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Tulare 2004 Personal Show Journal by Christian Willis, Nov. 6, 2004.

This year's Tulare show was pretty eventful! At 6 o'clock Friday morning, I began the trek up I-5 to the 99. I reached Tulare at 10:00am, ready for a good breakfast, but was dismayed to find that Ryan's Place had been changed to Black Bear Café! Fortunately, it appeared that only the ownership, name and façade had changed; the food was still just as good. Whew! I had eggs, sausage, and pancakes for the first time in months.

At around 10:30, I headed over to the show hall. Despite the 11:00 opening time, everyone was already set up and milling around, so I joined in, saying my hellos to all the "regulars." I moseyed on over to Dwayne's table as he was unpacking his insulators, and my eyes immediately fell on a CD 219 Hemingray-66 in red amber! I bought it without a moment's hesitation, and it's a good thing I did, because it turned out I was not the only one interested in it. The last one of those I saw for sale was from the back of Keith Auchter's truck at the '96 Long Beach national, and I had always regretted not getting it. Fortunately for me, the marked price was only $5 more than it was back in '96! This show was already off to a good start.

Dwayne also pulled out the CD186.2 he had been holding for me, incidentally another piece I hadn't seen since the '96 national. I was happy to give Dwayne the first of two payments for the insulator, which he has always been so kind to allow me to do. He said that it was about the fourth one to pass through his hands, and most of them had big stress cracks probably caused somehow from the nut in the dome. This specimen was in great shape, with only a minor rear skirt flake. Dwayne estimates there's probably only about 20 known to the hobby. We have no idea of their intended use. I suspect the 186.X's were made from reworked 162 molds, since mine is marked "38:" on the front (1940) and mold 18 on the back. I can't imagine this experimental piece was made for three years and that there were 18 different molds!

My dad and Nancy showed up at the show around 11, and they went off to have a look at the other tables, while I continued my search of the insulator tables. I was also specifically looking for a No Name TS-2 at this show, and wouldn't you know it, my search actually paid off! My chances of finding one were also much greater, since I saw about 10 TS-2's, the most I think I've ever seen at a single show. So sure enough, over at Claudia's table, I spotted a No Name TS-2 in mint condition! Mark another one off my wanted list, and another addition to my upcoming 2005 Cayucos display.

That evening, I met my dad and Nancy over at the Comfort Suites next to Highway 99, and we walked over and ate at Apple Annie's. I had the "Monster Burger", which I have a feeling I've had before, and of course it was very good. Afterwards, we went back to the motel and watched Shrek 2. I went down and slept out in the van in the parking lot. They had security cameras out there, but I was able to move the van behind a tree, out of view.

The next morning, we had a continental breakfast that turned out to be more like a full breakfast. They had eggs, sausage, potatoes, and belgian waffles. I then headed back on over to the show. My dad and Nancy would be there a little later. I spent a lot of time talking to the collectors and picking up cheap embossing/mold variation pieces here and there. I gave Bob Merzoian, Dwayne, and Mike Doyle copies of my draft for the new CSCIC newsletter and asked them for suggestions. I also got to talking to Bill Rohde, and ended up becoming a NorCal member!

I also got to talking with Mike Doyle, who said that this Tulare show (the 37th) would be the Sierra club's last show held at Tulare, but fortunately NorCal would be taking up the reins and taking over starting next year, so I was relieved and excited to hear that. The show would now be called the "Tulare Harvest Insulator and Bottle Show". I also expressed interest in getting myself a table for next year as well.

A little later, I noticed Dave Brown up in the show hall's balcony taking pictures. I was curious how he got up there since the gates to the upper levels have always been locked every time I've checked in the past. Well, sure enough, one of the gates was unlocked and I began my ascent up the stairs. Much to my surprise, it didn't take me straight up to the balcony; there's an entire second level "hidden" between the ground floor and the balcony! It was completely empty, and had bathrooms on both sides. One bathroom had trash cans filled with the big theater/marquee letters. I proceeded up the next flight of stairs and finally reached the balcony. I said hi to Dave and began exploring the rooms in back. On each side was a storage room with huge old air conditioners, and in the center was the projectionist's booth. I held out little hope that it would be open, but luckily one of the two doors was unlocked and I was able to go in. I fumbled around for a light switch and was greeted with a bare room, with only an old spotlight resting on some boxes over in the corner. The projectors were long gone, but the holes in the wall were still there, complete with sliding metal doors on a complex pulley system. There was even a toilet in the corner. (Never thought about it, but what happened when a projectionist needed to go to the bathroom? There you have it.) I waved at Dave through the projector window and he came inside to see it too. We were met shortly after by Mike Doyle who had seen us from downstairs, and the three of us had an impromptu meeting about next year's show right inside the projectionist's booth.

We then headed back downstairs, pausing to check out the middle level again, and then back down to the ground floor, where it was revealed how to unlatch the gate: simply put some weight on the gate downwards so that the latch disengages from the wall. It was too easy! All those years of wanting to go up there, and that was all I had to do.

Anyone who reads this will wonder why the heck I've devoted so much time to describing the trip up to the balcony. Well, I'll tell you: I have this fascination with exploring old buildings, especially institutional ones built in the early- to mid-1900's. Every time I see a closed door, I want to know what's behind it. I even saw a door open on the ground floor with stairs leading down into a basement! Until now I didn't know the building even had a basement, but apparently it's a bar open to the public on Friday nights! That's another area I will have to explore. That and the stage. As of yet I still haven't set foot up on the stage, but that will change next year, thanks to me having a sales table in front of the stage and the fact that the event will now be run by NorCal.

So anyways, I meandered around some more, talking to dealers and searching the hundreds of insulators one last time for any piece I might have missed (yeah right!). I then went over to the cafeteria to get myself a tri-tip sandwich, but wouldn't you know it, they were out! So I opted for the chicken sandwich instead. It was good, but couldn't hold a candle to their tri-tip. Oh well, next year! Around 3:00pm, I said my goodbyes and headed back home. I'm already looking forward to next year!

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