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Reliving the classics Richard Peña | Sat, Feb 25 2012 12:00 PM

Among many things that are admired by most folks are museums and well-built automobiles.  And when you put the two together you have a sight that is almost incomparable.

It has often been stated that Californians have had, from the very beginning, a love affair with cars.  Automobiles and the accompanying items, tires, freeways, motor fuel, and the like seem to be associated with this state moreso than in any other part of the country. It is no wonder, then, that this appreciation of cars has spread.

In our area the San Diego Automotive Museum is the most likely and probably the most professional.

I visited that museum the other day.  I was the guest of Chula Vistan Bill Canedo, a colleague of mine from my teaching days.  He was my guide and docent from home to museum for a tour that was not only informative but enjoyable as well.

The Automotive Museum, as you might know, is one of the many museums in Balboa Park that is open for the education and edification of the local citizenry. Like most museums it has its own permanent collection but at certain times it enhances this collection with other items that are on loan, either from individuals or from other like entities. 

Thus the museum has a fresh show on hand, at least four times a year, for the pleasure of those who like to make frequent visits to the site.

The present collection is an awe-inspiring group of what, in the trade, are known as “woodies.”  These are, of course, those masterpieces of a couple of generations back that we used to call station wagons. They, I would surmise, were the forerunners of what is now known as the Sport Utility Vehicle, SUV for short.

The woodies were the cars of choice back in the 50s and 60s, mostly for families that consisted of more than one child.  They were ideal for family outings, picnics, camping and the like and also for transportation around home.

Mostly, however, the  woodies were a work of art. The ones presently on hand at the museum are a group that has been meticulously restored not only to their original grandeur but beyond. One wonders at the type of talent the individual craftsman  must have had to restore those automobiles. Most woodworkers are satisfied with aligning 2 by 4s. Imagine then, forming a sheet of exotic wood to the contours of a hood, or a door, or even the rumble seat of a woodie to a perfect fit.

The museum also has a wide collection of motorcycles that are of a vintage age. There are the Indian brand, the Moto Guzzi and, of course, the quintessential American bike, the Harley Davidson along with the many side cars that came with them.

Canedo works mostly in the library section of the museum.  And this is quite a task.  I dare say that if there was anyone in the San Diego area who wished to know some fact, about some automobile of the past, miniscule as it might be, the answer would be sure to turn up in the volumes of the library.

Picture if you will one automobile, say the 1969 Firebird, that has just rolled off the Pontiac assembly line.  The publicity people are already busily cranking out that colorful brochure or booklet that is going to help sell the car.

Multiply this by the thousands of makes and models turned out each year and you might have some idea of the wide array of material that could be catalogued in the museum.  The automotive museum has most of them.

Canedo, by the way, is retired from the elementary school system, having served the districts of San Diego and Chula Vista for some 31 years.

He and his wife, Eunice, are also accomplished musicians and are members of the Merrie Ukes, Chula Vista’s contribution to the art of ukulele strumming.  He is a living example that there is life after a career in education.

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