast a deep spell of reverence and wonderment within Jerry. He was disinclined to explore the sacred premises, viewing such curiosity as intrusion, I suspected. While respecting this reserve I explained that for centuries such edifices had received visitors from all over, that scuffling feet had resounded through the ages, that each and every "intrusion" became factors in sustaining the prestige of the entire church hierarchy.
Regarding famous old racing sites, we hunted up Dourdon and Arpagon, straightaway strips over which sprint records had been set by the early speed kings. So we hurtled our creaking van over The Dourdon Kilomtre, reliving the flying dash of the electric juggernaut La Jamais Content, only to find later that Jenatzy's 1899 records had been made at Acheres! Another goof followed shortly on the way to Arpagon. With Lytle manhandling our crate, we struck a dog with resultant sequence involving local police, a boy's unhappy tears and our voluntary appeasement of 2000 francs. Arpagon seemed hardly worth the life of a pet or the anguish of its young owner.
As for contacting racing heroes of the past, we were now heading for Montlhery, site of the great motordrome and the home of Louis Wagner. I had seen him win the 1906 Vanderbilt. A few hours after the race while lunching with relatives in Roslyn, I heard the roar of an approaching racer and dashed to the front porch just in time to see his spidery little Darracq leap the rail crossing. I waved. The whitesweatered vainqueur returned the salute, and in a swirl of trailing autumn leaves disappeared down the road to Glen Cove. In 1948, upon the 40th anniversary of his triumph in the Savannah Grand Prize, I sent Wagner a gift painting of him in this Georgia classic, mentioning the little incident at Roslyn. We then became frequent correspondents.
We were given a spirited welcome at Wagner's modest cottage. Wagner, for all his 65 years and artificial leg, moved about with the gaiety of a youngster. There was much embracing and affectionate expressions voiced despite language complications. It was easy to visualize Madam Wagner's beauty of former years. The names of Tracy, Robertson, DePalma were brought to mind. Louis recalled the visits of Alec Ulmann, Hemp Oliver, Briggs Cunningham the year before. My Savannah painting was on a wall, on another in framed groupings were the decorated envelopes of my airmail letters to him. Plans were made for a return visit with the entire family. The parting was as effusive and affectionate as had been our welcome.
A day or two in Paris sightseeing, then Montlhery again for a feast with the Wagners, the Lallements and other family members at a nearby inn. The utmost cheer prevailed. Thanks to son-in-law Henri Lallement's linguistic assets, the full impact of the wit and humor in the floods of conversation could be shared by all. Louis was curious about current U.S. mannerisms of speech. When Lytle supplied a typical Americanism our jovial French friends laughingly addressed each other, the waiters and the inn proprietor with "Drop Dead".
Thence to the motordrome, a vast project gone to seed, everywhere the hint of decay. Each of us, Charles, Jerry, myself, made a circuit with Louis coaching at our left. On my run over the steeplybanked curves at the top speed capabilities of the Austin, Louis slapped my tightly-gripped hands with the command, "Hands off wheel" I did so reluctantly and found the car held its track perfectly. On the road section of the circuit we paused at the spot marking the fatal crash of the senior Ascari in the 1925 French Grand Prix. Immediately after that race the Delage winners, Benoit and Wager, had laid their victor's garlands of flowers at the scene of the tragedy.
With regret we said our goodbyes at roadside, with the now familiar exchange of embraces and kisses. Because the Lallement ladies -- Georgette and daughter Janine -- were pretty this incident was doubly enjoyable.
The next race was the Grand Prix of Europe at Rheims. Although Mercedes had not yet reentered post-war racing, their contingents were much in evidence, obviously on a scrutinizing mission. Lytle soon corralled Herr Neubauer and this noteworthy figure, apparently obligated to Charles in one way or another, assured us of hotel accommodations in Epernay. We were getting almost hourly demonstrations of Charles' organizing abilities, getting things to click, making friends in petrol stations, auto clubs, Kodak shops, contriving to meet "the right people", all without benefit of fluent language. Again, this time at the palatial Auto Club de Champagne and amid the general commotion, Charles extracted the special-privilege documents, seemingly with less complications than encountered by such "right people" as George Monkhouse, Lord Howe, artist Roy Nockolds. It was gratifying, of course, to know my work was known in these circles, but Jerry's indiscreet inquiry, addressed to Lord Howe, "We heard that Bira will not drive one of the BRMs because of a bum leg," threatened loss of caste for our trio. Jerry did not know that the word "bum" was never used in polite Anglo-French society.
The pits during practice offered a strange contradiction, perhaps typical of the sport. The great aces and their teammates displayed a lounging, basking-in-the-sun sort of indifference to their surroundings. World Champion Farina, for example, took his seat in the Alfa with a detached languor that contrasted sharply with the alacrity of the Pirelli-garbed mechanics making feverish last minute adjustments. The Argentinians, Fangio and Gonzalez, moved around their cars with siesta-like drowsiness while their pit crews were lavish in voice and gesticulation. It was not until engines were spun into thundering life that their drivers shed apathy, and now fully alert, sped their cars off in astoundingly brisk departures.
Memories of the race are fixed in mind but, alas, space here is limited. Rheims also offered tempting bait for car collectors. On approaching the noble cathedral city we pulled up suddenly upon seeing a most engaging blue sports car parked, or more appropriately, anchored, in front of a small cafe. Its wheels were deep-seated in the earth. Except for this evidence of inactivity it looked fairly good. Its racing body exuded an air of impudent smartness. As the more knowing Charles and Jerry inspected the engine, seeking clues as to origin, a sleepy cafe habitue informed us that it could be had for a sum equivalent to $300. Any dreams of parading it on Boston Corners roads were devastated by the verdict of my companions. It was 100% makeshift innovation, destined for lengthy inaction while its wheels became more deeply anchored in the ground.
Later that day I spotted the brilliant brass of an ancient Renault, its snoot sticking out from a shaded doorway. Thus we paused at the establishment of Phneu Hatsfeld, tire dealers, garage and filling station. The Renault was the Hatsfeld means of mobile advertising as the painted signs on its rear entrance coachwork indicated all too crudely. Otherwise the twin-cylinder 1904 was enchanting and, according to M. Hatsfeld, a most engaging Anglo-American Frenchman, still in daily use. It was not for sale. But in his garage across the street under heavy tarpaulins was something which, for a price, could be had by interested Americans. This proved to be an immense Peugeot Berline, 1914, with twin wire wheel assembly astern. Its elegant interior, brocade and leather, was still in good shape. The motor, responding instantly with a few swings of the crank handle, sounded healthy. The price was, I think, about $2500. We gave it passing consideration only. The problems of shipping were beyond us. A few years later Alec Ulmann was searching for just such an imposing relic and in following up our tip, was notified by Hatsfeld that the Peugeot "had just been sold."
Another decayed remnant of Grand Prix racing was the circuit at Miramas. Unlike Montlhery, with its long history of speed and where even in its degraded state tests were still active, Miramas presented a single Grand Prix in 1926 and seems ever since to have been left to the ravages of neglect, a bleak unsightly wreck. Near Marseilles our inquiries brought us to the home of Henry Rougier, a durable figure in racing from the Paris-Madrid of 1903 to the 1923 Grand Prix. In vivid contrast to most of his racing contemporaries, his residence and the presence of peasants working in the surrounding fields implied affluence. Old photos invariably show Rougier as a jolly, smallish person with a distinguishing facial feature, the beak-like nose of a parrot, a characteristic still present when meeting him.
As for racing mementos and photos, he had none. He preferred speaking of his aviation career as one of France's first licensed pilots. We gathered that car racing was only one of several of his sporting achievements. He was amused, though, by our reference to the shark's head design painted on the windsplitting bonnet of his 1904 Gordon Bennett Turcat-Mery racer. But no, he had no photos of it nor of any of his later Grand Prix Dietrichs and Voisins. After cordial farewells and a last glance at the stone house on the hill, a disappointed Lytle grumbled, "That's one guy who didn't need my food packages!" This opinion was solidly confirmed about 8 years ago. Rougier's obituary told of his successful operation of a syndicate of markets in the southern provinces.
It was fitting that we found Ettore Bugatti's righthand man, Ernest Friderich, with his head under the bonnet of one of Le Patron's fine cars. Upon emerging he looked us over in good-natured bewilderment. When Charles produced an envelope bearing his own name, Friderich threw up his hands and exclaimed, "Monsieur Leetlay, Oh, Meestair Leetlay, well." He darted from us quickly to his own parked car, thrust a hand within and tooted the Wolf Whistle, the only one in Nice and a gift sent to him by our stout friend Charles.
Of course we had to meet all family members amid much jollification. Then in compliance with Lytle's inquiries, Friderich led the way up La Turbie's steep scenic drive to a couple of forgotten landmarks from motoring's dim past. Imbedded in stone and obscured by ivy were plaques commemorating the names of Wilhelm Bauer, 1900, and Count Zborowski, 1903, both of whom had crashed fatally in competition on this Mediterranean slope.
Incidentally, whenever the name Bugatti entered conversation, Friderich invariably corrected our pronunciation. It must be spoken Boo gat TEE with impact on the Tee. He should know, having been a close associate of Ettore for many years. However this enlightenment is not likely to modify the accepted version.
The enthusiast of the early twenties found the bookstalls along the Paris Left Bank a treasure house of automobiliana. Here for a few francs one could pick up long runs of La Vie au Grand Air, Montauts and other posters, Gordon Bennett and Grand Prix mementos. That was before the advent of the Teuf Teuf Club (the VMCCA of France) and the awakened interest generally in historic motoring literature. Oddly enough there seems at no time to have been a raid on the marvelous collection of photos taken by Branger of Paris from the turn of the century onward. The alleged 2,000 pictures recorded all the trials, tests and races, the Paris Salons, the portraits of notables in the automobile world. According to Lytle, this vast accumulation was now in the hands of Branger's ex-assistant Marius Prieur, now doing business on Rue Cambon.
Naturally, we called on M. Prieur. With mounting excitement we thumbed through enormous albums. Each of us ordered copy prints totalling perhaps 250, an insignificant fraction of this treasure. For Prieur, however, it was sufficiently lavish for him to view us as possible purchasers of the entire collection of glass negatives and prints. If we were interested he would consider matters and send an estimate to our nearby hotel. This he did, and the estimate was so shockingly low that we suspected some misunderstanding. We were right. His messenger returned promptly, reflecting the anxiety of his boss. Prieur had gotten his decimals mixed. It was not $250 but $2,500. Even so, it was a bargain foolishly passed up. However the bulk of the collection is in good hands, those of British ex-driver and author "Taso" Mathieson. Thanks to his magnificent book, Grand Prix 1906-1914, some of the best of Branger's work can now be widely seen and admired.
Though we muffed the Branger collection and failed in our search along the Left Bank we did realize one fond hope in arranging a little banquet for a group of distinguished racing personalities who, in their advancing years, had faded from public notice. Sadly, some were facing hard times. Among our guests were Louis Wagner, our "hands-off-wheel" host at Montlhery; Arthur Duray, winner of the 1906 Circuit d'Ardennes and a Vanderbilt and Grand Prize Contender; Jules Goux and Rene Thomas, both winners at Indianapolis, Albert Divo, twice victorious in the Targa Florio; Paul Riviere, the oldest of the group and a veteran of Paris-Madrid of 1903. In addition was the daughter of the ill-tempered racing virtuoso, Victor Hemery, Vanderbilt winner in 1905; the son of Delage ace Albert Guyot; W. F. Bradley, most certainly the dean of motor journalism. Lastly and responsible for effecting this get-together were Henri and Georgette Lallement.
The party was gay and festive, a joyful reunion of old comrades. Amid the uproar Lallement observed with shock that Lytle's wine glass remained untouched. Said he, "Look Peetair, Charles, ee ees dreenking water! Why?' I explained this Lytle characteristic. Amazed, Lallement replied, "Twice in my life I dreenk water. Twice I damn near die!"
Traversing the glorious countryside and not stopping to paint was sheer torment. I recalled how British artist Roy Nockholds married art to racing. During the Grand Prix at Rheims Roy was busy with paint and brushes, a mob of rubbernecks notwithstanding. Roy's subsequent painting of that event was sure to be factual even to the quality of light and color that had enveloped the scene that day.
At long last we arrived at Clermont-Ferrand for our tour around the 83-mile Auvergne Circuit over which the sixth and last Bennett had been run in 1905. With us were the old illustrated reports of that race so we had no difficulty in establishing the spot from which 18 cars from 6 nations were dispatched into action for the 341-mile classic. Jerry re-established the old starting line with a piece of chalk. Beyond lay the long straight incline to the first bend and the climb to the forests of Col de la Moreno.
A mile away to the right the grim volcanic peak Puy de Dome lent a note of forlornness to the quiet traffic-free countryside. Once at this quiet spot had been the roar of mighty engines, the applause of thousands in high-keyed nationalistic fervor. Now nothing stirred as we surveyed the sunny plateau.
As Charles took the wheel I mentioned that fast est time from the start to the Moreno forest had been made by Jenatzy's Mercedes in 58 seconds. He replied, "Watch me." We entered the forest 62 seconds later. Our squealing tires induced the remark that the turn we had negotiated with so much verve was merely the first of 400. There were 399 still ahead, and our records stated that Jenatzy had had nine tire replacements on his first lap.
Descending briskly from Grand Tourant's 3000 feet, we paused at Quatres and with delight found a tavern and adjacent buildings almost unchanged from our 1905 prints. We even unearthed a native sufficient in years to have personal recollections of the race. Good solid Frenchman, he remembered that the Bosche (6 Mercedes from Germany and Austria) had been beaten by Leon Thery's blue Brasier!
That part of the Circuit d'Auvergne that for years had stirred my imagination was the wicked hairpin at medieval Rochefort. Photos show Lancia, Thery, Jenatzy in hair-raising acrobatics negotiating this hazardous corner. On pulling up to the farmhouse facing this curve it was obvious that Branger's photos showing both the slithering passage of the racers and the vista of Rocheforts tiled roofs and swaying poplars had been taken from the upper story. Failing to make ourselves understood by the resident peasants and repelled by the foul odors from within, we studied the scene from less advantageous locations. With the suspicious eyes of the peasants firmly riveted on us, we backed down the road a bit to allow a typical Lytle assault on this once fearsome turn, now black-topped, widened, banked and less than terrifying. The roller-coaster character of the circuit continued, sudden climbs to above 3000 feet, abrupt descents to hamlets 1000 feet lower. One now understood the edict prescribed by the promoting Auto Club of France -- Endurance First, Speed Secondary. For the huge Michelin works in nearby Clermont, Auvergne's Circuit had proved a gluttonous consumer of its commodity.
Laqueuille, then Bourg Lastic 1000 feet lower, after which a brief 75 mph straight presented one of the few opportunities where Duray could have shifted his unwieldy Dietrich into top gear. Then we thought of Joe Tracy's agony when suddenly confronted with these climb-to-the-clouds ascents. His huge 7 x 7, 3-speed Loco had shattered its second gear on the run from Le Havre to the Circuit.
Up and down these inclines, around endless hairpins and "esses" cars and men had crashed in both contests here in 1905, the French Elimination and the final for the Cup. In the first, Hemery's Darracq burst into flames at La Cratere. His teammate Wagner lost the race and a place on the team by repeated tire blowouts. Farman's Panhard and veteran Girardot's CGV had sensational disasters on the steep descent at Sayat. Still further along on an isolated hillside Lancia surveyed the stone-shattered radiator of his leading Fiat as Thery raced on to victory.
These misadventures came to mind as Charles strong-armed our wagon around the switchback at La Goutelle with the rubber squealing and our cargo shifting. He yelled, "Four laps of this sort of stuff at 48 mph Dad-Rat it, I doubt if it can be done much faster today." Then pulling up to a shuddering stop, directed, "You, Jerry, take over!"
With youth at the wheel we dropped swiftly down the winding route to the sheltered market town of Pontgibaud. This rural village had been a control and therefore well covered by press photographers. What they left us on film remained remarkably unchanged. Ancient walls and bridges, patterns of eccentrically-laid roof tile, cafe signs swinging on rusty brackets conformed perfectly to their photographed images of 50 years earlier. This despite two shattering world wars.
Unchanged also was the human aspect, or some part of it, for in purchasing fruit and ham at a tidy little shop the proprietor, M. Trilloux, on being shown our race data exploded in patriotic pride. Indeed, July 5, 1905 had been France's day. The Germans had been vanquished, and from this very shop he had seen it happen. Wife and daughters were called and much fingering of our brittle papers followed. When questioned as to her recollections Madame Trilloux could not possibly recall such remote pasts, at which her jovial husband winked slyly.
With blessings from the Trilloux family we resumed the final leg of the Circuit. On entering a straight of some 4 or 5 miles Charles pronounced, "here is the one place so far where they may have hit 90", upon which Jerry proceeded to wind up the van to its modest limit. Sayat was just ahead, Sayat, the site of Farman's and Girardot's crashes, and it was now my turn to drive. We had climbed higher than we knew. Before us the twisting descent began, a series of switchbacks bunched unpleasantly close and dropping, ever dropping and needing continued use of all we had in the way of brakes. Imagine, I thought, holding Gobron or Dietrich monsters on this downhill merry-go-round with Jenatzy or Lancia at my heels!
Suddenly around a sharp right turn Clermont-Ferrand lay scintilating in the sunny distance. My interest in its panoramic beauty resulted in a near thing with opposing traffic, one lone Citroen. It was promptly suggested that the present time and place were ideal for sampling the Trilloux goodies. During the pause we compared the circuit, the race and its organization with others we had come to know. There had been the usual hostility of the natives, the avarice of inn and hotel keepers. But Auvergne's peasantry had been uniquely acquisitive, having cut down and stolen the wiring of the specially-rigged phone system. They had also, legend says, stood over Rene de Knyff's prostrate body when his Panhard collided with a cow, debating whether they should leave him for dead, or wait to see if he would live to pay for the carcass.
By further comparison of the Bennett and our American essay in road racing, the first Vanderbilt in 1904 and those that followed on Long Island, appear as rather modest imitations of European practice, but never with the adequate crowd control which had been achieved in the closed Circuit Bennett contests in Ireland, Germany and France. Nor had we ever used anything comparable to the strenuous mountain course of Auvergne with its treacherous contours, frowning extinct volcanoes and its strictly local characteristic which threatens no other circuit, the sudden-appearing hurricanes. One such struck with fury during the weighing ceremonies the day before the race, ripping down large field tents and unroofing sections of the grandstand. Indeed, photos of the start reveal considerable storm debris.
Lunch and reminiscences over, Charles resumed as chauffeur, swinging down to the Circuit's lowest level at Durtal. We paused to photograph the railway bridge under which the Bennett cars had thundered toward the 1000 foot climb to La Barraque. Following suit less spectacularly we made the looping climb and suddenly beheld the distant profile of Puy de Dome against the afternoon sun. We were back on the plateau of Laschamps, and with a sharp left at the crossroads entered the finishing straight, concluding a sentimental pilgrimage to be long remembered.
Whereas our tour in France was chiefly involved with cars and racing, the ten days in Italy show an expansion of interests. Art, antiquities and the grandeur of the historic countryside now figured in our calculations. However Charles contrived deep slumber during many miles of stunning Alpine scenery as we crossed the barrier into the sunnier southland. But once in Milan, Monza had precedence over Da Vinci and the Duomo. Monza's Signor Baccigallupi welcomed us cordially, and in perfect English gave frank reply to our induiries. The great track was fully back in business although Italy still bore the scars and privations of war. We wondered about the costly track renovations that were being programmed. "Well," said our host, "after all, you Americans are paying for it!"
Followed a coalition, the merging of visits to the Alfa plant, Leonardo's Last Supper, Auto Club of Milan, the mighty Gothic Cathedral. In celebration of Charles' birthday, our dinner that night included champagne. The recipient of this gesture sniffed the bubbling wine, pushed it away and asked the waiter for a glass of water!
The sun of the southland retreated as we sped over the Via del Sol for Rimini and San Marino. The heavy rains and oncoming darkness cancelled a stop at the Ferrari works at Modena. In the blackness of night we passed the frontier inspection and struggled up the 7-mile climb up Mt. Titano to the tiny Republic of San Marino. Because motor traffic is restricted within the lower levels of this municipality our expedition for hotel accommodations was on foot. The flashing neons and blare of jazz from the Albergo Titano suggested a likely if noisy port in the storm, and three dripping tourists, after considerable haggling, were registered in this establishment owned by Cav. Guiseppi Gozi, "but just call me Joe."
We were even wetter after hauling our luggage up the steep slopes during which late supper was being prepared. Being the only diners at this hour, the cavalier's merchandising skills were focused on us. The little country's main legal commodity, postage stamps in an endless variety of design and color, were temptingly offered, and with every purchase our host chuckled, "That-a-boy." I came to know Joe much better 11 years later as the most astute sharpshooter in tourism. We still exchange Christmas Greetings regularly.
It was thrilling to be back in this countryside. To the south and west were the hill towns I had known in past years, at the time of the Brenner Pass crisis, also when other unexpected and amusing situations arose. Once while painting in the wilderness a peasant stood silent witness to my efforts for three successive mornings. The fourth day I observed his approach to my car into which he shed a dozen plums that had nestled in his faded blouse. I then learned that he had been a coal miner in Scranton! No, he was unable to return to America, nor did he wish to because of the administration in power at the time. Said he, "Democrats no damn good."
For Charles and Jerry Venice had irresistible appeal. During their absence I had the van, called on my friend Umberto in Novalfeltria and visited old sketching sites. I had hoped to have Umberto spend a day or two in San Marino, but, due to the then ruptured relations mutually indulged by Italy and San Marino, Italians were banned from the mountain Republic. "But there are ways," Umberto assured me. So I dropped him off a quarter mile from the soldier guarded point of entry after which he used an old smuggling trail through the woods, then rejoined me well inside the forbidden territory. His subsequent departure was identically devious.
With the return of my companions from Venice, we set out for Florence over the Passo di Muraglione. Over just such looping and terrifying routes was Italy's annual Mille Miglia run. We had reason to marvel at the mph averages set by the maestros on this fantastic course. I firmly believe that Stirling Moss's win in 1955, at 97.9 mph, was his greatest achievement.
Florence's shabby look derived from its extensive war damage. All bridges except that tourist mecca, the Ponte Vecchio, had been demolished by the evacuating Germans. And now we were tourists in the fullest sense, with Baedeckers, visiting the noble art shrines which were slowly being readied for the floods of future visitors. Driving our sight-seeing bus was a vociferous courier. His striking resemblance to Clark Gable could not have been overlooked by hundreds of American Express customers. Quite naturally he had assumed some of the film star's mannerisms, the sudden smile exposing flashing teeth, the quizzical lift of an eyebrow. "Ah, yes," he boasted joyfully, "Clark Gabley, he could be my tween brother."
Paramount on the Lytle schedule now was the Grand Prix of Germany at Nurburg Ring. I'm sure most readers need no further comment on this astoundingly difficult and beautiful circuit, considered as the one demanding the absolute maximum in driving technique. We were in time for the practice sessions, again enjoying the special privileges thanks to Charles. One morning, when about to indulge these, we noticed a tall well-dressed gentleman being refused admittance to the track. "I have never met the man," said Charles, "and know him only through correspondence, but I believe he is Rodney Walkerley, the English motor journalist. Let's find out."
It was indeed Walkerley, and in high dudgeon. His credentials had arrived in London after his departure. His application for another set had been bluntly refused. As a reporter of the Ring's racing for years before the war and enjoying a considerable reputation in his profession, this denial curtailed his coverage as writer and also dented his ego. He was furious. At the end of his plaintive saga Charles excused himself, saying he'd be back shortly. He was, within 15-minutes, and presented the thwarted Briton with everything necessary to expedite full coverage. It should be noted that Lytle's knowledge of German was nil.
Germany had not yet resumed big time racing and so was not being represented in the German Grand Prix. But the banquet given one evening by Mercedes-Benz in a very plush resort deep in the Eifel Mountains for the two great Argentinians, Fangio and Gonzalez, seemed significant of future planning. As Lytle influence still sparked, our trio was graced with invitations. Present also were Mercedes aces of the past and present; Karl Kling, Herman Lang and the great veteran Rudi Caracciola. Among his successes had been six-time Winner of the German Grand Prix. Of course, much fuss was made over Fangio and Gonzalez, acutely observed by Madame Caracciola with whom I sat at the table. I suspect there will always be a note of sadness when oncoming talent displaces the seasoned performer, be it in the arts, the theatre, the cruel sport of racing. One could not escape this transition at the banquet.
The night before the Grand Prix we mixed with the Mercedes troupe at the Eifelhof in Adenau. We were with the Caracciolas. At a nearby table Herr Neubauer held forth, his companions, Uhlenhaut, Kling and Lang. Rudi seemed ill at ease, left us, advanced to the table of the aforementioned quartet. Their conversation ceased, but the ex-champ's presence was otherwise unheeded. He returned to our table and merely said, "I think I'll go to bed". Rudi lived to race again for the 3-pointed star, but his best races had been run, his triumphs were history.
As to the Argentinians, during practice when their cars were being serviced or while waiting out some interlude between trials, the bond of friendship between the two was unmistakable. Theirs was a chummy comradeship seemingly detached from their affiliations with rival firms, Fangio being Alfa's ace and Gonzalez the hard-driving junior of the Ferrari forces. It is conceivable that this fellow-feeling may have been disconcerting to their respective team managers and crews of mechanics, presumably acutely conscious of trade rivalry.
Each of us having driven around the "Ring". We could better appreciate the 83.7 mph average achieved by Ascari's winning Ferrari behind which Fangio followed closely. Poor France, its fleets of blue Talbots and Simca-Gordonis were again badly outclassed, their drivers Chiron, Etancelin, Rosier, like Caracciola, veterans from the prewar decades. TO BE CONTINUED.
|Memoirs Part 2|
|75 Years with Palette, Paintbrush and Wheels|
Back to Paris, our continental tour completed. The shabby van, its sturdiness fully proven, was returned and settled for. We left for London via the boat train. Sunshine and blue skies greeted us in that fine old city. For me it was like returning home. For a few days before Charles' departure for America we had our last concentrated fling in matters pertaining to cars and racing. As guests of S.C.H. Davis (better known as Sammy) we had a look at what remained of that vast arena of British motorsport, Brooklands. It, too, was a war victim, not of war's devastation as much as of Britain's war needs. The Vickers plant expansion ended Brooklands as a racing circuit. Huge cuts had been sliced through its towering slopes to accommodate plant activity. Like Montlhery and Mirimas, another sad sight. More fun was had by rides on the Davis cars; the 1897 Bollee tricycle, the Morgan 3-Wheeler.
We visited George Monkhouse, mulled over the beautiful photos he'd taken during his association with the Mercedes-Benz team in the 1937 season, listened to his intimate reports on that marque's ascendancy in Grand Prix racing and the personality conflicts among the prima donnas responsible for this ascendancy. The day ended with a spirited run over Middlesex back roads in the Monkhouse Speed 6 Bentley. There was an enjoyable evening at the Steering Wheel Club where we found Laurence Pomeroy in one of his more cheerful moods fitting the congenial assembly. Followed a visit with Gerald Rose, author of the classic Record of Motor Racing, first published in 1909, the successful reprinting of which, 40 years later, brought renewed prestige and royalties to this dedicated historian of early racing.
At the time Charles was winging back to the U.S.A. Jerry and I had acquired an Austin 7 Sunshine Saloon, and we promptly responded to the call of the open road. For three weeks we roamed the coastal provinces, looked up friends in Glasgow, bargained for a fabulous 1903 Panhard in Edinborough, put up at half-timbered inns of venerable age whenever possible and everywhere met with courtesy and fair dealing.
Day by day I delighted in the slowly altering reactions of Jerry, a bit of an Anglophobe at the start, now trusting enough to leave the car unlocked during brief pauses. A word about that Edinborough Panhard seems fitting. While Yankee collectors to day find it possible to purchase choice antiques in Britain, the ban or reticence or whatever was still effective in 1951. This cerulean blue Edwardian beauty with gleaming brass and King of the Belgians coachwork was on display at a garage. Upon showing our interest the owner, correctly divining our homeland, ended the interview with, "Damned if I'll sell out of the country." I strongly suspect this Blue Ribbon winner is one Bill Harrah will have to live with out.
Back in Kent and Sussex, windmills and Gypsy camps were sought, both, alas, fading from the British scene. Hilaire Belloc's grand mill still survived, no less heroic in its hilltop solitude than when I had painted it 28 years before. Nearby Dover still bore the marks of war demolition, and, finding its leading hotels either filled or in process of rebuilding, we were directed to a small unassuming one facing the Channel. The only other guests were two Americans, father and daughter, the latter the famed Channel swimmer and record-maker two years before, Florence Chadwick. Now back, she had waited 8 weeks for good weather to attempt another crossing, this time the hard way, from Dover to Calais, never yet accomplished by a woman.
The Chadwicks were otherwise disturbed. Ten days before 18 swimmers had made the East-West crossing in one day, creating the impression that the feat was no longer world-shaking news. On the day of this invasion the Channel waters were as placid as glass, a situation never before known by living man, or so we were told. Florence was determined to stand by in readiness for 10 days more. After that the tides would preclude any chance for success.
The last lap of our tour also proved to be the last visit with my old master, Brangwyn, now Sir Frank. Housekeeper Lizzie warned us about his decline in health and appearance. Indeed, this square-shouldered robust ex-sailor-artist had shrunken to a shadow, resembling some pale-visaged ascetic in an El Greco painting. At 84 his mind remained clear and he still filled sketchbooks with spirited drawings although his painting days were over. He was still vigorous in denunciation of what now passed as art, and more so of the critics who, for a number of reasons, gave blessing to it. He spoke of the privations during the war, blaming the food rationing for the dwarfing of his physique. That he resented the decline in his fame was clear. He may have felt, as I do, that some future time will re-establish him as a truly important master. Perhaps in anticipation of the ultimate that faces us all, he was planning to endow one of his Sussex properties as a refuge for elderly artists, the rest to the Catholic Church.
Certainly the comprehensive obituaries on his passing three years later would have been heartwarming for this grand old painter.
Our remaining days in England were spent in London. By this time Jerry's conversion was complete. I quote from a letter to my patient wife. "Everywhere your son goes he seems to be well liked. Yesterday he took me to HIS barber on Berkley Street, a really swank shop equal to New York's finest. In fact, while there, two titled customers were being beautified, and I was amused by the cordial friendship existing between Jerry and the owner of this quite elegant place!"
Back home again with wife, family and friends. My mother's health was beginning to decline although the year before, at age 90, she still had had a dozen piano pupils. Jerry returned to R.P.I. and was entertaining thoughts of marriage. After graduation, and secure in a job with a big engineering corporation, he married his boyhood sweetheart. I had resumed with Chevie trucks and had acquired a new exciting account, National Steel. Again were studied the spectacular steel making operations although the era of push-button mechanism was threatening. Already white collars were supplanting hairy chests and grease-stained T-shirts. A sportier assignment was the story by Ken Purdy on road racing for The Lamp magazine. As the major part of the text and the illustrations dealt with the New York-Paris Race, after publication I gave the cover painting to Montague Roberts who had driven the winning Thomas from Times Square to Cheyenne, and two other paintings to Austin Clark who then owned this historic relic. The car and these paintings now belong to the Harrah Collection.
An amusing aftermath of this assignment was the luncheon given by The Lamp to the two heroes of this epic drive, Monty Roberts and George Schuster. Present also were Austin Clark, author Purdy, Editor Ed Sammis, Standard Oil executives, newsman and myself. Although having shared the wheel in a contest of great significance, Roberts and Schuster had not met in 45 years! Their meeting was cordial if not exactly effusive. As each answered questions put by an admiring audience, as each reminisced, his opposite number maintained silent reserve. There were no cut-ins, no hearty confirmations nor contradictions. Monty, good fellow, now gone these past 11 years, was in his seventies. He had slowed a bit for all his robust look, and so contrasted vividly with little Schuster who, in his eighties, was as mentally sharp as a precocious teenager. In an opportune moment, with his eyes fixed on the exuberant Schuster, Monty tugged my sleeve, then whispered, "Pete, how that guy has failed!' We departed in groups, Roberts, Clark, others just ahead of Schuster and myself. Pointing toward those in front, Schuster said, "Those fellows think the Thomas owned by Clark is the real thing. I happen to know it's not!"
Well, Monty is gone but George is vibrantly alive at 93, and after his painstaking inspection of the Thomas during its restoration of Harrah's now confidently asserts it is indeed the real thing. One last significant note about Schuster. Just before publication of his fine book, The Longest Auto Race, a letter from his son told of his dad's uneasy mind. Winter thus far had been exceptionally mild and "Pop loves to shovel snow" However, this heart-wrecking chore for middle-aged males was supplied in abundance soon after when Rochester's environs were buried in the white stuff.
Artists and illustrators, unlike musicians, authors, TV entertainers seem never able to combat conditions which in these other fields have largely disappeared. Like farmers, artists are loners, incapable of sustained joint efforts. What follows conforms to the general practice to which artists have submitted for long years without genuine protest.
Johnnie Walker's advertising campaign 10 years ago featured prominent artists. We were asked to execute paintings in which we had complete freedom as to subject matter as long as the familiar bottle and accompanying accoutrements in the art of whiskey drinking were given display, said display not flamboyantly assertive. My painting was a still life featuring a scale model of "Old 16" with background accessories chosen to accent my interest in cars and racing. The Johnnie Walker commodity was present but not obtrusively. The published ad appeared in national publications for three years running. Much the same experience was had with a painting for TWA. This extensive and repeated use of artwork never threatened an increase in income for the artist.
Apropos of the whiskey series, these ads featured both so-called Fine Arts artists, men with gallery reputations, and artists whose work was identified with advertising and illustration. The former, when yielding to the approaches made by ad agencies, invariably disclose an amusing, at times aggravating, innocence of professional procedure. For instance, a nationally known painter produced a still life sketch in which a pheasant was a major pictorial element. The sketch won enthusiastic approval. But in the finished painting the aristocratic fowl had been replaced by a plebian duck. On being challenged with this disparity the painter explained, "I couldn't get a pheasant." No topflight commercial artist would have failed to acquire this essential prop even if it meant flying one from India. The same painter invariably comes up with the unexpected. While serving with him on the council of the National Academy the discussion centered on the use of the Ranger Fund which affords the purchase of paintings by living American artists. Names were suggested, considered, accepted or dropped. Someone suggested noted painter Alexander Brook. The Chairman stated that we had already bought a Brook. "So what?" exclaimed the ex-Johnnie Walker contributor, "The one we bought was representative of his work. The next one might be a good one."
During the fifties I had done a couple for that notable series produced for John Hancock. As all know, these ads depict famous characters in history as well as those in legend. I had done Casey Jones and the mythical Joe Magarac, obviously assigned because of my interest in trains and steel making. But for more than 15 years I have attempted to have Barney Oldfield considered as fitting perfectly in this gallery of greats, doing sketches on speculation, writing letters to those guiding this campaign. Thus far with no luck whatever, but I'll probably try again.
In the field of advertising art the published work is usually the result of collaboration in which the subject matter has been defined by sketches produced within the ad agency. Only infrequently does the freelance artist figure in this initial collaboration. He is usually called upon to evolve the agency sketch into a more finished work, extravagantly called a "comprehensive". However this generally offers only limited departure from the client-approved agency interpretation. Wisely or not, I have declined assignments when these agency sketches -- ill-conceived or badly composed in my judgment -- had to be blindly followed in the finished artwork. For the most part, that work of mine which has won awards was not frustrated by preconceived agency interpretations. They began as small thumbnail sketches, on approval of which they went through the "comp" and finishing stages, usually with satisfaction to all concerned.
In the field of magazine illustration and cover design (the latter, regretfully, now almost entirely photographic) there had been previously greater latitude given the artist. This has changed also. For example, that most able illustrator, Austin Briggs, when reading an assigned manuscript selected two situations, an important incident calling for major display in the magazine, the other as a mere incidental. Upon publication the incidental one was spread over two pages while the large and detailed one appeared as an inconsequential spot. Even the great Norman Rockwell has had his frustrations. While working on a Post cover from his own approved preliminary sketch the art editor phones, "What color are you making the sky?" NR replied, "Yellow, as in the okayed sketch." Came orders from on high, "Make it blue. Our readers like blue skies."
With its heritage of Vanderbilt Cup racing, the Long Island Old Car Club promoted an ambitious meet marking the 50th Anniversary of the first Cup Race in 1904. Collaborating in this promotion was the Mineola Fair and Industrial Exposition. Everything possible was done to revive the spirit of the past. Again Garden City Hotel served as headquarters, the old landmark not too seriously altered. Pullchain toilets still functioned effectively and miles of carpeted halls still reached off to infinity. In the lobby and elsewhere hung replicas of the original A.C.A. posters which had decorated the Nassau County phone poles lining the old circuit. Present would be five participants in the first race, Joe Tracy, Al Poole, George Arents, George Robertson and Glenn Ethridge. Most emblematic of the occasion was the display of the trophy for which 203 cars from 5 nations had raced from 1904 through 1916, the Vanderbilt Cup itself. This huge silver prize, possessed by the Smithsonian, was personally brought by Curator Hemp Oliver, a responsibility for which he was perfectly fitted.
As the Loco had been honored with pressing invitations there rose the problem of deciding which of its distinguished pilots would drive? Tracy had driven in the 1904 race but his car has been the low-powered Royal. In 1906 he had won the Eliminations and set the lap record in the Vanderbilt with the Loco. However Robertson had won the Cup with the same Loco in 1908. Which of these prima donnas to take over in this revival? Joe settled it. It HAD to be George, whereupon George's riding mechanic in the 1908 victory, Glenn Ethridge, was invited to occupy his old seat.
Poole had ridden with Tracy on the Royal in 1904, and again in 1905 and 1906 on Locomobiles. As a driver on his own he had had marked success with Simplex cars in 24-hour racing. Thus Austin Clark had Poole aboard his 1910 Simplex for this celebration with Tracy aboard another Clark car, the Moon, think. Of the 70 cars entered and assembled at the old starting point on Jericho Turnpike there was some highly exciting machinery: Bill Pollock's Chadwick Raceabout, Lou Schaefer's 1910 Thomas, Dave Tunick's Simplex Tourer and the fabulous 1908 Welch, a Buckley restoration owned and proudly driven by Ralph Stein. Also present was a veteran predating Vanderbilt Racing by 7 years, Bob Dowling's Delahaye of 1897.
All drivers were briefed on the need of caution and speed restrictions, 35 mph the limit. Robertson promptly protested, testily pointing out that this snail pace would cause serious overheating of the Loco. His mood was characteristic of his racing days. He was bluntly told to agree or withdraw, an edict supported by a couple of stoney-eyed motorcycle cops assigned as escorts.
With Robertson at the wheel, Ethridge beside him, myself on the floorboards, all was in readiness for the run around of what remained of the original circuit. We were flagged off, with the procession following. Our police escorts zoomed ahead at a lively 55. Yelled George, "Hey, this is going to be okay," and forthwith trod the throttle. The cops' sprint had been to hold traffic at the first cross roads. We passed this intersection at speed, and within seconds were pursued by one of our escorts and caught at Jericho's right turn. During the rude exchange of sentiments the engine began the dreaded over-heating. We were let go with a surly, "Okay, brother, you're on your own now."
We stopped again to cool the motor, during which most of the procession had passed. Upon resuming, unescorted, We now faced saturday traffic through Long Island's fastest-growing communities: Hicksville, Levittown, Hempstead. We were stumped, boiling over at every traffic light at the tail end of a cavalcade we were supposed to lead with honor. Robertson's mood was wrathful but his familiarity with the neighborhood enabled a zig-zag route out of awful congestion and back to Garden City where driver, passengers and engine returned to a degree of normalcy.
At the luncheon that followed, due honors were accorded to the five survivors of Vanderbilt Racing, Tracy, Poole, Arents, Robertson and Ethridge, with the gleaming silver Cup in prime display. Then all cars were again to parade for the wind-up at Mineola Fairgrounds. By this time we had reason to believe that State, County and Town police had been tipped off to make it tough for "that big guy on the racer." Briefly, they provided every means of delay which would insure clouds of steam enveloping our forward end. Robertson's temper, like the engine, was at point of bursting!
The fact that the Loco won the top award offered small comfort to George. Much of his irritability had been justified. Tracy and Poole were called upon to address the considerable crowd. Not Robertson. The press stories gave him scant attention. Subsequently we were to know that the malady that took him the year following was well on its fatal way.
The anniversary is also remembered for the accident suffered by Scott and Peggy Bailey. At Castle Place intersection an impatient local, ignoring both the red light and traffic cop, crashed headlong into their immaculate 1913 T-Roadster, turning it over and wrecking it completely. Peggy was in a cast for several months and had not really recovered for a year.
There were two more Vanderbilt Anniversaries, in 1956 and 1958. In the former Tracy and Poole handed the Loco, and a cabled congratulation from the Vanderbilt winner of 1906, Louis Wagner in far away Montlhery, further gladdened the day for Joe. In 1958, the anniversary of Robertson's win, with George now gone forever and none of the three remaining crew members inclined to drive the Loco, Jerry and I shared the wheel. This day is recalled because of the saturating downpour. The festive tent in which the gallant Long Island ladies served their delicious cookery not only leaked but trapped the draining waters. The polo field on which the participating cars were exhibited looked like war-blasted France after the mud-churning exodus of the 40 or more veterans.
Elsewhere are references to individuals who upon seeing "Old 16" on tours or at meets claim to have been Locomobile personnel at one time or another. Often these claims seemed clouded in vaguery. Therefore we were always delighted when meeting with Larry Riker and his wife at Connecticut gatherings. Larry (now deceased) was the son of Locomobile's ex-Chief Engineer, A. L. Riker, Jr., who designed three of the racing cars produced by the Bridgeport Company. As Bulb Horn readers know, the senior Riker was among the foremost pioneer automotive engineers, a big handsome gentleman whose activities as S.A. E.'s first president and, as affiliate of A.C.A., A.A.A. and Cup Commissions, spanned the first vital years of American automobile development. Quite naturally all present day Rikers show keen interest in our old racer.
Others having similar attachment were Ed and Helen Sessions. Ed's father, George Sessions, foundryman of Bristol, Connecticut, had purchased the car from the senior Riker about 1914. For 27 years it was given prime attention, used infrequently and, as legend goes, on such occasions rewarded with tickets for excessive speed. Mr. Sessions drove the Loco at one or more VMCCA meets at Framingham. Upon his death in 1941 we acquired it. We had the pleasure of welcoming Ed and Helen here almost annually until he, too, was taken, far too early in life. Ed knew every nut and bolt in "Old 16" and such was his affection for this ex-family possession that I was never able to escape feelings of embarrassment about the change of ownership. He was a rare fellow. On the C.H.A.S. tours his Thunderbird was loaded with equipment for all emergencies. He not only nursed ill-behaving tour cars back to health but did so with incomprehensible delight.
The fifties also brought sadness. My little mother passed away at age 95, never having fully recovered from a broken hip suffered five years previously. Among those who attended the services were Joe Tracy and George Robertson. Two months later "Big George" made his final departure. Then came the news of the death of another fine friend, our Glidden Tour companion Frank Lescault. The ranks of the Veterans were thinning, alas.
We were all a bit younger when that handful of sentimentalists founded VMCCA, most of whom still survive. The first of these I came to know is the late John Leathers, at which time he seemed to be variously identified as Waldo, Hal and John. We found immediate rapport via our mutual uninhibited urge to draw big fire-snorting chain-driven racing cars, and many are the sketches of such that have been exchanged in letters for more than 25 years. My Leathers file of correspondence approaches the weight of the Sunday Edition of the New York Times. The Boston Corners visits of John and Clare have not been frequent, but never by means of Detroit conveyance. The most fearsome of the Leathers voitures to pull into our driveway was the 1927 6.8 litre "S" Mercedes, or something close to it. Thus equipped, John enjoyed peace of mind. Few were the vehicles that passed him on the highways.
During these times together, here or less frequently in Hingham, our wives chatted congenially while John and I ventured deep into racing history, discussed drawing techniques best calculated to achieve aspects of thundering pace or reviewed those occasions when his scouting for long hidden relics brought such finds as the 1908 Grand Prix Mercedes and the Cannon Collection of voiturettes back to the living world. As Bulb Horn Editor, John wrote whimsical fantasies involving the return of legendary racing machines to ghostly existence in strange places and usually in the blackness of night. I had the fun of illustrating these extravaganzas.
At a Connecticut meet shortly after we acquired the Loco, John asked permission to take the wheel. Fingering the brass change speed lever, he asked me which were the notches for first, second and third. I pointed to the positions, but unfortunately the wrong ones. As he let in the clutch, with the usuall mass of expectant lookers-on making way for a spirited getaway, the Loco came to life -- in explosive reverse -- scattering all those hovering at the stern end. John's embarrassment did not exceed my own, I'm sure.
I don't think Everett Dickinson ever served as Bulb Horn Editor but his was the guiding hand in producing it for many years, often at considerable sacrifice. Just about the handsomest display given my work anywhere was the supplement to the October 1953 issue in which my painting and all preliminary sketches for the 1908 Grand Prix were most effectively presented. This I'm certain was a Dickinson inspiration.
Esquire came up suddenly with the advent of the 2nd Anglo-American Rally in 1957. This was another purposeful VMCCA project in collaboration with Britain's VSCC. I was to produce full color sketches and commentaries, and while unable to participate in this grand tour, Jerry and I and the Loco were in this select company for a fraction of the 800-mile circuit. Only if you are lucky enough to have read Cecil Clutton's lively review of this rally in the VSCC Bulletin with its tale of fun and anguish for the opposing teams and its appraisals of American highways, hotels, TV programming, weather and New England architecture can you view the event through the eyes of a fair-minded visiting participant.
Anguish had been Ed Roy's when the 597 c.i. engine of his 1911 Simplex Toy Tonneau locked solid during the acceleration test at Brookline. The next day the 1913 British Talbot came to rest with no drive between clutch and gearbox. All through the 800 miles Team Captain Clutton's historic 1908 Hutton (co-driven by "Steady" Barker) struggled manfully with faulty transmission. Then at the very end on New York's Madison Avenue with but two cylinders functioning, then none, the Napier-built challenger rolled to a silent stop.
Youthful prejudices -- carefully nurtured over the years -- asserted themselves. Even with such notable American entries as Simplex, Pierce, Mercer, Lozier, Packard, the Britisher's Bentleys, Vauxhalls, the unorthodox Lanchester and the vivacious Frazer Nash seemed to have that elusive something-extra, perhaps merely esthetically as the home product ended the Rally in triumph.
Later that year Jerry and I ran the Loco in the Glidden, with Roanoke as the starting point. As before we had the station-wagon supply car and as companions my art model Ernest Roberts and Jerry's neighbor and sports car enthusiast, Dr. Robert Banks. We saw a lot of that engaging Chicagoan, Don McCray, gave lovely Ruth Sommerlad a spin on the Loco, chatted at great length with another lovely lady, the late Pauline Snook, former President of The Automobilists of the Upper Hudson Valley. Be it known that Pauline was an excellent mechanic, had lectured on motor engineering and handled her tour car, a huge Crane-Simplex, with inordinate skill. Another notable from this region giving color to the Tour was ex-Editor of The Automobilist, Keith Marvin, driving an entrancing 1918 Locomobile. It was an obvious conversion to raceabout design, but with smart, well-balanced results. With his walrus moustache, goggles and gauntlets, here was a subject for the camera of Jacques Henry Lartigue.
Thanks to Jerry the Loco, for all its exterior shabbiness, ran faultlessly. While at Williamsburg when Sidney Strong's 1903 Ford Tourer seemed hopelessly unable to continue the Tour, Jerry and Doc Banks worked all through the night. The 54-year old veteran was back in health. The following day, as the tourists and local populace converged to welcome the arrival of Queen Elizabeth and her Consort, Jerry was sprawled under Austin Clark's mammoth 1916 Pierce correcting some now forgotten disorder. As for the shabbiness of "Old 16", I had long ago promised its old crew members, Tracy and Poole in 1906 and Robertson and Ethridge in 1908, that the original paint would remain. In this day of immaculate exterior standards I'm pleased that most of my fellow enthusiasts concur in the wishes of the departed crews.
Of the 350 cars in the 1957 Glidden the presence of 25 Rolls-Royces seemed significant. More than half represented the latter day and affluent adventurers in the hobby. Notwithstanding all this elegance Jim Melton's 1907 Rolls-Royce held its own bravely, although Jim's foot injury prevented his driving it. At Tour's end at Hershey the huge Melton caravan (powered by Winton) was open for public inspection. Jerry queued up for this added attraction but saved his reactions until we ran into Jim at dinner that evening. When the big fellow joined us at the table Jerry demanded, "What's the idea of hanging my father's pictures in the toilet?" Embarrassed during the silence that followed I suggested that this location afforded leisurely appraisal. It was okay with me. The following morning a chastened Melton asked me to inform Jerry that the pictures had been removed to more genteel locations.
On pulling into Hershey we were confronted with the very first approach regarding disposal of the Loco by the owner of a well-known Lozier. It was not a cash bid, but a swap. He was kidding, of course, so we drove off with a cheery "so long". The next day at the meet in the Hershey arena our acquisitive friend renewed his pitch. Indeed, he was not kidding. I was informed of the supreme merits of the Lozier so extravagantly that there seemed no logical reason for his wish to be rid of it. I guess I was less than polite in ending the discussion. The only other direct bid came years later. A king-size postcard bore this message, "Please remember me if you decide to sell the Locomobile race car. Merry Christmas".
Nagging thoughts on my book had impelled getting along with it and so it had been given another rewriting. This preoccupation necessitated turning down some attractive assignments. But the very sumptuous commission offered for 40 non-advertising paintings of early day aviation by American Airways, was declined for lack of sufficient knowledge and enthusiasm. I found the President of A.A. to be a person disinclined to accept refusal.
Charles Lytle checked the new manuscript and saved me much later embarrassment. Grape farmer and race fan Bob Cochrane supplied data. Another dummy was prepared. Shortly after Austin Clark arranged a meeting with Scribner's Editor Harry Brague. Everything was turned over to him for consideration. As he was definitely car-minded the outlook seemed hopeful. Work was resumed on Chevie Trucks and a few enticing racing subjects came from Fawcett Publications and others, one of these an illustration for W. F. Bradley's account of the 1921 French Grand Prix. This accounted for revived correspondence with the veteran journalist living near Nice.
Sometime during 1956, on the urging of good friend Austin Clark, I left the manuscript and dummy for The Checkered Flag with Scribner's editor Harry Brague. He could offer no promise of a contract and suggested try other publishers. As I already had done this with negative results I opted to leave my presentation with him for future consideration. Three years later a brief note from Mr. Brague suggested I drop by his office. So, thought I, another turndown. However my visit provided one of the biggest surprises ever to come my way. Scribners were now ready to contract for the book! On March 2, 1959 I agreed to rewrite the text and produce one full-color frontispiece plus 100 black-and-white drawings with a February, 1960 deadline.
But before I could plunge into this formidable job there was a Chevrolet Truck painting, the 35th of that lengthy series, which had to meet an April 15th deadline, after which all pay work would end until the book was finished. But also facing me was the necessity of explaining my withdrawal from Chevrolet to Halsey Davidson, top art director at Campbell-Ewald Advertising of Detroit. That understanding fellow gave his blessing to my book project. Not only had Halsey and I worked together on Chevie for ten years, but also under his aegis I had produced twenty-four paintings for National Steel concurrently with the Chevie campaign. In most assignments I had utmost freedom in choice of subject and location, provided the specified truck model was shown doing its stuff. I'm bound to say that over the years my affiliation with Halsey Davidson has been just about my most rewarding experience in advertising art. We are still good friends.
Among the first to hear the good news was Joe Tracy, now unfortunately seriously ill in a Brooklyn hospital. It was because of my admiration for Joe and his contemporaries that the book had been initiated. His interest had been unflagging, his help considerable. He was delighted. He was still strong enough to give me one of his bone-crushing handshakes. I saw him once more, and a week later he left us. Poor Joe. As well-meaning friends Austin Clark, Leo Peters, other Long Islanders and myself did the conventional thing, the arrangements for the formal Christian service and burial, but among us were those who knew how repellent such protocol would be for the departed, an atheist for many years. He had willed his remains to a doctor friend for whatever use they might serve. The doctor failed to respond. We had to conform to the time-honored ritual. Our anxieties were eased when his earliest racing comrade and friend, Al Poole, himself in failing health, advised, "What else could you have done?" In any case he sleeps now within sight and sound of the scene of his best remembered activities, the old Vanderbilt Circuit.
As regards the book, I failed completely in meeting the contracted deadline. Chores usually handled by the publishers came my way. These stole weeks from my work at the easel. When reaching the point of sleepless nights, Harry assured me that a generous extension could be had and, as if to still further reduce my tensions, mentioned the death of horse artist Paul Brown (a classmate at Public School) while engaged on a Scribner's book! I slowed down a bit, slept better and delivered all artwork in December 1960. One month later the proof reading of the final printed text and the 27 race tabulations were finished, a prodigious task expertly done by Hemp Oliver at personal sacrifice as much of it was done during his Christmas holidays.
The high costs of printing here had driven American publishers to utilizing European firms. My book was being done by the 300 year old establishment of Enschede in Amsterdam. When the art proofs arrived, a dozen at a time, there was a strange inconsistency in quality, some being excellent, others hopelessly poor. As this disparity continued even in the second proofs, it seemed necessary to go to Holland and fight for the quality standards. This would also permit good wife Priscilla and I to see Europe again together. This was realized via a handsome little Hillman station wagon purchased through A.A.A. in New York and picked up in Antwerp upon arrival there.
To be brief, we remained in Holland until half of the 35 rejected reproductions could be approved. The rest would await our arrival in Italy. While in Holland artist and model-maker John Knaud of The Hague took us to the National Auto Museum in Driebergen. On display is the fabulous Spyker racing car, claimant to no sensational victories but definitely unique as having the first 6 cylinder engine, the first 4-wheel drive, the first 4-wheel brakes, this in 1903! During a festive holiday in the Dutch town of Bergen op Zoom we pulled up at sight of a canary-yellow Citroen, one of those popular little bobtailed runabouts of the 1930 period. Unattended and parked out of the traffic stream, we approached, camera all set for action. A genial gentleman came forward, obviously the owner, and opening the door of the roadster invited us aboard. Then pointing to our camera, he expressed the wish to photograph us in the Citroen. This he did, and upon thanking him for his kindness we inquired if the car could be purchased. He replied, "That I do not know. I have never seen it before!"
Heading south down the Rhone Valley we came unexpectedly upon a sign indicating the Musee Francais de l'Automobile. To be nearby for a visit there the following morning we put up at an obscure little hotel at which, so we were told, no Americans had ever sought lodgings. Understandably, as the dark dingy interior and the eyes of swarthy loungers fixed on us created a mildly foreboding atmosphere. The presence of two gendarmes loitering at the bar offered assurance. Dozing locals were brusquely dislodged from the main table as Madame spread a pristine white cloth. Soon after Mlle. served an unforgettable onion soup. From the bar's TV set came a familiar voice and countenance. Our new young President was sharing the program with DeGaulle.
As to the Musee's collection of cars, the elegant 16th century chateau atop a prominence overlooking the Rhone was less than perfect for their display. As remaining symbols of the beginning of the motor age, 1896 Peugeots were crowded uncomfortably with Panhards and Delahayes of approximate vintage. Occasionally an outstanding rarity like the 1898 4 cylinder Panhard could be inspected from all angles, but Renaults, De Dions, others suffered from congestion. Owner of the collection, former scrap dealer Henri Malartre, was expected shortly, or so we were told by the comely Spanish lady at the entrance booth. During our wait she shyly suggested we might wish to view the cars in the new building north of the chateau and completely hidden by a stand of trees. This concrete and steel structure, about 60 x 100 feet, housed later acquisitions in various states of restoration which could be seen advantageously. And what cars! Besides Bugattis, Amilcars, Salmsons and related voiturettes Were some unforgettable pieces; the 1913 100 hp Mercedes Torpedo, the regal King of the Belgians Panhard Tourer of 1905, a Voisin Coach of such elegance as to crown it Concours Champion of Champions. Of these 50 or more specimens only one American car was present, a V-12 Packard Limousine baking outside in the sun and awaiting restoration. M. Malartre failed to appear, but the visit to the off-bounds garage compensated for this disappointment.
Frontiers were crossed, magnificent landscape traversed, occasionally grand vistas became animated by the sight of trains threading through valleys trailing billowing clouds of smoke and steam. In time we arrived in Italy and climbed to the mountaintop Republic of San Marino of earlier acquaintance. We did not put up at Cav. Guiseppi Gozi's Mt. Titano but at the new and highly recommended Excelsior, a bit off the tourist beat, where our room offered a thrilling view of the mountain ranges south and west. Although the hotel and dining room could serve 100 patrons, Priscilla and I were the sole diners with few exceptions during our 10-day stay. Meals were served by 22-year old Aldo (a local boy with seven years residence in Detroit), such service always supervised by the hotel owner, the owner's wife, the owner's chef. As the only house guests we were smothered daily with attention.
This attention dropped to a minimum upon the arrival of a famous professional football player. This idol of Italy arrived on foot, having been obliged to park his car in the lower town as driving through the mobs of enthusiastic admirers was impossible even with police escort. For three days the footballer corralled the respectful worship of the hotel staff. Indeed, Aldo no longer practiced his Detrot English on the American guests. On the third day Aldo graciously loaned his precious Vespa to the distinguished pro, and the owner obligingly loaned him 2000 Lira. At nightfall, with the Vespa and its borrower long overdue, the Big Shot's locked room was broken into. The findings were a razor blade, a handbag stuffed with stones and newspapers, the unpaid hotel bill. The departed one, graced with a perfect resemblance to one of Italy's foremost pros, was playing this deception to the hilt. Poor Aldo from racket-riddled Detroit had our commiserations.
Completely content atop the mountain, Priscilla was agreeable to my daily departure for the hilltown country I had loved and painted on earlier occasions. My old friend Umberto stood ready to accompany me on further explorations. The remote slumbering hill towns of Montabello, Campegna, San Agata, Scorticata and others were visited, often via rather terrifying climbs to their considerable heights. Except for monumental San Leo, attempting to match San Marino's popularity, Tourism had not altered this countryside.
One day the little Hillman showed a peculiar lack of power, no misfiring, just a sluggish response from the throttle. I asked Umberto if there was a good mechanic in this town of Novafeltria. He replied, "As you know, Pandolfi is dead. The other fellow, well, I don't know." The other fellow was Tranquillo Amadei. His handsome son and helper Antus was still bearing scars from a recent motorcycle crash. After the pair had checked all possible causes of the trouble Antus took me for a test run, a fanatical charge up the steep slopes to Talamela, braking to tail-wagging stop at the steps of the 14th century church that dominated the summit. Within this ancient pile was an alleged Giotto painting. Antus did not want me to miss seeing this local treasure. Upon returning to the valley with the engine running perfectly asked Umberto to inquire the cost of the 2 hours repair and personally-conducted art tour. There was a good deal of gesticulation during this conference, and Umberto's report was negative. No charges. I insisted otherwise, and the discussion was resumed with Umberto reporting as follows. "They say there is no charge. They replaced nothing, supplied nothing, only their time!" How refreshing, this, in the 20th century. It was only with persistence that things could be decently squared with Tranquillo, whereupon Antus was ordered off to the town plaza for four bottles of ice cold Coke.
Another experience also contradicts the usual tourist reports of grasping Europeans. In Forli, rebuilt after war's devastation, we purchased film at a smart little optical goods shop. Its owner, Sig. Anzoni, spoke some English, and after settling matters he provided directions for exiting from Forli for the road to Florence. Cordial farewells were exchanged. On leaving his shop I sought a restaurant and, not finding one, had returned to the street of Anzoni's shop. Standing at the curb in the hot sun and intently peering this way and that were Anzoni and wife. On seeing me he signalled for me to return. I had been overcharged for the film!
Travelling Americans, conscious of Foreign Aid and its consequent tax bite, quite naturally view all postwar reconstruction and improved economy levels as resulting from our benevolence. Again, quite naturally, they look for recognition of this benevolence in tangible forms beyond an occasional acknowledgement from some hotel manager or tourist courier, but with little luck. Italy's autostradas are spotted with luxurious service stations, some having restaurants, rest rooms, souvenir shops bridging the highway and further enhanced by the flags of the nations fluttering from 40 foot poles. Not once did we see the stars and stripes among them. In Rimini, long a favorite resort of Germans, their Mercedes and VW's outnumbering all other marques, we did encounter our national flag. Alas, it was being flown upside down, the International Distress Signal.
We arrived in Milan blindly unaware of the Grand Prix staged at this moment at Monza, made known to us that evening by our dining room waiters. True sons of Milan these lads, and race fans to the core. For them there was but one maestro in the history of the sport, Varzi. Nuvolari? Just a reckless taxi driver from Mantua! In nearby Como some sketching was done as well as having morbid curiosity satisfied in finding the approximate spot along this flowering lake front where the Fascist Sawdust Caesar met his end.
By train to Paris, Priscilla having had her fill of Alpine motoring. The City of Light seemed uncared for, not as dirty as New York but seemingly richer in beatniks, male and female, than our metropolis. Also the stalls along the Left Bank yielded nothing for the car hobbyist. On the way to Rouen, memorable among many other things as being the finishing point of the world's first auto race, we traversed the long winding ascent to Gaillon. Could this be THE Gaillon, the site of the annual hillclimbing classic? If so, here from 1898 onward raced such trade rivals as Panhard, De Dion, Peugeot and Darracq, with record performances by Clement-Bayard, the monster Gobron-Brillie, the British Napier and the German Benz and Mercedes.
Weeks before we had driven over parts of the Circuit des Ardennes, spent time in Bastogne, the start and finish of the great Belgian annual, but now enjoying new-found historical significance as the pivotal point in the Battle of the Bulge. Bastogne, now a shrine, commemorates the American resistance and General Anthony MacAuliffe's brusque reply, "Nuts", to the Nazi demand for surrender in December 1944. However now we were inspecting another old race course, also within the explosive zones of the late war, the Circuit d'Dieppe, site of the French Grand Prixs of 1907 and 1908 and again in 1912. By this time French chagrin and pique from defeat in the first two of these had been replaced by returning confidence. Indeed, national pride was soundly restored in 1912 with George Boillot's audacious victory with his 5.65 litre Peugeot. It is interesting to note that the Grand Prixs of this period were of distances fron 477 to 596 miles whereas those since 1925, with greatly improved roads, tires and car engineering, have seldom exceeded 325.
We had no contemporary data this time to guide us to the Dieppe course but the names of the towns along the 47-mile circuit had stuck in mind; Neuville as the starting point, with Londinieres and Eu as the other apexes of the triangle. At Envermeu, 7 miles from the start and a provincial village, silent as death from which all souls seemed to have vanished, we spotted a tiny Kodak shop. Ah, thought we, maybe some rare Grand Prix photos are buried within this shabby store front. We bought films but other than understanding our quest had something to do with automobiles, the proprietor was thoroughly perplexed. Then as if suddenly smitten with enlightenment he left the shop, reappearing later proudly displaying some slides showing an ancient Renault Landaulet he had photographed the year before at Dieppe. Was this what we wanted?
We resumed the run, cursing our ignorance of language but enchanted with the rolling landscape, the prosperous farms and the fact of speeding over the trafficless kilometres that had been traversed by great champions. From Londinieres the route twisted north to a plateau on the dead level straight of which we visualized the savage struggle in 1907 between Lancia's Fiat and Duray's Dietrich, neck and neck for 235 miles when over-driven engines gave out and Nazzaro's more conservative drive won the race for Italy. We thought also of the lone U.S. challenger that year, Walter Christie's brutish frontdriver carrying its identifying mark W. C. What ribald humor this symbol must have provided the Europeans!
Branger, Prieuer, other photographers had fully covered the action at Eu, the north apex of the circuit. Much of their work had served me well in painting 1907 and 1908 versions of the Grand Prix. I felt I knew this setting intimately, the railroad bridge, the slate-roofed provincial dwellings and shops, the towering trees and the sharp left turn exiting westward. Here in 1907 in the preceding Voiturette race two of the lightweights had flipped. In 1908 the impetuous Hemery skidded wildly into the barricades, then stalled his mighty Benz engine in restarting. Thus we entered Eu in high anticipation. But war wreckage had altered the scene. Cheaply-built houses now replaced the Norman heritage in architecture. Some few of dignity remained and some day the young saplings will again cast cooling shadows in Eu's plaza. We tried again for Grand Prix mementos but Eu is no tourist trap and the storekeeper was without even present day postcards of his town, and also denied that auto racing had ever contaminated the neighborhood. The day was waning, we had covered two sides of the triangle, and so we headed east for Abbeville, now a new city erected over the ashes of the ancient one. To England now and, as ever before, the gleaming white cliffs of Dover meant reunion with familiar language, familiar customs. We were happy to be back.
How, I wondered, did Florence Chadwick ever swim these old waters, the Hard Way? That was 10 years ago.
Fame is fleeting. England's roads were now inadequate for the increased traffic. To meet the demands much sacrifice of cherished landmarks has to be faced as the cherishers are outnumbered by the younger generations, motor-minded and increasingly motor-propelled. Our travels in Britain, reasonably extensive (2500-miles), provided other aspects of change. On the way to the Montagu Museum we spotted a stately vintage Rolls parked at a filling station and lunch room, the Jack O'Lantern. Just beyond in a meadow were parked a dozen or more Rolls and Bentleys in disorderly array as if driven in, left and forgotten. After a snack of lunch here we met the proprietor, Mr. Palmer. Yes, these cars were for sale. Indeed, he recognized no restrictions in "selling out of the country". That was in the past. In fact, a couple of Rolls had gone to California collectors sight unseen, but no more such transactions were wanted. Why? Because these buyers complained of misrepresentation, these complaints being utterly unjustified according to Mr. Palmer.
An hour or so later we arrived at the Montagu Museum. The parking lot was overflowing. His Lordship's collection was on The Tourist Circuit, an alleged 2000 visitors that day! We hoped for similar good fortune for Austin's Southampton project. Busloads of holiday visitors from "The Industrial North", specimens of humanity viewed as suspect in South England, crowded around such epic exhibits as Seagrave's Golden Arrow and his earlier Florida record breaker, the 1000 hp Sunbeam of 1927. Our interest focused lovingly on the last of the chain-drive Grand Prix cars, the 1912 Lorraine-Dietrich, a 15-litre beast resplendent in dark blue and gleaming brass and known at Brooklands with Campbell driving as Vieux Charles Trois. I was able to have a little chat with Lord Montagu in his office after which he escorted us to the display of Rex Hayes scale models of Grand Prix cars from 1906 onward. I fear I offended our host. I asked him please not to refer to the 1908 Mercedes as a "Merk", then further compounded this social error by commenting critically on the Hayes version of the 1906 Renault. His Lordship thereupon remembered an appointment and left us briskly. I hasten to add that most of these models are excellent, but so are those of Saul Santos.
My infatuation with steam railroading was given a substantial boost at Reading, some 15 miles west of Windsor. As Priscilla registered at the hotel I parked the Hillman in an immense garage just opposite. I told the lady attendant, "This must be the largest garage in the world." She smiled, and the elderly foreman nearby replied, "Yes, and we're the biggest robbers in the world. This will cost you 6 shillings." Then I heard the leisurely chug of a yard engine at the adjacent railway station and set off hurriedly. I purchased a platform ticket just in time. A quartermile beyond the curving platform was the sight of steam moving fast toward Reading, a direct head-on view, increasing in size so rapidly as to indicate galloping pace. This was instantly realized, and now with a shriek of the whistle and with fire spitting under the forward truck, the flyer and its trail of green coaches rushed past at a full 75 mph. In mere seconds its serpentine flight faded into the distant haze.
Reading's action-packed station (so different from our own idle ones at home) delayed our departure for Taunton. Just as well. In hurrying to make up lost time we missed our route and came upon the Halfway House Garages on Bath Road. It was the gaunt Speed-6 Bentley parked near the pumps that had caught our eyes. A U-turn brought us to the threshold of a treasure-loaded shop. Within, in various stages of health and age, were Delage, Bugatti, Isotta, Delahaye, Ferrari, Lagonda, Jensen, with a mixed dozen of Rolls and Bentleys. Our curiosity was rewarded with a leaflet listing the inventory as well as the condition code for Engine, Chassis, Body as per the following --
1/Good 2/Average 3/Poor 4/Beastly */Restored. Here are a few samples
Once again Californians had been customers but with the same unhappy results as at Jack O'Lantern.
Other journeys relating to cars and car people were also rewarding. We had a joyous reunion with Sammy Davis, now fully bearded and bubbling over with curiosity about Charles Lytle. Was he a Mormon? Was he part Indian? Impressions gathered heaven knows where. At The Autocar in London Peter Garnier and "Steady" Barker led me to a dusty file room in which literally hundreds of Gordon Crosby originals were stacked in horrifying disorder. No indeed, nothing could be purchased. Iliffe [Iliffe and Sons Ltd.] the publishers valued this abundance highly, but here they were, indiscriminately shelved like so much unwanted rubbish. We had previously visited the Gerald Rose family in Newport, Wales. We wondered how this sophisticated Londoner could abide this fast-growing but undistinguished town. It was comforting to know five years later that his last days were spent in London.
The visit with artist Roy Nockolds in Surrey provided an unexpected bonus: accommodations in an old manor house in which J. M. Barrie had written Peter Pan and later the residence of Conan Doyle. Fortunately its renovation for hotel purposes had not completely dispelled the late Victorian environment in which these distinguished men had lived. For Nockolds the early days of racing had been expertly and amply portrayed by Gordon Crosby. Much younger in years, Roy's interests centered on correspondingly later periods. For all that, I believe he shares my lack of enthusiasm when drawing the spidery little engineering masterpieces which rule most of the circuits today made even more diminutive by the huge crash helmets of their drivers. Nockolds was presently engaged in designing a Jaguar station wagon, and, like most artists, seemed frustrated by the business aspects involved.
Now a word about one of the factors that distinguish American racing from European. Maybe Barney Oldfield started it, for after his retirement he occasionally served as starter at track events. Photos of him in this capacity show him heaving his considerable bulk in a frenzied dance as he flashes the checker to an approaching winner. Almost ever since our tracks and road circuits have been witness to similar antics by the flashily attired extroverts with the flags. Happily our biggest race spectacle, the Indy "500", avoids this nonsense and conforms to the strictly business-like deportment seen in Europe. The late Charles Faroux, for all his sartorial splendor, handled the job with dignity, with no wish to be recorded in photographic race history as a whirling Dervish. This reserve still maintains abroad.
After seven sunny soothing days aboard the M.S. Noordam we arrived in Hoboken. Jerry met us, and we returned to the less soothing American tempo directly by plunging into the pounding traffic stream on the Pulaski Skyway on the way to Jerry's New Jersey home. In this fast-moving congestion the uplifted thumb of a man beside his stricken car -- a flat tire -- impelled my son to stop. The helpless one was without jack, tools and wisdom. However both cars rejoined the thundering rush in twenty minutes.
Awaiting me at Boston Corners were the four racing subjects for the Donald Art Co.. The sketches had been approved, their subjects of my own selection; the 1908 Vanderbilt, the 1907 French Grand Prix, the 1915 Grand Prize and Barney and "Blitzen" in 1910. These would be fitted in conveniently. Just ahead was the Scribner's announcement of my book and plans for its debut with an exhibition and party at the Salmagundi Club. Again Austin Clark was a prime mover in coordinating Scribner and Club interests. As a result, about half the 150 dinner guests were VMCCA and AACA members. In response to Clark appeals two former racing champs, Ralph Mulford and Guy Vaughan, plus the equally renowned yachtsman Corny Shields attended. Others coming from distant points were Hemp Oliver, George and Helen Waterman with six fine Saul Santos scale models for display, and Paul Cadwell who made the run from Pennsylvania aboard his sturdy 1896 Duryea Roadster. Further evidence of Clark influence was the closing of northbound traffic on 5th Avenue between 11th and 12th Streets for the exhibition of a half-dozen venerable veterans, "Old 16" among them at the curb fronting the sedate clubhouse. Few books ever had a more spectacular send-off. I'm sure the worthy Salmagundians relished this marked departure from their Club routine.
Austin's final contribution to the affair was completely spontaneous. He loaded his ancient 5th Avenue Bus with playful companions and proceeded north on that thoroughfare. Upon being signalled by two elderly ladies at a corner, he pulled up and the ladies got aboard. Shortly after one of them questioned the route with, "Driver, we've never gone home this way before." Austin replied, "How do you want to go home?" He maneuvered the archaic conveyance down shadowy side streets and gallantly delivered the ladies to their doorstep! Providence rewarded this kindness outrageously. The bus "conked out" on the Queensboro Bridge. Austin and his pals arrived home at break-of-day.
Its colorful debut notwithstanding, The Checkered Flag never got off the ground saleswise. It had scant Scribner's promotion, was accorded no reviews except in our club journals and a couple of British motor magazines, was highly over-priced. However at no time during its various planning and rewritings over the years had the thought of monetary reward been a consideration. Unlike Priscilla, I could view the profitless adventure without heartache. Within a year the book was remaindered. Offered now at an attractive price it sold well, but this in no way altered my "amateur standing", except for the fact that about half of the original drawings and paintings were promptly purchased by Austin Clark, George Waterman, the Harrah Collection and others.
During 1962 I had completed three of the large paintings for Donald Art Co., had been given another one-man show of racing subjects at DePauw University and had been commissioned by private individuals for racing paintings. Among these patrons were Bill Coverdale, Jim McLean and, again, George Waterman. A word about George is apropos... Back in 1944, when doing the Esquire painting showing DePalma pushing his disabled Mercedes in the 1912 indy "500", I wrote him requesting details on this type Mercedes as he at that time owned the only one known to exist. I'll never forget his generous offer of letting me borrow the car. I declined on the basis that once here he'd never get it back. I still think this 1908 Grand Prix type is the handsomest piece of machinery on four wheels.
In 1950 I had bought Sam Baily's prize-winning T-head Mercer Raceabout, beating out by a mere 15 minutes Cam Peck's telephoned order of purchase of this maroon beauty. Jerry and I collected the car at Bala Cynwyd. My happiness as the new owner was moderated considerably on our departure. That last glimpse of Mabel Baily, teary-eyed at the front door, haunted me then and still does. That same year we acquired a gargantuan hulk of a car generally believed to have been one of Count Zborowski's "Chitty Chitty Bang Bangs" of Brooklands fame. The presence of this monster in a Long Island garage was made known to us by Leo Peters. I solicited the interest of Charles Lytle, and we became partners in ownership. For the next 15 years it stood on blocks in the lower garage, providing a thrill for visiting buffs but declining in health through inattention and dampness. At no time had co-owner Charles indicated a wish for its presence in Sharon, Pennsylvania. His own collection was scattered about under a variety of roofs.
Although greatly resembling one of Zborowski's hybrids, our car has no comparable racing history, but its background is interesting. Its 6 cylinder 230 hp Benz Aero engine is from a German plane shot down in France in the Kaiser War. About 1920 it was anchored in a 1909 chain-drive Mercedes chassis, the work being done by C. H. Crowe & Co. of London for the owner, E.T. Scarisbrick. This gentleman-driver won the speed trials at Fanoe Beach, Denmark in 1923, the car being known as "Rabbit the First". In 1930 it was bought sight unseen by socialite Bradley Martin of Long Island, having been represented as one of the "Chittys". It was given a restoration job by John Oliveau and later sold to the Ellis brothers of Sea Cliff, Long Island, who, after giving it some hard usage, offered to sell. Austin Clark and Jim Melton graciously withdrew their own acquisitive interests, the former arranging for its sale to us. Leo Peters got it in running shape after which it began its long hibernation. Eventually the awareness of its decay prompted the thought of getting some mobile pleasure from it before it was too late, so I induced Charles to go along in a restoration by Jim Hoe. In December 1962 it was trailed to the Hoe shop in Weston, Connecticut. It seemed that a dream was on its way to being realized.
In the meantime another dream was being realized, this time Scott Bailey's. For long years he had entertained the thought of creating a deluxe hardcover quarterly for America's motor-minded horde. He visualized it as a non ad-carrying publication independent of obligations, free in its choice of content and editorial discussion. On this basis some risk was a recognized fact. But he made the plunge, resigned an excellent job, depleted his savings and by sheer enthusiasm enlisted the help and talents of notables in the world of the automobile. I'm sure that most of these made their contributions quite without thought of financial return. Just before the first issue of Automobile Quarterly appeared, with risk still a menacing factor, Scott told me, "Well, if it's a flop I'm still young enough to start all over again."
At this writing four years later, with Automobile Quarterly measuring up to its advertised claims, with its costly production and skillful promotion, it has become a well established reality, undoubtedly the finest motoring publication anywhere at any time. My own gratification is considerable for being a small part in this realized dream.
The last of the Donald Art series was done, Resta's winning Peugeot slashing through the torrential rains in the 1915 Grand Prize at San Francisco's Panama-Pacific Exposition. Good fortune followed with a racing series for Tydol, but not without some exasperation at the outset. The art director in distant Hollywood declined my offer to assist in selecting the first four subjects. After all, his staff was qualified to select incidents not only offering high tensioned drama but also conforming to historical fact. Here is the result of this extensive research:
1900-1910 German driver, driving a Fiat in one of the Vanderbilt Cup Races.
It was a nice generous distribution of International accomplishments. However not one ever happened! In time we got off to less fictional themes. No such nonsense was had with private clients Dan Williams and Arthur Rippey.
A 1963 issue of Scott's Automobile Quarterly introduced me to the work of German artist Walter Gotschke. This thrilling display knocked me flat. Here was a chap who certainly knew cars but was in no way inhibited by this knowledge, no stagnating of his intuitive and dashing application of pigment. For him verve, movement, the aspect of speed are impulsively projected, achieved in a frenzy of haste, yet the cars, also rendered with consistent daring, are immediately identifiable. Gotschke and I became pen pals, exchanged sketches and gossip. One such exchange brought three small matchboxes, their 2 x 1/4" hand-painted covers showing racing scenes. I had thought them reproductions. They are masterpieces in miniature painting, aptly composed, vigorously rendered yet precise in car delineation. They testify to superb control and exceptional eyesight.
Two of Gotschke's countrymen deserve comment, and their work also seems less Teutonic than French in spirit, Hans Liska and Carlos Demand. Both have done notable work for Mercedes-Benz. Both have that "done-with-ease" magic one hesitates to associate with German temperament.
As monthly bills arrived from Jim Hoe with reports of progress not without frustrations, I lost myself in a lengthy story and illustrations on the Briarcliff road race of 1908 to appear in Automobile Quarterly. This was a race I was obliged to miss, having been run on a schoolday, Friday. In one sense it was the most thoroughly international race ever presented in this country, having 11 domestic starters versus as many from Europe: Italy, France, Austria and Germany. Research disclosed the many frustrations facing the promoters, amusing now but deadly serious at the time. For instance, 48-hours before the start the New York State engineer [Frederick Skene], by this time an avowed race foe, demanded $200 for every mile of the 30-mile Circuit as insurance against highway damage. Otherwise no race. This was hard to take. Day and night gangs had improved those 30-miles well beyond their normal state. But the fee was reluctantly given and later this official's career ended in scandal.
Italy ran away with the race, Lewis Strang's 50-Isotta and Cedrino's Fiat-60 placing one-two with Guy Vaughan's Stearns and Herb Lytle's Apperson in that order. Two future stars, DePalma and Mulford, ditched their cars. A third, Robertson was never better than 15th. Barney Oldfield courageously accepted number 13, grazed his Stearns over the cowcatcher of an oncoming train and lost all his tools along the route. Of the 22 drivers at Briarcliff I believe only Mulford and Vaughan are still with us.
Our trio, Charles, Jerry and myself were reunited at the 1963 Indy "500". The sheer bigness of this annual month-long festival, the revamped track and landscaping, the mammoth stands and colorful race preliminaries, its tremendous mass of spectators caused one long absent from this spectacle to concede "Maybe this Is the greatest!" Guided by Lytle and now on thoroughly familiar terrain, we met everyone of note: the surviving oldsters like Ray Harroun and Earl Cooper, the seasoned Indy specialists Rodger Ward and A. J. Foyt, the youthful phenomenon from Scotland, Jim Clark. During the climax of the closing laps we witnessed the black flag incident - to wave or not to wave -- and with perhaps one-half of the great multitude at race end, believed the black signal should have been flashed.
From VMCCA member Bill Pollock heard of a desirable trinket in the possession of his California friend, Dr. Orland Wiseman. He described it as a small silver spoon on the bowl of which was a perfect representation of "Old 16". This impelled an inquiry to which the Doctor replied promptly that a direct sale was out. He would, though, consider a swap. What goodies had I on the Three P's, Packard, Peerless, Pierce-Arrow? Not much, only a small handsome book issued by Peerless at the time of opening their 8-story salesroom and shops on New York's Auto Row. This I described fully and upon request sent it off. The Doctor liked it, consulted the Harrah Librarian as to its worth, offered me this sum and that deal was satisfactorily ended. But the spoon remained unfinished business. Back on swap terms he suggested I do a small painting of his Pierce-Arrow. I countered with the suggestion of Barney on the Peerless "Green Dragon". Then, perhaps under Harrah influence, the Three P's were dropped. Would I do one of the New York-Paris Thomas? I did so with pleasure, the spoon came east and fully measured up to all expectations. It was a nice friendly transaction with satisfaction all around.
In the Spring of 1964 came a phone call from Little Rock. The voice said, "This is Bill Turner. Remember me?" I did. He explained he was now Director of the Arkansas Arts Center, and added, "Quite a change from selling Goodyear Tires, hey?" He wished to give me a one-man show at his Center the following October. He would forward all pertinent material, fullly explain his plans and all arrangements. When these arrived we were impressed with the beauty and facilities of the Center. Their galleries could accommodate 100 works comfortably, and since my show would be timed approximately with the inaugural of Winthrop Rockefeller's new car museum at Petit Jean Mountain, 60-miles West of Little Rock, the presence of "Old 16" at the Arts Center would serve to relate these projects if not exactly uniting them. I was asked to think it over. This was done and matters subsequently settled.
In the meantime the "Rabbit" restoration was nearing completion. We entered it in the Ridgefield, Connecticut Meet and Lytle came east for the occasion. Priscilla, Charles and I met Jerry and his chum, Howard Andrews, at Hoe's Shop. The big Benz-engined Mercedes was rolled out, its pristine enormity viewed with general admiration, excepting perhaps that of Priscilla's. As the motor ticked over at 1200 rpm Jim explained the operational details to Jerry. Both climbed aboard, Jim at the wheel for a test run and further instruction. When minutes later the car blasted in view Jerry was driving. Except for a very stiff steering all seemed satisfactory. Hoe disappeared into his stop, and in my anxiety to have co-owner Charles try his hand, urged him behind the wheel with Jerry this time as instructor. Their exodus was a bit startling but even more so was Jim Hoe's reaction on returning and finding the car rapidly disappearing down Newtown Turnpike. Briefly, it never came back on its own power. There were anxious moments for us all until Jerry returned, having thumbed a ride from a local resident. It seems while reversing to U-turn the lengthy critter the left rear sprocket support gave way. Our flamboyant debut at Ridgefield was out. The Hoe haul car collected the wounded "Rabbit".
Came October and the show at Little Rock's Arts center, beautifully hung, with the Loco centered in the main gallery. There had been a lunch with the Rockefellers at Petit Jean and much talk about his candidacy for Governor; a visit at the new car museum seemingly far from readiness for its opening a few days hence. This gala we were obliged to miss. I had agreed to produce a batch of landscape drawings for a new Course being prepared by Famous Artists School, said work having to define the more obvious local characteristics of the States enroute. There was the usual deadine. However, the Arts Center show attracted 17,000 visitors during the month (the Center's figures) among them many guests from the car museum inaugural. These ardent enthusiasts bought a number of the works, for which my hearty thanks.
Apropos of purchases, perhaps the artist may be forgiven for feeling that sales do not entirely divorce him from a share of ownership of works sold. After all, they're still his babies. This fetish has been tolerated by most of my private clients. I'm ever grateful to Clark, Waterman, Scott Bailey, Joe Zarrillo and others who generously loan their acquisitions for exhibitions. It's a bit easier to request the loan of gift works but there have been occasional refusals.
Regarding artist-client relations in the professional fields, there have been few occasions other than completely amiable. In matters of fee I ask for all that the budget allows, accepting as truth the figure quoted by the client. One memorable exception in harmonious relations was with Fortune, the one-dollar monthly then very early in its successful career. I had previously done a cover or two for Art Editor, Eleanor Treacy. Shortly after came a commission for a few incidental drawings for an article on the development of the automobile. Hoping to promote this assignment to something more effective, I showed Miss Treacy a photo of a rather large painting which seemed to fit the theme. She thought so also.
However, before decision could be final, Editor Luce called at my studio for a look at the painting. He approved, and it appeared later in first rate color separation. On sending my bill for $100 for the use of the painting Editor Luce phoned his protest. I was told that a really important artist, Mexican Diego Rivera, was honored to have his work appear in Fortune without question of compensating fees. Possibly true. Gaining a foothold in this mouthpiece of Big Business could well be sufficient reward for this good artist AND Communist agitator. However I held firm and was fully supported by Miss Treacy.
Very much later, during Christmas 1964 with Jerry and his considerable family, I thumbed through a copy of Reader's Digest Young Peoples Annual published in Sydney, Australia. Primarily a fat picture book with the usual copyright manifesto, it was loaded with full color reproductions of paintings and drawings. Nowhere had credit been given to the artists although all authors had generous recognition. My impatience turned to wrath when confronted with a New York-Paris Race story illustrated with a painting that had been originally made for The Lamp. Prior to this the regular Reader's Digest monthly requested its use. This had been granted on a Second Rights basis with my request for a by-line. The by-line appeared, one of the few instances this has been accorded an artist by Reader's Digest. But as this deal did not include further usage in other Reader's Digest projects I wrote the Sydney office, disclaiming their copyright and enclosed an invoice. This was acknowledged by the New York office with apologies, explanations and payment. Soon after the New York office again requested its use for a South American edition of the same Annual and settled as per the Australian matter.
Previously mentioned was my interest in the old 24 Hour races on the dirt tracks in the 1905-1910 period. One reason for their having become important items on motoring's calendar is that they demonstrated the durability of production models. Racing specials such as those in the Vanderbilt and elsewhere were restricted. Thus the "grinds" had the support of most of the car agencies along New York's Auto Row, both domestic and European. These contests satisfied the critics who hed that Cup Racing supplied no proof of the worthiness of the commodity offered the public in Broadway showrooms. I had seen most of the 24s held at Morris Park and Brighton Beach. As recollections remained vivid there came the urge to put them down in writing. Bit by bit this grew into lengthy manuscript. It began with the very first efforts in 1904, time trials in which a single car and driver attempted to cover 1000 miles within 24-hours. Upon this accomplishment by Guy Vaughan and his little 40-Decauville in 1905 it was natural that actual races, with their attendant risks and nocturnal thrills could become paying spectacles, at which time the laboratory-test aspect terminated and the promoters took over.
The manuscript was written and then read by Scott Bailey. He believed it suitable for his Automobile Quarterly. Now, how to illustrate it? It was decided that old Spooner & Wells photos would supplement a large full-color fold-out reproduction of a painting, said painting yet to be made. My idea, endorsed by Scott, was a composite, no one specific race, but a night scene featuring those cars which had been most successfu since the advent of this sport: Renault with two wins, Simplex with three, Lozier three and Stearns with but one, but the all-time record holder with 1253 miles. The finished painting shows these four in profiled flight in the above order being driven by Maurice Bernin, George Robertson, Ralph Mulford and Al Poole, the last two having each been three-time winners at Brighton. The background shows the flood-lit tents of the training camps and supply pits, then as now an added bonus for the spectators. By 1910 the grinds no longer at tracted either sizeable entries or attendance and so faded from the scene.
A more personal anecdote of the time was the ride I had with Poole on the Simplex-50 which he and Robertson would co-drive the following day in the Morris Park 24. The Simplex was adorned with a unique paint job, all red on the port side, green on the Starboard, not calculated for easy identification on an oval track during the night hours. As we rolled down Broadway with the blue flames sputtering from the open exhaust we encountered the huge 120-Hotchkiss from the 1906 Vanderbilt which Robertson would drive in the matinee races prior to the start of the grind. Robertson was swinging the yellow beast's crank handle furiously but futilely. We tarried but briefly. As Poole smilingly eased the Simplex off he called over to the irate perspiring giant, "Probably no gas, George. Try to do better tomorrow." We were soon out of range of the blasphemous reply.
For thirty years the old car movement's growth has been phenomenal, accounting for the thousands of worthy automobiles that have been saved from the scrap pile. We're now witnessing the similar but overly-late appreciation and salvation of the remnants of the rails. Sadly, most of the fine examples of glorious steam power have vanished via the blow torch. Fortunately a handful have and will escape this fate.
When our New York Central's Harlem Division announced the portending change to Diesels I contrived a ride in the cab of one of the gallant Pacific 4-6-2s on one of its final runs from White Plains to Millerton. Except for hitting a stray cow (the jolt was clearly felt in the cab and fatal for the unfortunate beast) the ride was delightful. The engineer was approaching retirement age. The fireman was a youngster in his mid-twenties. I asked them how they felt about the swing to Diesel locomotion. The senior replied, "Well, it'll be cleaner for one thing." The junior's response was closer to the attitude I'd hoped was general among engine crews. Said he, "Hell, that ain't railroading!"
Not long after I was obliged to decline a series of paintings for the Norfolk & Western calendar. At that time it was generally held that since Norfolk & Western owned its own coal and built its own locomotives Diesels would never invade this status quo. Its magnificent series of mountain climbing Mallets would remain the monarchs of the rails, their throaty whistles would still re-echo and haunt the valleys for the conceivable future. But as elsewhere the old order was doomed. Upon hearing of this sad development and knowing a Roanoke gentlemen with influential standing at Norfolk & Western, a date was set for a ride on a mammoth 2-6-6-4, No. 1224. As before, papers had to be signed to release the railroad of responsibility. More than that, a junior superintendent was assigned aboard to remind me of this responsibility. I'm sure that both the engineer and the young fireman considered the super as excess cargo.
We rumbled east out of the Roanoke yards, a hundred box, flat, gondola and hopper cars in tow. As we throbbed up the steep grade the pounding driving rods, the stacatto bark of the exhaust implemented the basso profundo for the solo performance of engineer Sid with the chime whistle, a blasting soprano screech that expanded to a throaty roar, then trailed off in a prolonged mournful moan. Every crossing was preceded by this concert of conglomerate sound and thrown back to us from the walled ravines. Fireman Tom explained the gauge readings, demonstrated the automatic stoker and then, as we arrived at the dead-level plateau, a voice from beyond the firebox yelled, "Here, Pete, you take over." Who me? I wondered. It was. The pained look by the super was no deterrent. Sid was boss of the hog. For five miles, under Sid's close direction, I managed to keep the brute on the rails.
Coming up ahead now was a curve leading to the descent. I was glad to get back to the port side. Now we began to roll. Everything shivered and trembled as the pace increased. Just behind was the tender, a huge bounding mass held captive between the engine and the first of the swaying boxcars. Above the roar of clashing metall hollered, "Golly, I hope everything holds together." Tom laughed. The super replied, "It better had, the first two cars are loaded with high explosives!" Everything held together, as have the recollections of this grand experience. I'm reminded of the time Captain Charles "Chuck" Yeager was my passenger on "Old 16". As we galloped along at a noisy 60, hardly adequate to impress the first human to have crashed the sound barrier, he patted my shoulder in high glee and yelled, "Boy, this is it!" I sort of feel that way about the run on Norfolk & Western's No. 1224.
A Calendar assignment for a Cleveland firm enabled my first painting of steam-on-the-rails for years. I chose the railcrossing at Boston Corners as it may have appeared in the late 1880s. Featured in this wintry rural setting was a neat 4-4-0, its billowing smoke merging with the sombre gray skies. Subsequently a few letters from rail fans and an invitation to join a railroad historical society provoked the wish to see steam in action once again. Steam Town in Bellows Falls, Vermont, the realized vision of millionaire Nelson Blount, is the best publicized of these revived fragments of earlier railroading. Here one is steam-driven up and back along the Connecticut River for a 32-mile scenic ride. In addition is the display at the old Rutland yards of about 25 locomotives (Blount owns 75) and a variety of elderly coaches, Pullmans and related carriers.
With a couple of eager grandsons, little guys, we arrived just before the scheduled departure of the 3 o'clock scenic ride. Directing traffic at the crossing was a burly unshaven fellow in sweat-stained shirt who smilingly assured us we were in plenty of time. After the steam-propelled trip, during which the engineer slackened the pace at all scenic highspots to accommodate the camera addicts, we observed the burly one seated on a handcar in conversation with other overalled huskies. We then learned that the unshaven one was Mr. Blount. We introduced ourselves, found him cordially receptive, so I mentioned our own major interest, old cars. "Old cars!" he responded. "I've got about forty of 'em." Then as if dismissing the subject as unworthy in this renaissance of steam railroading, he pointed east and entreated us to be sure to show the youngsters the U.P. "Big Boy" on display at the Rutland yards.
The Tydol series continued for the third year and was followed by another attractive job for Humble Oil, also to be beamed at old car audiences. This was a calendar comprising 12 subjects portraying significant steps in motoring history from 1895 to 1920, well chosen and thoroughly researched by the client this time. Three were all I could handle. I chose two racing subjects, Oldfield's Ford '999' in 1903 and Heath's winning Panhard in the first Vanderbilt in 1904. Because of having previously done a rural scene involving human interest and a T-Ford, the client urged something of the sort for the third. For the '999' subject I had photos of the very meet at Empire City Track that the client specified. Friend Les Henry supplied a 1903 photo showing the innards of this crude record breaker. For the Vanderbilt my considerable accumulations included prints made from the movies of that race, which was a wonderful gift from Bob Doty. To achieve a convincing facial likeness of aristocrat George Heath, a bust portrait was modeled from assorted photos, then posed in the desired position and lighting.
The other nine subjects were assigned to very able contemporaries but as none had specialized in motoring illustrations my services were retained to assist with data and check their sketches and finished works. When shown the finished painting of President Taft in the official White Steamer, it was my painful duty to advise that the brass radiator was definitely out. Also that the 300 pound Chief Executive must tower well above his present position in the equally-well upholstered tonneau. This latter requisite was a tough one, necessitating painting out an excellent portrait, then re-establishing it. Harry Anderson made these corrections willingly and expertly. We're still friends.
Now the 93-year old snow shoveler [George Schuster] from upstate came back into the picture, this time as co-author with Tom Mahoney of The Longest Auto Race. Had they permission to use the painting of the winning New York-Paris Thomas at Vladivostok? What, again? This was one that had already run a lengthy course of republication: The Lamp, HCC Gazette, The Reader's Digest complex. Permission was gladly given.
At about this time another author described his comprehensive history of Grand Prix Racing. He was William Court of Kent, England. His book would be illustrated by 700 photos, but he hoped to have its four departmental sections clearly defined by as many double spread black and white drawings. Britain's unrestrained avalanche of motoring literature makes us all wonder. At the time of Court's approach I had already supplied facts and figures for Taso Mathieson's Grand Prix history. When assured by both Court and Taso that no conflict was envisioned, the job was undertaken. Mr. Court knew precisely what he wanted: The 1907 Grand Prix, Dieppe; 1919. Indy "500", 1924 Grand Prix, Lyons; 1939 Swiss Grand Prix. The inclusion of the "500" on a par with the continental road classics was unexpected in a book penned by an Englishman, but at the time of its writing the British were already doing things at Indy. As for the drawings, I had already engaged in black and white renderings, and although liked by the author and publisher, they fell far short of my hopes.
The mementos purchased from Mrs. Poole included two large silver trophies Al had won in competition; one with Larry Waterbury's 40-Mercedes at Empire City Track in 1903, the other with a Briarcliff Isotta in Bridgeport's Hill Climb in 1908. After their restoration one was presented to The Connecticut Historical Automobile Society, the other to the Veteran Motor Car Club of America, both to become annual club awards. Deservedly, Edgar Roy won the latter for his Delage restoration. He arrived here one sunny morning in his sleek 30-98 Vauxhall to collect his prize. A few minutes later, most unexpectedly, Jim Hoe breezed in with the repaired "Rabbit". Rides were swapped, a jolly lunch followed in nearby Copake, then a brief stop at Tony LaPorta's garage to see that exuberant fellow's ultra-rare GJG Raceabout in process of rebuilding. Then Ed departed with his silver Cup and the ponderous Benz-Mercedes went back to its berth in the barn.
A few weeks later Bill and Rosemarie Jackson came up for a weekend. Bill labored arduously in photographing the "Rabbit" for his story in Antique Automobile with Jerry maneuvering the car from one vantage point to another and giving his boys brief spins on the nearest thing we have to Mr. Blount's "Big Boy" in Steam Town. We were ready now for the Ridgefield meet in September, but this time Lytle declined all invitations, having become disenchanted. It was easy to sense his regret that we ever rescued the car from its rusting decay of 15 years. However, it caused much interest and curiosity at Ridgefield. Because its motor is Benz, the rest Mercedes, I designed a radiator emblem showing an inverted star with the names in reverse order. This was a bewildering identification for the curious. Old friends were present: Bill O'Connor and The Bulb Horn's "Mighty Mite" Georgianna and its Editor Walter MacIlvain. There were the sumptuous Classics, real showpieces, but old prejudices favored Walt Levino's famous Packard, Doc Mead's rakish Lancia and Ed Hinman's small elegant rear-entrance 1903 Mercedes. The Charles Bishops attended, this time mobilized by a 200 pound St. Bernard, a powerful front driver.
This was to be our last chat with Sam Baily, alas, with never a hint of what lay ahead. Upon returning home, Jerry and Howard Andrews having done the driving, we could appraise the "Rabbit's" performance. Sparkling, lively, but much, much muscle needed in steering.
A comparative newcomer in the hobby is my Connecticut neighbor Zach Cande. In about six years he has acquired as many cars, small ones mostly, proving the attraction of opposites. Zach is a big fellow. He appears faithfully at meets almost weekly and works nightly to assure such availability. His prize piece is a 1904 9 hp Peugeot with rear-entrance tonneau, a cute little trick ablaze with oppulent brass and affectionately known as "Fi-Fi". It came from England in a swap for Zach's 1904-1905 Stanley. I've yet to have a ride in "Fi-Fi' but did ride in its owner's 1909 12 hp Tipo 51 Fiat Tourabout. This was the sole occasion when an empty gas tank had rewarding consequences. The late October evening grew wickedly cold. I'm still grateful that we ran out of gas at the base of a long hill which required blood-warming manual power to the summit and replenishment.
After a year or more of widespread anticipation cleverly encouraged by the hush-hush aspects surround it, Ford was launching the debut of its Mustang at the Glen. A Mustang would be driven in a prerace lap, every second of this epic run to be captured by TV apparatus and crew aboard a car leading the way. Following the debutante would be the full Ford line to be driven by some of the aces entered in the Grand Prix. For reasons still bewildering I was invited to drive the Mustang! Thanks to the gentle nudge from my guardian angel, I was prompt in declining. Just to be sure I abstained from attending the affair, old friend Lytle was then selected and his passenger would be honored guest and ex-racing wizard Stirling Moss. When Moss failed to appear, a stunning female in form-fitting Dunlop coveralls was substituted, Charles' wife Marjorie.
Then, with all cars lined up awaiting the flag, Moss ripped through the crowds, dispossessed Marjorie and dropped into his place beside Charles. Off went the procession. Its pace, determined by the TV outfit just ahead, was discomforting to Moss.
He urged, "Come on, Charley, let's see what it can do." The speed was increased within reason, but not the passenger's mounting curiosity as to the Mustang's capabilities. When cruising at a lively 65, Moss suddenly demanded, "Let's see if it has synchro-mesh in first" as his left hand made a swift grab for the stick-shift. Just as briskly Lytle's foot depressed the clutch. By the scantiest of margins the Mustang remained in one piece, its debut and all the attending Ford festivities narrowly escaping disaster. I still goose-pimple all over upon reflecting how inadequately I'd have met this situation.
The Little Rock exhibition in 1964 had been seen by Mr. and Mrs. Tony Hulman of Terre Haute and Indianapolis, and resulted in a request from the Sheldon Swope Art Gallery in Terre Haute for a similar show in 1965. This date could not be met. It was tentatively postponed for 1966. Upon confirmation I felt the need of producing several works having the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as subjects. While so engaged, the Gallery Director with whom matters had been settled resigned. This and other factors caused cancellation of what had seemed a firm commitment. I was floored. A lot of time and effort had already been given the Indy pictures besides having declined remunerative assignments during that time. I took my troubles to Al Bloemker, the Speedway's Public Relations Chief who liked my work, was close to Hulman and with whom I'd corresponded for some years. That good man offered to take up the matter with his boss, but believed a letter from me to Hulman was the right approach. So it proved, as Mr. Hulman phoned and graciously assured me that the show would go on as originally scheduled. His friendliness had us on a first name basis at once.
Thus assured, time was found to squeeze in the cover design for the catalog of the Sports Car Show at Henry Ford Museum. Les Henry had previously invited "Rabbit" for display there and now to my delight requested it to be featured, in juxtaposition with a 300 SL Mercedes, for this cover. It was a rush job, but the deadline was met and everyone seemed pleased. In 1958 Sports Illustrated ran a story on Tony Hulman by Robert Shaplen. Among things revealed was the reserve, even shyness of his subject. This had to be discounted. Such characteristics were unlikely in one having attained exceptional success in a variety of enterprises. However his reassuring phone call and the eventual meeting with the man in Terre Haute certainly confirmed the author's contentions. The few days we spent conforming to his kindly but firm programming of our visit are still a bit bewildering. From the start we were the recipients of an affectionate father-like attention despite the disparity in age, in his favor be it noted. At the opening of my show at Sheldon Swope (a gallery, by the way, equal in all respects to New York's best) about 150 persons attended, thanks to the Hulmans doubtlessly, as the openings usually attracted 40 or less. There followed a reception as well attended at the Hulman farm, a thousand acre tract four miles from Terre Haute. A few times each year Tony throws parties in the rock-solid slate-roofed country house on the shore of a large man-made lake. The present party, presumably in my honor, demonstrated the hearty hospitality of the midwest. Beyond that, I had never met so many ladies of all ages whose leisure was spent in painting pictures!
We had attended the Mayor's Breakfast, the official send-off of the 500 Festival, a morning fiesta at which 1400 guests and celebrities were made merry by the abundant flow of whiskey sours before tackling the ham and eggs. Adhering always to Tony's schedule was a TV interview, the flight from Terre Haute to the Speedway with the Hulmans in the Hulman plane (Priscilla's first flight) and a slow ride by car around the famous oval. We paused at the start/finish line, a yard-wide strip now comprising the only remaining pink paving of the old "brickyard". The preservation of this remnant, a sentimental gesture, seems typical of the owner of this vast racing plant. I suspect he suffers honest anguish when chance is unkind to the men at the wheel.
As Hulman guests we had opportunities of meeting people of the sort Charles Lytle would appraise as "the kind to know". One was Sam Hanks, the "500" winner in 1957 and now Indy's Director of Racing. One of Sam's jobs is to instill a degree of caution in the craniums of the rookie hotheads, those super-inspired youngsters who might (and have) brought disaster in that first mad lap. After the 1966 fiasco it seems likely that some less hectic starting procedure is ahead.
At table that evening Tony was frequently paged, handed messages, called to the phone. Spaced between these interruptions I had related the European trip with Lytle and Jerry in 1951. Rather wistfully he admitted never having had any such enjoyable adventure, then shyly suggested that perhaps the two of us could undertake something of the sort. I made it clear that Lytle had been responsible for the success of that tour, why not try him, at which instant the waitress intruded with, "Cream in your coffee, Tony?" It was "Tony" everywhere. I'm sure he likes it that way. He's the kind of man who holds the door open for people, then thanks them for permitting this privilege.
We said our farewells that night, or thought we had. Tony had purchased several of the new Indy paintings and I presented him with the earlier one showing DePalma and the stricken Mercedes in 1912. As this would be shown in the Speedway Museum it would help in keeping that great driver's name remembered. However, in checking out the following morning, Mary Hulman phoned Priscilla, said her goodbyes, told us to wait for Tony on his way to repeat his farewells, or as it later proved, to also conclude the sale by phone of one of my paintings to Bill Harrah in distant Reno. This done, it was really goodbye, with our deeply felt appreciation.
We were driven to the station by Earl All, Tony's car man and in charge of operating his small car museum in Terre Haute. When advised that the train was late, Earl said, "Swell, there's time now to show you that little 1906 Skoda racing car I told you about." It was too dark in the storage shop to observe more than its general exterior which was reminiscent of the Belgian Pipes in the 1905 Gordon Bennett, but with the radiator midships as per early Renault design. It is, though, a rare one, a 2 cylinder 10 hp Laurin & Klement from the Czech Skoda works, vintage uncertain plus much evidence of later innovation, for instance a portable fin to assist in cornering. Well, this is most certainly one for Alec Ulmann's book. Earl got us to the train and our Indiana holiday was over.
TO BE CONTINUED
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