ELKHART, IN—A lone smart aleck spoiled the RV Hall Of Fame for serious visitors Monday, making sarcastic wisecracks about the various exhibits and running around the Elkhart tourist attraction like a "ninny."
"My wife read about this place in RV Lifestyle, and we drove all the way from Illinois to see it," said retired contractor Gerald Finnis, 70. "But the whole time we were there, some goofball is engaging in horseplay and saying things like, 'If the RV is rockin', don't come a-knockin'' loud enough for everyone to hear. It spoiled the whole darn day."
Unlike the many respectful Hall Of Fame visitors who used the museum for its intended purpose, quietly reading informational placards and exploring the interiors of the displayed RV units, the smart aleck "hardly quit fooling around for two seconds." He was later identified as Dick Weed of Nuttsak Hills, PA, according to his entry in the guest book at the front of the museum.
"[Weed] had a friend with him who didn't say a whole lot, but he certainly encouraged him by laughing at everything he said," Finnis said. "The smart-alecky one would say, 'Man, this is even cooler than the Thermos Hall Of Fame over in Portage,' or 'Remember: Only the all-time greatest RVs are inducted into the RV Hall Of Fame,' and his pal would egg him on by laughing. Then, he would do something else stupid, like act like his foot was stuck under the tire of one of the RVs and scream. A real comedian, this guy."
Maintained by the Recreational Vehicle/Manufactured Housing Heritage Foundation, The RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum is the most-visited tourist attraction on the I-80/90 Indiana Toll Road between South Bend and Lagrange. The Hall of Fame section honors nearly 200 pioneers and leaders in the RV/MH industry, while the museum area displays trailers, photos, and RV memorabilia from the 1920s to the present.
"There's a lot to learn here," said earnest visitor Clara Fetzer, 54, who glared icily at Weed several times during her visit. "For instance, before I came here, I assumed that MH either stood for Motor Home or Mobile Home. It doesn't. It stands for Manufactured Housing."
The Wall Of Fame, which features 70 framed photos of the most important figures in RV history, and the indoor "RV park," with antique vehicles displayed among artificial trees and lawn chairs, provided ample material for Weed to ridicule.
"It was disgraceful," said Mary Leehausen, 63. "[Weed] was standing next to me, looking at the cardboard family picnic display, and he kept calling it 'so hilarious.' I didn't see anything hilarious about it. Did you, Harry?"
"No," said Harry Leehausen, her husband. "These kids today, they have no respect. Someone put a lot of time and energy into making a nice museum, but some people have to try to put it down."
Even visitors who did not pick up on the derisive nature of Weed's remarks were irritated by his failure to comply with standard museum etiquette.
"[Weed] was running around, actually running inside the museum from exhibit to exhibit. And there were a few times when he cut ahead of me in line while I was waiting my turn to go inside one of the smaller modules," said Donna Merken, 42. "I think it's nice that he was excited to see everything, but there's no need to be rude to other people."
Weed's mockery, museumgoers said, only grew over the course of his 90-minute visit. Early on, while browsing the museum's 22 tourable RVs, Weed merely repeated declarations of, "Oh, my God," and "I cannot believe this." By the end of his visit, however, Weed's showboating had escalated to the point of disruption. Lying down in the middle of the museum's green, all-weather carpet, he loudly exclaimed, "I think I'll just take a little ol' rest in the grass here." Those wanting to enter the 1954 Holiday Rambler were forced to walk around him.
Moments later, Weed yelled "Bad dog!" at a ceramic dalmatian displayed next to the 1964 Coachmen Cadet. After loudly repeating the faux admonishment several times, Weed began to bark at the statue. The scene so vexed visitor Annalee Taylor, 64, that she retreated upstairs to the center's archival library.
Despite disapproving glances from those around him, Weed's shenanigans continued. He stuck his head out the window of the 1913 "Earl" Travel Trailer—the world's oldest known surviving non-tent travel trailer and the crown jewel of the museum's collection—and yelled, in a high-pitched female voice, "Goddamn it, Henry, get in here before the beans and weenies get cold!"
Then, in front of a gleaming silver 1954 Spartan Imperial Mansion, Weed affected a country drawl and said, "I'm gonna shine my trailer up reeeal nice and purty."
"Perhaps he was insinuating that people who have RVs are low-class or funny in some way," said Ernest Hollingsworth, 38, of Muncie, IN. "But why in the world would someone visit a museum about RVs if they felt that way? It just doesn't make sense."
"Maybe he was on drugs," Hollingsworth added.
If Weed had used illegal substances, it would have been in direct violation of RV Hall Of Fame policy. Museum officials, however, did not reprimand or question Weed about his strange behavior.
Gene Kahler, a longtime tour guide and cashier at the museum, attributed Weed's antics to the fact that "kids will be kids."
"He bought a T-shirt, a mug, and two tickets for the 7th Annual RV/MH Heritage Foundation Raffle, and he went out of his way to tell me what a great time he had," said Kahler, stacking pamphlets on the information table. "I don't know, it sure sounded like he meant it."