Today is the Friday of the 65th ALPCA Convention, in Knoxville, Tennessee. The donation auction is probably in full swing at the moment of writing. I’m not there, partly because of the distance, and partly because teachers like me have to work until the last day of June. I’m resigned to the fact that June conventions are a thing of the past for me (or of the future, since I’ll be retired in a dozen years).
Twenty years ago, I was at the 45th ALPCA Convention, also in Tennessee, but in 1999, the host city was Chattanooga.
I don’t remember much about that convention, for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, digital cameras weren’t the norm, and I had only my 35mm automatic film camera. Photographs were expensive, and I didn’t have that much money to blow on pictures. Plus, in those days, you would trust your camera to get a shot and wait at least a few days before finding out that the image was blurry or overexposed. I stayed for the whole convention, but I only took eight shots in total. I could have taken triple that on my single roll of film, but I was pretty reserved with my camera at the time.
The second reason I don’t remember much is because I was in a bit of a lull as far as my enthusiasm went. I was living in Maryland (just for 1998 and 1999), but I wasn’t interested in Maryland plates; nor was I interested much in the neighbouring states. I was always an Ontario guy, but I was out of range to collect them, and I was getting bored.
I was writing “My 2 Cents” back then, but I hadn’t yet ventured into writing long travelogues, and the only thing I wrote in my journal was a quip during the donation auction. There were some unusual plates up for bids, and to clarify, Rich Dragon said, “They’re not error plates. They’re just made wrong.”
The parking lot, where I kept my car, had this weird pay board where you could park overnight for a buck, but you had to roll your dollar bill up into a tight tube, and make it small enough to slip through a tiny circular hole. The attendant would know who paid by swinging open the wooden cover of the board to reveal about 200 small pigeon holes. If the one corresponding to your spot contained a dollar bill, your car wouldn’t be towed!
I stayed in a motel room across the street from the hall with Joe Sallmen, Scott Mitchell, and Billy Moore. It wasn’t a huge room, and two of us slept on the floor. One night, we went out for dinner. A pretty blonde was waiting ahead of us at the restaurant, and she had a southern accent, which I found incredibly attractive. I was a poorly-traveled Canadian boy, and I’d only ever heard something like that on TV. It was an evening that had its beautiful aspects, but also repulsive ones. A cockroach scuttled across the street in front of us that same evening. It was the size of a small turtle, but many times faster. One of my roommates ran ahead, jumped square on it, and said “Ewwww” when he inspected the sole of his shoe.
I visited Dave Steckley at the convention and bought a low-numbered pair of 1971 Ontario plates from him, number 1005 (the sixth pair issued in the year). It was the first such pair I had ever seen. In later years, I would meet Bob Cornelius, who had a whole bunch of 1971 plates from the first twenty that were issued. I don’t have 1005 anymore, but I do have 1010, which is a repeater, and binary, thus satisfying two of my recurring collecting themes in one item.
I did spend some time photographing displays, which accounts for six of the eight pictures I took. Some didn’t turn out, so all I have is a picture of some pink plates, another of the most colourful graphic plates of the time, and one more of some South Dakota leather plates. There's another of the group of us standing in front of Billy's display of collegiate Virginia plates, which won first place in its category, although the camera fired the flash, thus washing us out in a sea of reflectivity. I've made a dirty attempt here to clean that up, but a bad picture is a bad picture.
There’s one more picture of a fairly young me standing at my convention table, with the limited amount of traders that I had on-hand. That’s pretty much all I can remember. Nowadays, I photograph everything and I take notes so I can regale / bore people with my ALPCA convention activities. I don’t know when I’ll be going to another one, but they’re a lot of fun!