Oct 17 2016

Mystery Fotos #42 Solved: A 1948 Picnic at Lowell Thomas’ Home in Pawling, New York

The Helck Family Collection challenged you again to solve this weekend's Mystery Fotos. 

Peter Helck was invited to a very special private party in Pawling, New York. As seen below, he brought along Old 16, which was a big hit with the celebrities at the party.

Mystery Foto questions:

-Identify the celebrities posing with Peter Helck in the below Mystery Fotos. Updated Hint (10/16/2016): The celebrities include: one of the world's greatest golfers, a world champion boxer, a former driver in the Vanderbilt Cup Races, famous pilots, a broadcaster, an actor and an opera singer.

  • Photo A: Eddie Rickenbacker
  • Photo B: Lowell Thomas
  • Photo C: Gene Sarazen
  • Photo D: James Melton
  • Photo E: Chuck Yeager
  • Photo F: Lowell Thomas, James Melton, Robert Montgomery, and Eddie Rickenbacker

- Who was the host for this Pawling party?

Lowell Thomas at his Pawling home.

-What was the month and date of the photo? Provide a rationale.

The picnic was held on September 11, 1948. Best hint: The "This Car is for Dewey" sign.

All photos are courtesy of the Helck Family Collection.

Congrats to Dick Gorman, Sam Berliner III and Tim Ivers for identifying two or more of the picnic celebrities. Kudos to Tim Ivers for identifying the most celebrities and the correct date of the picnic.


Howard Kroplick

A. Vanderbilt Cup Race driver, World War I "Ace of Aces" and aviation executive Eddie Rickenbacker (left) and Peter Helck (right)

B. Broadcaster and journalist Lowell Thomas (left). Lowell was the host for this annual picnic in his Pawling, New York home.

C. Winner of seven "Major" golf championships Gene Sarazen

D. Singer and automobile collector James Melton

E. United States Air Force Captain Charles "Chuck" Yeager. On October 14, 1947, Yeager became the first pilot to break the sound barrier flying the X-1 fighter plane. In 1952, he set a new air speed record of 1,650 mph.

F. Front: Lowell Thomas

Front Seat: James Melton (left) actor Robert Montgomery (right)

Standing (left): Eddie Rickenbacker

Second Row (right): Former heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney. Tunney's lifetime record was 65-1-1.

Additional Documents and Photos from Lowell Thomas' 1948 Picnic

The invitation from James Melton

A letter to Peter Helck from Eddie Rickenbacker

A letter to Peter Helck from Gene Sarazen

Artist Paul Rabut -Peter Helck's studio assistant for several years (left), Peter Helck (middle) and Gene Sarazen (right)

Pioneer automobile promoter and aviator Augustus Post (left), Antique Automobile editor Jerry Duryea and son of automobile pioneer Charles Duryea  (middle) and Peter Helck (right).

Jerry Helck (left), Peggy Rabut (middle), Peter Helck (middle) and Peggy Helck (right)

New York Governor Thomas Dewey  and his wife Frances were guests at Lowell Thomas' 1949 picnic. Dewey ran for President in 1944 versus FDR, obtaining 46% of the vote. Governor Dewey was also the Republican candidate for President in 1948, surprisingly losing by 4.5% to President Harry S Truman.


Oct 16 2016 Dick Gorman 7:35 PM

This was a tough one Howard. As for the first photo (A) we have Eddie Rickenbacker riding with Peter Helck. Rickenbacker was a pilot and a Vanderbilt cup driver too. Photo B Shows broadcaster Lowell Thomas. Don’t know the characters in the other three photos. As for the group shot ... it includes Rickenbacker, Lowell Thomas and actor, Robert Mongomery.
I am guessing when I say that Robert Montgomery was the host of the Pawling party. Hope I got some of this right.

Oct 16 2016 S. Berliner, III 7:39 PM

I wasn’t going to comment, although I think that guest “A” is Eddie Rickenbacker, but it just occurred to me that it’s 40 miles from Boston Corners to Pawling!  Can you even IMAGINE driving the BĂȘte Noir from Roslyn out to Yaphank just for a party?  No trailering for Peter, not back then!  I recognize a few others, like the boxer, but can’t name them.  Mightn’t the writer, “B”, be a famous broadcaster, like Lowell Thomas?  The “Dewey wins!” headline was on 03 Nov 1948 so it was probably a bit earlier.  AHA; that’s tenor Jimmy Melton driving; he had a nice car museum up around Pittsfield or thereabouts (later moved to Florida)!  Sam, III

Oct 16 2016 Tim Ivers 9:10 PM

F. James Melton, Robert Montgomery, Eddie Rickenbacker, Howard Morgan’s, Neil McElroy, Gene Tunney, Lowell Thomas in 1948

Oct 16 2016 Steve Lucas 9:51 PM

Very tough series of photos this week and I ran out of time. However, I’ve got a few guesses: photo C could be Walter Hagen; photo D could be Mel Allen. Since photo F has the Dewey sign, I’m thinking the host of the party was NY Governor Thomas Dewey at his farm in Pawling, NY on the occasion of having just won the Republican Party’s nomination for President around June, 1948.

Oct 16 2016 Greg O. 11:33 PM

Another one I didn’t have too much time for. Other than my guess of this being a possible political fundraiser of some sort at NY Gov.Thomas Dewey’s Dapplemere in Pawling, I didn’t discover much on this one. Since I spotted a couple of Jeeps in the background, maybe this was for his 1944 Presidential campaign.

Oct 17 2016 S. Berliner, III 11:47 PM

Oh, THAT’s who the others are!  Sure wish you’d give us better blow-ups of pix, especially the letters.  Sore eyeballs notwithstanding, the guest list is an impressive array of early car buffs.  “Alec Ullman”!  WOW; I’ve been trying to think of his name for years; he was a friend my Dad’‘s and wrote a history of Mercedes I’ve misplaced.  Now I can update my Mercedes pages and bibliography!  Thanks a million, Howard.  Bet that monster Mercedes was either Ullmann’s or Charlie Strich’s.  Sam, III

Jan 05 2017 Sharon (Foster) Boo 11:50 AM

“What an incredible history!!!  Thank you so very much for sharing these beautiful photo’s with information for all to enjoy.  I moved to Pawling when I was around two yrs. old (1946) from Montrose. PA.  My Dad worked for Pawling Rubber Co. , Glen Arden Farm and Sheffield Farms.  I remember vaguely attending picnic hosted by Lowell Thomas and Raymond Thornberg (married to Lowell Thomas’ sister Pherbia).  Wish I had photo’s to share from this lovely time.”  Sharon Boo

Jan 06 2017 frank femenias 11:10 PM

Great historic photos with the greats included. Glad to see they’re all preserved for future generations to view and learn from, a remarkable feat by itself that was well worth the effort. Please keep these coming!

Leave a Comment