Tuesday, August 14, 2012


“People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war and before an election.” – Otto von Bismark

Can you feel nostalgia for a time you’ve never experienced?  This past Saturday was the 26th annual Minnesota Antique Car Run.  These are really, really old cars.  The rules for participation are, any vehicle 1908 or older, or any vehicle up to 1915 with two or fewer cylinders, may try to make the drive.  The route, a winding one over mostly back roads, is somewhere around 120 miles, starting in New London and ending in New Brighton, with a stop in Buffalo for lunch.  The mayor of New Brighton turns out to give each finisher a medallion.  There was a vehicle in this year’s run that had made twenty-four previous trips.  The newest vehicle was from 1911.

But all the above are mere facts.  They don’t capture the sweet twist of the heart on seeing one of these ancient cars tottering up the road on narrow tires, its black leather top making it taller than it is wide, brass trim gleaming, both cylinders still bravely firing in its hundred and fourth year.  It brought tears to my eyes to see it and its fellow travelers.

Why is that?  Why do some of us feel a romantic attraction to times not our own?  I was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism for many years.  I watched men in armor fighting on foot, danced to medieval music, ate medieval-style foods at medieval-style feasts, felt touched and excited when a brave warrior was knighted.  There are people – men, mostly, it seems – who go to extraordinary lengths to recreate battle conditions of the War Between the States.  If you attend a science fiction/fantasy convention, you’ll see people dressed in costumes and assuming attitudes of utterly fictional times.

This nostalgia thing is not modern.  Some of us go all nostalgic about the Victorian era, when there were people in the Victorian era who were all nostalgic about the medieval period.  I have a book about it, with a photo of a painting of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert dressed in medieval costumes.  They look kind of silly, her in a Victorian corset and he wearing his Victorian handlebar mustache.  (Of course, I got a report this morning from someone who attended the SCA’s annual Great Pennsic War, saying she was amused to see people in wonderful and accurate Medieval garb talking on their cell phones.)

And I happen to know that those wonderful antique automobiles use replica tires that don’t go flat every fifteen miles, like the originals.

Still, when the 1910 Stanley Steamer pulled in, wreathed in steam, whistle blowing, red paint shining, brass headlights gleaming, my eyes grew moist.  Why is that?   


Linda O. Johnston said...

I'm of course nostalgic for 17th Century England, Monica. Why? Because that's when the small spaniels that became Cavalier King Charles Spaniels were popular in the court of King Charles II of England!

Betty Hechtman said...

I love watching old cars. I imagine what a big deal it must hae been to ride in one of them when they were new.

Christine Thresh said...

Was Lars driving?

Monica Ferris said...

I have a small collection of medieval silver coins, Linda, and love to speculate who might have owned one of them, what it might have bought. Betty, these cars were called "rich men's toys" because they were expensive both to buy and maintain, and people thought them dangerous. Christine, the driver was Gene Grengs of Eau Claire, WI - who was my primary source of information Lars knows.

Anonymous said...

Does Excelsior happen to have a branch of the Society for Creative Anachronism? That could be a future mystery for you!