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MailTribune.com
  • MYSTERY OF THE MARVEL MAN

    Marveling at the legacy of Haynes

    Photos that turn up in Washington connect stranger to the Grants Pass man and his nationally acclaimed feat
  • One day in January, somebody walked into the Second Chance Thrift Shop at the Camano Senior Center in Camano Island, Wash., with some 1949 photographs of Don Haynes, a Grants Pass resident on the cusp of either an epic adventure or a fool's errand.
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  • One day in January, somebody walked into the Second Chance Thrift Shop at the Camano Senior Center in Camano Island, Wash., with some 1949 photographs of Don Haynes, a Grants Pass resident on the cusp of either an epic adventure or a fool's errand.
    The photos showed Haynes welded up inside a 1949 Kaiser-Frazer with a typewriter, a toilet and other gear with which he intended to tour the nation for 14 months, covering 140,000 miles.
    That anonymous donor opened the latest chapter in the weird story of Don Haynes, aka the Marvel Man, a Rogue Valley mystery that goes back 60 years.
    Store manager Lilli Karamanos searched for Haynes online and found a Mail Tribune story from April of 2006 in which Ashland historian George Kramer found a postcard showing Haynes in his Marvel Man car. Karamanos e-mailed Kramer asking whether he'd like to buy the photos.
    "I sent her a check for $15, and she sent the stuff," says Kramer, who often buys Southern Oregon memorabilia online.
    The photos show a Kaiser-Frazer Deluxe with the doors welded shut and bars across the windows. They show Haynes with a Royal typewriter, in a folding chair, with a portable toilet, with dictation equipment, all inside the car.
    Half the photos were from Bushnell Studio of Ashland, half from Rogue Studio of Grants Pass. Haynes wore a houndstooth sports coat and aviator sunglasses and smoked a cigarette. He bore a passing resemblance to William Talman, the actor who played District Attorney Hamilton Burger in the old "Perry Mason" TV show.
    In one photo Haynes was in the driver's seat of a Studebaker pickup truck, on which appears the name of Otis Roley, a man who had a Shell station in Grants Pass back in the day. Karamanos had no way of knowing who donated the photos. She found them in a mountain of donated goods in the back of the shop.
    "We were so curious about why that car looked the way it did," Karamanos says. "A lot of stuff there's no way to trace, but here was the guy's name on the car. It was fun to be able to connect them back with where they came from."
    The Mail Tribune in 1949 identified Haynes as a 39-year-old former truck driver who made a bet with "D.B. Mauldin, a Grants Pass rancher," who bet him $25,000 against $1,000 that he couldn't make the 14-month trip to all 48 states in 14 months without leaving the car.
    On Feb. 18, 1949, the MT reported that civic leaders attended a "sealing ceremony" in Ashland, in which the final bars were installed on the car as the Ashland Kilty Band and a squadron of majorettes performed.
    The Ashland Daily Tidings reported that 2,500 people attended, including Kaiser executives, and that Fox Movietone News showed up. Then Haynes roared off toward California on Highway 99 with a police escort.
    Haynes' wife, Mary, was eight months pregnant when he left. He returned for the birth of his daughter, Jeanette Anne, and a local timber miller brought over a Hyster lift and picked up the car with Haynes inside so he could see Mom and the new baby through the second-floor window.
    "They must have thought it would be good publicity," Kramer says.
    Haynes talked of plans to attend the Rose Parade in Pasadena and the Indianapolis 500. He turned up on the Columbia River, where he caught a salmon.
    On Feb. 20, 1950, the MT noted the one-year anniversary of Haynes' departure. He was said to be in West Virginia styling himself the "Seaman of the Sealed Car" (he'd been in the Merchant Marine).
    A month later he was back in Southern Oregon, saying he'd given up on his quest after losing track of his publicity man, Ira Shiffen, just weeks short of his goals. The other bettor was identified as an "E.B. Mulden, of Ashland." Haynes said he was looking for a job.
    In July of 1950 he popped up in Iowa, described as "a man who collects gubernatorial pajamas." He got the bottoms of Iowa Gov. William S. Beardsley, which he said would be included in a pajama quilt to be auctioned off on a radio show to benefit the American Cancer Society.
    In a 2001 piece, Billy Alley, then a historian with the Southern Oregon Historical Society, wrote in an MT piece that Haynes' stunt drew the attention of radio host Art Linkletter, who prodded Haynes to solicit the pajamas. The story said Haynes had visited 41 states and covered 111,000 of the planned 140,000 miles when he abandoned the effort, that his car broke down in Winnemucca, Nev., and that he returned home April 12.
    Whatever happened with the pajamas, Haynes seems to have disappeared after July of 1950. Kramer figured he must have been a pretty flamboyant sort. But regional historian Marjorie O'Harra, who lived in the same Ashland apartment complex as Haynes and his wife, described the couple as "just quiet people."
    In Kramer's view the whole story coming back underscores the amazing connectivity of the Internet. But it leaves some unanswered questions.
    Haynes had a family. He had a new car, professional photographers, a publicity man and a year's worth of provisions. What became of him?
    Who was Mauldin or Mulden? Who was Ira Shiffen? Was Otis Roley involved?
    "There are all these unanswered questions," Kramer says. "Somebody out there has got to remember this guy."
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