Typically, at this time of year I start to gather my swap meet belongings and prepare for another trek to the famed AACA Eastern Fall Meet. Most everyone knows it simply as “Hershey,” adopted from the Pennsylvania town it has called home since its founding. I’d be giddy with child-like Christmas Eve anticipation, my backpack, parts books, and shop manuals stacked in the hallway, ready to load into the SUV, along with ample food and beverage, and a week’s worth of clothing and foot apparel fit for whatever Mother Nature had intended to throw at us. But the swap meet and car corral portion of the Fall Meet has been canceled for 2020, and as the days edge closer to the traditional meet week dates in early October, my usual elevated sense of anticipation has been replaced with a mood of somber reflection, of what Hershey has meant to me and my family, as the pandemic continues to cast its long, dark shadow that changed the 2020 meet.
I first got wind of Hershey during the early single-digit years of my existence. Both my parents were veterans of the meet by the time I entered their lives. Along with a few surviving photos—such as the one above, taken outside the original stadium when Dad was on the hunt for 1946 Hudson items—the tales, I have since learned, were typical of the era. Before departing, if rain was in the forecast (and it usually was), my parents would scoop up every used umbrella they could find for pennies on the dollar, and then sell the bent, tattered, and barely usable devices to saturated attendees in hours, raising enough cash to feed the gas tank for the trek home, and then some. Doubling the cost of the donuts they’d sell, on a daily basis, apparently, also deferred some of the travel expenses. These spur-of-the-moment, albeit brief, enterprises likely weren’t uncommon then, although I seem to recall a story involving an unused casket that was lugged down and sold at the meet; this demonstrated to me, even then, that the ability to sell anything at Hershey was not just a loosely spoken legend.