For nearly five seasons, the History Channel television show “American Pickers” has grown a large fan base of viewers enjoying the hunt for “rusty gold” during the countless adventures of Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz.
While millions of fans have watched the show since it premiered in 2010, the experience has been a little surreal for Van-Far Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hunter.
Dr. Hunter graduated from the same high school as Wolfe, Fritz, and Mike’s brother Robbie, who has also appeared on several episodes. Dr. Hunter graduated from Bettendorf High School as a member of the Class of 1984 with Robbie while both Mike and Frank graduated around the Class of 1982.
Robbie’s brother-in-law Chip was also a member of the Class of 1982, which had about 400 graduates.
The school is located not too far from Mike Wolfe’s business “Antique Archeology” in Le Claire, Iowa, which is where former Vandalia Leader publishers Gary and Helen Sosniecki reside. Mike Wolfe also owns a location in Nashville, Tenn.
“It’s just funny too (see) that we were all kids from the same town and the same place,” Dr. Hunter said. “…When you see people on the show you know, it’s kind of neat…They’re all good people, they really are…They’re pretty wholesome guys which is why (the show) sells so good. You can’t recreate that.”
Dr. Hunter said he had first heard about the show at a reunion five years ago. He said both Mike and Frank crashed the reunion and talked about a show they just started that was currently airing on television.
When Dr. Hunter watches the show, he enjoys hearing Mike Wolfe’s distinct laugh and remembers hearing it from days gone by. Dr. Hunter said he knew Mike and Frank in high school but was closer to Mike’s brother Robbie due to his age.
Dr. Hunter said he just visited with Robbie in July when he attended a 30th Bettendorf High School reunion. Dr. Hunter returns to the area annually to compete in a running race.
“I saw Robbie there one night and about five, six, seven of us were chatting,” Dr. Hunter said. “He hasn’t changed a bit. He’s very outgoing and is very generous. It’s not unlike him to pick up the tab. He lives there still. We usually talk about stories and life…”
Dr. Hunter said the “pickers” likely became interested in the “rusty gold” do to the rich history of the old towns in Iowa with old factories and barns on the outskirts.
Dr. Hunter took his son Dylan to the Iowa store on one trip back home. There Dylan purchased a pennant that the “pickers” found during an episode of the History Channel show filmed in Florida.
“I think it’s neat going in there,” Dr. Hunter said of the store.”
He said he’s never met the store manager Danielle.