By CHERIE ILG HAAS
Entertaining, enlightened, engaging? While this group of FMCA members may be so described, these words don’t offer insight into the chapter’s name. Originally, the “E” stood for “Executive.” When the chapter was formed in 1976 as The Executive Southwest Chapter, FMCA members who joined had to own an Executive brand motorhome. Today this is no longer a requirement. Like a motorhome that’s been upgraded to fit its owners, The Big E chapter has updated its name to better reflect its members. The “E” now means “everyone,” as all FMCA members “” no matter their coach brand “” are invited to join.
“There are no ties to what kind of coach you have,” said chapter president Felix Barajas, F83504. “It’s just friendly people.”
Southern California is primarily where The Big E holds its rallies, although members caravan farther than their scope approximately once a year. While they’re rallying within 150 miles of Pasadena, the seasons dictate what terrain they’ll be in. During the winter months, chapter members escape the chilly mid-50-degree temperatures that befall southern California and travel to the desert, where they feel more at home. “People just get used to different climates,” Felix explained.
Willie Windisch, F17917, chapter vice president, spoke fondly of their winter rallies. He described how they dry camp in the desert, parking their motorhomes in a circle with a campfire dotting the middle of them all, “like covered wagons used to do.”
Summer beckons The Big E chapter back to the coast, where members enjoy rallies at beaches, and visit cities such as Santa Barbara and San Diego. Because of their beauty, these towns are frequent rally sites. Listening to the wonder in his voice as Felix spoke of these locations is enough to make one want to visit. “There are so many beautiful places in those cities,” he concluded.
The Big E chapter holds its rallies during the second week of each month between September and June, from Monday through Thursday. An hors d’oeuvres feast is the main event for Monday; on Tuesday, members have a chapter meeting, after which the ladies do their thing, such as shopping or making crafts, and the men do theirs, such as playing golf and horseshoes. Then everyone brings something to share for “heavy snacks” in the evening, Willie said, laughing as he explained, “There’s so much food there, it’s like a potluck.” Wednesday is the group outing day. Air museums, antiques shows, and art festivals are just a few of the events The Big E chapter members have enjoyed as outings. On Thursday, they have breakfast together, and then everyone goes home, looking forward to the next rally.
Generally in the evenings after dinner, the men play cards, and the ladies play dominoes. They use the park clubhouses for their games and meals, and decorate them for holidays, or with special themes.
“It’s a mature group; the average age is 72 or 73,” Willie said. One chapter member, Larry Bonus, F24212, will be celebrating his 100 th birthday this June at a special rally — just one example of how this is a warm group of people, as Felix described. “We like [the chapter] mainly for the camaraderie,” he said.
Because The Big E chapter has approximately 25 members, it is able to enjoy a number of tourist activities. “You have so many more opportunities to do things as a group. As a club, it keeps us closely knit,” Felix said.
But despite the advantages they enjoy by being a small chapter, “We’re always looking for new members,” Willie said. They take an active approach to this by meeting RVers who aren’t FMCA members, and sharing their Family Motor Coaching magazines and knowledge of FMCA with others, along with the benefits of joining The Big E chapter. Chapter members also created a flyer to attract attention to The Big E, which provides general information. “Membership in The Big E chapter gives you a chance to exchange ideas about motorhoming lifestyles and to enjoy motorhoming on a smaller scale,” it reads.
If you’d like more information about The Big E chapter, contact the FMCA Chapter Services Department at (800) 543-3622.