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2007 Merzoian Tailgater Show Journal by Christian Willis.

This journal was written on August 25, 2007.

After missing last year’s show, it was really nice coming back to this show! This year was different for me, as my father wasn’t able to make it out, and I brought Maggi for the first time. We left the apartment in Mission Viejo at about 5AM, and drove up the I-5 until it branched off at the 99, and then took the 65 out to Porterville. Traffic was very pleasant, and we arrived precisely on time (to the minute!) at 8:30.

As we drove up, I almost thought we had shown up too early… there was practically no one there! But once we passed the barn, I realized they moved all of the tables to the other side of the barn. We parked the car and headed over to say our hellos.  Richard Dawson had brought his insulators again, and I could already see my cash disappearing.

I asked Richard if he had brought the CD 1073 S.B.T.&T.Co. spools that he had brought to the Cayucos show, and sure enough he had. I was prepared to leave the show with at least one of them. He warned me that he had raised the price on them, and not to be alarmed… the prices were negotiable. He brought them out for me to look at again, and I withheld my shock: each spool had a price tag of $450. That was up from $175 at the Cayucos show! Fortunately for me, he had put the high price on them to prevent any non-serious buyers at the Placerville show. He offered them to me at the original price, so we decided to get both spools. (One of them was an early birthday present from Maggi.)

It was still early, and I had already spent all my money! But after Cayucos, I can’t say I was surprised. I was very happy to have this rare spool in both colors. A few unpacked boxes later, Richard showed me a CD 280 and asked “Have you got one of these?” I was looking at a No.100 H.V. priced at $325. “Nope, I sure don’t!” I replied. Yes, that one was definitely on my wanted list, but there was no way I could afford that. And then Richard said he’d go $250 on it. Well, that sealed my fate. At half book value, how could I refuse? He was even kind enough to let me take it home, as long as I paid him “by Christmas”. I could definitely guarantee that! I thanked him profusely.

Well, I was beyond done for the show now! No more insulators! (Yeah right.) Maggi and I perused the other tables, and sure enough, I found another cool insulator… a CD 202 Hemingray No.14 in aqua with olive swirls. This was the cleanest No.14 I had seen (it must have been an early production piece.) It had a good chip on the right side of the umbrella, but the embossing combined with the color and swirls and I couldn’t resist the $10 price tag. Sold! Now I was really finished. No more purchases!

Maggi and I sat at one of the tables and talked to various people, including Don Bayes. And then something that should never happen at an insulator show happened: as I was getting up to go walk over to Richard’s tables, I saw one of his tables drop on one end, and the sickening sound of glass on glass was heard. People from all over ran towards the table as insulators began sliding off the edge of the table. One of the legs on the table had collapsed under the weight of all the insulators. While some held the end of the table up to prevent any more insulators from falling, a few others and I began picking up the insulators from the ground and placing them on an adjacent table. I saw a CD 221 Hemingray-680 with a treated top shattered in pieces lying on the ground. I grew sick, having just handled that same insulator a couple hours earlier. It was one of the pieces that was originally in the Milholland collection, and so far the only CD 221 with a treated top I have ever seen.

Fortunately, the overall damage was minimal. Only the CD 221 and a CD 310 sleeve were lost. A few other pieces suffered minor damage, but the rest of the insulators remained miraculously intact! The wood chip flooring definitely helped cushion the insulators’ falls, and the quick thinking of nearby collectors helped prevent the rest of the pieces from slipping off the table. Things could have been a LOT worse, given the value of all the pieces on that table. I picked up the broken Hemingray-680, and collected the pieces up from the ground. Richard walked over to survey the damage, and then said I could keep it as a specimen. I felt terrible, but gratefully accepted it. I will try my best to reglue it.

That shook everyone up for awhile! Pretty soon it was time for lunch. We all lined up and chose from a great selection of food: salad, garlic bread, the Merzoian’s famous beans, and roasted turkey and shredded beef. We sat at one of the tables with Bill Heitkotter, and Camille and Don Rohde. We had a great time talking about everything from old drive-thrus in Fresno to Bill’s days as a lineman. For dessert we had their delicious homemade ice cream. Strawberry was definitely our favorite.

Around 2 o’clock, we had the raffle. We purchased 3 tickets with the few dollars we had left. Much to our surprise, we won something! Maggi thought she had put the tickets in the bucket for a display case, but it turned out to be for a miniature light purple Cal Elec Works commemorative produced by Don Bayes.  Don later told us that the batch had so much manganese in it that they were turning royal purple in the sun. He suggested we do the same, but I think we’ll keep it OUT of the sun instead! I’d like to imagine it will be more valuable someday.

After the raffle, we took a group picture, and then headed out. We had an equally pleasant drive back on Hwy. 65 and south on Hwy. 99. Along the way I saw a sign for an antique shop, and we pulled off the road to check it out. It was a very interesting hybrid antique shop and produce market. We were back on the road shortly, and then decided to stop for gas in Gorman.

We also decided to stop at the Old Ridge Route Antique Shop in Lebec. One of the first things I noticed when we went inside was a crate full of CD 122 Hemingray 16’s, all in aqua or Hemi blue. I found a couple of good pieces. Both were a bright Hemi blue with sharp drip points and the narrow embossing. A few of them even had no periods in U S A! I picked two of the best (one with periods and one without). Maggi found a book she liked, The U.S. West, the Saga of Wells Fargo.

After passing Magic Mountain, traffic started to gradually get worse. It slowed to a crawl in L.A. (what else is new), and we got home around 7:15. We had a great time! We’re bummed that neither the Three Amigos nor Tulare shows will be held this year, so our next show will probably Cayucos ’08. Until then…

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