Parader Reunion - September 3-5, 2002
GM Futurliner Restoration Project
National Automotive and Truck Museum of the United States


A Parader's Reunion was held on September 3-5, 2002, in Saugatuck, Michigan. Following are some excerpts from that event. 

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Below: The Paraders were all given complementary caps and asked to pose for a photograph in front of the work-stall where the Futurliner is being restored.

With all the preparations being made the Futurliner Restoration volunteers were anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Paraders and their wives. Ron and his wife had decorated all the tables with flowers. Most of the volunteers brought along their old cars. Howard had provided a tent and a 50's Coke A Cola soft drink cooler (a big one).
    The VerHey coach pulled in front of the Futurliner barn. Ron VerHey, the owner of VerHey charter coaches provided the transportation for the Paraders from Saugatuck, Michigan where the Paraders were staying.
    Al Batts had special ball hats that were made for this occasion. The hats were blue in color with the white, red, silver and black Futurliner on its front. These were passed out to the Paraders and their wives as they exited the coach.
    (Note: These hats were made especially for this occasion. However they went over so well we are going to make more and sell them to help support the restoration project. So stay tuned when these come available.)
    Jim (Parader) and Jean Morris and Jim Tolley (Parader) did all the planning for the Parader's reunion. They did an outstanding job. The Paraders stayed at the "Ship and Shore" motel and had activities planned for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (September 3, 4, 5, & 6).
    As the Parader's reviewed all the memorabilia out came the stories about the Parade and all the events good and bad. Hopefully we can capture some of these tales in story form and pass them along.
    Bruce Berghoff along with his wife and daughter set up two interview tables to capture some of these events. Bruce has been a supporter of this project since day one and he has volunteered to write a book that will include the original Caravan (1936 - 1941), the first Parade (1941), and the second Parade (1953 - 1956). He intends to fold in the events leading up to the first caravan (1933 - 1934 Century of Progress in Chicago). He also will include the vehicles used in the various events (Streamliners and Futurliners), the displays, and the people that carried the program all across the nation, the Paraders. In addition he will track the location of the remaining Futurliners. We appreciate Bruce volunteering his services. Bruce's previous publication "The GM MOTORAMA, Dream Cars of the Fifties" published by Motorbooks International is a great walk through of the Motoramas of the 1950s. For car or truck buffs it is a must. Bruce is currently working with a publisher to support this book.
    The Paraders also brought along many more photos, memorabilia, slides, and information. We now have a lot of new information and material to review.
    John Martin Smith, the President of NATMUS as well as his wife Bobbie who spends many hours at the museum, headed up the group from the National Automotive and Truck Museum of the United States. John (President of NATMUS) invited the Paraders to have their next reunion at NATMUS in 2005. He hopes that we will have the Futurliner done by then. John reiterated that the goal is to put the Futurliner on the road just as it traveled across North America starting in 1941.
    The local newspaper "The Holland SENTINEL" sent out a photographer and reporter. Today, Thursday (September 5, 2002), we already have a front page article about the Parader's Reunion with two front page photos.
    The VerHey bus then took the Paraders to Jerry's Country Inn in Hudsonville, Michigan where we had lunch for the Paraders, the group from NATMUS, and the volunteers. Again we had another contribution as GM Pubic Relations picked up the tab for lunch. Goodie bags were passed out to everyone at the end of a few short speeches. Then the VerHey coach piloted by Pat took the Paraders back to their motel in Saugatuck, Michigan.
    We want to thank everyone who worked so hard to make this reunion successful.

Notes from Jerry L Sigler who is working on the Futurliner project and attended the reunion.
    Following are a couple of things learned and discussed at the Paraders reunion. 
    Raffee Johns was telling me how his job was to drive the station wagon that carried the lunches for the paraders but occasionally he would drive the Futurliner. He was also talking about while driving out west up and down the mountains, and to enable him to get up the next hill, he would have to floor board down a hill. Apparently the Futurliner would vibrate to the point that he is amazed that he was not in the ditch.
    One gentleman was telling me that all paraders had to have a drivers license before they could be hired and there was a Joe Petrocik from Pennsylvania that had never driven so he was taken to the police station at 7 Mile and Woodward where a cop took him on a tour through the park then gave him his license. 
    All drivers were warned not to pump their air brakes or they would lose pressure and ultimately the brakes. Joe was going down a mountain driving # 6 and got too close to # 5. He got excited and because of lack of experience forgot and started pumping the brake. After losing them he ran into the back of # 5, knocked the axle forward and blew out the tires. He also destroyed the front of # 6. Needless to say Joe had to wear the football helmet that the person with the latest accident always had to wear.
    Conrad Vaughan said he has a key to the door of the liner and would mail it to us.
    I believe it was Raffee Johns that was telling me that the generator that was just rebuilt was never used because they had the diesel generator truck that supplied all their power.
    Someone was also telling me that the back of one of the liners was an office and it had doors that slid out like slide outs on current day RV's. 
Notes from Wally Snow
    Bob Harris mentioned that, "Futurliners were most awkward vehicle ever built." He said that the driver had to stand up in the cab and look to front and sides before moving the vehicle. It was easy to hit cars broadside or sideswipe them and the mass of bus was so great that you didnít feel the collision.
    Harry Hardenbrook recalls that about ten years ago he saw a "C" grade movie with vampires etc. which had about four minutes with a Futurliner in it. Someone else verified this, but no further info.
    When in town, busses drove ten feet apart but could see nothing but the vehicle ahead and many small collisions occurred because of this. Harry gave us part of his speech from the floor of our bus with the doors open.
    John Conroy recalled the convoy was directed by FM radio from the lead car or truck, "Number xx pull up closer" etc. Drivers hated this as they had receivers only and could not talk back. Entry level job was to pickup paper etc. from the show-grounds with a nail on the end of a stick.
    Tony Gagliardi had public relations degree and always drove bus no. 1. At towns, he would pick up reporters or officials. He handled radio interviews and always announced that 60 young and single college grads were in town. Girls attended in droves. The guys had money and could use the parade cars for dates. Some girls would follow a guy from town to town and were called camp followers. Town police were rewarded for their escort services with packs of playing cards, cash or sometimes just a handshake.
    Ed Harben started with tour in 1953 as a maintenance and repair guy. His biggest problem was lack of any waterproof wiring on engines. Dew would form on the wires overnight and prevent the vehicle from starting. He used a carbon tetrachloride fire extinguisher to dry them off. Futurliners needing updating or repairs to their displays would be driven to the display builder Stubbs in Detroit. The Futurliner with the Diesel exhibit was driven to Detroit Diesel Engine Division for updating of the exhibit.
    Ray Boroviak said he sometimes drove a Futurliner and other times a truck that carrier the 60 steamer trunks with Paraders possessions in them. The trunks were taken to and from hotels for distribution by bellboys. The low seniority guys, with little shifting experience, drove the vehicles with automatic transmissions. He remembers gas filler neck as being at rear of vehicle. When the tour went to Canada 10 French guys were hired to work and interpret along the way.
    Bob Hunter remembers meeting many dignitaries and other famous people along the way. Also recalls that some of the displays were not GM products.
Louanne Kay
    Hi Don,
    Thanks so much for your hospitality for the Paraders. It was a wonderful visit & enjoyed by everyone. You have taken on a monumental task & have accomplished so much. All the workers should feel pleased that so much has come from so little! My husband, Dick, was on the Parade in 1954-1955. 
    Thanks again to both you & your wife.
    I'm looking forward to the next reunion.

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