“Waiting for Opening Day!”

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Stinson March 2019

At the beginning of my Postal career, a walked a route in a condo complex and, in the early ‘70s, I had a big, clunky AM/FM head set that my dad got me from Radio Shack, and I used to go door-to-door listening to WJR.

     Well, when winter was on the wane, and spring was on its way, the Detroit Tigers would head to Lakeland, FL, and the dulcet tones of two of the best radio announcers, ever to call a game in all of Major League Baseball, would make their yearly debut, and man, they were a welcome ‘sound for sore ears’.

     When Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey came on, you just knew that spring wasn’t all that far off! And that was kinda the way I always felt about Autorama, too.

     Back then, the show was always in January right after the New Year, and I always felt that

Autorama belonged in the ‘Pitchers & Catchers report to Lakeland’ pile, because it also hinted that spring was ‘just around the corner’!

     Admittedly, that “January-is-almost-April” thing was a stretch…. But nonetheless, it felt right to me, so that was what I focused on. Now that Autorama is March 1st, 2nd and 3rd, I think I’m safe (for now) to call it ‘Almost Spring’. 

 And the show always had a bit of something for everyone. Other than the vehicles, there were several little ‘booths’, mainly on the outer perimeter of the hall, that offered some non-car-related fun! About 49 years ago, prior to our marriage, Pat and I went down to the show (which she had not the slightest interest in), and we hit a few of those places. There  were Tarot Card Readings, Palm Readings, even a couple chairs for…Newspaper Readings (kidding!). But one exhibit caught my eye and I had to try it out.

There was this guy who would read your signature, and from that, he would guess your occupation! So, I scrawled my mostly illegible signature on a pad the guy had and, I don’t remember anything about his conclusion, except that he said, “…and you have absolutely NO artistic abilities, whatsoever!”

On it went, through the years, and in the late-‘70s I began cartooning for ISCA’s ShowStopper Magazine, then in the mid-‘80s I was appointed the magazine’s editor/writer/designer/artist/paste-up person, and printer liaison. We did a good enough job that I was given the ISCA MEDIA AWARD for 1986, so now I can call myself, ‘An Award-winning Journalist’! Ha!

I made a few friends, got to see the cars as they were being set up in their displays, and I got to know some of the exhibitors, many of which were surrogates for the owners, who were paid to drive their vehicle all around North America, going from show to show, transporting the car, setting up and tearing down the displays, and generally ‘babysitting’ the vehicle, accumulating points that would garner awards and prizes (most of which were not worth 1/1000th of the money it took to compete), culminating in the awards ceremony at the Grande Finale show at the end of the season. I went to two. One in Oklahoma City and one in Phoenix.

Nearly 65 years ago, Bob Larivee, Senior created the International Show Car Association, and when his good friend and show producer Don Ridler passed away at an early age, ‘Senior’ created what has become the most prestigious award in the hobby, the coveted Ridler Award.

The path I took through the World of the Show Car was an extraordinary adventure, filled with many great learning experiences, some of which I truly regret, but most being some of the best creative times of my life.

If you folks come away from this prattle, with even a tiny inkling of what Autorama is and can mean to participants and ‘spectators’ alike, coupled with your own experiences, I think you’ll see what many thousands of people have enjoyed over the years, even if they can’t vocalize their reasoning for the enjoyment, they get from attending this event.

My involvement in the Detroit Autorama has come full circle, and I’m a proud exhibitor of my work, in Artist’s Alley, around the perimeter of the basement level at Cobo Hall, but I still get that same feeling I’ve always gotten…waiting for Opening Day!

Bill Stinson

Cheryl and I are sincerely looking forward to seeing all of you, at what has become one of the top three massive Custom Car Shows in North America! We’ll have a new poster, a few T-shirts from this past 24th annual Woodward Cruise, and of course, those great Motor City Cruisin’ Tunes that have come to represent a fabulous trip down ‘Memory Lane’ for us ‘Baby Boomers’, who spent (or misspent) our youth cruisin’ the streets of Metro Detroit listening to the great Rock ‘n’ Roll music played by our favorite DJ’s, and to help commemorate those times, we’ve included nearly sixty pristine, off-the-master-tapes Detroit radio station jingles, from WJBK, WXYZ, CKLW, WKNR (Keener), WKMH, WHND (Honey Radio) and many others! For just $90.00 you’ll get eight CD’s (roughly nine hours) of glorious ‘ear candy’ from days gone by! So, stop by and see Cheryl and I. We hope to see you then!

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