Looking Forward - The Newsletter for the WPC Club, 10,000 Lakes Region


   The 33rd National DeSoto Club Meet in Branson. Missouri                                                                             

  September 2108  by Mickey Dunning

I went, I saw and I never want to go back to Branson. The convention was fun, we saw many friends that we see too rarely, and the Ozark Mountains are beautiful. But Branson is just not my cup of tea. It's too commercialized, too loud, too country/western and too crowded. It's sort of a mini Las Vegas, and I really dislike that town.

Garry and I left on Monday morning August 20, heading for Rochester in our '57 DeSoto, where we would meet up with Bob and Deb Smith with their '56, and another couple (Jerry and Sue from Menomonie, WI) with their '59 DeSoto, and have breakfast at Perkins. Then we would continue to Waterloo, IA to collect Terry and Mel Lampe with their '41 DeSoto and caravan the rest of the way.

Things did not go quite as planned – we hadn't even gotten to the edge of town when Bob called and said they were turning around and going home. Something was wrong with the generator in their '56 DeSoto. And Jerry and Sue decided that they would not leave until Tuesday. Well, nuts – we kept going, did not stop in Rochester, ate a protein bar and pressed on to Waterloo.

Meanwhile, Bob figured out what was wrong with his DeSoto. The air conditioner fan was constantly on and was discharging the battery. After getting that minor problem fixed, he and Deb set out again for Iowa, two hours later than planned. We waited for them at Terry's house, and when they arrived we set off again with the three DeSotos.  They all ran well the rest of the way.

We stopped in northern Missouri for the night, and the next day, on the last leg of our journey, stopped at the Laura Ingles Wilder Museum in Mansfield, her home from 1896 until she died in 1957. Deb is a big fan of her books and had always wanted to see the home/museum. Mel and I had enjoyed her books as kids and were interested as well, so we dragged the guys along. After all, we were going to be spending the next five days enveloped in old car stuff.

We arrived in Branson in late afternoon and wended our way through town to the Stone Castle Hotel, a rather tacky fake fortress true to the atmosphere of the town. There were several DeSotos there already, though the meet didn't start until the next day. The parking lot of the hotel slanted in several different directions due to the hilly terrain, so finding a relatively level spot to park was a trick. Parking brakes definitely needed to be in working order.

The only activity on Wednesday was the Welcome Social in the evening. We girls knew that the guys would be happy in the parking lot schmoozing and watching all the cars come in, so we drove the '57 into old historic downtown Branson to see the sights and visit the stores. It is a typical tourist town, over-priced with kitschy shops. Some of the architecture was unique, and the little Museum of Branson on Main St. was interesting. We learned a lot about the town as we wandered through the aisles.

Thursday the morning activity was a trip to the Titanic Museum. Garry and I did not go to that as we have been to the “real” Titanic Museum in Belfast, N. Ireland, where the ship was built. In the afternoon we all had a ride on the Branson Scenic Railway, which goes up into the Ozarks. It was raining, so visibility was a bit limited, but the scenery was beautiful.

Thursday evening we had a mission. Member Jim Hamann had asked us to deliver a 12-pack of Nordeast beer (which we carried all the way from MN) to a friend of his. The friend was the owner of the Altenhof Inn, a German restaurant up in the hills above town, overlooking Table Rock Lake. Gertraude was from Germany and the chef as well as the owner, and when she found out why we were there, she gave us the royal treatment. We had an excellent dinner and because it was my birthday, she gave us dessert on the house – her homemade apple strudel. I couldn't have asked for a better birthday present.

Friday Garry and I did not do any of the car museum tours. For one thing, our car show on Saturday was going to be at one of the museums, and the Celebrity Car Museum did not hold any interest for us. Deb and Bob went to that and said it was not worth the price. Meanwhile, Mel and Terry, Garry and I went to Ridgedale, the next town south of Branson, to Top of the Rock Caverns and Nature Preserve. The views were magnificent, with lots of waterfalls. An added bonus was a museum of natural history, which was built by Johnny Morris, the Bass Pro Shops founder.  I have never seen a better collection of Native American artifacts, and it also has some Pleistocene Age skeletons that would make our Bell Museum jealous. For a small museum it is incredible.

Saturday was show day. The weather was hot and humid, and the show was held in the parking lot of the Auto and Farm Museum. No shade, 85° and 70% humidity at 9:00 in the morning! Thank goodness we brought our pop-up canopy. There were forty cars in the show, and the biggest class was Class 7 – Modified. Terry's '41 was the only hot-rodded car, but many in Class 7 (including our '57) had different engines or interiors or various mod-cons that made them easier and safer to drive. The show was supposed to run until 3:00, but by 1:30 the judging was completed and we had all had enough fun in the sun.

The banquet and awards ceremony on Saturday evening at the hotel was pretty typical. Lots of fun talking to folks, but the food was mediocre, and the show ran on too long. The Best-in-Show DeSoto was a 1948 Custom convertible. Our erstwhile traveling companions, Jerry and Sue Kadinger, won the People's Choice award with their 1959 Fireflite 2-door Sportsman. Terry Lampe won a special award for his instrumental work on developing the modified class.

Sunday morning was our Farewell Breakfast – time to say good-bye and wish everyone safe travels. Our traveling group, including Jerry and Sue now, set out together, but Garry and I split off at Kansas City to stop and visit my cousin. Everyone made it home without problems.