Voices

Clubs have taken shine to old cars for 50 years

Gene McKay, left, and Don Fries share a love for old cars. As many as 80 cars, including theirs, are expected for the International Antique Car Meet today through Sunday at the Red Lion Inn at the Park and in Riverfront Park. (Christopher Anderson)
Gene McKay, left, and Don Fries share a love for old cars. As many as 80 cars, including theirs, are expected for the International Antique Car Meet today through Sunday at the Red Lion Inn at the Park and in Riverfront Park. (Christopher Anderson)

An electric car is probably not the first thing people expect to find at an antique car show, but this weekend’s International Antique Car Meet brings one to town.

Starting today, a 1911 Baker Electric automobile will be on display in the lobby of the Red Lion Inn at the Park. It’s there as a calling card for the International Antique Car Meet that’s taking place at the hotel and in Riverfront Park through Sunday.

Next to the Baker Electric will be parked a much more elaborate-looking Packard Phaeton, which is remarkable in its own way because of its shining chrome and genuine, vintage gangster car look, but also because this particular car was at the second International Antique Car Meet and this weekend is the 50th anniversary meet.

“Every year, one of the 10 clubs that participate grits its teeth and says, ‘we’ll take it next year’ and so we keep going,” said Gene McKay, who co-chairs the show with his longtime friend Don Fries.

Actually, McKay jokingly blames Fries for how he got involved in HASSIE, the Historical Automobile Society of Spokane and the Inland Empire.

“I was teaching his kids in school,” said Fries.

McKay chimes in: “And the kids came home and told me all about this car club. I got roped into it, that’s what happened.”

They both laugh.

Fries is bringing a sunshine yellow 1935 Auburn replica to the show, and McKay plans on taking his dark burgundy 1937 Cord – a pretty red thing with suicide doors.

“When you get the cars they are like puzzles because they are often in a poor state,” said McKay, looking admiringly at his Cord. “Then you go home and tell your wife how much it’s going to be to put it back together.”

The two men pause.

“And then she screams in agony: when is it ever going to end?” said Fries, laughing.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this weekend’s car show is a “guys only” event. Families often travel with the cars from show to show, and Fries and McKay have put together a nice itinerary of tours around Spokane and non-car events like a tour of Manito Park for exhibitors. They are also having an ice cream social for exhibitors at the Looff Carrousel.

They expect 80 cars and about 150 people for the show. Saturday’s show and shine in the Riverfront Park Clock Tower Meadow is free and open to the public.

The first meet, 50 years ago, was held in Waterton Lakes, Alberta.

The second one was held at Bigfork, on Flathead Lake in Montana, and since then the clubs have taken turns. Last time the show was in Spokane was in 2001.

At this year’s show, two members will be honored for having participated in every show for 50 years in a row: Lily Quinn, of Lethbridge, Alberta, and Ted Weale, of Calgary, Alberta.

McKay says there will be many Ford Model T’s and Model A’s as well as Packards and a 1918 Apperson at the show. The best part is that one doesn’t have to own an antique car to join HASSIE.

“We always welcome new members to the club, even if you don’t have an old car,” said McKay. “You can join just because or to support what we do.”



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