All In The Family

John Gunnell |
John Seaman’s ’35 Ford woodie holds family memories.

John Seaman’s ’35 Ford woodie holds family memories.

 

John Seaman said that his 1935 Ford woodie has been in his family since the mid-’60s. Its home was Camp Saint Mary, a seminary camp in upstate New York that’s been around since the mid-1930s. John’s grandfather, J. Frank Boone, was the caretaker there and the woodie was the main vehicle used at the camp in the ’40s, ’50s and early ’60s.

John can remember riding on the tailgate when he was young and his grandfather taking him to the lake for picnics. It was a about a half-mile ride. They had to go down a steep hill to get to the lake and back up it to get home.

The woodie was also used for hauling firewood. John has pictures of the station wagon completely loaded with logs. When the camp closed in the ’60s, the family talked the owner of the camp into giving them the woodie.

Through John’s college years, it sat in storage in Long Lake, N.Y., where John’s father was restoring a 1916 Model T. By the time his dad passed away in 1986, the Model T project had been finished. The family decided to sell it and put the proceeds into restoring the woodie, which had been pretty much neglected for 20 years.

Don Neale of Saranac Lake, N.Y., restored the car in 1988 and 1989. He received assistance from Spencer Jenkin’s Boatworks there. Spencer’s craftsmanship showed up in the refinishing of the wood. Don did an excellent job with his end of things. John’s uncle had painted the wood body gray at one point, so all of the veneer needed replacement.

For 14 years after its restoration, the car was kept at Long Lake and driven only occasionally. It often had starting problems. John would drive it when he took vacations in Long Lake. Then, in October 2003, Seaman brought it to Wisconsin.

John’s mother, Frances, had fond memories of the car that she grew up with. Until she died in 2005, she got excited each time she rode in the woodie. When he displayed the car at the “Concours on the Green” during the Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival last fall, John had a signboard with old snapshot photos that told the story of the car.

 

 

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