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.
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- “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)
- 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)
- 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.