A collection rich in automotive history

Mayor Ken Poynter’s memorabilia exhibited at Ypsilanti museum

By: April Lehmbeck | Advertiser Times | Published July 5, 2011

 Harper Woods Mayor Ken Poynter looks at one of his many display cases of Hudson Motor Car Co. memorabilia at the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum.

Harper Woods Mayor Ken Poynter looks at one of his many display cases of Hudson Motor Car Co. memorabilia at the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum.

Photo by April Lehmbeck

HARPER WOODS — If you walk into the main doors of the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum, pass museum curator Jack Miller, who has deep roots in the Hudson Motor Car Co., and head up a set of stairs around a corner, you’ll discover a display that took a lifetime of love and commitment to amass.

Like Miller, Harper Woods Mayor Ken Poynter has that deep connection to the Hudson Motor Car Co. He has spent his life finding little pieces of the company’s history.

Most people couldn’t dream of amassing a collection of anything as large as Poynter’s Hudson car memorabilia. For Poynter, each little piece of history seems to represent a piece of his childhood, a little part of himself.

“It’s been a tremendous slice of life,” Poynter said, recalling the many people he’s met while working on his collection, people who have helped him find many treasures along the way.

“You name it, if it says Hudson on it and it pertains to the Hudson Motor Car Co., I’m interested in it,” he said.

He jokes that he must have been hit by a Hudson car as a child to be so devoted over the years to all of the Hudson memorabilia.

Poynter, a member of the Hudson Essex Terraplane Club, started his collection with such items from his childhood as an old company bowling shirt that bears his father Omar’s name. Omar Poynter worked for the Hudson Motor Car Co. starting in the mid-1920s for three decades. His father was one of the many who grew up in the South — Kentucky, to be precise — but came up to Detroit to look for good work in the factories.

“I just grew up with it,” he said. “It gave a roof over our heads and put food on the table.”

It’s a collection he says that he could never afford to duplicate now with the rising interest in automobile memorabilia over the years.

“I started collecting stuff before others started collecting,” Poynter said.

When it was time to find a home for his collection and a museum outside of Michigan expressed interest in the pieces, Poynter was pleased to hear that the Ypsilanti museum wasn’t having that — and the collection’s home stayed in Michigan at what is actually the last Hudson dealership left in the world.

“It’s kind of a step back in time,” Poynter said of the museum. “It truly is.

“I’m glad they saved that dealership because it’s the only one left,” he said.

Miller, who worked at the Hudson dealership in Ypsilanti starting when he was young and his father owned the business, created a space on a second floor for the collection. With his father having purchased the dealership in the 1930s and his vast knowledge of everything Hudson, Miller worked to make sure the collection could be housed where it belonged, in Michigan.

“It belonged in the metro Detroit area, not out of state,” Poynter said.

Miller agreed.

“It fits perfectly,” Miller said. “It’s absolutely fantastic. Ken spent three-quarters of his life putting that collection together.”

Now it’s just a natural part of the museum, where Miller said the records for every car ever sold at the site continue to be housed in the building. Miller, like Poynter, loves the Hudson name.

“When I was going to high school, I had a new Hudson to drive because I was selling cars,” he said.

The Hudson Motor Car Co. was one of those old-fashioned companies, one that Poynter’s father enjoyed going to for work. It was one of those companies that was more like a community than a business, with its company gatherings and sports teams.

Unlike some people who trudge to work every day now, Poynter said he doesn’t recall his father ever complaining about having to go to work.

“Hudson was a family,” Poynter said. “Everybody seemed to be together.”

Recently, Poynter visited the museum with some trophies he wanted to add to the collection, filling yet another display case for visitors at the museum.

“We started with just four display cases,” he said.

Now, there are about 13 larger display cases.

The collection has been part of the museum for the last few years and what’s there is just some of what Poynter owns. The display includes hundreds of items, from tiny things like key chains, buttons and pocket knives to a sewing kit, golf tees, clocks and more. The items date back to the 1920s.

“You could spend days up here,” Poynter said.

The museum also has a television screen on a wall that includes a video of Poynter talking about his memories and his collection.

The collection includes a strike club that was made from a table leg from the 1930s and a child’s pencil box. There are union hats that Poynter remembers wearing in parades as a child.

There’s an old Kellogg’s Corn Flakes box in the display that has a cutout of a Hudson on the back.

“I remember putting those together,” Poynter said.

One display case houses a glass thermometer for an old-fashioned ice box with the Hudson moniker. A sidewalk marker used for advertising with the Hudson name is on display, as well.

“I’ve got factory badges, service pins, scale model cars … pens, pencils, jewelry, fans, you name it,” he said.

He even has his father’s last paycheck from the company.

When it comes to collecting, Poynter isn’t ready to stop anytime soon. He’s started a new collection.

“I’m collecting Detroit and Harper Woods memorabilia now from stuff I remember as a little kid,” he said.