MSRA Then & Now: Tinker Powell Benefit Run

(As published in the June 2013 MSRA “Linechaser”)

Kudos to everyone who’s taken the time to relate stories in the [Minnesota Street Rod Association Linechaser] “MSRA Then & Now” column; it’s been great reading. During a phone conversation with Gary Magner quite some time ago, he told me that the history related there has generated a ton of positive comments. It should. Well done, everyone. And now, thanks to a suggestion from Kathy Ashby about possible subject matter for this piece, I’ll add my two bones to the soup.

In its first decade the MSRA seemed, to me at least, a closely-knit organization simply because there were fewer members. And when the need arose, those members would rally round. Examples of the MSRA’s helping hands are numerous and each one is worthy of its own article. But this recap comes your way because it was one that our local MSRA members and I were fortunate enough to be directly involved in – the Tinker Powell Benefit Run.

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The year was 1977. A group of western Minnesota rodders were attending the Canadian Street Rod Nationals in Winnipeg, Manitoba: Duane “Tinker” Powell (MSRA #230) and his wife Sue along with passengers Cheryl and Linda Gustafson; Darold Schulz (MSRA #254), Mike Owens (MSRA #225); Bob and Betty Zahnow (MSRA #382); Keith Boettcher, Gary Boettcher, and George Karels. The group was on the return trip south of Winnipeg and Tinker was running tail end. No one really knows what happened, but somehow a loaded grain truck collided with Tinker’s ‘33 Ford sedan. His wife Sue was dead at the scene. Tinker, sister-in-law Cheryl and Sue’s sister Linda were all severely injured and lengthy hospital stays ensued. Besides Tinker, Sue left behind their two young daughters Tammy and Amy. Local car people, Tinker’s home town of Appleton and the rodding community across the country came together to help.

The Tinker Powell Benefit Run was held the weekend of October 1 & 2, 1977 at the Swift County Fairgrounds in Appleton MN. On Saturday, a barbeque beef meal capped off the day followed by a dance featuring a live band – the great “Freight” from Willmar MN. (MSRA’s own Bob Skor #965 played drums in that band). By noon Sunday, caravans of MSRA cars coming in from every direction including the Twin Cities had brought nearly 100 cars onto the fairgrounds. At that time, it was by far the largest car event the area had ever seen. After a round of donated door prizes were handed out to show participants, the MSRA “Car of the Year” voting honors were awarded to Rich and Beth Farniok (#731) and their ‘32 Chevy sedan, and the late Bob and Janet McGinley (#L213) and their ‘35 Ford 3-window. At the end of the awards presentation, a check amounting to $500.00 in rod run proceeds was given to Tinker, Tammy and Amy Powell.

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A post-event tally including funds from local banks and donation boxes at the NSRA Street Rod Nationals raised well over a thousand dollars more. Still more checks came in from rodders across the country thanks to a Pat Ganahl editorial published in Street Rodder Magazine. Much of that would not have happened, were it not for the involvement of the Minnesota Street Rod Association and its members.

Now, I’ve been well-known for dragging a camera along to car events over the years. This, however, was not one of them. I have no idea who took the photos. They may have been taken by other MSRA members, or possibly by someone from the Appleton newspaper although no one on staff there now can recall. It would sure be nice to know, so if you do have info please pass it along.

Today, Duane “Tinker” Powell still carries MSRA member #230. Daughters Tammy and Amy have grown, moved away and now have families of their own. After a career built around bodywork and paint, with a good many of those jobs showing up on local MSRA cars including mine, Tinker is now semi-retired. He still likes his wheels; he’s been working on a mild custom ‘51 Chevy sedan.

It was a lifetime ago. Yet, I can still plainly recall that crisp, clear October weekend when MSRA members from all over the state came together to help one of their own.

More importantly, Tinker remembers it too.

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