Thursday, April 23, 2009

RIP Dick Kemp

I'm a little late in eulogizing Dick Kemp, who died Sept. 7, 2007. I never met the man, and in fact had never heard of him until I started to research the history of a political rally for presidential candidate Franklin Pierce in 1852. I mean the rally was held in 1852, not that I started researching in 1852. Why, I wasn't even born until several years later.

Mr. Kemp began collecting trucks in the early 1950s. He bought a 1930 Mack Bulldog for $50. He continued for decades to buy old trucks, restore them to working order, and make them look presentable, without trying to hammer out all the dents. In the 1970s, he began to display them on his property in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, and thus was born Kemp's Truck Museum. When he died at age 76, his collection included over a hundred vehicles. He didn't charge admission, didn't attempt flawless museum-quality restorations, and encouraged visitors to touch and sit in his vehicles.

I learned of Kemp's Truck Museum because it is located on the Contoocook River next to the old stone oven built to cook an ox for the Great Pierce Barbecue of 1852. See link at the end of this post for further details of that event and my efforts to locate the oven with the help of Hillsboro resident, Steve Davidson.

Old Oven with Kemp Vehicles in the Background
Photo by Steve Davidson

Dick Kemp was interviewed for a special Thanksgiving edition of CNN Newsnight with Aaron Brown which aired November 25, 2004. He concluded the interview by saying,

But everybody asks me, you know, What's going to happen to this collection when you go? I don't know. That's somebody else's problem.
Now we know what will happen. Most of the collection will be auctioned off this year. Some of the proceeds will go toward the care and support of Kemp’s 101-year-old mother, but most will provide financial aid for students at nearby Hillsborough-Deering High School to attend vocational and trade schools on full scholarships.

As a further tribute, the City of Hillsborough will keep two trucks on the property, which will be called Kemp Park. A side benefit may be that the old Pierce stone oven may receive more attention than it has in recent years.


The Great Pierce Barbecue of 1852

"Tears for a bulldog: Kemp’s Truck Museum faces an uncertain future after the passing of its owner" by Chuck Miller

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