by Harold “the Old Geezer” Ratzburg
I recently attended the latest MTA Military Vehicle Show in Sussex, N.J. While I was there, I got to thinking ( like the old geezer that I am), “My, my, how things have changed in the last 40 plus years in our hobby of collecting, enjoying, and preserving military vehicles."
As I remember, the first East Coast (rather informal) rally of our group was held at Summit Air Park, Maryland. Steve Roberts, the owner of the small airport, was into military vehicles and anything military. If you were nice to him (and he liked you), he would even take you up for a spin in his airplane (which, as I recall, was an older bi-plane) for an aerial view of the festivities.
Being a small private airport meant the facilities were limited to a men’s room and a lady’s room, and there were no shower rooms around. We historic military vehicle (HMV) collectors are a hardy group. So what if you didn’t get a shower after a day or two in the hot sun? Just stay up wind from us.
The rally consisted of about 8 to 10 vendors who brought their stuff in the trunks of their cars or in their pickup trucks. Vehicles for display consisted of maybe five WWII jeeps and a three quarter ton truck. At the time, I felt that the first guy to buy a 2-1/2-ton CCKW would be a really a brave soul to buy a truck that big. Our club was, more or less, a Jeep club, but we were happy to get together.
Advertising the first rallies was pretty much word of mouth between collectors, just wanting to get together to show off their vehicles, and maybe pick up a part or accessory they needed from another collector that had one for sale. So, any member of the public that saw our displays was somebody who just wandered in or was maybe part of a collector’s family.
OK, so let’s fast forward forty plus years to the most recent rally at the Sussex County Fairgrounds.
I wandered around the HMV display areas, and the first thing that struck me was just the WWII display area of vehicles and WWII Reenactors was bigger and had more vehicles than our first rally years ago!
Turning around and looking in the opposite direction, was the larger area of tanks, trucks, armored cars, more jeeps, trailers, and still bigger trucks. Imagine collectors having armored cars and tank like vehicles weighing tons, and then having trucks big enough to haul them to the rally! (Can you tell how impressed this old geezer was?)
Walking through the area, I tried to count the number of vehicles parked kind of haphazardly. To get a count, I decided to count only the vehicles that had engines, not counting trailers. The bottom line was that after checking the whole area of the rally, my rough count showed that over 135 military vehicles were in attendance at the rally.
Now, thinking about vendors, Fred Schlesinger, who handled the vender space sales, told me that over 80 vendors paid their way into the show. They filled the big hall with over 70 tables. The 10’ x 20’ outdoor spaces in the five sheds, the grandstand area, and the spaces on the pavement outdoors, totaled 120. Yessiree – that is a heck of a step up from our first rally!
With the help of Mother Nature giving us outstanding weather for a rally, it was a pleasure to just walk around and check out the visitors to our show. The MTA has done a great job of making the rally into a real family affair by including the public, instead of a gathering of just HMV collectors. Whole families with kids came by and many old geezers like me were there with their embroidered caps showing that they were ex-service men, vets of all the wars in our nations recent past: WWII to the present day conflicts. I am sure the vets appreciated the tributes and appreciation that was shown for their service to our USA.
According to the cash flow count near the end of the show, more than 2,400 people paid to visit over the two days the show was open to the public. It just goes to show that the efforts of the MTA to attract the public to our show really paid off in dollars that will be used to help out our troops overseas, veteran groups, other similar organizations, and to promote our hobby.