DADE CITY— Frank Laumer remembers riding in his mother's brand new 1930 Ford Model A roadster as a 3-year-old, and he's been attached to the car's sentimental meaning ever since. It's the reason he and his wife park a 1930 Model A pickup truck in front of their Ivy Cottage, the city's oldest antique store.
When they heard earlier this year that at least one of their merchant neighbors had complained to city officials about the truck, calling it "an abandoned piece of junk," the Laumers felt an existential threat to their artistic sensibilities and livelihood.
"The little truck adds charm and makes people smile," Laumer said. "It's symbolic of the human spirit, despite being defiled and driven out of town."
They fought to keep the truck in front of their store, gathering petitions from 75 fellow merchants. "Perhaps some of them were the complainers," Laumer wryly noted.
The truck made its annual appearance in the downtown Christmas Stroll. Then, to everyone's surprise, Laumer loaded it on a trailer and took it to Tampa.
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The Ivy Cottage has survived for 20 years because Laumer and his wife, Dale Anne, agree that "nothing is beyond repair."
"We're in Webster for the flea market early every Monday morning," she said. "And we regularly accept deliveries to the woodworking shop in our barn."
In 1957, Laumer left his home in Largo and settled on a bucolic property along the Withlacoochee River. He established the Talisman development, which has grown to more than 200 homes.
The site is anchored by the Laumer stone and woody homestead, hand-built by the couple over the past 40 years.
Laumer, 85, wrote two histories of the annihilation of Maj. Francis Langhorne Dade's soldiers: Massacre! and Dade's Last Command. He was the first recipient of the D.B. McKay award for distinguished service from the Tampa Historical Society. His obsession with Dade Massacre survivor Private Ransom Clark ran so deep that he got permission to exhume the body and examine the remains himself.
Dale Laumer, 70, is the former Sister Marie Damien, named for the saint who ministered to lepers in Hawaii. She practiced nursing and teaching for 10 years before leaving religious life with the hope of having a family. A year later, her sister introduced her to Frank, and they married three weeks later. Since 1972, they've shared a faith in their fellow man.
"In a world with bars on windows, we mostly believe that the sky is not falling," Frank Laumer said.
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Laumer won that fight over his Model A truck: His antique ride was well protected by Dade City ordinances.
City attorney Karla Owens said the code "permits street parking for more than 24 hours if the vehicle is not placed there for advertising purposes or displayed for sale. The Laumers agreed to take any advertising off the truck."
So why did he remove the truck?
Laumer said it's only temporary: He took the truck to Tampa to have it fully restored.
The body is in good shape and the engine is close to being done, "but it's a very rugged automobile that can take a lot of abuse," said Doug Williams, who does restoration of Model A's. He has disassembled the truck in his shop and is replacing the bushing and bearings.
"He's giving me a 1930 coupe as payment," Williams said. "I get the car and he gets the restoration — good trade off."
Laumer plans to have this truck back in front of the Ivy Cottage this spring. That's welcome news to fellow merchants like Thaila Stilson. When the petition circulated to save the Laumers' truck, she jokingly asked how many times she could sign it.
"The car is part of the character of the town," Stilson said. "We all wonder how they'll decorate it next season."