20th Anniversary of Beltsville Shell

I began writing Beltsville Shell: You Are What You Drive on November 30, 2000 as I wrote a eulogy to my childhood friend, Mike Tanguay, who I had discovered had passed away without my knowledge one year earlier.



“I Remember Tanguay”, a two-page memory, grew over the next three years to become a 196 page memoir.  After 42 revisions, the final book text was completed on September 29, 2003, and sent off to Nyenensch Printers in San Diego for its first printing.

Looking back now, twenty years and three printings later, I marvel at how old friendships were nourished, new friendships fostered, and memorable adventures experienced.

The first Beltsville Shell Reunion, held on March 9, 2002, was my first face-to-face meeting with seven people who worked at the Shell Station, or were helping me to develop material for the book. 

"Big" Frank Porto, Cary, Sonny Boteler, John Bradley, Nace DeLauter, Frank Bollinger, Jim Noll

After I distributed the Tanguay remembrance, many people encouraged me to put down in writing all the crazy stories that I and my friends had told about those times at the Shell Station on Route 1 in Beltsville. The nearly three-year slog to get everything right was arduous, and I got discouraged from time to time.  But support and encouragement came from many people.  First among them would be my wife, Nan, who read drafts, made excellent suggestions, questioned decisions, and afforded me time and space for writing.  Sonny Boteler, John Bradley, Ralph Bull, Nace DeLauter, and Bonnie Hontz provided photos, corrected text when my memory was faulty, and reconnected me to friends I lost touch with when I moved from Maryland to California in 1976.  In the same way, my Mom, Helen, my brothers, Wayne and Pat, and my sister, Barbara, were very helpful.  Everyone who heard about the project embraced it and help was always readily at hand.

In addition to trips to Maryland for research and inspiration, I took trips to Florida and Alabama.  In Florida, Darryl Richards enthusiastically read an early draft and made many contributions.  Chief among them was Darryl’s impromptu phone call to his friend T Quill, who made the all-important connection to Sharon Cox, the woman who secured for me my first ride in a Corvette at the age of 15 – one of the most important events of the book which lacked some important facts that only Sharon could provide.  A trip to Alabama, to reconnect with Jeff Hughes, proved to be equally rich in providing history and photos.

Once the book was published, it needed a website, and my dear friend, Vivian Black, met the need with aplomb.  As the interest in the book grew, and book reviews and testimonials arrived, Vivian was always there to give the book a sparkling, growing web presence by adding content.

I thought that once the publication was behind us, not much would follow.  But I became enthused to understand that publication was just the beginning.  Long-distance friends became closer by virtue of the Internet, email communications, and the increasingly popular Beltsville Shell Reunions.  As word spread about the book, complete strangers would write to me, many of whom shared their similar experiences in their hometowns to those that we had at Beltsville Shell. 

A few “strangers” have become dear friends. 

Bill Goodwin, who was raised not far from Beltsville, in Montgomery County, heard about the book from a friend of John Bradley, Al Beck.  After getting a copy of the book, Bill decided that he wanted to meet the characters in it and asked me about arranging a rendezvous.  Since I was in California, Nace agreed to interview Bill to be sure he was worthy.  Their meeting over a few adult beverages spawned a close friendship.  Bill, and his wife, Mary Jane, have attended many reunions, and they have visited us in California on multiple occasions. 

Another friendship fostered by the book was sparked by neighbors Linda and Wayne Cowie.  Linda shared news about the book with one of her flying partners, a United Airlines pilot named Thomas Payne.  Thomas is internationally famous for his “Garage Journal” postings and his restoration of a 1930’s auto shop in Philo, Illinois.  Thomas loved both the concept of the book, and its stories.  Through Linda and Wayne, he and his wife Chris, reached out to Nan and me and we have become close friends.  That friendship led to Thomas introducing us to the legendary Lou Bingham, Bonneville Land Speed record-holder.  Thomas, Chris, and Lou have visited with us many times. 

Even more impactful, Thomas and his Garage Journal buddies hatched the idea of having one copy of Beltsville Shell passed from one reader to the next, with each reader autographing the inside covers and passing it on to the next person waiting in line.  Here is how Thomas describes the Brotherhood of the Traveling Book:

“Hello again Cary! Here's some statistics and information regarding The Brotherhood of the Traveling Beltsville Shell Book from the Garage Journal Gang.

The most widely traveled copy of Beltsville Shell has the following numbers to its' credit. It traveled to 3 Continents; North America - 3 tours, Australia/ New Zealand - 2 tours, Europe/UK/Scandinavia - 1 tour. In total it was in 9 different countries. In all its North American tours it was in 19 different states and 3 Canadian provinces and read by a total of 66 different individuals who signed it and then passed it on.

 In the attached picture are some of the mementos that were sent along with the book from various readers, a map showing the Australian tour, a real London Metropolitan Police badge sent by a London Bobby, a 13 mm wrench, said to be the most widely used size in Europe, and a slip cover for the book made from NOS Sabb seat material. Because of all the readers signing the book, I had 6 additional blank, inside cover pages added professionally to the book to provide more space for the signings. As a side note, early on the book was lost in New Zealand for 6 months and presumed lost for good until it miraculously showed up in a complete strangers mail box in NZ. They didn't know anything about the book but read and signed it like others had before them and then passed it on to 3 other readers in NZ who did the same before being mailed back to the USA.

I have now officially retired it and keep it in the Restored 1930's Auto Shop for visitors to see if they wish. I agree with you, it must be the single most widely read and traveled copy in existence. I consider it priceless!!”

Through Thomas’ friendship, scores of copies of Beltsville Shell have been purchased.  Here is my favorite edition of the Garage Journal posts:

Garage Journal Post 

Back in Maryland, new friendships have been fostered with “friends of friends” – Jim Ziepolt, Dave Bratton, Scott Thompson, Tick Mangum, Anne McFarlane, and many others.  Closer to home, the book enabled me to connect to so many fantastic people here in San Diego: Don and Shirley Kingery, Bob Rabourn, Dan Schrokosch, among others.

The Adventures

The energy sparked by the publication of the book resulted in a few great adventures!

Corvettes at Carlisle 2003

The first adventure was attending the “Corvettes at Carlisle” in 2003 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  I flew back to Maryland for a rendezvous with Nace DeLauter, Sonny Boteler, and Tom and Bonnie Hontz.

The next day John Bradley, Sonny Boteler, and my brother, Wayne, joined me as we caravaned to Carlisle, Pennsylvania for the massive Corvette show there. 



John brought his Corvette and entered it into the judging. 

The rest of us toured the grounds marveling at the acres of Corvettes, from old to new.  This year was very special – it was the 50th anniversary of the production of the 1st Corvettes in 1953 and more than 50 of these 1st year cars were on display. 

Jay Leno Tour 2005

Due to the popularity of the book, Nan surprised me with admission to the “2005 Jay Leno Tour” sponsored by the National Corvette Museum.  A small group of NCM members toured “the garages of LA” including Dick Gulstrand’s shop, So Cal Speed Shop, Bruce Myer’s Beverly Hills home and collection, and The Peterson Automobile Museum.  The crowning event was a visit to the Jay Leno Show . . .

. . . followed by a personal tour of “Jay’s Garage” -- here is Jay showing off his Z06!

Dover NASCAR Track Day 2006

Bill Goodwin arranged for a fantastic weekend through his connection with Sonny Krum, of Dover Speedway fame.  Sonny treated us to a package of an on-track experience at the Dover NASCAR track.  Joining Bill for the event were Nace DeLauter, Sonny Boteler, and me.

Bonneville Speedweek 2016

Perhaps the most thrilling event triggered by the book was to participate in Bonneville Speed Week in 2016 as the guests of Lou Bingham and Thomas Payne.  The multi-day event was described in this post:

 Bonneville 2016

Lou, Thomas, and Cary waiting for the time trials to begin

Don, Thomas, and Lou at sunrise in Bonneville

Don and Thomas checking out a speedster

Thomas and Cary at the starting line


Final Expressions of Gratitude

There is great danger in naming the people to be thanked for any activity – and I’m worried here that I will have overlooked anyone who was instrumental in the success of the book over the past 20 years.  But I will take that risk by expressing my additional thanks to . . . .

Debbie Degeyter, of Shell Oil, for going to bat for me and securing the rights from Shell Centre in London, England, to use the Shell pectin logo on the book;


Theresa Cox (no relation to Sharon Cox) for artistic support and the “map” in the book;

Julie Wilde for the cover artwork; and

Vladimir Medvinsky for the second and third printing runs of the book.

We thank everyone who had a part in these wonderful twenty years!  Here’s to twenty more!

Cary & Nan

Beltsville Shell Reunion #19

June 25, 2023

On September 29, 2023 we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the publication of "Beltsville Shell: You Are What You Drive".

Throughout those 20 years we have had a Beltsville Shell Reunion almost every year (COVID and all), in which 104 different people have attended.  From the first reunion in 2002, when eight friends met at Kaufmann's Tavern in Gambrills, Maryland, until now, the total attendance stands at 389.

We decided to celebrate the anniversary of the book's publication a few months early, so this year we met at Herman's garage on June 25th.  This was the twelfth time Herman has hosted the event.  How can I ever adequately thank Herman, and those people who come to assist him, in providing a home for these reunions, in Beltsville, and for their kindness in hosting them?

Summer arrived gently this year in Beltsville and blessed us with nice weather.  The turnout was the second highest ever at 42.  In addition to the many repeat attendees, some newcomers joined us. 

In the photo below we see (left to right) Valerie and Fred Smith, Eddie Scarcia, Donnie Borgwardt, Michael Moore, Larry Gaffigan, Hannah Gaffigan, Sam Whitmore, Bill and Maryjane Goodwin, Phil Corbin, Phil Marcus, Barbara Ransom, Bev Abdalla, Tick Mangum, Anne McFarland, Jim Ziepolt, Doug Jones, Suzanne Lees, Rick Ransom, Nace DeLauter, Mr. Loody, Pat Thomas, Steve Abdalla, Charles Crowson, Tom and Bonnie Hontz, Herman Knauer, Shirley Sokolowski, Phil Cleary, Cary and Nan, Danny Sokolowski, Jannah Hobday, Bud Duley, Malcolm Van Kirk, and Steve and Tammy Yokum.

Also in attendance, but not pictured above, were Bonnie Williams, Vernon Islei and Bud Duley's son and daughter.

It was nice to see the Delaware delegation (above) -- friends who braved the Chesapeake Bay bridge traffic on a weekend to join us.  They are (left to right) Steve and Beverly Abdalla, Bill and Mary Jane Goodwin, and Bonnie and Tom Hontz. 

The long distance award probably goes to Phil Marcus, who made the trip from North Carolina for the second year in a row.

Official Beltsville Shell shirts were on display!

Phil Corbin and Herman Knauer have attended 14 of the 19 reunions

The tradition of bringing vintage cars continues:

Malcolm Van Kirk and his daughter, Jannah Hobday, arrived in their 1964 Corvette

My brother, Pat brought his Toyota MR2

Tick Mangum and Anne McFarland showed off their 1957 Ford Ranchero

Everyone loved Mr. Loody's 1957 Chevy

The friendships are amazing and the food is nearly as dear. Everyone brings a side dish or dessert,  We always have a nice selection of deviled eggs created from a variety of recipes.  This year Suzanne and Herman brined the chicken, and Tom cooked them with his usual grill-master technique. 

As a special treat, Herman surprised everyone with deep-fried french fries which were passed around like hors d'oeuvres.  Yum!

Herman always begins the meal by greeting everyone and giving a brief speech.  This year we had a moment of silence to spiritually support Vernon, who suffered a bit from the heat of the day (later we learned that Vernon was going to be fine -- thank goodness).

Time to enjoy all the good food.

Someone (frequently Malcolm) brings a special Beltsville Shell cake.

Each year, as the reunions begin to wind down, and friends depart to return home, I get a little nostalgic.  This year, in particular, I thought about all the Beltsville Shell alumni who are no longer with us.  Since the book was published we have lost too many: Buddy Boteler, Sonny Boteler, Brenda Drake, Pete La Barbera, Dana Moore, Frank Porto, Sam Powell, Gary Wayne Scaggs, and Tom Swartz.  The emptiness of their passing is only slightly filled by their memories in the book's pages.  In this I find some comfort.

Thanks to everyone who came to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the publication of our little memoir.  It was a real treat seeing all of you.

Love, Cary and Nan

Yucca Street and Gary Wayne Scaggs


We grew up on Yucca Street in Beltsville.

"We" is me, my older sister, Barbara, my two younger brothers, Wayne and Pat, and more than a dozen kids that lived on our block.

Yucca Street could have been the poster child for the thousands of post-WWII housing projects that sprung up in the late 1940's and early 1950's. Yucca Street runs North and South from Sellman Road to Worchester Avenue. Five of the houses on the west side of the street, all built in 1951, were exactly the same, except for the different pastel shades of the asbestos shingle siding -- a material choice which, at the time, seemed like a good idea. About 1,280 square feet, each house was a Cape Code style two-story home, with two bedrooms downstairs and two more upstairs. There was only one bathroom -- unthinkable today. There were no dormers so the walls of the upstairs bedrooms were slanted -- making it impossible to put pictures of Corvettes on the walls. The only windows upstairs were two small ones at either end of the house, limiting natural light or any cross-ventilation in the hot summer months (we didn't have the luxury of air conditioning). My bedroom was upstairs. 

The yards were a nice size for the price of the homes.  There were no driveways or garages -- all the cars were parked on the street.  There were fences in the rear yards, but none in the front yards -- which was fabulous because the continuous landscaping from one yard to the next meant that we had space for playing football, kick-the-can, tag-you-are-it, or anything else we wanted to play without risking our lives in the narrow street.  Behind Yucca Street there were acres of unimproved  wooded area to which we had complete access -- the woods were perfect for building tree houses or forts, hunting for snakes and other wildlife, all sorts of imaginary adventures, and for pretend camping trips.  Because Worchester Avenue, at the bottom of Yucca Street, was a dead-end, there was virtually no through traffic, providing us with a safe place to drive our Go Karts and Mini-bikes.

I have never understood why the developer chose the word "Yucca" for the street name. Yucca -- a plant native to the Southwest USA, and Mexico, with sward-like leaves. I don't think there was a single Yucca plant on Yucca street. All the streets around us were named after the 23 Counties of the State of Maryland -- Montgomery, Wicomico, Caroline, Queen Anne, Kent, Harford, and so on. The name Yucca still seems like an odd idea to me, but it was a nice street to live on as a teenager.

I was starting junior high school when we moved from College Park to Beltsville. When we arrived on Yucca Street it was time to make some new friends. All the parents had done their duty to support the "baby boomer" movement -- families of three or four children were common, so making new friends was an easy pursuit.

Our house was 4505 Yucca Street. 

  • Next to us was the Scheirhorst family at 4503 – they had two small children so no playmates to be found at that house. 
  • But, thankfully, next to them was the Scaggs family at 4501 – with four children – Rick, the oldest and a few years older than me, next was Gary (whose middle name was Wayne), the same age as my sister Barbara, and two younger sisters, Nancy and Chris (whose nickname was “Zeke”). 
  • Next up the block was the Propts family - with three children -- Tom, Johnny, and Susie.
  • Continuing up the street was found the Franklin family with three children – Gary, the same age as my younger brother, Wayne, and Gary’s younger brother, also named Wayne, and their younger sister, Carol. 
  • Across the street from the Scaggs house was the home of the Kelley family with a son Tommy and his sister, Carolyn. 
  • Also on the other side of the street, across from my house, was the Jefferson home -- David was the oldest child, and he had two younger sisters, Betsy and Karen.

If you have been paying close attention, you have realized that in the space of four houses there were three boys named “Wayne” (Wayne Franklin, Wayne Scaggs, and Wayne Thomas), and two boys named “Gary” (Gary Franklin and Gary Scaggs), and, to keep things complicated, girls named Carol and Carolyn across the street from each other. Imagine the confusion when one of our mothers yelled the name of a child out the front door – there was no telling which one would respond!

During my high school years my closest neighborhood friend was Gary Wayne Scaggs. 


A little bit taller, slightly older, and much smarter, Gary was the person whom I looked up to as a leader and model. He excelled at anything he found interesting: athletics, scouting, nature, and everything he pursued. He was such a natural leader that when we gathered on the block for games, he was always choosing the teams and setting the rules. It was Gary who tipped me off about "teen club", and the dances that were held on Friday nights on the second floor of the building that housed the Beltsville Volunteer Fire Department.

Gary's Dad and older brother were involved in Boy Scouts, and he was too. He was one of the boy leaders of our troop, probably holding the rank of "Junior Assistant Scout Master". On camping trips, he was the first one to pitch his tent, and to build a fire. David Jefferson and I remember on one camping trip with Boy Scout Troop 238 in the Elizabeth Furnace Recreation Area of the Shenandoah Valley someone had killed a rattle snake. Gary brought it back to the campsite and carefully performed an autopsy, exploring the organs of the snake and telling us about its anatomy. He saved the rattles off its tail as a souvenir and proceeded to cook it.  I wasn't able to bring my self to sample the cuisine.

Gary graduated from High Point High School with the Class of 1964. Although Gary was smart, he didn't excel in academics in high school, earning just so-so grades.  In his later years he told his sister, Nancy, that he never took a book home to study -- she was surprised he didn’t flunk out.

Gary didn’t like school and was uninterested in attending college -- making him a prime target to be drafted into the military.  Instead, he decided to join the Marines which led to him being stationed in Vietnam for about 6 to 7 months.  During that time his unit was decimated.  Because Gary's brother, Rick, was also stationed in Da Nang, their Mom intervened to get one of her son's out of the war zone.  The result was that Gary was sent to Guam for the remainder of his tour of duty. Gary never used a gun again in his life.  Later, Gary told his sister, Nancy, that he decided that if he made it back alive from Vietnam, that he would do something with his life.

During his absence, I lost track of Gary. Many of my friends who went off to that war as carefree teenagers, returned carrying mental scars. What I observed in Gary was different. In his high school years, from time to time, I saw a bit of anger borne of some unknown frustration or hurt. When he returned from the war my sense was that he was different, in a positive way. He seemed at peace with his station in life and now had a purpose – he would graduate with his bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland in College Park, and then attend, and graduate -- with honors -- from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry in Baltimore. After the rattle snake episode, I should have known that he would go into healthcare!

Using money that he had saved while a Marine, Gary bought a brand new, third-generation, silver 1968 Corvette Coupe -- one of the first new cars to ever arrive on Yucca Street and it was the first third-generation Corvette in which I had the pleasure to ride.  And now, there were three Corvettes parked in the span of three houses on Yucca Street – Gary’s 1968, my 1959, and my brother Wayne’s 1957. Gary's Corvette was way cooler than our first-generation cars.  The instrument panel looked like something out of a jet fighter, and the sleek body style was beautiful.  Gary polished the car frequently keeping it in perfect condition.

As Gary went off to Dental School, I moved to California, and we permanently lost touch with each other. When I began writing my book in 2002, I tried unsuccessfully to make contact with him – so his presence in Beltsville Shell is minimal. I’ve always regretted that he didn’t have his own chapter in the book like so many other friends.

A few weeks ago, Jim Ziepold called me to let me know that Gary lost his fight with cancer back in September 2022 – probably the only time he ever lost at anything. Reading the tributes on his memorial web pages told me that he is survived by his wife, Nancy (which had to be confusing because he has a sister named Nancy, but Gary had conquered name confusion years ago), and two children. 

Gary had a part-time dental practice seeing patients, but the majority of his professional life was spent  as a faculty member at the University of Maryland dental clinic, educating and mentoring new dental students – many of whom wrote fond remembrances of his dedication and care. 

Others described a man who was so at peace with life that he volunteered at Quiet Waters Park, his local gardening center, making many friends in the process. I'm told that he continued his love of all creatures and interest in how they lived—passing on that fascination to his boys—and to all the children who gravitated towards him, even in his final years.  Kids loved Gary.  His affection for gardening came at an early age on Yucca Street, and he maintained his Mom's garden until she died in 2012.  He was most at peace when gardening.

Gary’s older brother, Rick, had predeceased him, leaving me to say to Nancy and Chris (his sisters), Nancy (his wife), and his children: Gary Wayne Scaggs was a great friend and neighbor, Boy Scout brother, and Corvette buddy to me -- like you, I mourn his passing.


One of my Yucca Street neighbors, David Jefferson, like me, moved from Beltsville to Los Angeles and worked at the University of Southern California. I always knew that David was really smart, and it was no surprise to me to learn that he holds a B.S. in mathematics from Yale University and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Carnegie-Mellon University.  Although he never owned a Corvette, his distinguished career included faculty positions at USC, UCLA, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.  David has contributed to this posting with his own memories of Yucca Street -- thank you, David!

Special thanks as well to Gary's sister, Nancy, for her edits, corrections, and contributions to this post.

Hearing the news about Gary, and writing this tribute to him, motivated me to make a visit to the old neighborhood which I had left about 50 years ago.  In June 2023, I was in Beltsville to attend the 19th Beltsville Shell Reunion.  Since I was only about two miles from Yucca Street I stopped by for a visit.  Here is what I found.

Our house at 4505 Yucca Street looked about the same as it did when I left for California.  The woods behind the house are still waiting for adventure seekers.


The house next door, 4503, appears to have been upgraded with dormers and new siding (or maybe it always had dormers and I have forgotten that fact?).


The Scaggs house at 4501 seems unchanged like my old home.


The Propts house has been updated with dormers and a room addition.


Finally, the Franklin house has the popular room addition as well.

There are still no front yard fences.  I wonder if the current residents are enjoying the ready access from one home to the next?  I didn't hear the voices of children, or the sound of Go Karts -- but in my memory, those sounds will always be there.  I now realize how very blessed we were to grow up on such a neat little street!

Cary Thomas, July 2023