ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
It was 1975, and a car cruising along a road in rural Canton almost went into a ditch.
The driver was too busy gaping at a man and woman working on a garage roof-putting in a pattern of shingles to resemble the bow-tie emblem of a Chevrolet Corvette.
“The car almost went off the road up here when the driver was looking back at it,” said Roberta Hamilton with a chuckle. “The driver was just curious about what was going on.”
Roberta and husband Randy are used to stares when people drive by their home. That’s OK with them, because the roof is a symbol of a shared passion for collecting Corvettes since 1973.
Since that roof design went up almost 30 years ago, the Hamiltons have collected a total of seven Corvettes. They’ve also shingled in two Chevrolet cross flags on the roof of an addition to the original garage and put in a wood inlay of the Chevrolet bow tie in their family-room floor.
Are they worried about the re-sale value of their home since making these perhaps radical changes?
“Re-sale wise, it shouldn’t hurt anything,” Roberta said. “I think a swimming pool hurts more, for people who don’t want to maintain a swimming pool. But I don’t see this as a problem, not a big deal.”
The Hamiltons built their two-story home on about 10 acres along 26th Avenue just southwest of Canton-Galva High School, where daughter Sabrina is now a freshman.
The couple first moved a mobile home onto their property, and the first structure to go up was the garage. Two years later, they built their home.
Today, three bedrooms are located on the second floor. The first floor includes a bedroom, library, living room, family room, dining room, kitchen and sewing room. Instead of a basement, the couple opted for a crawl space.
“We drew it out exactly like we wanted it,” Roberta said.
“We had help for three weeks to frame it and sheet the roof. Randy and I did all of it except for contracting out the plumbing and heating.”
Randy is employed as vice-president of finance with M.O.R.E. Inc. in Goessel. Roberta has taught in the Canton-Galva school system for the past 39 years and is currently working part-time teaching math and computers for grades nine through 12 there.
The Hamiltons began their Corvette collection with the purchase of a new 1973 model from a car dealership in Wichita.
Randy was looking for a small sports car when Roberta suggested looking at Corvettes instead.
That first Corvette eventually made its way under the shingled garage roof with the bow-tie pattern.
The couple followed that purchase with a used 1969 Corvette convertible, which was later sold.
Their second keeper was a 1978 limited-edition pace car introduced as the 25th anniversary collector’s edition.
“It had 22 miles on it,” Roberta said. “It still has under 7,000 miles. We just drive it a little here and there.”
Randy bought a 1994 six-speed Corvette for Roberta on Mother’s Day in 1996. Along the way, they also acquired a 1963 split-window coupe.
“That’s the only year they had a split window,” Roberta said. “That one is ready for restoration, and we’ve collected a lot of parts for it.”
The last two cars in their collection are purple 50th anniversary edition 2003 model Corvettes. One is an automatic, and the other is a six-speed.
“That’s the total, there are no more,” Roberta said.
Randy surprised Roberta years ago when he began working on the roof design with shingles.
“When we built the garage, I saw him drawing out this roof,” Roberta said.
“I said, ‘Honey, what are you doing?’ He had drawn out his own shingle paper, because graph paper has squares, and shingles come off-set in a certain size.”
Randy graphed the Chevy bow-tie emblem with the letter “H” in the middle for his roof pattern. The shingles are white, and the 40-foot emblem is in black asphalt.
“They aren’t painted on,” Roberta said. “It’s asphalt shingles.” The original shingles have since been replaced one time.
When their Corvette collection grew, the couple decided in the late 1980s to add a large ell addition to their original garage.
“I told him jokingly, ‘I need the cross flags on that north slope,'” Roberta said. “He said, ‘I don’t think I can do that.’ Well, I came home from a ball game one night, and here he is drawing on shingle graph paper again.”
When Roberta went to pick up the colored shingles for the complicated cross-flag patterns, she noticed a quizzical reaction to her request for shingles in bundles.
“But we needed that to get all the different coloring in,” she said. “It’s almost like doing a counted cross stitch.”
And why did Randy want to put Chevrolet emblems on his roof tops?
“He is just into doing things,” Roberta said. “And he’s crazy about Corvettes.”
About two years ago, Roberta tried to convince Randy they needed to replace worn-brown carpeting in their family room with an updated look. Remembering they had dark-oak floor boards available for the project, Roberta said she had an idea to encourage Randy to take it on.
“I kept saying, ‘Honey, that wood we got for the kitchen would really look nice in the family room.'”
Roberta said her pleas landed on deaf ears until she came up with a second, more-persuasive suggestion.
“I said, ‘You know, we need more wood for that family-room floor. And part of it could be light colored, and you could in-lay the bow tie in front of the fireplace.”
The next week, Randy ripped up the old carpet to begin the flooring project.
“That’s all it took,” Roberta said with a smile. “I got my floor down-no problem.”
Working on the weekends, Randy finished his project in about six weeks. The dark-oak floor boards came in 3-inch, 5-inch and 7-inch widths-to be laid in alternating patterns. But the light oak for the Chevrolet bow tie only came in 5-inch boards.
“So he drew out every little piece,” Roberta said. “He drew out the floor to scale, so he would know where every piece went, and he didn’t have to waste any.”
The design in-laid in front of the family-room fireplace measures 10 feet by 40 inches.
Roberta said reactions to the flooring vary.
“Sometimes, they say ‘Wow’ or they ask, ‘Why did you do that?’
The roof also draws comments.
“Originally, they thought, ‘They’re crazy,'” Roberta said. “But some people think it’s really neat, especially if they’re Chevy-type people. And it’s real easy to give directions-just go down the road and look for a garage with a bow tie and an ‘H’ in the middle. I don’t even need to put our name on the mailbox.”
The Hamiltons said they have no plans to sell the house, but they don’t think what they’ve done is extreme or devalues their property.
“If somebody were to buy the house, if we wanted to sell it, they could put a nice throw rug over the bow-tie inlay,” Roberta said. “And roof shingles get replaced eventually when the wear out.”
The couple said they are happy living in a home that incorporates symbols of their Corvette collection.
“I just like my house very much,” Roberta said. “And I think it’s reflecting something Randy likes. He enjoys this, and that’s good enough for me.”