Thursday, September 15, 2016
What a fun day I had yesterday! Barbara Fox, Tour Director of the 71st Revival Glidden Tour invited me to attend their luncheon at the Mount Washington Omni Hotel in Bretton Woods, NH. I had a grand time meeting new friends (several of whom own cars of my father’s) and reconnecting with old friends. I shared a lunch table with Pat Swigart, whose late husband started the Swigart Antique Auto Museum in Huntingdon, PA.
As you may recall, in 1946 my father my father instigated and personally arranged a post-war revival of the Glidden Tour, a prestigious endurance test for autos in the early part of the century. Members of the Veteran Motor Car Club of America turned back the pages of history when they gathered on the morning of August 17, 1946, at 9 a.m. at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street, in front of the Plaza Hotel, to begin the revived tour’s first leg, the 151-mile journey to Albany. Cars had to be older than 1919 vintage. The original tours, funded by financier Charles Jasper Glidden, an ardent early advocate of automobiles as viable transportation, were primarily “reliability tours” to show that cars could complete arduous journeys with relatively little strife. They were held annually from 1905 to 1915 and were the most grueling tests for automobiles until the Indianapolis 500 Race was introduced in 1911. “We brought the Glidden Tour back again,” said my father, “not to test the performance of our cars, but more or less as an excuse to polish ’em up and take them out of the garage.”
Nineteen forty-six happened to be the Golden Jubilee of the automobile industry and the tour was partly to celebrate this milestone. So as not to be embarrassed by cries of “Get a horse!” tour officials arranged for two service vehicles to accompany the group on its 1,200-mile run. One of the major events that made the tour possible was a post-war agreement by Firestone Tire & Rubber Company to resurrect their old tire molds; that agreement, instigated by my father, literally put antique autos back on the road. He also negotiated with Firestone, Texaco, Ford, General Motors, Thompson Motor Products, and International Harvester for assistance to tour participants in return for suitable publicity opportunities. He’d done radio shows for several of those companies—Texaco Star Theater, The Voice of Firestone, and Harvest of Stars—and some years later would host Ford Motor Company’s Ford Festival on TV. His singing career and his car-collecting hobby were never far apart.