MUSEUM HAS MORE CARS
August 23, 2001 11:00 pm
Buggy and memorabilia from the turn of the last century adorn portion of museum. ().
Buggy and memorabilia from the turn of the last century adorn portion of museum. ().

GOLD BEACH Now in its second season, Sheriff Johns Classic Cars museum has more car displays than ever, along with a new movie poster collection.

Many of the car displays are movie themed, and visitors will find the images of Humphrey Bogart, James Dean and Elvis Presley near automobiles of the appropriate periods.

Bogart is part of the new Club Cosmo display, which features the costumes and vehicles of 1931.

Dean can be found, of course, next to a 1951 Mercury flathead hot rod, similar to the one Dean owned before he switched to a Porsche and was killed in an accident.

Elvis holds forth in front of a 1957 Ford Thunderbird, but museum owner John Gillespie is not satisfied with the match. He is searching for a Cadillac, the only appropriate car for the King of Rock n Roll.

The oldest vehicle in the collection is a 1901 buggy formerly owned by actress Ann Sothern. Surrounding it are dolls collected by Johns wife Carol.

John was once the sheriff of Ventura County in California. The vehicles are his private collection and most of them spend much of the year in his climate-controlled eight-car garage.

From July 1 to Oct. 1, cars stored in the Gillespies garage, and in friends garages, gather in the boat barn next to the Mail Boats jet boat tours on the North Bank Rogue River Road.

Mannequins, stuffed into trunks during the winter, are set up and clothed in period costumes.

Murals go up, along with Burma-Shave signs and old photos featuring cars with lighted headlights.

Mail Boat riders can tour the museum for free. Those not riding the boats can see the museum for $5 for adults and $2 for children 5-12. Seniors get in for $3 and children 4 and under are admitted free. The museum is open 1-5 p.m. daily. Call (541) 670-8474 for information.

The cars serve as centerpieces of displays that evoke different eras of America in the 20th century. The cars are perfectly restored, but the costumes and displays are just as interesting.

A mannequin in a 1929 wedding dress stands next to an old photo showing the 1929 wedding the dress was worn in.

Jeri Honeycutt of Gold Beach designed and made the costumes for all the post-World War II displays, including a car-hop outfit, Marilyn Monroe gown and a yellow polka-dot bikini.

Gold Beach artist Bob Brown created murals as backdrops for the displays. A row of Burma-Shave signs at one end of the museum leads right into the final sign painted on a mural of a desert highway.

Carols favorite car is not one of their flashy hot rods, but an unrestored 1941 Chevrolet that smells like her grandfathers car.

She said the engine is so quiet that its hard to tell if its running. Only the headliner has been replaced, but the car looks almost showroom fresh. It still has its World War II gas-rationing sticker on the windshield.

The sticker has advice on the back such as to save tires, drive under 35, and share your car. It advised drivers to stop, start and turn slowly. At the bottom it asks, Is this trip really necessary?

Adding to the mood are mannequins dressed in various uniforms, an antique radio playing period songs, and Pearl Harbor Attacked newspapers on the car seats.

The World War II display has been expanded with a Rosie the Riveter mannequin. On the wall behind the display is a photo of John as a young Marine.

The displays also reflect Johns humor. Hes recreated a 1939 Plymouth as a Ventura County Sheriffs car.

The Plymouth has an authentic 85-pound red light/siren unit mounted on the fender. The hood is strewn with doughnuts and the license plate reads Donut. Standing by the hubcap is a toy pig in a police uniform.

John also tapped into his past to design the costume for the 1960s mannequin leaning against a 1967 pink Ford Mustang.

Carol said that John was working for the sheriffs department in Claremont, Calif. while he attended college. She said Hanoi Jane Fonda used to show up on campus looking like the mannequin does now.

Among Johns Alfred Hitchcock memorabilia is a battery-operated Psycho knife that plays the bleep-bleep-bleep theme from the shower scene.

The Gillespies have nicknamed their museum, The Best Little Carhouse in Oregon. Carol said We love to be able to share it with people.

If they could only share it with a few more people, they might break even on the project. A lack of profit hasnt dampened the Gillespies enthusiasm, however.

Its a labor of love, said Carol.