Life Could be a Dream: ‘Local legend’ Henderson to part with Hudson car collection – Wahoo Newspaper

March 9, 2022 by No Comments

VALPARAISO – Collecting. It’s like a contagious bug, Darrin Pecka says, that infects its host and creates in them a compulsion to accumulate. Stuff. More and more stuff. 

For some hosts, they feed their thirst with a specific kind. There’s a motel in Nevada, for instance, whose lobby is packed wall-to-wall with clowns in all forms. A diner in western Nebraska fills its shelves with hundreds of porcelain cookie jars. 

Other collections are more conventional, but they’re niche, just the same: vintage bicycles, vinyl records, neon signs.

Darrin has the bug. A milder form, yes, but like a virus, he got it from someone else.

On a Friday in Valparaiso in late February, the afternoon sun is shining down on his shoulders and his stocking cap. He rummages through rusted car doors, fenders and bumpers that have accumulated over the years, mixing and matching the pieces to create some semblance of organization. His hands are protected by winter work gloves as he inspects the rusted car body parts strewn over straw-colored grass. 

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He doesn’t mind the work, though. He figures it’s the least he can do.

“Could be warmer, though,” he said. 

He’s helping Jay Henderson, an old friend of his – they’ve known each other for years, but they’re about 50 years apart in age. 

“He and (Jay’s wife) Polly always say I’m like another kid. They’re older than that for me,” Darrin said. They’re like another pair of grandparents.” 

INDEBTED: Darrin Pecka sorts through car parts at Jay and Polly Henderson’s house in Valparaiso. He’s helping them prepare items from Jay’s collection for an auction at the end of this month.

Darrin met Jay as a kid, first, he said, through his dad, Duane, who had taken Jay’s industrial tech class when he was a student at Raymond Central High School in the late ’60s. But it was Jay’s matte-black Hudson coupe – recognizable for many in Valparaiso – that drew Darrin’s admiration early on.

“Everybody knew who he was. Everybody knows what he had,” Darrin said.

Jay drove that car to school every day, and the family took it into Lincoln to get groceries – it was the family car, Polly said.

“Everybody in the four (Raymond Central) towns, they all knew that was Jay Henderson driving that Hudson,” she said. 

That car was part of what made Jay a local legend in Darrin’s eyes. As a kid, he would knock on Jay and Polly’s front door and remind them that “Mr. Henderson can’t retire until I get to take his class.”

“I’d catch him if he was at the post office when I was a little kid, riding around on my bike, and I’d say, ‘You can’t retire until you teach me,’” Darrin said.

Darrin graduated …….



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