This is a column I have written that should appear in the Arizona Republic sometime before next weekend. Jeff is a friend of the family. He runs a family-owned pest control business, Ranger Pest Control, that has been spraying our house for bugs since Elizabeth (and Jeff, for that matter) were kids. I have a great story to tell about the time Jeff tried to stop my mother-in-law from drinking a Coke contaminated by one of our dog's pee that I hope makes it to the blog someday.
Anyway, Jeff also belongs to this group of military vehicle owners, and they have their big annual show coming up at the end of January in Peoria. I wrote this after attending one of their meetings, and interviewing Jeff about his personal experience and interest in owning a military vehicle.
For twenty years, the Arizona Military Vehicle Collector’s Club (AMVCC) has held an annual show at the Arizona National Guard’s Papago facility in
. However, this year the show is moving to the
Peoria Sports Complex on the weekend of January 28th and 29th. The 21st Arizona Military Vehicle
Show is billed as the largest of its kind in the Southwest, and the new
location will provide an abundance of space to display a wide variety of trucks,
jeeps, motorcycles, armored cars, transports, and track vehicles ranging from WWI-era
to Desert Storm, including an extremely rare “Jumbo” Sherman tank, which is making an
appearance at this year’s show for the first time. Phoenix
|Jeff "Beetle Bailey" Abrahamson, behind the wheel|
of his WWII-era Jeep.
Jeff Abrahamson, who lives in the North Glen Square neighborhood in Phoenix, has exhibited his vehicle for several years now. He acquired his WWII-era Jeep almost by accident, after a friend of his purchased the vehicle at auction. He planned to transport it to his home in
temporarily park the vehicle at Jeff’s. Three years of seeing the Jeep sitting in his
garage was enough to entice Jeff to offer to buy it from his friend and
restore it himself. Little did he know
that in doing so, he was stepping into an entirely new world of replacement
parts, licensing and registration snafus, restoration work, M*A*S*H parties,
trail rides, parades, and an idiosyncratic fraternity of collectors. Michigan, but had to
Jeff readily acknowledges the difficulties that come with restoring and maintaining a seventy-year-old, far-from-gently-used military vehicle. But those problems seem minor compared to the enjoyment he gets from the way people gravitate to the classic profile of the olive-drab Jeep. And if not everyone can appreciate how careful he was in returning it to its original look and condition, he knows that being a good steward has allowed him to connect with people wherever he goes, and touch them with something quintessentially American. “It’s an icon,” he says. “When I drive that Jeep anywhere, whether it’s to a parade in
Phoenix, a bar in Prescott, or a backcountry trail in , people get excited when they see
it. They want to touch it, sit in it,
drive it. It’s something special to
He went on to relate a story another member told him about coming out of a store one day to find a family occupying his truck, playing with the buttons and knobs. When this person kindly asked the people inside if they wouldn’t mind leaving his vehicle, the response of the man inside was, “Why? I own part of this truck. My taxes helped pay for it.” While that person was completely wrong about that (these are private vehicles that have been bought at auctions or from private sellers), perhaps he inadvertently revealed something that helps explain the popular affinity for military vehicles like these. In a way, many of us do feel like we’re co-owners, maybe not of the vehicles themselves, but of the history they reflect. After all, these are the vehicles that once helped save the world from fascism. They’re the vehicles that stand for something great about us, reminding us that in beating back Hitler’s armies, we did something enormously important and necessary. Times have changed; we may no longer feel like we’re the undisputed good guys anymore, but we were once, and that’s a feeling we all want to own.