"Check the Oil!"

10th annual Petroliana Collectors Convention

by Steve Perrault copyright 1996

June 13-15, 1996

Fred Odum and Bill Bonham's indoor swap meet display

Click on images for a larger version.

There's an old mechanic's adage that has some merit, or at least used to... back in the old days. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," is what many auto mechanics used to say when asked to replace a still-functioning part. Many of the replacement parts were marginal back then and alas that attitude was common. Nowadays the practice of preventative maintenance is generally embraced in all walks of life.

Preventive maintenance is just what Jerry Keyser and company had in mind when they moved a successful, but somewhat cramped show to another location. Relocating an established event is usually a risky proposition, but in this case the "CTO!" crew was right on target.

The new facility is a larger, newer and much nicer hotel complex a few miles from the old location in Columbus. Plenty of parking, tree shaded outdoor spots, good restaurants, trendy shops and a supermarket a short walk away, all contribute to improve the annual "CTO!" event. At first the hotel staff appeared somewhat overwhelmed by the legions of petro collectors that converged on their facility. After their initial shock, the management was eager to please and clearly delighted to have us.

Over 200 registered participants transformed the hallways of the recently remodeled Columbus Clarion into neon lighted, porcelain adorned walkways to the past. Outside, most of the large parking area was used to provide the 190 vendor spots which filled with goodies by Thursday evening.

The event officially began on Thursday afternoon, but Wednesday saw roving bands of commando collectors and secretive dealer operatives jockeying for position as they planned their pre-dawn buying raids. Meanwhile in the "trenches" high anxiety would best describe the mood of the staged, but mostly unopened vendors as they mulled around and pondered. where their spaces might be. Space assignments had been predetermined, but not devulged early, in the hope of providing Friday's crowd with a comprehensive and fair array of merchandise, Amidst the pre-opening intrigue, room-to-room, truck-to-truck, trunk-to-trunk, hallway and stairwell buying was at its peak.

Thursday afternoon saw vendors scurry to set up as they were informed of their space locations. Remember... new location... news spots. It really went rather smoothly and most people felt there were no bad vending areas.Within minutes after people discovered their space locations, tents went up, tarps came off and a profusion of color bloomed. A festival of petroliana then commenced in earnest on the near perfect, spring-like afternoon.

Among the vendors that handled the potentially uneven opening with professional precision was   Dan Perszyk. Dan, who is accustomed to the early buyer "feeding frenzy" that occurs at the Brimfield, Atlantic City and Indy shows knew just what to do. His tent was up in about 20 minutes, but he kept it enclosed until it as packed with a choice selection of advertising clocks, display cabinets, signs and a potpourri of small items. When everything was arranged just right, the first cover was removed from his booth and it was"Showtime!"

Keith Elza, who collects GM related memorabilia, spotted Dan's 1930s oak and glass AC display cabinet, looked at the price tag and said the magic words... "I'll take it." Keith knows from experience that the good stuff doesn't stay in the sunlight for long if you agonize over the cost of a fairly priced item. Just a few minutes of indecision and the coveted AC cabinet would have surely gone to a Connecticut home instead of Keith's Elkridge, Maryland collection. Dan and his friend Bob had a lot less to repack for the trip back to PA.

Bruce and Dee Beimers chose to arrive just minutes before the official opening time and were able to get into place and set up quickly. Their good timing and well-oiled opening paid off as the treasures they offered quickly dispersed into the adoring crowd. When his stock began to thin out a bit, Bruce pulled a killer Veedol two-sided quart can display rack from the secret recesses of the RV and filled the hole left by a departed Kendall curb sign. As I walked up to admire it, another onlooker snapped it up faster than you could spell ASSOCIATED REFINING COMPANY. Bruce also created a stir with his Morden Benzol globe. I'm not sure if it went back to Michigan or not.

The personable PA twins and partners-in-petro, Dave and Doug Geiger, were among the early arrivals with their omni-present pickup loaded with pumps, signs, globes and hard-to-find parts. If you ever wonder why the pickup always seems to stay loaded to the "gills," it's because these guys buy just as fast as they sell. Besides, they hate the wat the truck rides when it's empty.

One of the larger selections of quality affordable signs and globes was offered by the Illinois-based team of Karen Simmons and Cecilia Zimmer. The upbeat pair reported brisk sales and as a nice little bonus, won the $100 drawing that "CTO!" offered to the vendors that remained set up at the close of the show on Saturday.

"Have you seen the dog yet?" was a reoccurring refrain during the show. I had seen "Axlerod" (the Flying "A" beagle) on a pinback, and bought a 1930s Texaco Scottie doorstop from Jeff Koenker. I spotted a great Atlantic ink blotter that showed a Retriever and a Sunoco/Disney blotter that featured Pluto. Mack Truck Bulldog ashtrays were around and Texaco Dalmatians pup ads were everywhere. I knew it was non of these, so weaving through the labyrinth of hallways on Friday night, I asked a friend, "What dog?"

There it was, the most fearsome, yet beautiful German Shepherd I'd ever seen. All seven feet or so, sprawled out on its own double bed and it was looking right at me. The Esso Watchdog, heating oil mascot was in rough shape when Dwight Sawyer discovered it. Its coat lacked luster, its tail was broken and some unkind person had run a metal rod through its fiberglass body. It had spent many years of unrewarded service perched on a rooftop, guarding a Standard Oil facility... somewhere. Dwight just knew his friend and avid Esso collector Bob Rymer would be a good master, so he rescued it and brought it to his upstate New York body shop for rehabilitation.

Some bondo, fiberglass matting, a little cosmetic surgery and a gallon or two of lovingly applied Ditzler brought the sparkle back to the proud animal's eyes. The dog and his Tennessee-based new owner met for the first time in Columbus when Dwight delivered him. "Esso guys" are among the most dedicated collectors in the hobby. Upon seeing the dog, Sam McIntyre wistfully commented that he would be welcome in Richmond anytime if he became too much for the Rymers.

I for one am not big on slide presentations, but this year the traditional Friday night talk was to be given by Michael Karl Witzel. As readers of "CTO!" most of you know Mike from his "Gasoline Highways" column. Many of us include one or two of his many books in our Petro and Roadside America libraries. By 7:45 Friday night, the hotel's meeting room was packed in anticipation of Mike's 8:00 p.m. talk.

For his presentation, Mike put together a very special exhibit entitled "All Pumped Up, The Aesthetic and Technical Evolution of the American Gas Pump." Quite a title, but in fact it was Quite a show! The one hour presentation was not as dry as the title makes it appear, but filled with humor, great photos, lots of facts and much interesting petro history. Mike made the haul from Wichita to do this for us and it seemed to be appreciated by all.

By the way, although Mike did have some books on hand, he did not use his visit as a vehicle to push sales or to "blow his own horn." Kudos and thanks, from all of us Mike, for a fitting highlight to another great "CTO!" event.

Jerry tells me that the same facility is a "go" for 1997. A larger ballroom area will be available for indoor vendors and some more outside spots will be added. I look forward to next year, but in the meantime, keep an eye out for large dogs and... see you in Des Moines.

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Copyright 1996 "Check the Oil!" magazine, all rights reserved by Three Fifty Six, Inc.

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