Sunday, February 15, 2015

1925 Rolls Royce

1925 Rolls Royce

Back in November, I visited a friend in Bethesda, Maryland. As part of our sightseeing tour around the area, we went to visit Hillwood, Marjorie Merriweather Post’s estate (now a museum) in northwest Washington.  Quite a fascinating place.

It wasn’t until I got home that I remembered that Mrs. Post GAVE my father a car, a 1925 Rolls Royce Town Car.  He wrote about it in his memoir of car collecting Bright Wheels Rolling.  [I do intend to contact a curator at the museum to see if there is any information in their archives about this gift to my father.]

Here is what he wrote in the book:

“Mrs. Marjorie Merriweather Post Davies owned this Twenty Town Car, and believe it or not, she gave it to me. Not only did she give it to me, complete with solid ivory interior fittings, but she put brand-new tires on it first. And when I said I would send a man for it, Mrs. Davies said certainly not, she’d send it to me. And she did!”

And there’s another connection (tenuous as it may be). Mrs. Post’s first husband was Edward Bennett Close, who is the grandfather of my Rosemary Hall school mates artist Tina Close and actress Glenn Close.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Apologies! and a nice story...

Apologies for the six months hiatus. In October, when I retired, after 26 years at Dartmouth College,  I thought I would have much more free time.  I seem to have less.  Or is it just less self-discipline?  At any rate, for what it's worth, I'm back on track.

Here is the most recent James Melton legacy story:

When I was in Maine last August, doing the reading from my book at the Seal Cove Auto Museum, I was reunited with Tina Weeks, who is the daughter of Richard Paine, whose antique car collection is the museum.  One of the cars in her father’s collection was once in my father’s collection. (A 1913 Peugeot.) See September 6, 2014 blog post.   In between my father and her father, the car was owned by Dr. Sam Scher, a plastic surgeon in NYC.  He was a good friend of my father’s in his later years. Well, Tina had somehow contacted Dr. Scher’s grandson, Bernard Shuster, and urged me to do likewise.  So I did, and sent him a copy of my book.  Some weeks later a large box arrived from Dr. Shuster.  In it was a hat that had belonged to my father! (Barely worn, Knox, with my father’s name stamped in gold on the inside band.)  Also included was a very nice note that his grandfather had owned the hat, and that he—Bernard—had hoped someday to repatriate it to a member of the Melton family!!  Isn’t that amazing. I mean, my father has been dead for 54 years! (Dr. Scher died in 2000.)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A P.S. to the Seal Cove visit

The trip to Seal Cove also gave me a chance to reconnect with Tina Weeks, daughter of Richard C. Paine, Jr. whose collection forms the Seal Cove Auto Museum.  I consider her something of a “soul sister” on account of our car-collecting fathers. Here we are in front of the 1913 Peugeot which belonged to my father, and then hers (with ownership by Dr. Sam Scher in between Melton and Paine).

Monday, September 1, 2014

Seal Cove Auto Museum

A little over a week ago I did a talk about and reading from The Tenor of His Times at the Seal Cove Auto Museum on Mt. Desert Island, Maine.  I had the opportunity to reconnect with Roberto Rodriguez, former executive director of the museum, now its chief curator, who had invited me to speak, and meet the museum’s new executive director, Raney Bench.

You may recall that in September 2010 I did a talk at the museum. That was before my book was published. (See posts from 9/15/10 and 9/29/10.)

Because it’s such a long drive to Mt. Desert (although worth every hour! I love Maine!) I asked my friend, Heidi Hoskin to accompany me, and we took a few extra days to make stops along the route—at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick, the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden near Boothbay, and the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland.  We had a wonderful time on the whole trip, and were especially delighted with the welcoming hospitality at the Seal Cove Auto Museum.

This is Heidi and me in front of the 1913 Peugeot “Skiff” that was previously owned by my father.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Hershey 1958

I had a nice surprise last week -- a photo taken at the Hershey meet in 1958 – sent to me by Alan Ballard.

He writes: "The photo shows our fathers standing next to a 1910 Thomas Flyer Flyabout that once belonged to my father. (The picture was taken by Ken Stauffer, a long time friend and past president of AACA who died earlier this year.) The person in the middle is Tom Lester, who bought the car from my father and is showing it for the first time. I believe your father once owned a similar Thomas.

As someone who also was "born" into the antique car hobby, I remember your father not only for his love of antique cars, but for his musical talents. I still recall his referring to his antique car friends as "squirrels'!

Best regards,
Alan Ballard"

It’s always delightful to hear from folks who actually knew my father!  Thanks for the photo, Alan.  And on the subject of "squirrels," did you know my father had a license plate that read SQRL?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Summer of 1927

I've just finished a fascinating book:   One Summer – America, 1927 by Bill Bryson.

I always like Bryson's work, and the subject of this book seemed particularly intriguing to me. My father, helped by a loan from several Nashville businessmen, arrived in New York City to seek his fortune in the spring of 1927.  

On July 4, 1927 my father made his New York radio debut as a member of “Roxy's Gang.” Roxy was impresario, Samuel L. Rothafel. “Roxy’s Gang,” which was on the air from 1922 through 1931, was broadcast on the National Broadcasting Corporation’s Blue Network, Monday evenings at 7:30. My father joined Gang regulars Douglas Stanbury and Maria Gambarelli. (Over the years, such performers as orchestra leader Fred Waring, tenor Jan Peerce, baritone Leonard Warren, and radio personality Kate Smith were guests on the program.)

My not-yet famous father isn’t mentioned in Bryson’s book, but I was fascinated to know how many other amazing things occurred during that spring and summer of 1927—from Lindbergh’s flight, to Babe Ruth’s home run record, the execution of alleged anarchists Sacco & Vanzetti, Al Capone’s activities in Chicago, the dedication of Mount Rushmore, and on and on. A great read!  And for me, great background on what was happening at the moment my father embarked on his career.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

1893 Custom Built Steam Stage Coach

 This is from the souvenir booklet for the Melton Museum in Norwalk, Connecticut (1949)

This photograph of my parents is actually from the December 7, 1942 issue of Opera News
That was the date of my father's debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Tamino in "The Magic Flute." 

This is the car as it looks today. (Thanks for sending this, Mike.)

Back on April 2, 2012 I posted something about the oldest car in my father's collection, a 1893 custom-built steam stage coach.  Recently I had an email from Mike in Nevada, who is the current owner of this unusual vehicle!  One just never knows where cars formerly in the James Melton collection will turn up—and I'm always delighted to hear from their current owners.

This one, according to Mike, he bought five years ago. It had gone from Winthrop Rockefeller (who bought most of my father's collection from the Autorama in 1961), to Bill Harrah, to Bill Anderson, and now to Mike. 

Unfortunately, none of the sales records or inventories from my father's collection survived--so I don't know when my father bought the car, from whom,  or for how much.

I don't personally recall the car, as it stayed pretty much on display in the museum. Although I'm sure it ran; all of the cars in the collection did!  But it was not one of the cars my father drove frequently to meets, etc., like he did the 1907 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost and the 1913 Mercer Raceabout.  Those I do remember riding in frequently (and have photos to prove it). 

I wish I knew more about this unusual vehicle.