Earlier this week I was in South Bend, Indiana, for a one-day conference, and I decided to take the opportunity and hit up a local attraction. Now, I am not a big fan of football or creepy, overly-muscular Irish guys, so I went on Atlas Obscura to see if there was anything not Notre Dame-related in town I could check out. There were two things not Notre Dame-related I could check out. One was a river. And one was the Studebaker National Museum. As a Motor City native, I’ve seen my fair share of automobile museums, and none can shine a candle to my beloved Henry Ford Museum. But I did a little more research into the Studebaker Museum and discovered that it in its collection perhaps the most famous Studebaker in all of history.
THE STUDEBAKER THAT FOZZIE AND KERMIT ATTEMPT TO DRIVE CROSS-COUNTRY IN THE ORIGINAL MUPPET MOVIE! I can’t even tell you how many times young Flanny watched The Muppet Movie. I also have very clear memories of listening to the soundtrack with my sister and making her laugh with my Miss Piggy impersonation. “Rainbow Connection” was the first song to make me cry. Forget that river. I was thinking of the Studebaker Museum and Fozzie’s natural habitat the whole conference.
I don’t know anything about South Bend, so I couldn’t tell you if the Studebaker National Museum is “downtown” or whatever, but I can tell you that it’s in the same building as The History Museum. There are no further adjectives or clarification in that name. History of South Bend? History of northern Indiana? No clue. It’s simply The History Museum and we must assume that it’s about all of history. But I didn’t care about The History Museum, because I was focused on Studebakers like any normal human being.
That is until I walked up to the information/ticket stand and saw a poster for an exhibit on the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. I stopped the lady from running my debit card and changed my order to the combined History/Studebaker ticket and rushed down the stairs to The History Museum. “Is this the place they came to at the end of the movie?” I wondered to myself as I hurried down the stairs. I could hear Carole King singing in the distance. My eyes began to well up.
It was not. The entire AAGPBL exhibit wwas in a room smaller than my apartment and the artifacts were limited, mostly photos and newspaper clippings and other ephemera. Lots of photos of the players and teams, many of which I recognized from the movie!
There was, however, one uniform, which was extremely exciting to me because it was from the Kalamazoo Lassies. Guys! I went to college in Kalamazoo! I live half an hour away from there! My therapist is in Kalamazoo! It used to be and also is currently my playground!
After the sentimental journey of the AAGPBL exhibit, I headed back upstairs to the Studebaker museum. Truth be told, I did not learn a thing about Studebakers. Well, I learned that originally the Studebaker family lived in Pennsylvania and then they moved to South Bend. I don’t know when because despite the bright lights and modern building, the Studebaker museum sort of creeped me out. It was organized chronologically, with the very first thing on exhibit a Conestoga wagon, then a few “horseless carriages.” I was taking a picture of one of those when I felt a shivver down my pine. I turned around to find an old-timey hearse. Yes! This has become a Month of Scares post!
Wandering through the exhibit, I also saw the Phaeton William McKinley was sitting in when he was fatally shot, some sort of Studebaker advertizement wagon that was at the Devil in the White City Chicago World’s Fair, and another hearse, which I originally thought was a fancy old-timey white limo until I read the sign that said it was a “Child’s Hearse.” I did not take a picture of that hearse because I didn’t want my phone to become possessed because I needed the GPS to get me back home. (Although you can see it in the background behind the teal car in the slideshow below. Do not tell me if you see orbs.)
So I looped through the entire exhibit and didn’t see Fozzie’s Studebaker! Probably I could have gone back and done another loop, but there were two hearses! So instead I asked a guy. “Where is the Muppet Movie Studebaker?” I asked, consciously using the brand name so he would think I was interested in Studebakers and wasn’t just using his beloved museum to relive my youth. It was downstairs, he said. “Take the elevator and it’s on your left.” Well, okay. In all the pictures online the Muppet Movie car was in the main part of the museum, with Kermit and Fozzie in it and everything, so I figured maybe they’d given it special treatment. I should have suspected something when the sign by the elevator said that the lower level had “offices,” “military exhibit,” and “open storage.” Here’s the view exiting the elevator on the lower level.
I’m hoping they’re revamping their exhibits, because as I walked along looking for the Muppet car, I realized that the cars in open storage on the lower level were all “newer” models, and upstairs were mostly the 30s and before. And there were some sweet-ass looking cars down there in open storage. Bright and shiney! The Muppet Movie car was not bright and shiney.
It was cool to see anyway, but I do wish I could have walked all the way around it. The car’s location must be relatively new because there’s a 2015 video of a guy who’s traveling around the country visiting Muppet Movie props seeing the car in the main exhibition hall.
That’s about it. I spent maybe half an hour total at both museums, and I don’t regret a moment except for the moments I looked at the hearses. This baller ride made up for that, though.
Even though they’re in the same building, The History Museum and The Studebaker National Museum have different street addresses. They’re at the corner of Chapin and Thomas in South Bend and are open until 5:00 every day, giving you just enough time to visit affter a drive-in conference at a nearby college. I paid $12 for my combined ticket to both museums.