The event is really good," said Paul Osika, a vendor at the 2007 Pre-War Swap Meet at Chickasha, Okla., March 15-17. "I like the prewar stuff. I haven't seen so many brass headlights for many years, since the early days of Hershey. The crowd has been good ' it's been a real good meet." Osika deals in photographs of vintage cars taken from original negatives. Pictures of White steam cars, Stanleys, the Thomas Flyer and automobiles from the early 1910s were among his steady sellers. That was natural, since the swap meet was heavily geared toward brass-era cars. Numerous members of national clubs, such as the Horseless Carriage Club of America, made the trek from all points.
Osika owns a 1924 Nash touring, 1927 Studebaker, Model A Ford and 1938 LaSalle four-door touring. "I'm a prewar man. I like the old stuff."
So did hundreds of buyers who came to check out parts, cars and literature offered by about 350 vendors. Mike Ersland and his father started the meet in 1991. Why? They wanted an "old-time swap meet... a prewar swap meet with just early stuff," said Ersland.
Ersland is swap meet coordinator. The Old Pueblo Touring Association sponsors the event, now billed as the "World's Largest Early Meet." The swap is in its 17th year, held the third weekend in March. It has always been at the Grady County Fairgrounds in Chickasha, 30 miles southwest of Oklahoma City on I-44.
Ersland said nearly every state is represented at the event and that collectors came from other countries, such as Portugal, England and Canada.
Buyers and vendors reported that this year's event was successful and generally "great." Maybe part of the reason is that Ersland encourages a balance among types of items being sold or services offered. Recently, an enterprise in the business of making custom-ordered brass radiators was added to the swap field, most of which is indoors.
As for vendors who want to sell new tools, Ersland contends that they are not best suited to this swap meet. He wants parts and services that cater to the vintage car collector and restorer. Along those lines, he adds, "We are very open to ideas and suggestions." His inclination toward old cars is logical. He owns a 1905 White steam car and a 1915 White seven-passenger touring car. The morning of this interview, he had purchased a starter for the 1915 White.
Alan Clendenen was a visitor from California. "I've been to nearly all the meets here ' missed maybe one or two," he recalled, taking into account a predecessor swap meet that dates into the 1970s. "I come to meet people and buy a few things. Friendships are the most valuable part." His collection includes a 1915 Model T Ford, 1911 Fiat with chain drive and a 1914 Rolls-Royce. "I cover the spectrum," he added.
Ersland said there is plenty of room for growth at the Chickasha Pre-War Swap Meet. "We have room for 900 vendor spaces."
"The people are really nice, and you see a lot of things you normally don't see. Come with a lot of money ' because there is a lot of good stuff. Your appetite really grows when you start looking around," Osika said.