29 October 2014

Hershey: More than car parts and chocolate

For about 360 days a year, Hershey is the “Sweetest Place on Earth.” Drive through town and the streetlights look like Hershey’s Kisses, the air smells of chocolate and you can buy that sweet stuff just about everywhere. There’s also a huge arena for sports events and concerts and a terrific amusement park, not to mention a large shopping outlet.

For those other five days, old cars rule when the Antique Automobile Club of America’s Fall National Meet comes to town with its acres and acres of car parts, cars for sale and, on Saturday, show cars. Want a pristine ’75 Coupe deVille with 4,000 miles, sheet metal for a ’55 Chevy or a complete Model A engine? No problem, as they’re all at Hershey along with a whole lot more.

But if you think the fall Hershey flea market doesn’t have some real surprises, you are seriously mistaken. Here are 10 items that we honestly didn’t expect to find hidden among the Studebaker fenders, T-Bird hardtops and rusty lever-arm shock absorbers.

  1. Klompen: In the days before all of the flea market fields were paved, these Dutch wooden shoes would have come in very handy. They still might be useful as you walk through soggy fields looking for where you parked your car. Funny thing, though, we didn’t see a single pair on a recent trip to the Netherlands. (Photo by Glenn Arlt)
  2. Slot Machine: If you’re feeling lucky after finding a new set of valve springs for your Crosley Hot Shot, maybe you’ll want to try your hand at your very own “one-armed bandit.” Now you have to beg or borrow a wagon to get it back to your car. (Photo by Glenn Arlt)
  3. Around the Water Cooler: Getting thirsty? Well, you’ll just have to wait until you get this unit back home and plumbed. You do have a hand truck and a pickup, don’t you? (Photo by Glenn Arlt)
  4. Open Wide: Ever wanted to open your own dental clinic? Here’s your chance with this vintage dentist’s chair upholstered in green and yellow. The good news is that when you’re sitting in it you don’t have to wear the sunglasses. Unfortunately, it didn’t appear to come with a do-it-yourself gas kit. (Photo by Glenn Arlt)
  5. Channeling Barbie: This bright pink rotary dial phone is the perfect gift for the Barbie in your life, particularly if your name just happens to be Ken. (Photo by Glenn Arlt)
  6. Blow some Bubbles: If you’re like us, you’ve been looking for stale elderly bubble gum for years. This was your chance to make a little money selling the old stuff so you can replace it with some fresh gum for your personal use. After chewing on this, you my need that dental chair. (Photo by Glenn Arlt)
  7. Setting Records: Some old machines are just plain cool, and even if you don’t use it, this old Victrola would be awesome to have around, even if you have to spend some of the money you budgeted for correct wheels for your Plymouth GTX. (Photo by Glenn Arlt)
  8. “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out”: Imagine yourself as Ralphie Parker from “A Christmas Story” finding a new in box Red Ryder BB Gun under the Christmas tree. It may not be a car part and Hershey isn’t exactly a Christmas tree, but very few of us past a certain age haven’t seen that movie a dozen times and related to Ralphie in some way. (Photo by Jonathan A. Stein)
  9. Two Takes on Intake: We couldn’t exactly tell whether this rig was intended to mount a regulation mailbox—incoming mail only, of course—or if that mailbox was a creative replacement for an airbox sitting atop those dual carburetors. We would have loved to replace our boring old mailboxes with this setup, but the vendor couldn’t tell us if the carbs had been rebuilt by the letter. (Photo by Jonathan A. Stein)
  10. Kids, Don’t Try This at Home: This Society of Arts Blowpipe Apparatus may be about the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in more than 25 years of combing the fields at Hershey. Who wouldn’t want to practice their stealth blowpipe skills with this little gadget? The problem is, we can’t vouch for the legality of this little contraption in all 50 states. (Photo by Jonathan A. Stein)

So the next time your non-believer friends dismiss Hershey as miles and miles of rusty old car parts, tell them that they can find all kinds of things from slightly used fur coats to player piano rolls, brand new in box toys of all kinds and even a gorilla driving a little car.

11 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Mike Toledo October 29, 2014 at 17:50
    That's not a "blowgun" (you silly geese!). It's a hard-soldering tool. You can braze with it, if you have enough lung capacity. Used to be important in chemistry.
  • 2
    robert morris virginia October 29, 2014 at 18:05
    I purchased 100 antique hickory shaft golf clubs for the late eighteen hundreds.... a real barn find in the world of golf.
  • 3
    Tom Duluth MN October 29, 2014 at 18:52
    People complain about ebay taking away from swat meets but when $hit like this is beginning to overwhelm swap meets it makes ebay look like a much better place to hunt for old car parts.
  • 4
    Michael Adirondacks in Upstate New York October 29, 2014 at 20:21
    I cannot honestly state that when I cruised the swap meet fields this year I actually saw any of the ten weird items featured. But I enjoyed every moment of walking through and haggling for trash and treasures everyday that week. The weirdest thing I saw this year was a "used" titanium "ball joint" which was actually a hip socket replacement that had been "mined" from a crematorium. That was pretty weird. But the weirdest siting of all was several years back when a vendor had a used cast iron casket for sale. The casket had a bit of flash rust all over it. The "inside" was really tiny for a very skinny person and it had a small window on the front topside so the dearly departed could "see out"...or be seen. That's actually more than weird..its creepy...but great fun and certainly the basis for year round discussions with buddies until the next Hershey meet.
  • 5
    walt Sammamish, WA October 29, 2014 at 21:20
    The blow pipe set is used for analysis of ores. It was the cat's meow for the field geologist or chemist. You should have picked it up because it had several solid platinum tools in the kit, if complete. It would be just the kit for the off roader so he can check out random rocks while waiting for that new axle. Who knows maybe a shinny one will pay for the repair?
  • 6
    Ron L'Herault North Attleboro, MA October 29, 2014 at 23:38
    The Victrola is probably a VV IV or VV VI, both common table top units. The record is way newer. It's a late 40s record on a late teens machine. For best results, the correct period records should be used. The reproducer ought to be rebuilt and needles should be used for only one record and then disposed of and NEVER reused after being removed from the needle chuck.
  • 7
    Dan United States October 30, 2014 at 07:40
    The blowpipe apparatus is not a weapon. It appears to have been used in the assaying of metals.
  • 8
    Warren Schmitt north coast October 30, 2014 at 20:43
    If I only had one swap meet to go to,Hershey would be the one!I actually saw an airplane for sale in the chocolate field.I told the vendor that the airplane was" the first" I have seen at Hershey.His reply was "thank you".
  • 9
    Steve Midwest USA October 30, 2014 at 11:23
    So, the show wasn't rained out by Thursday again ?
  • 10
    Charles Raleigh Nc October 31, 2014 at 17:21
    While I enjoy looking at all the non car stuff at Hershey, the last time I was there was 2 years ago. It's a sad fact that after walking the fields for two days, I found more parts for my project vehicles at a junkyard about a 100 miles to the east than at the show.
  • 11
    David H Little Rock, AR October 31, 2014 at 10:43
    So every year we do a "Hershey Challenge" towards the end of the show. We break up into teams of two, set a budget of $20 or so & see who comes out with the weirdest, coolest or most random item. Sometimes it's a snap-on & other times a vintage bowler hat or the brass platter of awesomeness that gets re-gifted to this day. Great fun!

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