Aug 29 2008

Motoring with Bob Barauskas: August 2008 Issue of Blue Smoke Newsletter

I am going to take a few minutes and share with you a friendship that I had made over the internet. Not everyone knows that I am in the process of writing a book on the 1909 Long Island Stock Car Derby held here in Riverhead. I have been researching the material for the last 4 ½ years in the local Historical Societies as well as those across the country.

During this time a friend had given me a copy of a Watch Collectors magazine, contained within was a presentation of a time piece for the 1904 Vanderbilt Centennial. The important thing here is that it had mentioned a Mr. Howard Kroplick as having one of the largest collections of Vanderbilt memorabilia, having had some of it displayed at the Cradle of Aviation Museum.

I found Howard thru, called him to share of my quest for any photos, etc. of the Riverhead Race. After a great conversation he had asked for my email address to forward any thing he might have had related to my request. Before hanging up, I had asked the big one, “How many items of memorabilia do you have in your collection”, “Fourteen thousand or so was the response.” I thought this was beyond belief. Within the next day I had received 8 emails from Howard, and our friendship has developed from there.

Many times during my search for more bits of information, I would email Howard to give him a heads up on any Vanderbilt items I would come across. More often than not, he had already acquired that specific item, but I still kept him posted.

In November of 2006, I had noticed an auction being held in Weathersfield, Ct. In the listing were negatives of the Vanderbilt Cup Races, off went another email to Howard. The response was I will be there, “Look for the handsome guy with the Vanderbilt cap.” My wife Lynn had handled my reservations for the ferry trip there and back, telling me to be sure to take more than enough cash for any anticipated purchases.

Arriving well before the start of the 11:00 a.m. auction, I had the opportunity to really browse thru what caught my interest as well as some things that did not. Keeping an eye out for the “Vanderbilt Cap”, as I had no idea of what Howard looked like. Sure enough at 10:50 a.m. across the stage walks a gentleman with the described cap. Following him in to the next room of items for preview, I came up behind him and quietly stated, “You are 100% on the Cap but you have a distance to go on Handsome”.

We immediately hit it off, his first question was, “are you going to bid on the Vanderbilt Negatives”? “Not if you are going to” was my response. We discussed other items that were going off as well. In the course of the auction, during the lull, Howard pointed out other fellows he had become to know, more often from bidding against. One fellow in particular was described as “does not play well with other people”, as anything purchased by this fellow gets put away and not shared.

The anticipated value of the negatives was $200.00 to $250.00 dollars, sure enough one of the other fellows was as interested as much as Howard, and the bidding went to $600.00 quite quickly.

Howard being the highest bidder was quite excited on the purchase of the negatives. So excited, that he immediately went and paid for them, bringing them back to our seats on the side of the audience. He started raising them to the light describing the ones he had recognized and handing them off to me. Being very careful of handling the Glass Negatives, we went on through almost the whole container. Not really paying attention to the Auctioneer, there was declared a short break in the auction for our benefit. We were reminded that every time we raised our hand to look at another negative, we were throwing the auctioneer off, by making him think he had another live bidder on something we weren’t really interested in.

Howard dug into a tote he had brought along and pulled out a Motometer for a “Locomobile”. Being interested in all vintage components, I held it for a minute, wondering as to its value. Howard then stated that he knew a friend who had a Locomobile that he was considering giving this to. My reply was that if he were a real friend he would give you the car to put under your motometer.

We stayed for a while longer; when Howard was leaving he simply stated check your email. Within the next two days I had received an email copy of every photograph from the negatives with a description. I do not often meet people as Howard; he is very sincere in his passion for the Vanderbilt and is willing to share his good fortune.

Over the next few months, I had inquired of Howard if he thought about writing a book on his collection. The reply was that he had already started. Well the book is out as of February 2008. I receive updates on book signings as well as web sites that Howard wants everyone to share in his collection. I am taking the opportunity to pass these on to you as they are quite informative; I know we would not see any of the actual movies on these web sites if it were not for Howard. On July 12, 2008 I had received another email from Howard giving me the heads up on another of his books due out in September of 08.

If you have the opportunity, please go to the his web site. I am sure you will be amazed as I was.

In closing the books that Howard has written are: “The Vanderbilt Cup Races of Long Island”, and the upcoming “The Long Island Motor Parkway”. You may find his actual movies of the early races of “You Tube” for all to enjoy. Howard is someone who has given every effort and opportunity to make sure that the historic races that changed the automobile industry lives on.

Next month I will share who Howard and I met at the auction.


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