Columbus, Ohio - June 19-20, 1998
by Steve Perrault, © 1998 Check the Oil! magazine
|It was Wednesday afternoon the 17th of June. My weary motorhome
limped into the parking lot of the Lenox Inn. I viewed the scene with
trepidation. After all, it hadn't been an uneventful trip and I had a raging
The previous day found me struggling to gain altitude on Western Maryland's notorious Savage Mountain. The Ford's 460 was groaning and temperature gauge rising, when I noticed what appeared to be tree limbs, road signs, and miscellaneous debris, including a poor hapless squirrel, blowing sideways across the road. El Nino had struck again. Within moments, hurricane force winds, blackness and monsoon rain had engulfed the motorhome. On the shoulder and near the summit, I sat helplessly as my RV rocked violently side-to-side and I thought how strange it would be to find me strewn among the wreckage of oil cans, old road maps and lube stickers. There was no way out!
Fast forwarding 24 hours, everything about the facility appeared just fine when I pulled in. However, as a vendor, a new site is always cause for anxiety. Will my spots be okay? Will attendees find the new location? The new facility for "CTO's" annual event was located right off the main eastern approach to Columbus. A service road led past a tidy Sunoco station and ended at the sprawling complex. The parking lot seemed sufficient to handle the 115 plus outdoor vendors and "backup" grassy areas were sprinkled throughout the property. An inviting swimming pool beckoned from the center of the facility. It looked like a great spot for the 12th annual convention of the International Petroliana Collectors Association.
Wednesday afternoon and evening saw dozens of vendors arriving and scurrying to unload their wares into hotel rooms and the separate conference building. Jerry Keyser (both) and crew spent the day marking off the parking lot and numerous grassy areas in preparation for the unofficial set-up period on Thursday.
The hotel rooms were busy late into the evening as old acquaintances were renewed and new members to our fold familiarized themselves with the ritual of the room-to-room Petro Polka. Fresh from surgery, both Jeff Koenker and Ron Baker hurried to get their "acts" together. Jeff and his still almost blushing bride, Robin, offered a fantastic selection of first-rate road maps, oil company credit cards and china, as well as their "killer" smalls. Ron Baker of Mass Gas fame seemed oblivious to the discomfort of recent bypass surgery as he cheerfully offered his array of cans, signs and paper goods. Ron made a few people happy when he parted with some of his large selection of ultra-desirable Sunoco Disney blotters at less than the usual $40-to-$50 price.
Speaking of blotters, I have never before seen such interest in this colorful paper genre. All of my early stuff went quickly as well as much of my "late model" 1950-60s blotters. Most agree that the current Ebay internet auction service blotter frenzy has much to do with the renewed interest in colorful early ink blotters as well as maps and credit cards. Texaco, Richfield, Atlantic, Gilmore and Socony blotters from the 1920s listed on Ebay often exceed $100 and sometimes command more than $200.
Perfect weather prevailed Thursday morning as the vendor spaces quickly filled with all manner of petro-related treasures. By late afternoon the stage was set for the Thursday night room-to-room activity and the official Friday- Saturday show.
Friday morning, John Ross made his entrance onto the parking lot, resplendent in his "formal" Chief Texaco regalia. John offered not only a wide array of cans and signs, but also his own brand of smoked bacon. The Chief kept busy providing cooked free samples of his Texas style pork product until the propane ran out. If you missed him this year, don't fret, he has promised to bring a spare tank of cooking fuel in 1999.
After the show itself got cooking, 135 petro merchants (indoors and outdoors) filled 327 vending spaces. As Friday progressed, many new faces were in the crowds, due in part to front page color coverage of the event in the business section of the Columbus Dispatch. The fast working reporter and his accompanying photographer had covered Thursday's pre-event activity in time for the story to appear on the stands early the next morning. Display racks of any type, map holders, and flange signs seemed to be among the most sought after items. Early clocks were also red hot and more than a few original dealership clocks departed one vendor's hotel room after a small stack of $100 bills were left in their place.
Atlantic collector, Stan Thomas, proclaimed his trip a success when he snatched up a grade 9, painted, 1947 Richfield sign for less than the cost of a new pair of Michelins. Missouri based air meter and gas pump historian, Jack Sim, also made a gratifying purchase. Jack scored a dozen or so early catalogs for a little more than the cost of a shopping bag full of Happy Meals.
As the show wound down on Saturday afternoon, the 28 foot motorhome canopy of Bruce and Dee Beimers still covered more than a dozen eager customers. Fisk Tire memorabilia collectors, Bruce and Dee are known for unusual, high quality items at very fair prices. Among the items of note they had with them this trip was a lovely 1950s Union 76 doll. She needed a little orthopedic work, but aside from that, she seemed content smiling from her perch in the RV's front window. Look for the Beimers and all the other good-guy petro folks at upcoming shows.
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