Gathering at Features

A big thank you goes out to Emerson and Rachel Zentz as well as all of the other staff and officers of the Midwest Bus Museum for putting together a wonderful 100th Anniversary celebration of the Checker Motors Corporation.  Production of twenty-six 1922 Checker Cab Model C began in May of 1922 in Jolliet, Illinois.  It was great that ICTA members could celebrate on the Memorial Day weekend of 2022, we wanted to be true to the May 1922 date.

This was the biggest Checker event that ICTA members have participated in, in over ten years.  About one hundred Checker fans would participate in various ways over the three day, memorial day weekend.  ICTA members from The Netherland, France, Australia and from both coasts of the US made the trek to Wisconsin.  A contingent from the “Bus Boys” team and several automotive journalists also made it to the show.  This really turned out to be a World Class event!

The event started with a short Friday night cruise-in and dinner at Features restaurant, in Holmen, Wisconsin.  About twenty-five Checker fans met up for an informal and entertaining evening of Checker talk and banter.  About thirteen miles from LaCrosse, the weather was perfect, sunny and a cool 65 degrees, perfect for an evening drive in a Checker.

David & Connie Kniffen from Michigan

The main event took place on Saturday May 28th at the Midwest Bus Museum scheduled for 9 am.  At 8:30 am, 10 Checkers were already parked and ready for the show!  During the course of the day, Checker fans had a chance to engage in many activities.

Many show participants were Facebook friends, who had met up originally on the ICTA Facebook, for some, it would be a chance to actually meet friends, despite the fact that most of the friendships had developed over the last ten to twenty years via Facebook. This writer had personally known automotive taxicab author Chris Monier from France for close to twenty years, but we never have had the chance to meet in person until the 100th anniversary event!

A fantastic breakfast and lunch was prepared by the great people of the Midwest Bus Museum.  Traditional Midwest games were set up: bags and horse shoes.  It was wonderful to see entire families participate with kids in tow.  Show participants ranged from babies to octogenarians.

The view at Grandad Bluff

Not only did the show feature Checkers, but it also featured other public service vehicles.  In the late afternoon, Emerson Zentz provided a tour of the museum and some of its featured vehicles.  In total about 30 vehicles were on display, this included Buses, trucks, military, taxi and police vehicles.

After the show, a cruise was organized and ten Checker drove over to Grandad Bluff. Grandad Bluff is on the east side of LaCrosse. Wisconsin. It is approximately 590 feet above the surrounding land and 1,183 feet above sea level. Bliss Road provides access to the bluff.  All the Checkers beyond the Checker A4 had no problem reaching the peak.  The Checker A4 on the other hand was a challenge.  The old 1950 NYC taxi made it to the top, but at certain times the incline was so steep, the old girl could only travel at 10 mph in first gear.  A big thank you to Jeff Detweiler for staying behind with his emergency flashers serving as a warning to passing motorists.  Coming down was equally hard in the A4.  The brakes could hardly take it, it made for a fun but nerve-

wracking drive back to the hotel.  At the bottom of the hill a passing train held up traffic, the smell of burning brakes pads on the Checker A4, was a smell this writer will never forget!

Top of Grandad Bluff photo by Laddie Vitek

The day was capped of with dinner at The Freight House. About 40 Checker fans took up three big tables on the second floor.  This writer can attest to the fantastic steaks, particularly the Prime Rib! The restaurant opened in October 1978 and has received the Heritage Award by the La Crosse Historical Preservation Society and is a National Historic Site.

Al Shultz and Ross Gabrick Bags Competition

In the late 1870’s, the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad purchased three railways: the Southern Minnesota, the Chicago, Clinton, Dubuque and Minnesota; and the Wisconsin Valley. Three to four hundred cars were handled daily by the Milwaukee Road in La Crosse alone. Because of this merging of lines, there was a need to consolidate the offices for convenience and economy. The railroad also needed more warehouse space and decided to build a new freight house which was to become one of the largest in the state. The Freight House was built in 1880 and contained the freight offices of the Milwaukee Road and handled all incoming freight. Freight services were halted in 1955. After this, the building was used by private businesses until April 1978, when renovation began to preserve on of the few remaining 19th Century railroad depots.

Checker fans met up on Sunday morning for a farewell breakfast.  After breakfast we all headed home, just in time to miss the heavy rain storms.

A number of photos are posted below, if you would like to see more, check out the Facebook links below.

Midwest Bus Museum | Facebook

Internet Checker Taxicab Archive | Facebook

Ben Merkel, Joe Fay & Robert Gabrick

photo by Ross Gabrick

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