THANK YOU PICKLE PEOPLE FOR YOUR KIND DONATIONS!
A Rick & The Ramblers Shout Out to You! Here’s Our Plenty ‘Preciated Pickle Patrons’ Honor Roll:
Jake & Kristin Albee
Hugh & Nancy Aldous
Shauna & Brandy Anderson
Connie & Bob Bellavance
Davis & Cheryl Bodette
Becky & Rich Cassidy
Larry & Katy Davis
Kelly & Rick Devine
Don & Marty Dewees
Dan & Alice Dubenetsky
Ken & Pat Eastman
John & Jane Ewing
Fisher Auto Parts
Cathy Wellings Gillespie
Tom & Roz Graham
Jack, Joy & Jackson Harris
Joe & Camille Lovering
Beecher & Veda Martin
Scott & Wendy McArdle
Bob & Holly Miller
Greg & Eileen Paus
Steve & Marietta Payne
Thom & Mare Richards
Bob & Sandra Rippy
Gary & Elaine Russell
Larry & Connie Simino
John Boy Wagner
THE “PRESERVE THE PICKLE” RESTORATION PROJECT UPDATE
During early planning for the “Riding My Guitar Tour,” Rick came to the stark realization that their tour bus, “The Pickle,” an extremely rare 1957 Flxible Starliner, was in desperate need of life-saving restoration, financially far beyond the band’s reach. Following friendly advice, Rick invited the Rambler community to help out with a “Preserve The Pickle” Fund Drive. And it was a Dilly of a Fund Raiser! Thanks to an amazing outpouring of donations by Rick’s fans throughout Vermont and the world, commencing with a WOKO-sponsored Pickle Party at Burlington’s St. John’s Club, more than 120 Rambler friends donated over $50,000 to the cause which quickly evaporated into the yawning maw of the Pickle restoration.
Bear Bessette, owner of Wildcat Busing Company and Dona’s Car Store in Hardwick took on the daunting task of restoring the beloved Pickle. Under the expert eye of Bear and his able crew, they treated this restoration as if it were Bear’s own personal bus (Wildcat Busing has over 20 vehicles). Once Bear and his crew tore into the Pickle’s rusty exterior, it became obvious there was much more to do to bring the old girl back to her former glory. He took the body down to bare metal (eight coats of paint removed), excised every iota of rust (over 100 bags of sandblasting later), removed and/or fabricated every rusted steel body panel, and straightened out or rebuilt the steel rub rails around the lower regions of the bus. New glass was prepared, old windshields resealed and the greatest care taken to secure the bus from water leaks.
The body work completed, a fresh coat of very green and very white paint was carefully applied and a “Vermont Strong” plate affixed to the front of The Pickle for good measure. Bear even had a likeness of Rick etched into two glass portholes which adorn both sides of the bus. With good humor, a steady hand and over 13 months of meticulous work, Bear indeed performed a miraculous transformation - from rust bucket to near Perfect Pickle
The outside restoration of the Pickle, body work and paint application, we originally expected to take a couple of months to complete, due to the extensive rebuilding needed, stretched into a 13 month long project. Once committed, there was no turning back. The Pickle is too rare a coach and too much a part of the Rick & The All-Star Ramblers band to do otherwise. We are so grateful to Bear Bessette and his unwavering commitment to the project and our amazing community of Rambler fans who made the Pickle Project such a resounding success.
The Pickle made her first public appearance at the Hardwick Spring Festival Parade on May 25, 2013, filmed by a national cable network crew who came to Hardwick from Denver, Colorado. The Pickle was back on the road and successfully carried Rick & The All-Star Ramblers to concert performances throughout the region last Summer and Fall for the “Riding My Guitar” Tour, just as she has for the past 16 years.
Our sincere Thanks to Bobby & Holly Miller, Lois McClure, Johanna Prince, Bobsy Daniels, Hugh & Nancy Aldous, Olive Case, Doug Dows, Larry & Connie Simono, Peter Clavelle & Betsy Ferries, John & Jane Ewing, Gary & Elaine Russell, Ken Grillo & Joan Shannon, Steve & Marietta Payne, Becky & Rich Cassidy, Dan & Alice Dubenetsky, Grant Heywood and 100 more of our Pickle Pals for their donations that funded the Pickle Project. See the full roster of good-hearted Pickle People on the right hand side of the Pickle Page.
THE LAST MILE OF THE PICKLE PROJECT JOURNEY
The Pickle Restoration project is almost complete. All the major elements are done and shining in the sun: the metal restoration, body repair, paint job and the mechanical tuneup of the Pickle have all been completed over the past two years. Only the last two pieces of the restoration remain to be finished. The last half of the inside upholstery needs ro be redone. We have completed the driver’s seat, the front jumpseat and one major cushion in the front compartment.
The last and most important piece of the restoration is the replacement of the on-board generator which we use to power up the band at outdoor shows. The Korean War-era military 10kw Onan generator is out of order and we have been told there is no sense repairing a generator that is more than 50 years old. Finding parts is a serious problem and, the fact is that modern generators are much more efficient, quiet and reliable.
GET OUT YOUR HANKIE, HERE’S OUR PRESERVE THE PICKLE PROJECT APPEAL:
Our 1957 Flxible Starliner bus, known to one and all as “The Pickle,” has suffered the ravages of Vermont winters, frost heaves & 55 years of reliable over-the-road service. For the past 16 years, The Pickle has served us well as our ever-faithful Rick & The All-Star Ramblers Tour Bus, traveling the highways & byways of Vermont, never once breaking down or missing a concert date.
Though we have worked for many years to keep our tour bus in tip-top mechanical condition, today The Pickle is in desperate need of rust remediation, repair of the 10KW on-board generator, roof repair to stop water leaks and a protective and attractive coat of paint to stop further deterioration... to return The Pickle to her former glory.
In short, The Pickle needs a life-saving Restoration and unfortunately, the Restoration work needed is financially far beyond our reach. We invite our loyal Rambler community to participate in our “Preserve The Pickle” Fund Drive. Thanks to a wonderful outpouring of Rambler Family support, we have completed 85% of the restoration and are thankfully on the home stretch, nearing completion of this project so near and dear to our hearts. Please take just a moment to look over the enclosed pack of pickle material and pick a way you can help.
Thank You for your attention and your kind consideration!
There’s only ONE PICKLE and she deserves to be saved! After all, She’s a Dilly!
A Note from Rick Norcross to our Rick & The Ramblers Family
“While this fund-raiser is not about a life & death situation, it IS about keeping The Pickle full of Ramblers on the road for our upcoming “Welcome To OUR Vermont Tour.” It broke our hearts to see our beloved Pickle in such dire need of restoration. Many of our good friends have told me they would like to help us set her right and so we turned to our Rick & The Ramblers Family for assistance. And, thanks to over 125 gracious donations, we are almost there! By the way, our “Preserve The Pickle” campaign is our first-ever & last-ever public appeal for support.
ANY DONATION of ANY SIZE would be deeply appreciated and put to good use in the restoration of this rare and wonderful bus. Friends who participate in this restoration are helping us continue our Musical Journey through our beloved Vermont!”
Nine energetic members of Hazen Union High School’s Key Club converged on Bear Bessette’s Wildcat Busing headquarters in Hardwick at the end of October to engage in a serious Pickle waxing session. The Key Clubbers put a thick, protective shine on the Pickle and closed another circle: 50 years ago, Rick was treasurer of the Hardwick Academy Key Club.
Hazen Union Key Club Pickle Waxers, L to R: Cody Pilbin, Meghan Rublee, Kaylee Sevenee, Mehryn Drown, Taylor Chase, Jessica Allen, Victoria Foster, Kassity Hale and Jacob Miller.
THE HISTORY OF “THE PICKLE”
Rick & The Ramblers Tour Bus is a 1957 Flxible Starliner originally sold as a 29 passenger intercity coach, the last and the most sophisticated model in a long line of Clippers built by the Flxible Company in Loudonville, Ohio between 1937 and 1967. The Starliner was introduced in 1957 and only 276 were built between 1957 and 1967. Only 64 Starliners were built with the raised roof and observation window, all in 1957. Besides Rick & The Ramblers Western Swing Band, entertainers Doc & Chickie Williams, Ray Charles and B.B. King also toured in a raised roof 1957 Flxible Starliner. According to Flxible Owners International, less than 10 raised roof 1957 Flxible Starliners are still on the road today. This Starliner was purchased by Rick in March of 1998 from Steve Cyr in Marleboro, MA, another member of the Flxible Owners International.
In July of 2000, Rick drove The Pickle from Burlington back to Loudonville, Ohio where she was built for the Flxible Owners International Homecoming Rally. The featured speaker was Custom Coach Corp. founder Kirwan Elmers. He graciously came on board and recalled in detail the conversion job his company did on our very bus back in 1961 at a cost of $65,000. Kerwan said that $65,000 conversion represented $1 Million in today’s dollars. The great condition of the interior of our coach today is a testimony to the quality and craftsmanship of the Custom Coach team.
The 1961 conversion was a total interior refit installing a new Ford 534 cubic inch V-8 gas engine with 6 speed Allison Transmission; 10-KW generator with 4 cylinder Continental engine (which we use to power up the band and PA system at Vermont State Park shows); galley with sink and refrigerator; rest room and hot shower; bunks to sleep six; lounge in rear and two tables in front with seating for 14 passengers; two zones of heating and air-conditioning; hot and cold water systems; stereo and CB radio and eight storage drawers, four cabinets and one closet of storage space. Top speed, 90-plus miles per hour, air brakes and Torsilastic suspension system; an altimeter, paneling, mirrors, yellow and green upholstery and shag carpeting.
The Pickle scored roles in two movies filmed in Montreal and a background appearance in three episodes of Entertainment Tonight. The first was shot in April of 2000, starring Jennifer Love Hewitt in a bio-pic about Audrey Hepburn that aired on ABC-TV in January of 2001. The second movie was a pilot for MTV that aired in February of 2001 called “Live Through This.” The Starliner plays the tour bus for a calypso group called “The Latin Gigolos.” In October of 2002, Burlington’s Seventh Generation hired bus and driver (Rick) to travel to 13 Shaw’s and Bread & Circus grocery stores in the Boston area to help promote their environmentally conscious paper and cleaning products.
Former Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle commandeered The Pickle and Rick for a tour of the entire State of Vermont at the end of October during his 2004 gubernatorial campaign, visiting over 60 towns and all of Vermont’s 14 counties in just one week.
On a sunny mid-October day on the Church Street Marketplace, Burlington Mayor and Democratic candidate for Governor of Vermont, Peter Clavelle pulled me aside and asked if I’d be willing to drive him around the state in our band tour bus for a five day campaign swing just before the elections. This is not something you get to do every day and as I already had huge respect and affection for his honor “Da Mayor,” I immediately agreed to embark on what I knew would be a great adventure.
After a few days scrubbing the dust off the inside, the removal of band posters, Airbrush Ron Hernandez applying fresh paint to a couple of outside rust spots, a little oil and a lot of gas, we loaded up our 1957 Flxible Starliner. On came campaign “lit,” lawn signs, bumper stickers, sandwich supplies, lemon squares, beef jerky, coffee cups, campaign staff, Peter’s parents, Ray and Elle Clavelle and Peter’s wife, the irrepressable, Red-Sox jacketed Betsy Ferries. Then we left for Vermont. All of Vermont.
We traveled pretty much every major highway in the state on what turned into a seven day voyage through all 14 counties, visiting over 60 towns. Here’s how the campaign trip went. We headed out well before 6 am each morning to “Honk & Wave” at major intersections during the morning rush hours from 7 to 9 am. Then we visited businesses where Peter could meet and talk to people. Meanwhile the campaign staff would do “lit drops,” leaving info about Peter’s experience and goals for the people of Vermont. We hooked up with local and national level Democrats throughout the state and campaigned with them in their districts.
We attended rallies and candidate forums where Peter could answer questions and meet more people. We visited general stores, schools, senior centers and more general stores. I watched Peter field the questions and concerns of young people and old people dealing with everyday issues. Through it all, I watched Peter wage a hard-fought campaign with the kind of class, warmth and integrity that made me proud to be driving the bus.
(Note: Peter Clavelle was unsuccessful in his 2004 bid to unseat incumbent Governor Jim Douglas.)
Higher Ground Music Hall frequently uses The Pickle as a backstage base of operations at most of their “Concerts on the Green” shows at the Shelburne Museum. Many of the featured artists come aboard the Pickle for a look and a smile, including John Fogarty, The Seldom Scene, members of the Del McCoury Band and The Nocturnals, to name a few. Senator Pat Leahy had his wife Marcelle shoot a photo of he and Rick in the rear lounge following an Emmylou Harris concert.
This is Rick & The Ramblers’ second Flxible Clipper band bus. The first was 1946 Flxible Airporter model that was in such rough shape that the band name and sponsors’ logos were only painted on the ditch side so that when it broke down on the highway, it wouldn’t embarrass our sponsors.
The Clipper Sculpture
A couple of years back, during a driving snowstorm, a mechanic who rebuilt the Continental generator motor in our ‘57 Starliner among other things, was loading scrap metal into a recycling dumpster just down the street from Rambler Ranch here on Burlington’s historic waterfront. He looked into the dumpster and saw the back end of this six and one half inch Clipper covered with snow and recognized what it was. He jumped into the dumpster and dug it out and gave it to me a few minutes later. Can you imagine that it ended up in a scrap metal dumpster (a day and a half’s drive from the Loudonville, Ohio Flxible factory) just moments before he showed up to discard his metal salvage? And that he would recognize what it was in a driving snowstorm and then bring it to me? How many of these could possibly exist in Vermont? It’s a little beat up and has a hole in the top. It weighs a little under two pounds and is, I am told, white metal, whatever that is, and it is lightly plated with copper. It is very cool and obviously was meant to live at Rambler Ranch. I have since learned that these models were given to purchasers of Flxible Coaches as a desk “ornament” or paper weight. The Vermont Transit bus company bought 13 Flxible Coaches in the late 30s and early 40s and was cleaning out their downtown Burlington office at the time, preparing for a change of location.