James Standiford relaxes at Lakeside Village in Panora


James Standiford has a lifetime of hobbies and memories from  his collections.

By Rich Wicks | Panora Times

James Standiford of Panora has lived at Lakeside Village for the past five years. He recently shared memories of the hobbies he and his late wife enjoyed over their years. 

As a teen and young man, Standiford’s main hobby dealt with cars. He recalled several stories from those days, including the unusual story of how he had two cars at the age of 14.

“I actually dug a grave for a guy,” Standiford said. “He said he would give me $60 for digging the grave. So, I dug it the way he wanted, and then he offered me the $60 or a car. Well, I was 14, so I took the car. It was a 1951 Studebaker, and it ran and everything. I took it home and worked on it.”

But, as Standiford soon discovered, he wasn’t finished digging up great deals on cars.

“A couple weeks later, he asked me to dig another grave for $60. So, I dug that one, and he had another car for me,” Standiford said. “Well, I was too young to drive, so my dad told me to never take those cars out of the yard. I sold the first one for $150 and the second one for $120 and a stereo system.” 

From then on, Standiford was hooked on the hobby of buying cheap cars and fixing them up. Another interesting car story came about literally by accident.

“Back in 1965, I had this 1956 Ford that I had bought from a guy. I was driving it in Des Moines, and a rock fell off a truck. It bounced up and smashed my windshield,” Standiford said. “I drove over to a friend of mine, and he was talking about going to stock car races that night. I said, ‘You know what, why don’t we just make this into a stock car?’ We busted all the windows out, and we drove it to Newton the following week. They laughed me off the track.”

Standiford explained that he was informed he couldn’t race the car because it didn’t have the required safety features such as a seat belt and fire extinguisher.

“The following week, I had gotten everything they said I needed, and I raced. I almost took the judge’s stand out, because I wasn’t used to driving on dirt tracks,” Standiford said. “But after a week or two, I got up to fourth place. I had put a good engine in it, and that thing was fast. Then I got drafted, so that was all I had for stock car racing.”

Over the years, Standiford developed another hobby.

“I started going to flea markets and things like that, and I got interested in beer lights. I started collecting them,” Standiford said. “I got up to about 600 of them. I had two storage sheds full. My wife helped me collect them, and she collected Precious Moments.”

For many years, the Standifords enjoyed attending flea markets, antique shows and similar events where they each could browse for items. Eventually, each had amassed large collections.

“Years later, before moving to Missouri, we decided we needed to get rid of them,” Standiford said. “It was just too much, so we started doing flea markets and antique shows to sell our things. I had 18 tables of them. I had all kinds of neons and some motion ones.”

Standiford recalled a few of his favorite beer signs from those days.

“Budweiser had one with Clydesdales that went around in a circle. The horses were pulling a wagon,” Standiford said. “Some of them were really expensive. Hamm’s was probably the most expensive. It had a waterfall with a teepee on a little island. It’s very hard to come by. That’s the most collectible one. Back in the 1960s, a lot of the bars had those.”

Standiford says he enjoys the memories of his years as a collector.

“I should have kept at least one of them,” he said. “It was fun.”