3:29pm

Mon August 6, 2012
Summer Nights: Funtown After Sundown

Cruisin' For Classic Cars On A Steamy Summer Night

Originally published on Tue August 7, 2012 6:00 am

At the heart of the small town of Milan, Ohio, there's a graceful and tree-lined town square. It makes a good gathering spot for the classic cars and trucks of decades past.

A 1923 T-Bucket Ford, a '77 Chevy El Camino, a '68 AMC AMX, a '46 Dodge truck, a '59 Ford Galaxie — they all keep arriving after 5 o'clock every Tuesday evening. As the owner-drivers park around the square, engine hoods go up, lawn chairs come out — and the admiration begins.

If the town's name sounds familiar, it's probably because Thomas A. Edison was born here in 1847. In Milan, they call him "the world's greatest inventor."

Don Gefell runs a shop in town called Sights and Sounds of Edison. He has an original Edison celluloid cylinder of Edison's actual voice, and occasionally takes it, and his phonograph, out to the square's gazebo to add to the festive mood.

Mike Inman is among those showing off his car on a recent steamy evening. "I brought a '62 Pontiac Catalina tonight — 421 lightweight," he says. "I think it's 550 horse[power]."

With temperatures floating around 100 degrees, Inman got up and went on the early side himself.

But even in the heat, it's good to sit under the shade trees, see your friends and listen to live music on the square.

Kelly Guseman, who owns a downtown shop that sells T-shirts and hats, helps the Milan Chamber of Commerce put Cruisin' on the Square together every Tuesday.

"Anybody can have a car show in a Dairy Queen parking lot," Guseman says. "But I think people really enjoy the town square and the old historic buildings. I mean, that's what really makes this car show."

In many ways, the show is like a baseball game. Milan merchants donate door prizes for the event, and if you bring a car to show, you can register to win. Tonight, Nancy Smith, proud owner of an '88 Chevy Camaro, wins a coupon from Jimmy's Pizza Box. The local Masons are grilling sausage, and attendees can also pick up a yellow perch sandwich from the Wonder Bar or burgers from the American Legion.

Bruce Chrislip, a former mechanic, shows off his 1937 maroon-and-black Plymouth pickup truck, as Nancy Wargo arrives in her dignified 1949 Chevy Deluxe.

"It's ... two-tone green with the visor on it," Wargo says. "Been in my family all 63 years."

Wargo explains the shiny Chevrolet was her Great-Aunt Betty's car initially. She had it for 20 years, and then Wargo's father had it for 40. In its pristine condition, you could practically put it right back in the Chevy dealer's showroom.

"It's a nice, solid-feeling car," Wargo says. And even in this heat, she says it can hit 55 mph.

People don't come to the square just for show and tell. Wargo and her husband would like to find a '67 Ford Mustang convertible to buy. And, on a cooler Tuesday summer night, they just might find it here — sometimes up to 120 vehicles show up for the classic car cruise-in.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

Now, it's time for the latest entry in our series, Summer Nights. We've been taking you to places around the country where people gather on a warm summer evening or, in the case of our next story, a hot summer evening.

Here's NPR's Noah Adams in Ohio with a classic car cruising.

NOAH ADAMS, BYLINE: Milan is a small town in northern Ohio. The graceful town square has lots of trees, and it makes a good gathering spot for the classic cars and trucks of decades past.

(SOUNDBITE OF ENGINE ROARING)

ADAMS: A 1923 T-Bucket Ford, a '77 El Camino, a '68 AMX (unintelligible), a '46 Dodge truck, '59 Ford Galaxy. They keep arriving after five o'clock every Tuesday. The owner/drivers park around the square. The engine hoods go up, lawn chairs come out. Let the appreciation begin.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAR HORN)

ADAMS: This town, Milan, might sound familiar. And if you do get off the Ohio Turnpike, the answer is waiting.

DON GEFELL: My name is Don Gefell and our shop is called Sights and Sounds of Edison.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ADAMS: Thomas A. Edison was born here in 1847, the world's greatest inventor. That's what they call him in Milan.

THOMAS A. EDISON: This is Edison speaking. Our boys made good in France. The word American has a new meaning in Europe. Our soldiers have made it mean courage, generosity, self-restraint and modesty.

ADAMS: An original Edison celluloid cylinder. Don Gefell has even taken his phonograph out to the gazebo in the square. He plays Edison's voice and Sousa's marches for the car fans.

MIKE INMAN: I brought a '62 Pontiac Catalina tonight, 421 lightweight.

ADAMS: Is it fast?

INMAN: Oh, yeah. It'll get up and go. I think it's 550 horse.

(SOUNDBITE OF ENGINE ROARING)

ADAMS: Get up and go is what Mike Inman did with the Pontiac. The temperature was floating up around 100 and several car owners left early. But it's good to sit under the shade trees, see your friends and, this week, listen to a singer named Acoustic Scottie.

ACOUSTIC SCOTTIE: (Singing) I've seen fire and I've seen rain. I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end.

ADAMS: Kelly Guseman owns a store downtown selling T-shirts and hats. She helps the Chamber of Commerce put all this together every Tuesday.

KELLY GUSEMAN: Anybody can have, you know, a car show in, like, a Dairy Queen parking lot. But I think people really enjoy the town square and the old historic buildings. I mean, that's what really makes this car show.

(SOUNDBITE OF ENGINE ROARING)

ADAMS: The Milan merchants donate door prizes. If you brought a car to show, you get to register.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 2: Nancy Smith. She's got a Chevy Camaro. It's an '88.

ADAMS: She wins a coupon from Jimmy's Pizza Box. You can also get a yellow perch sandwich at the Wonder Bar, burgers at the American Legion. The Masons are grilling sausage. A car show is, in many ways, like a baseball game.

(SOUNDBITE OF ENGINE REVVING)

ADAMS: And here's my favorite engine sound, the quiet precision of a very old maroon and black Plymouth pickup truck.

(SOUNDBITE OF ENGINE REVVING)

BRUCE CHRISLIP: 1937, original.

ADAMS: Bruce Chrislip. It's been his work on the Plymouth.

CHRISLIP: I used to be an auto tech. I'm disabled now.

ADAMS: And Nancy Wargo has arrived in her dignified Chevrolet.

NANCY WARGO: It's a 1949 Chevy Deluxe, two-tone green with the visor on it. It's been in my family all 63 years.

ADAMS: It was Great Aunt Betty's car to start with. She had it 20 years. Then Nancy's dad had it for about 40. You could put it right back in the Chevy dealer's showroom.

WARGO: It's a nice solid-feeling car and, even in this 100-degree heat, with, you know, the old 2-55 air conditioning, two windows down and 55 miles an hour.

ADAMS: Nancy Wargo and her husband would like to find a '67 Ford Mustang to buy, the convertible. On a cooler Tuesday summer night, they might find it here in Milan, Ohio. Sometimes, 120 vehicles show up for the Classic Car Cruise-In.

Noah Adams, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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