Antiques gather no moss in Hood River, Oregon
Do the smell of oil and grease and the sound of an open throttle heighten your sense of adventure? Would the kids like to go for a ride in a rumble seat instead of screaming for ice cream? If so, the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum (WAAAM) might be just the place to spend the day. It’s a place where all of the exhibits are either flying or moving—and constantly changing their location.
Donna Davidson, WAAAM’s Assistant Director, filled OTE in on the history of how this metropolis of all things mechanical and transportation was propelled into the world.
“It was all because of one man; Terry Brandt,” said Davidson. “Terry grew up in a family that ran an airport, so he was perfectly at home around aviation. When he grew into his teenage years, he started tinkering with airplane parts that he would find in barns near his family’s home. Pretty soon he ended up with enough parts to rebuild actual working planes. By 2006 he had rebuilt so many functioning planes that he decided it was time to open up a museum.”
Brandt’s planes became the backbone of the current WAAAM, which now supports more than 42 planes, rare antique locomotives and steam engines, and military vehicles on two acres of museum property. Of the more than 250 vehicles and planes stored at the museum, 93 percent are operational.
“Right now, our oldest flying plane is a 1917 Curtiss Jenny. Terry brought it back here and it was fully restored. In 2008 she took her first flight since 1926,” said Davidson. “We also have an operational 1899 locomotive and a 1912 Indian motorcycle.”
Davidson likes to point out to people that WAAAM museum displays usually have drip pans underneath. If an exhibit spot is empty, it’s most likely temporarily away, driving down the old highway or circling the airstrip.
“About 90 percent of our exhibit belongs to WAAAM, while the rest is on loan. Things are pretty lively around here—we like to say that if it doesn’t drive or fly then it’s probably furniture,” quipped Davidson.
A good time to take to the road
The museum is open every day of the week and on the second Saturday of each month, from 10 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. exhibits are moved outdoors for working demonstrations. A new vehicle or plane is featured every month, and the collection is rotated.
“At WAAAM, we really take care of our artifacts, so if there’s inclement weather, you might not see a working outdoor demonstration,” said Davidson. “However, for the last 22 months straight, there hasn’t been one Saturday where we’ve had to disappoint anyone.”
Many of WAAAM’s visitors find the displays spur conversation between the generations. “You get to hear all of the personal stories and oral history,” said Davidson. “On top of that, the youngest members of the family can ride in the same vehicles and on the same highways their great grandparents did in the 1920s and 30s. Riding in an old Ford Model T on roads that were built specifically for Sunday drives past Multnomah Falls, you get a sense of the pace of life back when taking a ride in an automobile was an adventure rather than a feature of daily life. We connect people to the motions of the past.”