An FMCA chapter member recalls how a tire company icon became the center of a long-running practical joke.
By Connie Morris, L4372
This is a true story. Last names were not used, in order to protect the guilty. Except mine.
Once upon a time, when my husband, John, and I lived in Armonk, New York, we belonged to several FMCA chapters. A man in one of those chapters had a ceramic replica of Nipper, the RCA dog that listened to “his master’s voice.” On a somewhat regular basis, Nipper was kidnapped, taken on RV trips, and then returned to his owner, only to be kidnapped again — sometimes on the same day. No matter how he was guarded or hidden, he would somehow show up elsewhere.
In 1973 John and I and our children moved to Minnesota and joined the Pioneers chapter. Don and Dorie, one of the chapter’s founding families, had a 15-inch-tall Michelin Man statue mounted on their coach over the driver’s side of the windshield.
At the 1978 FMCA summer convention in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, several Pioneers were sitting around chatting one evening. I quietly said to John, “Wouldn’t it be fun if Mickey Michelin got to travel and see the world like Nipper did?” This question was silently pondered for a few seconds. John asked Bill, one of the other men in the group, if he had the necessary tools. Yes, he did. The guys disappeared and shortly reappeared with Mickey Michelin. He was quickly stowed in the Morris coach.
In the following weeks, some of the Pioneers traveled to the Black Hills of South Dakota for sight-seeing and good times. Mickey went along (Don and Dorie did not) and had his picture taken in many interesting spots. We were always careful that no people who could be identified were in the pictures. After we had the photos developed, we put them in envelopes with a message I printed: “Dear Don, I am having a good time. Wish you were here. Your friend, Mickey Michelin.”
Several weeks after we got home, Don called Bob, another member who was in on the prank. He wanted to know what happened to Mickey. Bob feigned ignorance. Don’s insurance agent had said, “You had WHAT stolen off the front of your motorhome?!” Bob called us to let us know Don was starting to ask questions, and he suspected everybody.
One weekend John and I were out RVing with Jean and Buzz. They thought it would be nice for Mickey to have his picture taken in front of Don and Dorie’s house. Jean was sure they were not home. But they were. We tried to cover it by barging in and saying, “Hi, we were in the neighborhood and thought we would drop in and say hello.” Don looked puzzled and smelled a rat. When we decided to leave, Don took me by the arm going down the walk and muttered out of the side of his mouth, “Okay, tell me where it is.”
I said, “Where’s what, Don?”
“MICKEY! Where’s Mickey?”
“How should I know? Why are you asking me?” I replied, knowing at that minute Mickey was in the baggage compartment of our bus, which we were approaching.
Several weeks later at a Pioneers chapter meet, sitting around a campfire, Joe was betting real money against someone that that very weekend Mickey had gone to Scandinavia with Peter and Carolyn. Some heads got together and thought this would be the perfect time for Mickey to be reunited with his owners. Instructions were whispered, guards posted, Mickey silently carried away, and we waited. Pretty soon Dorie came screaming out of her coach, waving Mickey over her head. What a happy reunion!
A few weeks after that, Don and I were talking on the phone. I wondered aloud where Mickey was.
“In a barn in Minnesota!” Don barked.
“That certainly narrows it down,” I said. “I bet he’d like to go on another field trip.”
“No, he wouldn’t,” Don said and asked if I knew who had taken him in the first place. I asked him again why he thought I would know.
Well, Don and Dorie, I did know, and I told this story many times with much enjoyment. You were really good sports. Everyone involved will always remember the fun we had participating in the adventures of Mickey Michelin.
I presented the above account and an envelope containing the note and a picture (that had never been sent to Don and Dorie) in the summer of 1992. We enjoyed their reactions. We laughed and reminisced about the good, fun times, and Don claimed he knew all along “who done it.” My daughter Cecilie was with me and asked me why I told them. I said that life is filled with too many unfinished stories. I know the start, middle, and end of this one, and I selfishly wanted to see their faces when they finally learned the whole thing. It was satisfying and most enjoyable.
Don and Dorie were indeed good sports.