David Millhouser
September 25, 2022

The AACA Museum 2022 Spring Fling: The Gang’s All Here

“The Gang’s All Here” was the theme of this year’s Spring Fling at the Museum of Bus Transportation/Antique Automobile Club of America Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

On June 3rd and 4th, hundreds of enthusiasts and industry veterans gathered in perfect weather to celebrate the history and evolution of the bus industry in North America.

Museum buses getting into position.

Getting ready for visitors.

Roughly 30 “visiting” coaches braved the $6 per gallon diesel prices to join with the museum’s 53 buses, offering the opportunity for guests to see and touch more than 80 historic vehicles. Virtually every era of bus development was represented, from a 1912 White to a 2022 Van Hool battery-powered coach.

Attendance was down slightly from pre-pandemic levels and high fuel prices gave the event a more “Middle Atlantic” flavor than years past.

John Bailey and Patty Cowley (President and Executive Director respectively) of the Pennsylvania Bus Association, explaining next years’ fling will recognize P.A.B.A’s 100th anniversary.

At Friday evening’s “Town Hall”, Bus Committee Chair John Oakman gave a “State of the Museum” briefing, indicating that since merging with AACA Museum the bus group’s financial state has not only stabilized but, for the first time, revenue exceeded expenses. Oakman said the fleet in the past two years has grown by more than ten units. Oakman is stepping down at year’s end after a 3-year stint, and he introduced Daniel Lenz as the next Chair.

Fleet Manager Randy Wilcox pointed out that movie bus rentals have made a large contribution, both in terms of revenue and industry recognition. Giant strides have been made in cataloging and sorting of parts, and the Annex library has grown to well over 250 maintenance and parts manuals. These books are both historic records and a valuable maintenance resource for the museum, antique bus owners, and colleagues across the country.

Randy Wilcox, Tom Mozer, and David Schmidt as Randy presents the “Volunteer of the Year” award to Mozer.

Brandon Stanezyk of Trans-Bridge Lines receiving “Best Modern Bus” award from David Schmidt (on the left).

Daniel Lenz (far right) presenting the award for “Best Antique Bus” to Tom O’Kane, Warren Sheps, and (sadly an unknown) third gentleman they all represent “Friends of N.J. Transportation Heritage Center.”

The Parra family receiving one of the three awards won.

The Parra family receiving one of the three awards won.

After pointing out that none of this would have been possible without a dedicated team of volunteers and museum staff, he announced that the museum was starting an annual “Volunteer of the Year” award, and the inaugural winner was Tom Mozer. Mozer loves “all things wheeled” and has become virtually indispensable in every aspect of managing and maintaining the fleet.

A fun stat typifying the bus industry is that, among the nearly 20 volunteers who labored for three days to get set up for Fling, there were at least four ex-bus company owners and three retired executives. It was great fun watching an ex-CEO mowing grass and wielding a mean “weed whacker”.

Wilcox also expressed the museum’s gratitude to Gary Hatt for donating subscriptions to Bus Conversions Magazine to the volunteers who gave up their time to prep the buses and annex for the Fling. Bus Conversion Magazine has been a consistent supporter of the museum’s efforts to preserve historic buses.

On Saturday the museum recognized and thanked Annett Bus Lines, JC Tours, Alexandria Transit Company (DASH), and Premier Transportation for their generous donation of buses to the historic fleet.

Every bus at the Fling is special and all have stories, but perhaps this year’s best was the 11 members of the Parra family from Chihuahua, Mexico who made the 8-day, 4,400 miles (round trip) journey to Fling in their spectacular 1970 4-axle Sultana coach.

Cesar Parra has been in the business for 30 years running two companies. This coach is still in revenue service for “Noroeste”, and Parra family lore has it that the President of Mexico once rode in this coach.
Cesar’s son Isaac pointed out that he has 11 uncles… and every one of them is a bus driver. The family headed home with plaques representing the three awards they won to keep them company.

The Best Conversion Coach award went to Dan Hunt’s 1989 Model 15 Eagle. Sadly, and most likely as a result of $6/gallon diesel, there were fewer conversion coaches than usual. Attendees were in large part from the Middle Atlantic States. Hopefully, next year diesel prices will moderate and Fling will again attract conversions and restored buses from all over the continent.

Next year’s Spring Fling will be a celebration of the Pennsylvania Bus Association’s 100th anniversary. PBA has been one of the most ardent supporters of the Museum of Bus Transportation/Antique Automobile Club of America Museum. The bus industry in Pennsylvania has a rich and colorful history, which will be prominently on display.

Article written by David Millhouser

Dave Millhouser started driving buses cross-country for a non-profit Christian organization called “Young Life” as a summer job in 1965. They carried high school kids from the East Coast to ranches in Colorado in a fleet that consisted of three 1947 Brills, a 1947 Aerocoach, and a 1937 Brill. Their fleet grew to 23 buses and traveled all 48 contiguous states and much of Canada.

When Young Life dropped their bus program, Dave ended up selling parts for Hausman Bus Sales. In 1978 Dave was hired by Eagle International to sell motorcoaches and spent the next 30 years doing that… 13 years with Eagle, as well as stints with MCI, Setra, and Van Hool. His first sale was an Eagle shell for a motorhome, and his career ended selling double-decker Van Hools.

Dave had a side career in underwater photography/writing, and Bus and Motorcoach News asked him to do a regular column in 2006. Millhouser.net is an effort to make those columns available to bus people.

If you find value in them, feel free to use them at no charge. Dave would ask that you consider a donation to the AACA Museum aacamuseum.org in Hershey, Pennsylvania. They recently merged with the Museum of Bus Transportation, and maintain a fleet of 40 historic coaches, lots of bus memorabilia, and hundreds of antique automobiles.

If you are anywhere near Hershey… Dave says, “You will love it.”

In May of 2015, the Editor of Bus & Motorcoach News called Dave a Bad Example for Motorcoach Drivers… his proudest accomplishment to date. Read the columns and you’ll see why.

Click here to reach Dave by email: davemillhouser@icloud.com
Click here to visit his website: https://www.millhouser.net/

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