Shoe Fly Pie and a Broken Moon

This was a trip to the annual Swap Meet in Hershey, Pennsylvania one year and an encounter with an Amish community and a few of its inhabitants. Hope you enjoy it.




These are articles, stories and accounts of my life, as I recall them, and are copywrited. Unauthorized use will be pursued at my determination, to the degree that I am inclined. Any hard feeling caused by memories that don't match yours are unfortunate and you'll just have to get over it! Feel free to contact me if you have a request for their use. I am not writing for prose or poetry, but just to tell a story. Neither do I try to be politically correct. I consider that an act of cowardice, trying to placate the uninformed, ignorant of history folks that are filled with ego and braggadocios, demanding that their perspective be the prevalent one.


The trip to the Fall Hershey show last year was much anticipated because it was their 50 th anniversary and I was much better prepared this year than ever before to sell from my collection. I was also looking forward to several days of cruising the flea market spaces with my good friends John and Julie . It continues to astound me the amount of Model A information that man can store and recall, and is willing to share. It is an absolutely amazing opportunity to learn Model A history and the correct application of the over 6,200 parts that are required to assemble any given Model A.

The trip began with an early departure on Monday morning so that I might stop in Christiansburg , Virginia to meet with Sam and Ray to go over the list of parts that we need to accumulate in order to photograph them for an upcoming seminar on brakes. I had an opportunity to drive Ray 's pickup truck which is outfitted with an oversized Model B motor, juice brakes and an overdrive equipped transmission. That rascal ride would “go and whoa” with the best of them.

I continued to the north-east where I would end up parking overnight in an area that allowed me to get up very early on Tuesday morning at a little known flea market near Lancaster , Pennsylvania . It is located pretty far out in the gently rolling countryside near an old grainery called Roots Mill and is the oldest single family run country market in Lancaster county, having been established in 1925. Across the street is a very large, heavily Amish attended farmers market. They start the flea market so early that they use flashlights to both set-up and shop because it is still night out.

The heavy presence of Amish folk should be no surprise, as Lancaster county is home to over 17,000 Old Order Amish and their attitude of humility, family and community is very apparent as the farmers market is very clean, quiet and well organized as well as heavily attended. Their commitment to the old ways must not be as important as it used to be, as I saw several obviously Amish folks driving cars. However, the parking lot down the road, past the mill, had several horse drawn buggies, the most curious being one that stand out to me because it had a row boat on a trailer hooked to the back, and a single horse hitched to the front. Some sights just take a while to settle into your brain.

Perusing the flea market yielded little for me this year other than a pair of old files, but John's luck was far better-finding a good screwdriver, an appropriate key and a crispy $20 dollar bill on the ground. I followed him pretty closely after that but all I came across was a well-scuffed penny as we crossed the road to the farmers market to get our supplies for the stay in the Hershey flea market. I did stop and pick it up, but the clearly recent passing of one or more horse drawn carriages assured that I didn't take long to do it. I was very careful to make sure their was no “processed hay” on it anywhere.

It was during my supply gathering that I was introduced to shoo fly pie at one of the inside bakeries that abound in the enclosed areas of the market. A very attentive middle-aged lady, slender and lightly tanned, was very helpful in explaining the different types of bread and their contents. I was vacillating between the 7-grain and the 5-grain bread when I spotted the handwritten sign that said “home made shoo fly pie”. I had heard of this only in a song, and the scraggly appearance of this particular display made me think for a moment that this might be an Amish approach to a prank.

While making a cautious inquiry, being careful not to offend her or to appear gullible, she assured me that it was a real type of pie and explained how it was made and where it got its name. It is made of: molasses, flour, brown sugar, shortening, King syrup, baking soda, egg and boiling water. For some reason the way it used to be made, the bottom being wet with the hot molasses, led it to be put on window sills to cool and or dry. The heavy molasses aroma attracted an unusual amount of flies, hence the name “shoo fly” pie. When you cut the pie, you see the wet soggy bottom of molasses, a cake-like middle and a crumb topping. With the exception of the molasses, that pretty much describes me and a few of my friends.

During our conversation I mentioned to the lady that was helping me, that the younger folks seemed to be willing to work and be pleasant. She began telling me how they give their children multiple opportunities to learn things over and above what they learn in school and sited two examples. Last summer they had a type of local exchange student staying with them that was trying to assemble a silage storage container with some difficulty and her 5 year old son watched for a few minute, then left never having spoken a word. The exchange student thought the boy was just bored from watching him until he returned with the appropriate tool needed to complete the assembly. She said she had been noticing that her son was starting to pay more attention to things around him and that several weeks ago their family was outside one night during a full moon and they had been discussing the sun, moon, stars and planets and such. Several nights back, she was walking toward the house with her young son when he looked up to the sky, and noticing a partial moon, said “look mommy, the moon is broke”

Having completed our grocery shopping we loaded up and headed to the Hershey flea market sites to get set up. It always amazes me how many people they can get to show up at one place at the same time. There are over 9,000 flea market spaces, over 1,000 cars for sale in the car corral and over 1,700 cars for sale in the show field. They say over 250,000 visitors attend the meet each year, but I imagine there were a few less this year because we noticed a scattering of empty spaces. I suppose a few people were scared off by the high fuel prices.

The flea market area covers 134 acres, the car corral is 15 acres, judging area is 15 acres, camper parking is 15 acres, the show car trailer area is 10 acres and the visitor parking is 107 acres for a total 296 acres. They currently don't permit bicycles or golf carts to get around the areas, so it's no wonder you seldom get to see all the vendors and areas, and it's very clear why you have no trouble sleeping at night.

John and I both sold a lot of items, thanks to Julie's pleasant nature and her keen sense of business as well as her knowledge of the Model A's. We had one interesting event in which an interpreter brought up two non-English speaking customers. The interpreter asked Julie to start keeping a list, and off they went through our “stashes”, often using both hands to dip into the boxes and accumulate items that went who-knows-where! I later saw them in a late model Jeep completely loaded with parts and sheet metal items strapped to the roof like a loaded camel.

I try to pay attention and stay awake when I am in a learning environment, but was still unable to keep pace with the parts hunting skills displayed by John and our mutual friend, Rob , from Michigan . It took me most of the day Wednesday to figure out that if I was either too slow or unwilling to drop to my knees and get elbow deep in cardboard in the blink of an eye, I just wasn't going to be able to get much in the way of “goodies”. Fortunately, they are both good guys and friends and often shared their “finds” with me if there were extras that I could use. We met new and old friends for three days. It's amazing the knowledge that exists today regarding the history of the antique automobile.

We were told of upcoming storm and rain issues on Thursday afternoon and began packing up that evening. It began raining Friday morning, and we wasted no time heading south. About 45 minutes after we left the flea market, John had trouble with the alternator belt. It was raining heavily, but after a couple of trips to the parts store, John 's getting a bloody hand, and me getting a wet butt, we again headed toward home. I veered east in Hagerstown , Maryland to visit Brattons Antique Auto Parts in Gaithersburg . Unfortunately, after we took different paths home, John continued to have some travel related issues, delaying his arrival home.

I had a blast, and can't wait to do it again! By the way, that shoo-fly pie is delicious, and maybe my friend Ron can fix that moon. I heard at one time he could weld anything but a broken heart and the crack of dawn.