Our friends Budd and Marguerite Andrews were the hit of the Dalton Minnesota, Pioneer Thresherman’s Show and Fair last weekend and they didn’t just exhibit their 1922 House Car, they brought it to life with tales of it’s past and the open road. We once owned a 1952 Silver Streak, which we pulled with a 1964 Land Rover all the way from Portland Oregon to Big Sur, California, and the same quaint and cozy interior, the intimations of lives long past that we found in our old trailer, were alive and well in the Andrews vehicle.
As an adult Ag teacher, Budd Andrews would visit farms around the area, and each time that he arrived at Ed Schleske’s place, south of Maplewood Park, he looked at this old wreck rotting in the grove, and undoubtedly saw the diamond in the rough that most had missed. Harrah’s in Reno had seen it too, and offered $1100 (a great deal at that time) if Mr. Schleske would bring it out to Nevada, and in spite of the thousands of miles cross country that had already been logged, it was more than a feat given its current condition. For $350 Budd snapped it up and lovingly restored the car between 1972 and the 1980’s. and at some point during the restoration he discovered a 1936 Christmas card in a bottom drawer addressed to Ed Isaacson which matched the monogram EAI on the radio grill, and that opened the door to the old car’s history.
What the Andrews discovered is that this wondrous old relic was originally built in 1922 as a city bus on a Chevy Chassis but subsequently made into a house on wheels sometime in 1925, by Ed Isaacson, who together with his brother Charles owned and operated the Fergus Floral Company in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.
Because Ed and Christina intended to travel far and near and in order to be able to ascend the mountains in between the prairies and the ocean, he replaced the chassis with a Federal Knight Truck and a rare Sleeve Valve engine. The Isaacsons then traveled each November to March and logged up to 10,000 miles a year.
I feel a special kinship to the Isaacsons, not just because we had traveled at opposite ends of an era in classic vehicles, but because of the pictures on display at Dalton which brought us round in a synchronic full circle. With the exception of one long panorama set in Florida, the photos highlighted the old house car in San Luis Obispo – our most recent place of residence, and in Long Beach, Ca. – our home town! And now we live in their town.
When we grew up in Long Beach it was a few years after the devastating earthquake of 1933 and T.M. and I both remember that the schools, which were particularly hard hit, still had piles of rubble piled behind chain link fences. As it turns out, the Isaacsons were visiting that frightening day and Ed wrote “I thought a friend was announcing his arrival by shaking the bumper and I was going to step out and to tell him to quit – but the street we had just come through was littered with debris and fallen bricks.”
Marguerite has filled the vehicle with all the right touches of the era, even down to filling the flower vases with flowers that are “in keeping” with the times – sweet old fashioned posies, and because she found that Ed enjoyed going to the opera and always kept a set of tails in the closet, she keeps Budd’s old tux hanging in its place.
(Note the EAI on the grill)
In fact, the photographs that they have now unearthed of the Isaacson’s on their travels, show the men in suits, ties and hats and the women in dressy outfits – hardly what I would wear for camping cross country. Ah. Another era. How many times we have watched an old black and white film of the 30’s and 40’s and marveled at the dignified garb. Not that I’m all that sure I would give up my comfy clothes so easily, but it does bespeak of a more civilized time and values that more often than not have fallen by the wayside today. Budd and Marguerite make it all come back, in more ways than one.