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FLASHBACK COL A legacy of antique automobiles and the egg sandwich brouhaha

By Jerry Reising

reising@postbulletin.com

A recently proposed vehicle museum brings to mind Hemp Antique Vehicle Museum, once a well-known tourist attraction just west of Rochester.

Paul Hemp operated his private museum containing some 40 antique automobiles and eight horse-drawn carriages for some 30 years before selling the collection and retiring. The museum was housed on his farm about five miles west of Rochester on the south side of U.S. 14.

In 1974 when the collection was moved to Bonanzaville U.S.A., a pioneer village museum in West Fargo, N.D., Hemp said he founded the museum after a lunch with Dr. C.W. Mayo where "we discussed the idea." Mayo offered his old vehicles for the exhibit as long as Hemp owned the museum. Mayo's seven horse-drawn carriages were returned to Mayo when the collection was sold to Eugene Dahl and Les Melroe, officials of the Steiger Tractor Co.

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In the early 1970s, the Hemp museum charged 90 cents for adults and 25 cents for kids to see rumble seats and mother-in-law seats, steering wheels on the right-hand side of a vehicle, the attachment that transformed a Model T into a tractor and even an array of nickelodeons and other automatic musical devices that Hemp claimed to have purchased within a 100-mile radius of Rochester.

More than 45 buildings make up Bonanzaville, reconstructing the 19th century farm era with the Hemp Antique Vehicle Museum, an 1884 locomotive, train depot, model railroad, pioneer farm homes, church, school, log cabins, a sod house, general stores, farm machinery buildings, operating farmsteads, a doll house and Plains Indian museum. The site is open daily from May to late October and on weekdays the rest of the year.

Hemp, who died Aug. 14, 1979, was a well-known local character. He proposed creating an 18-hole golf course on his farm in spring of 1959 that never saw fruition and initiated a brouhaha in 1955 over the price of a fried egg sandwich he ordered at a Dayton, Ohio, airport restaurant. His complaint about the price of the sandwich was picked up the Associated Press and became a minor cause celebre for a time over the prices farmers were paid for their products.

His bill at the airport eatery was 93 cents: A fried egg sandwich (one egg) 75 cents; a cup of coffee, 15 cents; and a 3-cents tax. He said farmers received 29 cents a dozen for eggs that day; shoppers would pay 38 cents. A newspaper editor in Ravenna, Ohio, wrote in an editorial that the 75 cents charged Hemp was a "ridiculous situation." He noted that fried egg sandwiches elsewhere in Ravenna sold for 20 to 40 cents, about what they cost in Rochester at that time.

Ever find yourself asking the question, "Whatever happened to …?"; Flashback is dedicated to answering those questions. Send your questions about the past to news@postbulletin.com with Flashback in the subject line, or call City Editor Randi Kallas at 285-7729.

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