Marvel Man’s Swan Song?

Haynes’ visit to Vineland concludes with a bit of history that puts all his antics into proper perspective.

by Vince Farinaccio

Not long after Ashland, Oregon resident Don Haynes lost his $25,000 bet to visit every state in the country while traveling sealed in a Kaiser DeLuxe automobile for 14 months, he resumed his role as the Marvel Man by setting out on another cross-country venture.

This new journey wouldn’t take him to Vineland as the previous tour did, but it promised to earn some media attention. Launching this new endeavor only four months after losing his bet in March 1950, Haynes took to the road to collect pajamas, but not just any sleepwear. His goal was to gather PJ bottoms worn by the governors of all 48 states.

A 2009 article by the Medford Mail Tribune of Oregon reports that “in July 1950, he popped up in Iowa, described as ‘a man who collects gubernatorial pajamas.’ He got the PJ bottoms of Iowa Gov. William S. Beardsley, which he said would become part of a quilt to be auctioned off on a radio show to benefit the American Cancer Society.”

Why Haynes chose to gather pajamas and not another article of clothing remains a mystery, but his decision to approach the governors of each state seems to have stemmed from the bet that had him on the road for most of 1949. During his stopover in Vineland that year to take in a movie at the Delsea Drive-In, he told reporters for the Times Journal that he was “visiting the Governors of all 48 states.” The newspaper reported that “the seals from the executive offices he has already visited adorn the fenders of the auto [he is driving].”

It’s likely Haynes saw his acquaintanceship with the country’s governors as a mean of guiding his latest endeavor to a successful conclusion. But, according to the Medford Mail Tribune, the idea for the pajama collection was first announced in February 1950, a month prior to Haynes abandoning his $25,000 bet: “the Charleston, W.V., Daily Mail reported that Haynes made a bet with Art Linkletter, of the radio show People Are Funny, that he could collect the pajamas of the nation’s governors.” How many pajamas were eventually collected is another mystery surrounding the Marvel Man.

In 1951, Haynes apparently undertook another venture, this time welding a cowboy from Wyoming, Roy Fay, into a car. The Medford Mail Tribune, which writes that Haynes “managed” Fay, says that this particular road escapade ended when Fay “dropped from sight.”

It wasn’t until 1958 that Haynes returned to the road, this time with his wife. The couple billed themselves as the Nomads and traveled the country sealed in a Mercury Voyager station wagon. According to the Medford Mail Tribune, Haynes and his wife “said they would spend 18 months visiting all 48 states. They were followed by a couple pulling a travel trailer and doing the cooking. The Nomads turned up in Idaho, California, Illinois, Kansas, Iowa, New York, Texas and elsewhere.” And there is evidence that Haynes continued his road trips after this excursion.

Haynes usually discussed with reporters what he claimed were his other occupations. He told the Times Journal he was a “diesel engineer” and, according to the Medford Mail Tribune, “described himself as a former ad man” for an Ohio newspaper. By 1964, he said he was headed to the New York World’s Fair and was hawking postcards of his exploits for 10 cents a card.

But 1964 was the last the national media heard of Don Haynes. The road journeys in sealed vehicles seem to have reached their conclusion and the Marvel Man, who paid Vineland a short visit between stopovers in Atlantic City and Washington, D.C. in 1949, apparently took on other endeavors about which we’ll probably never know.

We’ll let the Times Journal have the final word on the Marvel Man. Its 1949 article on Haynes’ visit to Vineland concludes with a bit of history that puts all his antics into proper perspective: “Haynes’s feat recalls a similar stunt over 20 years ago when a man traveled around Cumberland County in an open touring car handcuffed to the steering wheel. Advertising a soft drink craze of that era and allegedly existing on the drink alone, the driver remained on a continuous 32-day run.” n

The writer would like to thank Patricia Martinelli for bringing the Marvel Man to his attention.

Next Week: You Better You Bet

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