24 April 2013

Old cars and stuff

I'm headed north this weekend to Fort Worth with my brother.  That alone might scare some people.  The last time we did a road trip north was last June and I wound up coming home with a new toy.   

I've been working on doing this trek for a couple of years but work/life kept finding ways to keep us busy at home and we never made it.  Finally, the stars have aligned and we have gotten our acts together to make the trip.  Many, many moons ago, when we lived up in in north Texas, I used to attend the PATE swap meet every year.  My brother started going to it back in the late 80's and roped me into going to it.  After one turn, I was hooked.  A swap meet is a flea market for old cars and car stuff.  Lots of people show up to sell their treasures/antiques/junk/crap.  At a larger swap meet, you can find anything from original car parts to entire cars.  Pate is one of the granddaddies of them all.  When you look at swap meets help throughout the US, this is #3 in size, duration, and participants (Hersey, PA, Carlisle, PA are 1 & 2).  People show up from all across the states to sell/buy old car stuff.  Anything you could ever want related to cars/trucks can be had (think of it as a flea market/garage sale for guys).  This swap meet has been held continuously for decades (this year is the 40th).  The swap meet used to be called the South Central Swap meet.  When started, it was looking for a place to host a sizable event of this stature.  Looking for a permanent venue, the found a guy called Aggie Pate who owned a good track of land near Cresson, Texas.  Now, at the time, Cresson was not much of a town.  A few hardy souls, a church or two, post office, gas station and very little else.  The area could be considered remote, a good hour south of Fort Worth.  
Pate 1978
The original meet was a hodgepodge of vendors set up in Pate's pasture and grew to something monumental.  Over 5000 vendors, 5 days in length, thousands of participants, all camped out in a pasture for days looking for the best deal.  With that many vendors in one place, it can literally take you days to cover the entire grounds.   Given the number of vendors and size of the place, I would estimate that we wind up walking several miles each day just to cover the whole meet.  Camping in a field for 5 days presented challenges.  Weather was all over the map.  Whenever somebody asked me what to wear, I used to tell them to plan for hot/dry/cold/wet weather.  There were the dust bowl years where we were begging for water and then there were the mud years when it rained from opening day until we pulled out on Sunday. I even recall a small tornado one year.   
Base camp
During our run in the 80's & 90's, my brother and I hooked up with some guys from Corpus Christi and Oklahoma to camp out the entire week.  We had an assigned spot in Pate (corner of 4th & Avenue O) that became our spot.  We'd show up on Wednesday and stay through Sunday morning.  Everyone would bring stuff to sell and something to contribute to the general group welfare/menu.  Each night, one person had responsibility for the meal.  I've had hobo stew (cooked in a milk can), steaks, burgers, brisket, among a few meals.  You didn't have to bring much food, but you never went away hungry.  During the days, we would head out to cover the swap meet to see what deals could be had.  I've bought/sold/traded a lot of stuff (junk) over the years (bar lights, beer signs, tools, antique tractor, etc.) but to really appreciate the swap meet, you need to have a project car to work on.  When I finally found Maria, I was on a hunt for Mustang stuff.  Scored a pristine set of original wheels for her one year (with tires).  You are not going to find a lot of 68 Mustang parts in your local AutoZone, but at this place you can find anything.  My brother had several cars over the years and we would always try to help him out in finding those rare parts for his project.  I spent one whole Pate looking for a "Waterfall Chrome Radio Cover" for his 1936 Ford Cabriolet.   
New shoes for Maria
Eventually, Pate died and his sons sold off the property and the swap meet was looking for a new home.  It was moved to the Texas Motor Speedway north of Fort Worth where there was plenty of acreage and open space for this kind of deal.  We followed the crowd up there, and it was nice and clean, but it just wasn't the same flavor to the old guys.  We attended Pate religiously for years.  Eventually, my brother transferred overseas and I landed a new job where I am now.  My new job was tied to shipments and quarterly numbers and our fiscal calendar usually ended around this time each year which made it impossible for me to break away for the weekend.  With my change in role over the past few years, I am no longer required to hang around until close so I challenged my brother last year to go back to Pate.  Things didn't work out for one reason or another, so we set our sights on this year.  This year is no less hectic for me, but my brother has the bug big time.  He's already loaded up his trailer and has his gear/supplies ready to go.  For me, it seem like everyone knows I am taking off this weekend and I have been inundated with a ton of last minute projects/reports/assignments.  Despite that, I still intend to pull the plug and head north early Friday.  We're not as young and energetic as in the past, but it should be an interesting ride.  Despite the change in location, you can still find pretty much anything.  

Project car

All sorts of transportation

There's always something different each year

Just what I needed for the garage


ShadowRun300 said...

That looks incredible - a Picker's Paradise! No tellin' what you two might come home with, but I'm interested to find out.
Either way, it'll be nice to spend a weekend away with your brother. Hope the weather cooperates. Will you be bringing the Airstream up?

meleah rebeccah said...

"With that many vendors in one place, it can literally take you days to cover the entire grounds."

- Oh, I can see why from the photos. Holy crap!

Have a great weekend with your brother! I expect a full report when you get back!

terri said...

Well I was thinking that a swap meet didn't sound like much fun - for us girly types anyway. But seeing the pictures, I've changed my mind. Shadowrun is right. It looks like a great place for pickers! Hope you find some good stuff. I'm sure there will be some fun pictures and good stories to tell when it's all said and done.

Abby said...

Wow, now THAT's a swap meet! Looks dangerous. Just remember, "These are not the droids you're looking for".