Same cars, different Hershey


The Jardines de Hershey: Good spot for a car show?
    Last week the old cars and their owners, many just as old, assembled in Hershey, Pennsylvania, for the Eastern Fall Meet that is a premier date of  the Antique Automobile Club of America.
   As long as they're ticking, cars and owners will be back for future autumn meets.
   But John Dowlin dreams of more such gatherings, in another place called Hershey.
   In an op-ed column in the Harrisburg, Pa., Patriot-News, the co-founder of the TailLight Diplomacy group proposes an annual car show in Cuba that could be a sister event to the antique car fair in Pennsylvania.
    And what more suitable site, he asks, than the village established east of Havana in 1917 by confectioner Milton S. Hershey to support his sugar mill?
    Dowlin's non-profit TailLight group seems to sputter along on two cylinders  the other being Rick Shnitzler, a fellow Philadelphian. It has no website. Many Castro opponents view it with suspicion.
    Yet the tiny organization has succeeded in alerting Americans to Cuba's vast store of pre-1960 Detroit-made automobiles, and to the value in preserving a living, rolling collection that Dowlin and others call "as important to Havana as the cable cars are to San Francisco, the gondolas to Venice."
    Hershey, Cuba, is known today for its picturesque (and unreliable) electric railway and for a lush botanical garden  both gifts of its founder. Beyond that, Hershey is as tired and crumbling as any spot on the island. A good place for a car show? Perhaps not, except for the resonance of a name that just might build fraternity between the old car buffs of the United States and the custodians of the old cars of Cuba.

A Moskvich 1500 at the botanical gardens.

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