Jack Burke
GM Futurliner Restoration Project
National Automotive and Truck Museum of the United States

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Putting Up The TentDear Mr. Mayton:

Vic Garske sent me a copy of your May 12 (1999) letter to him with respect to the Futurliner restoration project. I enjoyed your letter and am pleased that a Futurliner will be restored for the Auburn Museum and will be original. Although, when traveling, the jimmy-six was close to inadequate, so I can seen why one would opt to re-power.
    I was on the Parade from January 1954 to the summer of 1955. I was then transferred to Previews of Progress and after 15 months, I moved into the central office in Detroit and worked in Public Relations and Community Relations under John Daneke. I worked LA and San Francisco Motoramas while with Previews. In Boston, in 1958, I met my wife, who was assigned to me to prepare special invitations to Boston’s Select for the opening night – free food, booze and the show. Things went fine except for the loss of a few key names – and that made my future at GM limited. Mr. Bill Hamilton of Public Relations gave me the bad news.
    I resigned in 1959 after marrying and, as my bride was from London, UK, we went over there for me to meet her family and friends and also to spend a few weeks traveling in Europe. While in Austria, my wife suffered morning sickness and a trip to a doctor back in London confirmed that we were to be blessed. That blessing is now 39 and mother of 4. (Another daughter arrived in 1963.)
    I did a few undistinguished things before joining the National Safety Council in Chicago and retiring in 1992 at age 65 after 31 years. We moved to Elgin to be near out daughters and their families. We still fly the pond to visit my wife’s homeland every 2 years. I really love England, it’s villages, old churches, scenic countryside and London … Chicago is great too.

PARADE OF PROGRESS
    For a while I was a "lecturer" on a Futurliner exhibit called the "Story of Friction." I never drove a Futurliner and had no hand in the maintenance of the exhibit or Liner. We had a crew of people for that. Some of who were good vehicle mechanics. I was then shifted to "Old Scout," our circa 1903 curved-dash Olds, where I told its story to the crowd and started it. (Damned thing often kicked, whacking my hand or wrist if I wasn’t quick to get clear.) Then I made it to the tent show – a thousand seats with stage where we regaled the crowd about the wonders of science with our underlying message – the goodness and greatness of mighty GM. We always had a full array of shiny new GM cars near the tent, along with some "dream cars" as part of the presentation. We had the 1st Corvette too and I got to take it out one afternoon. It would do 0-60 in 10 – not bad, for the time but nothing like today’s Corvettes. Lots of stares! Had a 150 hp, 3-carb Chevy six with powerglide.
    We moved each week to a new city, usually one with a GAM plant. So we donned our work uniforms, packed up, hit the road to the new town, paraded down its main drag and on to the show grounds. We traveled in convoy, the director and assistant director leading in big red Caddie convertibles, then the Futurliners, all 12 in a row, then the semis that carried the tent, chairs, baggage, powerplant, etc., then the lesser vehicles. We always attracted lots of attention. PR usually set up an official greeting by the mayor or other local dignitaries, marching bands often lead us through the main part of town. I drove the baggage semi. We each had a big steamer trunk.
    We would set up the show, then hold an opening night event to include local big shots and GM executives from the area plants. In major GM towns, execs from Detroit often would fly in. I was not comfortable doing the tent show when the "Big Boys" were out front. Fortunately, it didn’t happen often because they usually assigned their best lecturers. I usually only assisted, but was assigned to open 2 or 3 times. I had a Hoosier farm-boy accent, but was tall and decent looking, which didn’t hurt.
    We had some disasters – well, difficulties – like the tent blowing down in Waco, Texas and all the vehicles being stuck in the mud on the lot in Beaumont, Texas. The crows in Newark, NJ, were unruly.
    As we were all single and presentable (60 of us) we had little trouble meeting ladies. Sometimes that led to problems, especially when a girl you met in the last town showed up unexpectedly as you were pursuing one in this town. One guy always had "camp followers" and had to enlist help from us to entertain the spare ladies -- he was very engaging. One of my friends on POP married someone he met – and they’re still together.
    I’m getting far afield from your request for help. We could all tell stores about our experiences – we really had lots of fun and learned a lot about presenting ourselves, working hard, begin responsible and also seeing many states and cities. I had to give many presentations in my work with the National Safety Council and the public speaking experience and what I learned on the Parade of Previews really helped when I had to stand before a group or sit in a committee or make a formal speech.
    Good luck with your project!

We have received considerable information about past participants in the Parade of Progress and we're trying to add it to the website as time permits. They have sent photos, historical information and offered technical assistance. Please excuse us if we have missed anyone. You Paraders are doing an excellent job. Keep it up!

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