In my previous post, I didn’t mention that, as part of my key note presentation, I did show one clip from the PBS documentary: the last story, the amazing tale of Esther Oyster and Bernie Queneau, and how the Lincoln Highway brought them together. It’s such a satisfying tale of old newspaper clippings, on-line research, a Sunday morning telephone call, a 70-year-old diary, great old photos of traveling Boy Scouts, a conference speech, concrete markers and romance in California. And like any true Lincoln Highway historian, Esther explains the outcome in terms of LHA annual gatherings: “Before the next conference, we were married!”
Now, six years later, Bernie will soon be 97 (actually on July 14 Bastille Day), but he and Esther are still spry and active members of the LHA, and at a conference like this, they are a bit like royalty. Even before I showed the video clip on Thursday, Bernie had come up to me and quietly asked if I would join them for a special dinner on Thursday evening.
He said it would be not too fancy. And we didn’t get dressed up, but in South Bend I don’t think it gets any fancier than dinner at the Tippecanoe, the beautiful old mansion that had once been the home of the Studebaker family. We had a full table with Brian Butko too and several members of the Ohio delegation to this conference, including Esther’s brother and his wife.
Good food. Lively chatter. Impressive surroundings. It made for a wonderful evening. (Butko took this picture.) Getting to know Esther and Bernie is just a superb benefit of my work, and I can’t thank them enough for all their time and generosity. Now I owe them a nice dinner too!
We weren’t invited to stay the night at the Tippecanoe. Back at the Holiday Inn, I think I normally would have gone straight to bed, but someone mentioned that Russell Rein would be opening the “book room” on the sixth floor of the hotel for one last late-evening shopping opportunity, and when I went there, I ran into Brian Butko, Kevin Patrick, and Mindy Crawford, and since we were all part of the Pennsylvania delegation, we decided to go around the corner for a beer.
The Irish-themed pub around the corner, really in the same block as the hotel, is called Fiddler’s Hearth. I’ve been to South Bend three separate times: Once with my video team as we were en route to a shoot in Chicago and we stopped in South Bend for lunch. We ate at Fiddler’s Hearth. Then, in the summer of 2007, when we came back to South Bend to interview David Hay about the Lincoln Highway, we ended up back at the Fiddler’s Hearth again for dinner. It has good solid Irish pub food and beer, and I’m not complaining, but it seems to be the only place to go for a non-franchised experience around here. So, this was my third visit to South Bend, and this was my third visit to the Fiddler’s Hearth.
We each had a couple of beers, some appetizer-type bar food and some salty gossip and spicy commentary on the last few days here at the conference. Good fun. Late night musings. I think we were the last 4 customers. We closed the place. A nice end to a good and full day. Isn’t this what any good conference on any topic is all about?