In mid-July FMCA members gathered in the Buffalo Niagara region to participate in the association’s 70th International Convention and at the same time to commemorate the founding of the organization four decades prior.
By Pamela Kay
Director of Communications, Publishing
In 1933 when the Broadway musical Forty-Second Street and the song “Shuffle Off To Buffalo” made their debut, few could have imagined the transportation that FMCA convention attendees recently used to “Shuffle Off To Buffalo.” In mid-July 2003, more than 3,800 families climbed aboard their high-tech homes on wheels and made tracks to the Buffalo Niagara region for FMCA’s 70th International Convention, dubbed “Shuffle Off To Buffalo” in honor of the host area. A total of 4,791 motorhomes gathered for the event in western New York. This figure included 3,842 family coaches and 949 commercial coaches.
Similarly, in July 1963 when the Family Motor Coach Association was born in Hinckley, Maine, the 26 families who gathered there would have had a difficult time fathoming the sight of nearly 5,000 motorhomes assembled in one place. But that’s exactly what happened 40 years later to date. In a bit of serendipity, the dates of the Buffalo convention “” July 18, 19, and 20, 2003 “” coincided with those of FMCA’s founding 40 years prior. On July 20, 1963, a group of pioneers gathered at the Hinckley School in Maine to view a solar eclipse and to discuss their common interest in traveling by “house car.” They decided to form an organization, and the next day the Family Motor Coach Association officially came into being.
Conventions quickly became an FMCA tradition. In fact, FMCA’s first national convention took place just a year after the organization was formed, and New York happened to be the setting for that gathering as well. On July 17-19, 1964, 106 families from 20 states and Canada traveled to Fort Ticonderoga for this inaugural event.
In describing his family’s arrival at the convention site at Fort Ticonderoga, Bob Richter, L1, wrote, “We’ll never, if we lived to be a hundred, forget the sight of a hundred coaches parked together in one place, with their owners getting to know neighbors-of-the-road from coast to coast, and all the children acting as if their newfound friends had been their friends for years….”
Genny (Jennings) Luckey, L26, was in attendance at that 1964 convention, and also at the Buffalo, New York, convention this past July. In fact, of the 70 conventions FMCA has hosted to date, Genny has attended 59. She was honored during the annual membership meeting in Buffalo for her many years of service to FMCA, which included holding the offices of national secretary, 1967-1970; national vice president, 1974-1975; national fourth vice president, 1975-1976; national fifth vice president, 1976-1977; and Great Lakes Area vice president, 1982-1986.
“I’m amazed at what we started 40 years ago,” Genny commented during the meeting in Buffalo. “We didn’t know this was going to happen, but it sure is wonderful.”
Other charter members who were in attendance at the Buffalo convention and were recognized during the annual meeting were Howard “Bud” Stone, L3; Richard and Nancy Parece, F22; James and Marilyn McCormick, F81; and Bill and Nancy Watts, F96. Charter members are those who joined FMCA prior to January 17, 1964.
Fun and fellowship
Even though the growth of the organization might have been difficult to imagine in the early days, FMCA’s founding families possessed a vision that has sustained the association throughout its 40-year history. Many of the principles upon which the organization was founded continue to guide it today. Among them are fun and fellowship, and starting with the very first FMCA convention, these get-togethers have been the ultimate manifestation of those qualities. Conventions provide FMCA members an opportunity to gather with friends “” old and new “” who share their love of motorhome travel.
The hub of convention activities for the summer 2003 convention was the Erie County Fairgrounds, a 265-acre facility located in Hamburg, approximately 15 minutes south of Buffalo. Because of space limitations at the fairgrounds, many convention attendees were parked three miles away at Ralph Wilson Stadium (home of the Buffalo Bills) and on the adjacent campus of Erie County Community College. Air-conditioned transit buses efficiently transported convention attendees to and from the convention site each day.
Members of the advance crew started arriving at the convention site as early as Saturday, July 12, and set about their work of laying out the parking areas, assigning street numbers, and making final preparations for the arrival of thousands of motorhomes in the next few days. Other volunteers arrived a couple of days later and attended meetings where they learned details of their assignments. Members of the Governing Board shuffled in early, too, in preparation for the two-day Governing Board meeting that took place just prior to the convention. Depending on their assigned arrival dates, caravans and individual members starting entering the parking areas on Tuesday, July 15, and the flow continued through Thursday, July 17, until everyone was settled in and ready to enjoy good times.
Let the fun begin
No one had to wait long for the good times to start rolling. Those who arrived by Wednesday evening, July 16, were invited to join Howard Cowles, L18517, “the singing square dance caller,” in some do-si-doing and promenading, as well as line dances and a variety of other popular dance steps. Additional square dancing and line dancing opportunities came on Friday and Saturday during the daytime hours. Howard’s appearances in Buffalo were made possible by Coach-Net, C4055, an FMCA One Star sponsor, and FMCA.
On Thursday afternoon, July 17, at 3:00, convention attendees flocked to the outdoor exhibit area to check out the offerings of the motorhome manufacturers and dealers who were showing off their homes on wheels during the “Motorhome Exhibit Preview.” Another evening of dancing ensued afterward as the Pyramid Swing Band filled the Creative Arts Building with the sounds of Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, and other big-band-era greats.
The official opening day of the convention came on Friday, July 18. That morning, convention attendees awoke to gray skies and mild temperatures. But after a brief rain shower that greeted those headed for morning coffee hour, skies cleared, the sun came out, and made-to-order weather continued until Sunday afternoon, when scattered rain showers returned.
For the convenience of those overnighting in the satellite parking areas, coffee hour, sponsored by Guaranty RV Centers, C4161, an FMCA Super Star sponsor, was held at the fairgrounds and also at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, so no one had to wait long for their morning refreshments. At the fairgrounds, FMCA’s own Frustrated Maestros provided wake-’em-up tunes and helped to set toes to tappin’ on Friday and Saturday mornings. On Sunday, convention-goers were treated to an uplifting performance by trumpeter Chiz Rider, F300641, as patriotic and gospel tunes wafted from the daytime entertainment stage.
The Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau arranged for an energizing presentation of the American Experience by the Mo’ Better Buffalo Cultural Arts Collective on Friday to welcome FMCA members to the area. Performers included the African American Cultural Center Dance and Drum Performance Co.; the Langston Hughes Institute Jama Jama Dancers and Drummers; and the Colored Musicians Club All Star Band.
Members of the convention and visitors bureau also were on hand in the FMCA Information Center during the convention to answer questions and to distribute literature about the wealth of area attractions. Representatives from the Hamburg and Orchard Park chambers of commerce were present also, so convention attendees had plenty of help when it came to scouting out the best places to eat, local services, and popular attractions in the region.
Convention attendees could avail themselves of an eclectic mix of entertainment at the daytime entertainment stage. The possibilities included the Sons of Tennessee, a trio who rode in and performed a variety of cowboy songs atop their beautiful Palomino horses; the ever-popular ventriloquism act of Willie & Company; a performance by FMCA sweetheart Alice Detrick, who also happened to be celebrating a birthday on the day of her visit; storytelling and illusions by Buffalo & Brandy (also known as Ken and Mary-Ann Ferree, F121147); storytelling and music by Mary Baker; and clown-style magic by Flakey the Magic Clown, also known as Henry Gartner, F197563.
Members of the Executive East Pioneers chapter donned period clothing and performed “One Nation Under God” on Saturday morning. Chapter members assumed specific roles and chronicled U.S. history through the presentation of various flags that have flown over the country and through song. The inspiring program is produced and directed by Woody Miller, F233882, and his wife, Jean.
Willie & Company’s performance was made possible by the generosity of Freightliner Custom Chassis, C1905, an FMCA Four Star sponsor, while Flakey the Magic Clown was presented by Blue Ox, C2903, an FMCA Three Star sponsor. The other daytime acts appeared courtesy of Liberty Coach Inc., C733, and Liberty Coach of Florida, C9408, together an FMCA Five Star sponsor.
There wasn’t a cloud in the sky on Saturday afternoon, July 19, when it came time for the traditional ice cream social, sponsored by RV Alliance America (RVAA), C95, an FMCA Super Star sponsor. Members of FMCA’s Full Timers chapter donned spiffy RVAA hats and aprons and served up tasty cups of ice cream to the eager crowd. Bob’s Cats, a select group of Frustrated Maestros, sweetened the afternoon by performing Dixieland tunes and old-time favorites as convention attendees chatted and enjoyed their frozen treats.
Convention-goers enjoyed a sweet interlude on Sunday afternoon as well. To help FMCA celebrate its 40th anniversary, Tops Friendly Markets, the Erie County Administration, and the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau teamed up to treat FMCA members to slices of anniversary cake.
Tea for two…oops, make that 125
On Sunday afternoon, ladies donned red hats and purple dresses and brought their favorite teacup, finger sandwiches, and sweets to FMCA’s version of a Red Hat Society tea. Chapters of the Red Hat Society have sprung up all across the United States and Canada. These groups take their cues from the poem “Warning” by Jenny Joseph Jones, which begins, “When I am an old woman…shall wear purple with a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me . . . But maybe I ought to go practice a little now?” These groups have no bylaws, no meeting minutes, no rules “” other than to relax and enjoy life, and that’s exactly what the approximately 125 women who participated in the tea in Buffalo did. A small donation was collected at the tea, and the $100 proceeds will be donated to Haven House Shelter, a women’s shelter located in Buffalo.
Bowling, blading, coaster riding, clowning, and more!
A total of 286 youth participated in activities during the Buffalo convention, the largest group since the Columbus, Ohio, convention in 1997. Each of the four age groups “” TOTS (ages 2 to 5), TWEENS (ages 6-9), PRE-TEENS (ages 10-12), and TATS (ages 13 to 18) “” had their own activity center, which was stocked with refreshments, games, and craft items for the kids to enjoy. The good times weren’t limited to the convention site, however. Various “field trips” were planned. Activities included bowling, roller skating, miniature golfing, and a trip to Six Flags Amusement Park at Darien Lake. Flakey the Magic Clown amused the kids as they signed up for activities on Thursday and also made periodic visits to the youth centers. Blue Ox “” Flakey’s sponsor “” also provided the T-shirts that the kids had a blast painting on Thursday evening. Deric Bloomingdale, F188602, president of the Teen-Age Travelers (TATS) group, shares his observations on page 78.
Information sharing was another goal that prompted the formation of FMCA back in 1963, and that tradition continues as well. Several seminars were held during the 1964 convention at Fort Ticonderoga. At the Buffalo convention this past July, more than 125 seminar sessions were held, and seminar topics numbered more than 100. Topics included chassis and motorhome maintenance; fire and life safety; safe driving; travel to Mexico, Canada, and beyond; satellite TV; and using computers while traveling. Various topics intended to help motorhome owners maintain their health as they travel were covered as well, including bone and breast care for women; alleviating back, knee, and shoulder pain; and preparing for a medical emergency.
The shopping shuffle
Nearly 100 motorhome manufacturers and dealers treated convention attendees to an opportunity to view the latest innovations in motorhomes, starting on Thursday afternoon, July 17, during the “Motorhome Exhibit Preview” and continuing through the weekend.
The array of items exhibited indoors, brought to the convention by more than 300 companies, included tow bars, RV shock absorbers, air conditioners, refrigerators, and generators, as well as furnishings, cookware, coach cleaning products, and travel clothing. These items were available for inspection starting Friday morning, July 18. A package drop-off area was provided at the FMCA Information Center at the fairgrounds for those who wanted to shop during the day and then enjoy the activities before picking up their packages and heading back to their coach.
The wonders of western New York
Bedore Tours of Niagara Falls, New York, arranged several guided outings to a number of the area’s best-loved attractions. For starters, what would a trip to this part of the continent be without a visit to the world-famous Niagara Falls? Many convention attendees hopped aboard air-conditioned buses for a trip to some of the best spots for viewing the falls, including from the deck of the Maid of the Mist. Other tours took convention-goers to Niagara-on-the-Lake, a charming, flower-bedecked town that served as Canada’s first capital; to the Lockport Locks and Erie Canal for a boat cruise through the locks; into downtown Buffalo to sample its attractions and its world-famous chicken wings; and to the historic Graycliff Estate, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and the inspiring and architecturally rich Our Lady of Victory National Shrine and Basilica.
Representatives from the Good Will-Hinckley Homes For Boys and Girls were on hand in Buffalo to share information about the campus in Hinckley, Maine, where FMCA was founded 40 years ago and to provide information about phase two of the FMCA monument walkway project. Good Will-Hinckley permitted FMCA to erect a black granite monument on campus in 1994 to commemorate the association’s beginnings there. To enhance the monument and to provide a lasting tribute to FMCA families and chapters, a campaign was unveiled in the year 2000 to allow FMCA members to purchase engraved bricks and blocks to be used to create a walkway at the monument. Approximately 500 bricks and blocks were set in place in 2001, and the proceeds from that campaign went toward the new middle school Good Will-Hinckley was building.
A second phase of the walkway campaign was announced in the June 2003 issue of FMC magazine and will continue throughout 2003. The bricks and blocks in this phase will be used to encircle the planting beds around the monument, and proceeds will be used to support literacy efforts at Good Will-Hinckley. Good Will-Hinckley currently serves approximately 150 students, ages 12 to 21, who faced difficult circumstances and have come to live at the facility as a result.
During the convention, Dr. James Hennigar, F267030, former executive director at Good Will-Hinckley and now CEO emeritus, presented two seminars designed to be of interest to parents and grandparents.
A record number of quilts, blankets, and afghans were brought to the Buffalo convention by the On Road Quilters, a group of FMCA members who love quilting and have decided to share their talents by donating quilts intended to comfort children facing trying circumstances. A total of 341 were collected in Buffalo. Most of them will be distributed by the Morning Star Quilt Guild, who will donate them to various hospitals and social service organizations in the Buffalo-Hamburg area. Some of them went back home with FMCA’s New York Centrals chapter to be donated in their local area.
Another charitable organization that FMCA members actively support is Habitat for Humanity International, an ecumenical Christian organization dedicated to eliminating poverty housing worldwide. A Fun & Fitness Walk held during the convention helped to raise money for this organization. Proceeds from donations for the walk were equally divided among the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate, the RV Care-A-Vanners, and Habitat for Humanity International.
FMCA business meetings
Several important business meetings traditionally occur in conjunction with FMCA’s second convention of the year. The Governing Board meets annually to elect the four national officers and to approve the annual budget for the following fiscal year. They attended to this and other FMCA business during a two-day meeting that took place July 16 and 17, just prior to the Buffalo convention.
“I am very pleased with the number of Governing Board members who were in attendance at the Buffalo convention,” commented FMCA’s newly elected president, R.G. Wilson, F21025. “Many of them traveled more than 2,000 miles from the West Coast to fulfill their responsibilities in handling the association’s business.”
FMCA’s annual membership meeting took place on Sunday, July 20. Outgoing national officers were recognized, and an installation ceremony for the newly elected and re-elected officers took place. In addition to the recognition of FMCA charter members, mentioned earlier, several FMCA couples were rewarded for their membership recruitment efforts. Gold FMCA watches were presented to Jack and Wilma Paulson, F4486; Len and Joan Pigg, F133119; and Robert and Cheryl Preul, F71337, for recruiting 100 or more members to FMCA.
The fun and fellowship continued each day until the sun went down. On Friday evening, the FMCA audience embarked on a stroll down memory lane, as The Original New York Doo Wopp Show took the stage. The show featured hits of the 1950s and early 1960s, brought to life by several of the groups that made this musical genre popular “” The Edsels, The Chantels, and The Capris. This evening’s entertainment was made possible by Country Coach, C2132, and National RV, C3451, together an FMCA Three Star sponsor.
The Osmond Brothers brought their “Back on the Road Again” tour to the FMCA stage on Saturday evening. Brothers Wayne, Merrill, and Jay delighted the FMCA audience with their musical talents, interspersed with plenty of sidesplitting humor. The Osmond Brothers’ appearance was made possible by Monaco Coach Corporation, C2111, an FMCA Five Star sponsor, and FMCA.
Rain didn’t dampen spirits on Sunday evening, but the performance by Friends of Harmony, a 50-man barbershop group, led by master director Diane Porsch, had to be moved indoors. One of the songs performed by the group was the convention namesake “” “Shuffle Off To Buffalo” from the award-winning musical Forty-Second Street. Friends of Harmony also treated the standing-room-only crowd to a special musical program to commemorate FMCA’s 40th anniversary. Their performance in Buffalo was made possible by Ford Motor Company, F405, an FMCA Three Star sponsor, and FMCA.
Membership recruitment contest prize drawings
During intermission at evening entertainment on Sunday, names were drawn for the prizes in the 40th Anniversary Membership Recruitment Contest. Among the prizes awarded was a 2003 PT Cruiser automobile, which was won by Thomas and Florence Townsend, F16402, of Lambertville, Michigan. The Townsends were at the convention earlier in the week but had departed by the time of the drawing. Congratulations to them and to the other winners, who are listed on page 8 of this magazine.
Volunteers make it happen
Approximately 900 volunteers were assigned duties during the Buffalo convention. “I thought our volunteers did an outstanding job as usual,” commented R.G. Wilson. “We depend very heavily on our volunteers and could not hold a convention without them. Our members from the Northeast did an outstanding job hosting our convention this year, and I want to thank them and the other volunteers who helped to make the convention possible.”
Shuffling off to . . . FMCA’s “Albuquerque Adventure”
R.G. also extended an invitation to all FMCA members to circle March 16, 17, and 18, 2004, on their calendars and join the fun and fellowship as FMCA travels to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the association’s 71st International Convention “” “Albuquerque Adventure.”