A Passion for Cars – Harold LeMay

Harold LeMay in the Navy

This past weekend, my husband and I toured the amazing LeMay Family Collection at Marymount—an automobile museum in Spanaway, Washington, housing approximately 1,500 cars.  As we walked from one building to another looking at literally hundreds of antique cars, trucks and motorcycles, I was struck by the obvious passion responsible for creating this incredible automobile showcase.  This was no passing fancy; and what grew out of Harold LeMay’s lifetime interest in old vehicles is a legacy that people can enjoy for years to come.

Marymount Facility. Photo courtesy of the
LeMay Family Collection Foundation website

The facility is located on the grounds of the former Marymount Military Academy for Boys run by Dominican Nuns until the 1970’s.  (That’s a story all by itself!)  The setting is beautiful and well-maintained; with towering trees, manicured green lawns and the original historical, brick buildings.  Note:  The LeMay Family Collection is not to be confused with the LeMay-America’s CarMuseum located in Tacoma, Washington that opened this summer.  The two museums operate independently.

Harold LeMay earned his fortune collecting trash.  In addition to picking up our garbage every week, he also acquired Lucky Towing, AA Lucky Storage, LeMay Restoration, Parkland Auto Wrecking, Helm Manufacturing, and various properties.  His reputation for being a hard worker was clearly well-deserved.  For years the LeMay name has been synonymous with garbage collection and recycling services.  Today, Mr. LeMay is famous for having amassed the largest antique car collection in the world.

Our tour guide described Harold as someone who loved cars so much he couldn’t bear to see them destroyed.  He loved tinkering, fixing and restoring old cars.  He even collected old car parts in case they were needed later.  As his reputation for being a car collector grew, strangers would call Mr. LeMay to offer him the old cars their parents or grandparents used to drive.

Harold LeMay lived to be 81 years old before passing away in 2000.  Fortunately for us, his obsession with antique cars never waned throughout his life.  As I looked at one beautiful, old car after another, I realized Mr. LeMay was truly an example of what happens when a person spends 10,000 hours learning a subject or practicing a new skill.  The result is that this collection is more than just about the man; it is the ability to view history reflected in the cars we used to drive.

To be an authority on old cars, Harold LeMay, did what came naturally—he focused his attention and spent as much time as he could on what he loved.  The same is true for any of us.  We each have subjects we are drawn to or curious about.  We have hobbies that absorb us—callings that continue to knock on the door.  When we spend our time learning, practicing, training, exercising, or preparing, we become masters and maestros, experts, authorities, leaders and professionals, connoisseurs, even champions.  Becoming a master may require hard work and discipline; however, it sounds far more satisfying than settling for a boring existence.

If you want to visit or learn more about the LeMay collection at Marymount, check out their website, at http://www.lemaymarymount.org/.  To entice you, below are  just a few photographs of the  classic cars, graceful hood ornaments, beautiful curves, long fins, and real white wall tires.

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  1. Brian

     /  September 14, 2012

    As an engineer/software developer, what really surprises me is how many former engineers I meet. Restaurant owners, yoga teachers, bartenders, tattoo artists. You name it, and an engineer has abandoned engineering to pursue it! I think the rush to start college and pick a lucrative degree pushes people into careers that they find unsatisfying. Finding something you enjoy, that you’re passionate about – that’s one of the gifts of the modern world we take for granted. 400 years ago, there were legal restrictions on which careers could be pursued by individuals. Now? The sky is the limit. And if the sky is the limit, why have I chosen a career that sticks me in a colorless cube farm?

    • Being an engineer/software developer is an amazing skill set. Perhaps what you are calling out is the way we work. Being chained to a cubicle feels stifling and sucks the creativity out of the room. The careers you mention, restauranteur, yoga teacher, bartender, tattoo artist, all seem to invite relationship and use one’s creativity. Maybe we need a workplace revolution. Ever looked at Ricardo Semler? You are right the ability to choose/create your special brand of livelihood seems nearly infinite. Today, one can even choose to do something that feels meaningful, as opposed to just going to work for a paycheck. As for the last sentence, you are probably the best person to answer that question–Why indeed?


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