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Pate Swap Meet By Lifer, parts adapted from other sources

Every year since around 1972 the North Texas Region of the Cadillac & LaSalle club has met with 16 other antique car clubs to do their duty at the Pate Swap Meet, now at the Dallas Motor Speedway. Actually it is more than that to the members of the clubs, and as a member of the NTXCLC, I see what is so special to our club in particular. But first, a brief background.

The Pate Swap Meet, one of the three largest swap meets in the country, has more than a quarter of a century of history of auto swap meets and is recognized internationally for its diversity of automotive products offered by its vendors. Vendors from across the country will fill the vast acreage with everything automotive -- from cars to hard-to-find car parts and related items. It is also the fund raising effort of seventeen Texas antique automobile clubs.

Originally it was called the South Central Swap Meet, starting in 1972. It was organized by Barney Calvert of the Gulf Coast Region AACA out of Houston with five other car clubs. Aggie Pate, President of the Texas Refinery Company that owned an employee recreation ranch south west of Fort Worth, also housed his private automobile collection called the Pate Museum of Transportation. The first swap meet was held in a rough semi-circle under the trees across from the Museum with about three hundred and fifty vendors. The Houston Club was quickly joined by sixteen other like organizations in Texas. Monte Hannah was our club Pate representative for the early years.

Old timers still remember that everyone stopped to talk with Mr. Pate each year as he sat on the porch of the Museum. They still laugh about packing their rubber boots each year for Pate - a very necessary item (always mud and April rains). After Mr. Pate's passing, the meet was renamed in his honor, however, it was always known as the Pate Swap Meet. From its inception, it was decided that the Swap Meet would begin on the last Thursday in April, and continue through the weekend, always missing any conflict with the Easter holiday and while still in cooler weather before the Texas heat kicked in. The meet continued in this ole’ muddy cow pasture until the ranch was sold in 1997. After that the swap meet was held on the parking lot of the Dallas Motor Speedway, just north of Ft. Worth and the Alliance business airport. The new location had better access, better showers, pavement (less mud), and many modern conveniences. These facilities provide ample parking for all visitors to the swap meet, easy access to and from Interstate 35, unlimited space for camper parking during the event, and a vast amount of paved space for the swap meet to expand in the future. There are now over 7,000 vendor spaces sold, and it is still growing.

First of all, there is the matter of duty. Many of you joined this club for technical expertise in the workings and restoration of your collection of cars. Others joined for the opportunity to have a venue to show off and display these cars in your collection. All that is good, and is exactly what is the foundation of the club. But in order to serve the membership body well, with those things it wants as a club, there are some obligations of service or duty we need to consider. By coming out to the Pate Swap Meet site on the set-up days, Saturday being the big set-up day, and coming out on the swap meet operational days, and then by coming out on the tear-down day, which is Sunday, somewhere there is a place for you to participate for the club, and also enjoy yourself doing it. Additionally, there is the social aspect of helping out at Pate. You get to meet and work with our members, and in some cases, some members of the other clubs, depending on their duties and presence. Making and having friends within the club and other clubs is one of the joys of membership, and who knows, you might obtain a vehicle that is not a Cadillac or a LaSalle and want to also join that vehicle’s heraldry club.

Ok, then there is the fun. That’s right, fun. I have been out to Pate for my first two years in the club and I have met lots of people for here and there and everywhere, discussed membership in the club, laid and picked up swap space markers, helped mark streets and rows, worked the NTXCLC tent, shown off my Eldorado, roamed all over the site (it’s a big site) visiting the myriad of vendors from all over the country, watch a car auction, browsed the big car corral for a possible purchase, and had a whooping good time while out there. And all of this translates to something really special. Memories of a good time and fellowship that I will remember for many years. Some of these memories are quite exciting, thanks to the crazy weather we have here in Texas. And some of the memories are of the new people I met.

So, as a member of the NTXCLC club you need to do yourself a big favor. Plan on spending some time out at Pate with the other club members and helping out, enjoying the adventure, and having some fun in the Texas sunshine. On set-up day many members bring their current pride-and-joy vehicle out to our area to show it off because there is plenty of spacious parking and few people to bother the vehicle. On the meet’s operational days – Thursday through Sunday morning, members come out to help at our tent and discuss membership in the club with swap meet visitors, or maybe work at one of the three gates to count attendance. A few even show off their cars near the tent (free parking…). While you are there you have ample opportunity to roam the vendors, the car corral, the auction, and just be part of the action. Tear down starts around 11:30 am to noon, lasts a few hours, and is lots of work, but same benefits as the set up day. In the end, the 17 clubs share the profits of the proceeds, and monies are distributed to the club’s treasuries based on membership. That is one of the reasons we are so high on recruiting. Its dollars to us for our efforts.

Norman Kressmann memories of Pate and Pate Museum of Transportation

Here is an example of the treasured memories that working and being at the Swap Meet can generate. Memories of the Pate Swap Meet and the Pate Museum of Transportation I joined the Cadillac & LaSalle Club the year after the Pate Swap Meet moved to the Texas Motor Speedway. So my contact with the original Swap Meet grounds is limited to the stories of long-time members. How well they remembered the beginnings of Pate, the growth of Pate, the friendships they built at Pate and the seas of mud they endured at Pate. To them, it has been different since Pate moved to the Speedway. It was better in some ways, not as good in others. One aspect that was, and is, bittersweet is the enduring friendships. How wonderful it is to see old friends again each year. But how sad it is to learn that some old friends had left the Old Car hobby and, in some cases, left this earth.

On my earliest visits to the Pate Museum of Transportation, I could visualize the Swap Meet going on in the fields. I could imagine the row upon row of vendors. I could see the crush of customers, the well-spring of joy that came from finding an obscure but desperately- needed part at a bargain price. I could see the tractors pulling cars out of the muck and mire. And then, I could see…the inevitable development of housing. I wondered how much longer this wonderful museum could last.

This museum that celebrated so many aspects of the joys of our youth.

  • The love of the automobile as an extension of ourselves
  • The freedom that these liberating masses of steel gave us
  • The sense of power that we felt in controlling the motions of these magnificent machines
  • The appreciation of art that we gained from these wonderful rolling sculptures
  • The perfection that we saw in the design of our favorite car
  • The sense of ownership that we felt in our favorite brand of car (Cadillac, of course)
  • The refinement of our sense of style as we critiqued our favorite and least favorite cars on the road
  • The tuning in of our color consciousness as we judged the two-tone and three-tone color combinations we saw
  • The recollection of ecstatic times spent inside these living-room sized conveyances

How much longer could the Pate Museum last? I suppose we now have our answer. The Pate Museum of Transportation is no more. This one is gone. What does that mean for us who felt some or all of those emotions listed before? To me, it means we must do several things.

  • Preserve and enjoy those cars which we have been blessed to possess
  • Cultivate this appreciation for antique cars with the coming generations. No mean feat
  • Pass along these vintage automobiles to those who appreciate this heritage when we are no longer able to keep them ourselves
  • Support those museums that continue to operate and display these vehicles for the enjoyment of future generations
  • Support clubs like the Cadillac & LaSalle Club and the North Texas Region in keeping this heritage alive and vital

Norman Kressmann, President North Texas Region, Cadillac & LaSalle Club, 2002 & 2003

John Foust Memories of Pate

The following memory is by John Foust about the early days of Pate. It may have been published before, but we are running it again to show newer members what a swap meet can mean to someone. Thanks, John.

My best memories of the Pate Swap Meet are all of the years when the meet was way out on the rolling hills of Cresson Texas near Granbury. I had a regular 9 to 5 job back in the seventies and I only got one week of paid vacation. Every year I would plan my vacation around the Pate Swap Meet. I liked to get out there with all my camping gear around Wednesday. You could always count on seeing Ned Hannah on his tractor mowing the tall grass down for the parking lot. Larry Sorenson and Monte Hannah would have already been there for a couple of days and they had the sun burn to prove it. I loved to work the entrance gate to the parking lot because I got to see all of the cool cars come in first. At night a lot of the Cadillac Club members would gather around a big campfire and tell "Big Fish" stories while we slopped down our pork and beans.

The next morning looked great after sleeping in the back seat of your 1959 Coupe DeVille all night. Another day of dust and sun burns parking cars in the grassy lot and then I could take an afternoon to walk around the meet and look for treasures. Back in the seventies and early eighties there were a lot of treasures to be found. I remember buying an original 32,000 mile white 1959 Coupe Deville for $3,000.00. At one meet I saw three different 2X4 carb set ups with Batwing air cleaner for sale cheap.

Friday night was my night to cook my "Award Winning" chili. All of the guys would gather around the campfire and watch me throw anything and everything into my old cast iron pot. Somehow it always turned out good.

Saturday was always the busy day with the biggest crowds. Most years it was hot and dusty during the day but as the sun started to set the wind would pick up and the storms would roll in. Almost every year the storms hit us on Saturday night. We learned fast to tie all the tents down really tight because that wind would take them to the next county if you didn't. Anyone that ever camped at the "Old Pate" knows what I mean. Saturday night also meant the big party that Mr. Pate held for all of the swap meet workers up at the museum hall. We always had great food and you could talk with Mr. Pate if you were lucky.

He was a very smart man and he loved to talk about cars. He was one of the best friends that the car clubs ever had. Sunday was all about clean up and clear out. As vendors began to pull out, the place took on the look of a trash dump. We always got it cleaned up. That hot shower at home Sunday night sure felt good, and then we could only dream about next year.

Note: The article was published in THE STANDARD OF THE WORD published by Cadillac LaSalle Club North Texas Region in March 2012