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Saying goodbye to the Chet Krause collection

Friday, August 13 is going to be a big day in Iola, Wisconsin. Naturally, anyone attending the annual Iola Military Vehicles and Gun Show held that weekend will already be there, but for folks who live in Iola, it will be a more poignant show day than most. On Friday, August 13, the last of Chet Krause’s collection will be sold at auction.

For those who aren’t familiar with Chet or his collection, allow me to explain. Chet is an Iola native, who, after his service in WWII, returned to Iola where he pursued carpentry with his father. Always a collector and a bit of an entrepreneur, Chet started a magazine dealing with one of his many passions—coin collecting. Eventually, through smart business decisions and employing a belief in hiring good people, his hobby publishing grew into a small publishing dynasty catering to all sorts of collectors with publications ranging from coins to comic books and guns to classic cars and many other areas in between.

While his company, Krause Publications, grew, so did Chet’s collecting passions. He amassed premier collections of coins, guns, classic cars, and military vehicles. It was during his passion for the latter that I first met Chet.

He had just purchased Military Vehicles Magazine about nine years ago when it was decided to hire an editor who would be dedicated to building on the strong foundation that the founder and subsequent owner had established. Though I was very happy at the job I had editing books on foreign sports cars, tractors and the occasional military title, I leaped at the chance to interview for the job of “editor of Military Vehicles Magazine.”
During the course of the interview, I was escorted to Chet’s office to meet him. After quizzing me about the WWII service of my father, he asked me, “Do you own a military vehicle?” I stammered but truthfully explained, “No, but I have been researching the possibility of buying a half-track to restore.” Nothing but silence as Chet looked straight at me. Finally, he said in typical gruff Chet style, “Goddamnit…I don’t pay you enough to own one of those. Take the job and you can drive mine any time you want.”

With a “perk” like that, how could I refuse? I took the job, sold my little house and moved to Iola.

Over the next couple of years, I had the privilege of not only playing with Chet’s half-track, but any one of about 35 other military vehicles that included an array of 2-1/2-ton GMCs, ¾-ton Dodges, heavy wreckers, high-speed tractors and even an M4A3 Sherman. I spent my free time at Chet’s garages working with his full-time mechanic just trying to keep the fleet operable. The summers were spent preparing for and driving in parades with the season culminating at the Iola Military Show in August.

It was a grand time. The economy was good and the MVs were running. There seemed to be little to be concerned about.

But time marches on. Chet decided it was time to retire at about the same time the economy began to shift. The ownership of the company changed hands. Chet decided to sell his car collection, then his tractor and truck collection and finally his military vehicles. But, we all know what it means to be a collector. No sooner had Chet sold all of his military vehicles, he decided to fulfill one of his collecting goals: assemble a collection of every type of Jeep used by the U.S. military.

In an impressive display of collecting speed and savvy, it took Chet about two years to achieve his goal. The collection includes everything from a prototype Bantam, 4-wheel-steer Ford GP, and amphibious GPA to M151 Mutts with recoilless rifles and M170 ambulances. Like his previous collection, all were operable and Chet was always very generous to feature them in area parades.

Well, on August 13, 2010, this will all change. Chet understands that as a collector, each one of us is just a caretaker of the relics for which we are passionate. He is offering this significant collection for sale to give the opportunity to another generation of collectors to enjoy the vehicles and to perpetuate the honor of our veterans that each represents.

Sure, this is an “end of an era” but that is not a bad thing…time keeps rolling on. Whereas I will miss the opportunity to drive Chet’s jeeps, I am forever blessed with having had the opportunity to study and learn these vehicles.

Will I be bidding on Friday? Probably not. The auction has been advertised internationally and has commanded a lot of presale buzz and attention.
Perhaps Chet’s original statement to me best describes my position, “Goddamnit…I don’t pay you enough to own one of those…” Maybe not, but regardless, Chet’s collection has provided me with countless hours of enjoyment. I have benefited from Chet’s passion in more ways than most will know.

Thank you, Chet. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to play with some incredible military vehicles.

Keep em rolling,
John Adams-Graf

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