An Adventure in Hyannis
By Don Doman
As teenagers growing up in the early sixties, my wife and I saw Hyannis and Hyannisport as mythical kingdoms populated by the rich, the famous, and the powerful. Except for the mythical part this is probably still true.
Peg and I traveled to Hyannis with friend and guide, Al Burrage. Our first stop was the John F. Kennedy Memorial. The memorial features a 12-foot-high fieldstone wall with a relief of JFK facing the sea. There is a presidential seal, fountain, and a small pool to honor the late president, who grew up nearby. Tour busses constantly drove in the parking lot for people to visit the shrine. It is lovely with a great view of the beach and water.
Flowers form a border around the circular monument. Al had brought us there because he thought we might have an interest. He didn't. I had to coax staunch republican Al to step into the memorial. We were all surprised when he did not turn to stone. Perhaps, it was just the wind, but I thought I heard a low, democratic moan.
Next to the JFK Memorial is Veterans Memorial Park. As always, celebrities grab the headlines, but real people make the big differences in the world. There is a Korean War Memorial located at the Veterans Memorial Park. It was dedicated June 25, 2000, the 50th anniversary of the start of the war. The grounds, the statue, and the brick (inscribed with the names of Korean veterans) lined walkway stir the emotions of the heart.
"The memorial consists of an eight-foot bronze-cast statue of a typical combat soldier, placed on a granite base, overlooking Hyannis Harbor. The statue was sculpted by the world renown sculptor, Robert Shure whose work includes the Irish Famine, located in Boston, as well as the MIA/KIA Eternal Flame monument located in the National Cemetery in Bourne."
Really touching was a simple message from the people of Korea etched in granite and a stone. You can't read the inscription without letting your fingers travel the once rough surface of the stone and think of the sacrifices that were made by Americans and United Nations forces half a world away and half a century ago.
Next, we visited the Kennedy Compound, where most of the Kennedys and other family members still have residences. You can see the pier built for JFK by our government from a nearby park, but you have to have a resident sticker on your car to use the park. The only way to see into the compound is if someone has their gates open, which some did. The houses inside the compound didn't appear any different from most of the other expensive, neighboring houses outside the compound. How strange.
Back in the commerical district we stopped in at a small convenience store, which was located next to the Cape Cod Railroad which features a dinner train. We may have to try that out on our next visit. At the convenience store we bought a local paper and picked up two coupon books featuring coupons for Cape Cod attractions. The sign at the store mentioned Brazilian food, which seemed a little odd. Connections with Brazil kept popping up during our stay in Cape Cod. We saw a Brazilian flag flying at a Seafood Sam's restaurant outside Wood's Hole, and even ate at a Brazilian restaurant during a day trip to Quincy.
A page in the coupon book we picked up at the convenience store lead us to one of my favorite stops: Toad Hall. The coupon offered a dollar off at the Toad Hall Sports Car Museum. Since I love cars and produced a fundraising video for the LeMay Car Museum, I had to at least see what Toad Hall had to offer. I was expecting maybe a dozen sports cars. I was wrong.
We parked our car at the Simmons Homestead Inn and walked around. Five red cars including a Rolls Bentley welcomed us . . . but no one else did. One of the cars was an old Datsun 240Z. I was hooked. My 240Z had been yellow. I wandered around. I could see the garage where I figured the cars were kept, but didn't want to slide the two by four security system out of the way. Even though I could see the padlock was hanging open I was afraid of setting off alarms.
I walked into the inn. No one was there. I walked into another building. No one was there, but I did find a bar and hundreds of bottles of Scotch. I kept on walking and snooping. All exterior doors where marked with one of two signs: "Don't let the cats in!" or "Don't let the cats out!" Carefully, I complied. Everywhere I went I called out, "Hello." No one answered.
Eventually I heard a car drive up. I walked toward the driveway and saw a red sports car. I knew I was about to make contact. I walked into the inn and found Bill Putman. "I hope you haven't been waiting long," he said. I replied, "No, but we did drink three bottles of Scotch." He laughed and then took us out to the garage where he slid the two by four out of the way, opened the door, and turned on the lights. I was delighted, so to speak. Really, I was spellbound. Inside the garage were almost five dozen red sports cars . . . and one green one.
I recognized the garage for what it was . . . a growing obsession. It was just the way the LeMay Museum began. Harold LeMay began collecting cars and then needed more and more space to house them. Bill Putman had a few sports cars (he raced two of them) and then he began finding more and more that he wanted. The garage was expanded and expanded. The ceiling is maybe seven feet high and there are rooms with as few as two cars. The dirt floor is covered with white gravel. On top of the gravel in the walkways between the cars are oriental carpets. I went crazy identifying the cars. "Here's an XK120," I shouted, "I had an XK140."
In the collection there were three models that I had owned. In addition to the Datsun 240Z and the Jaguar XK140, I also found a Bug-Eye Austin Healey Sprite. This was the car I had when I wooed Peg. We drove away from the church in my little Sprite. We took our week-old daughter Andrea to a drive-in movie in that little car. I loved it and should have kept it. This is the same story that Bill hears from almost every visitor to Toad Hall.
I had to ask Bill about the Scotch, "Most of the bottles look unopened. Why don't you drink them?" He even has a website just for his Scotch collection. Bill replied, "I don't know." I think Bill just might be too busy. He collects sports cars, cats, and Scotch in addition to running his inn. I'm sure he was thinking of his collection of Scotch when with a whistful look in his eye Bill said, "Sometimes I just dream of getting snowed in."
Toad Hall was a delight. So, why Toad Hall? Bill likes the story of Wind in the Willows and the central character, Toad, lives in Toad Hall. So, why the red cars? In the story, Toad was obsessed by a motor car. He got one and it was red. So, why the one green car. The previous owner had just sunk $15,000 into the car and Bill didn't have the heart to have it painted. So, why Scotch and cats. Just because.
Looking for memories of our youth we visited Hyannis for Kennedy historical connections. We ended our visit to Hyannis with so much more. Isn't that what travel is all about?
Don Doman is a published author, video producer, and corporate trainer. He owns the business training site Ideas and Training (http://www.ideasandtraining.com), which he says is the home of the no-hassle "free preview" for business training videos. Don and his wife Peg also travel in the Pacific Northwest writing of their fun and adventures. You can read their stories at NW Adventures (http://www.nwadventures.us)
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