Tucked away inside an Astoria building at 1233 Exchange St. that formerly was part of the Astoria YMCA and later a church, is a huge room filled with classic and antique vehicles, along with whimsical memorabilia from bygone eras.
Some 15 lovingly restored antique cars and trucks from the 1920s to the 1970s have found a home there, along with Asian antiques, pirates' treasure, historic flags, wringer washing machines, cannon balls from the Revolutionary War and even an old game of Cootie. There's also a Victrola, an old slot machine, a Chinese dragon chair and a wedding dress from the 1940s.
The Overbay Museum and Antique Autos is a labor of love created by Ralph and Suzie Overbay. It's open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day during the summer, starting on Mother's Day and running through mid-October. Admission is just $5.
Ralph Overbay is an energetic 83-year old with a white mustache and beard, a passion for old cars and quirky collectibles and a joyful sense of humor. "I tell people that's the same year I was born," he said, pointing to a 1927 Dodge Brothers car in the museum's lobby, with leather upholstery and a rumble seat, "and they tell me, 'the car's holding up better than you are.'"
Suzie Overbay, 63, is a medical assistant at Providence Seaside Clinic, when she's not showing people around the museum. She shares her husband's enthusiasm for collecting relics from bygone times.
"I do like antiques. Ralph says that's why I married him. But he's a young antique," she jokes.
Born and raised in Seaside, Suzie met Ralph in the late 1960s, a few years after he moved to Astoria. He was the 10th of 12 children in a family that moved around a lot and some of his relatives were living here.
After they married, Suzie and Ralph also moved around. While he worked as a building official for an insurance company they lived in Corvallis, Denver, and Redding, Calif., before returning to Astoria in 2001 to help Suzie's ailing mother.
The Overbays bought and restored the second-oldest house in Astoria, located on the south side of Exchange Street across from the carriage house of the Flavel House museum. "We fell in love with the house," Suzie explained.
They stored Ralph's car collection in a warehouse in Warrenton for awhile. Then the museum building became available and they moved the collection to Astoria, with help from their grown children.
The gleaming dark green 1928 Packard originally owned by Charlie Chaplin is a real crowd-pleaser. It features amenities that would be most welcome in today's cars, including an air compressor on the engine that's attached to a hose under the seat that was used to inflate the car's tires. It also has a headlight in front that can move like a spotlight and a lovely art deco hood ornament in the form of the Goddess of Speed.
After some coaxing, Suzie climbed into the snazzy Packard and posed for a photo holding a toy Tommy gun. Conjuring up outlaws Bonnie and Clyde, Ralph teasingly called out, "Watch where you're shootin', Bonnie."
Ralph jumped into another favorite, a yellow 1914 Ford Speedster with acetylene headlights and kerosene side lights. It has a crank in front for starting the engine.
Ralph completely restored many of the cars and he knows the history of every vehicle - who owned it originally, how much it cost new, and what makes it tick. And Suzie also delights in sharing the history of the various artifacts on display.