Family & Friends
By Don Graham, F181499
If you think about it, inviting the owners of a thousand big motorhomes to a rally; finding them nice places to park; providing electricity and ample space to deploy their slideouts and awnings; and keeping them happy for four days is a major undertaking. Then figure that there are typically two people in each coach to feed, entertain, and provide relevant RV information. A seemingly insurmountable task, right? Yet every May for the past 26 years, members of the Michigan Knights of the Highway chapter and other organizers, planners, and volunteers have made the Great Lakes Area Spring Spree (G.L.A.S.S.) a smashing success.
The 2003 edition of the G.L.A.S.S., which took place May 23 through 26 at the Berrien County Youth Fair in Berrien Springs, Michigan, was no exception. The high marks for this year’s G.L.A.S.S. can be directly attributed to the hard work and direction of rally masters Marv and Marilyn Hills, F174041. Everyone agreed that this was one of the best rallies ever.
Of course, the Hillses couldn’t do it all alone, and they received plenty of assistance from other volunteers. For instance, before and during the rally, Paulette Pace, F156715, and the Roll-N-Wheels chapter assured that the commercial buildings where the vendors set up were secured. When the motorhomers arrived, they were greeted by the smiling welcome team, directed by Larry Schroeder, F177103. The untiring parking crew, led by Ed Byberneit, F98411, guided folks to their respective camping sites. Ed also was in charge of gate security, while grounds security was the job of the ever-watchful Evert VanderMei, F36453. After attendees set up their campsites, many visited the Information Center, manned by the very knowledgeable George Abbot, F214693, to find more about the weekend. Thanks also goes out to Wanda Hogle, F30660, who did a splendid job posting the FMCA membership numbers for the daily drawing in the gazebo.
The first motorhomes arrived at the fairgrounds early on Wednesday, May 21, parking, deploying their awnings, and setting up their sites with mats, chairs, wind wheels, and decorative lights. The folks in registration (Cal and Doris Courtney, F158229, and Ralph and Arlene Bird, F63291, along with their many willing helpers) started at noon and were still at it on the last full day of the rally. As attendees registered they were presented with goodie bags that included a rally program, a handsome digital table clock, and an electronic full-memory calculator.
I was impressed by the quality and the gentility of the rally-goers. Everyone in the crowd was friendly, cheerful, and enthusiastic.
Even the weatherman was nice to us this year, which is atypical for G.L.A.S.S. We had a couple of early-day sprinkles, but by noon the skies cleared and the sun shone warmly. However, in the evenings, when the sun dropped below the horizon, it became really chilly. During grandstand entertainment, most of us wore winter outfits and covered up with blankets.
Many vendors offered enticing, practical wares. I don’t know about others, but I spent hundreds and I’m sorry that I didn’t take advantage of other great bargains. Much of the credit for the vendors’ success goes to Cal Courtney, who also served as chairman and treasurer for the vendors.
Not only were there plenty of chances to shop, but the schedule was filled with many fine seminars as well. These learning sessions were organized by Chuck Borcher, F164191, and monitored by the Northern Lights chapter. Since I was interested in getting a supplemental braking system for my towed vehicle, I attended various seminars that dealt with the subject. I also found out more about steering controls, batteries, inverters, and how to eliminate foul odors from the holding tank. My wife, Beverley, learned about microwave-convection oven cooking. So between us, we spent several enjoyable hours in the educational seminars. One of the most informative and best-attended seminars was presented by a police officer and concerned travel safety. I had no idea how naí¯ve I was about my own chances of being robbed or scammed “” or worse. Also, I wish I would have had time to sharpen my skills at the RV Safe Driving Course, which, according to those who attended it, was a positive, informative experience.
On Thursday, the Berrien Springs Middle School invited rally-goers to a spaghetti and meatball supper. The meal was delicious, the crowd was friendly and cheerful, and judging from the large numbers, everyone must have taken advantage of the invitation. The food was plentiful and the service excellent.
Later that evening Howard Cowles, L18517, led dancers in a number of line and square dances. Howard is arguably the best line-dance coach and square-dance caller in the country, so, despite the chilly evening, everybody had a swinging good time.
On Friday morning Marguerite Boyce, F59326; Donna Kovalak, F179352; and Maree Walker, F173323, staged the Great Lakes Area Style Show. As other duties called me away, I was unable to participate this year, although I had the most adorable little frock picked out to go with my new fashion jewelry. Marguerite also served at the Red Hat Society Social Tea on Sunday afternoon.
The Hillses were responsible for organizing the excellent entertainment we enjoyed. On Friday night, although I had hoped for Elton John or Celine Dion, I was not disappointed by the performance of the Frustrated Maestros Great Lakes Area chapter. Led by Lynn Gilmore, F223975, the group played many old-time favorites that had us tapping our toes to tunes that evoked fond memories.
The evening began with the procession of Great Lakes Area chapter flags, led by United States and Canadian flags, carried by Robert Metevia, F224961, and Dennis Dunning, F71962, respectively. Then the national anthems of both countries were sung stirringly by Ben Boyce, F59326. After that, the Frustrated Maestros performed music of every genre “” from country to big band. They played an inspiring rendition of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless The USA.” The audience joined in the singing, and the patriotic message brought us all to our feet.
Interspersed with the music were several novelty acts. Harry McKew, F137011, did a skit in which he played an elderly hospital patient pushing his intravenous drip stand while he sang “My Sweet Little Hospital Gown” to the tune “Alice Blue Gown.”
After every grandstand performance, door prizes were awarded to members of the audience. Those giveaways, along with the 50/50 drawings called by Sandy Byberneit, F98411, provided quite a bit of excitement.
On Saturday evening, Conway Twitty’s son, Michael, and his grandson, Tre, brought us “Memories of Conway.” This was a trip down memory lane for many of us as Conway’s familiar hits were performed by a group of dedicated, professional musicians.
The Sunday morning inspirational hour featured the Royal Heirs, a quartet of talented singers and musicians from Flint, Michigan. Their toe-tapping, hand-clapping style of Southern gospel music reminded us of those old-time tent meetings.
The Tom Milo Big Band entertained us Sunday evening. I have listened to Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and others all my life, and the music produced by this band was every bit the professional equivalent. Solos by various musicians brought applause each time, and the band deserved the standing ovation it received at the end. The dance floor was packed for nearly every song, even during the jivey, boogie-woogie pieces.
In all, the entertainment, planned and presented by the Hillses, was enjoyed and appreciated by everyone, as evidenced by the packed grandstand for every performance.
One of the most popular attractions at each G.L.A.S.S. is the coach display area, which was organized and managed by Doug Nie, F170279. More than 100 motorhomes were on site to inspect, criticize, envy, and drool over. We checked out coaches with slideouts in every room but the lavatory “” some had enough living room space for a dance floor. There were high-end diesel and gas models, some more than 40 feet long, as well as other more modest models that would delight any prospective RV enthusiast. Also exhibited were a number of type C motorhomes for families, singles, or those wishing to downsize.
The most anticipated part of each day was mealtime. No one could possibly complain about the quality and the portion size of the catered meals, especially the baked chicken and grilled steak dinners. David and Lois Hockman, L4015, superbly managed the food services and dining this year. They were assisted by a horde of helpers who set up and decorated the tables. Thanks to the GMC Great Lakers, Hoosier Cruisers, Midwest Coachmen, National RV Great Lakers, Ohio Nomads, Ontario Overlanders, Ontario Rovers, Tri-State Traveliers, and others who helped serve the food and beverages, attended to seating, and cleaned up after every meal.
Assisting with other duties were the Blue Water RV’ers, who worked in the vendor office and also helped out with the handicap cart; the Roving Wolverines, who assisted the parking crew; and the Western Reserve Buckeyes, who worked in the FMCA store. As you can see, it takes many volunteers from the various chapters to put on a successful rally.
In addition to all the previously mentioned activities, attendees also had the opportunity to participate in a book swap run by Bev Trevena, F126849, or play in a golf tournament arranged by Bill Schueller, F85235.
Two ice cream socials brought long lines of ice cream aficionados to partake of these frozen treats. While waiting for their icy confections, they were entertained by G.L.A.S.S. clowns Twyla “Bluebird” Grovom, F117484; Marilou “Dutches” Yost, F143277; and Dianne “Stitches” Metevia, F224961, with an appearance by Henry “Flakey” Gartner, F197563.
Our Memorial Day celebration began with a parade featuring the Berrien Springs High School and Middle School band and majorettes, led by the flags of the United States and Canada, again carried by Robert Metevia and Dennis Dunning. Dianne Metevia conducted the remembrance ceremony respectfully and impressively. She recounted how the playing of taps at military funerals was started during the Civil War. Following her words, a two-cornet rendition of taps brought a lump to my throat. She also read a poem she had written lauding the selflessness and heroism of the men and women who died defending their country.
After a fantastic weekend, I came to this conclusion: those organizing the Great Lakes Area Spring Spree next year, which again will be held over Memorial Day weekend, will have to perform some real magic to improve on G.L.A.S.S. 2003.
B.C. Bus Nuts Celebrate 20 Pleasurable Years
By Ruth Enns, F45602
Neither rain nor wind, nor sleet nor hail could deter the B.C. Bus Nuts from gathering May 16 through 19, 2003, at the Rodeo Grounds in Princeton, British Columbia, to celebrate the chapter’s 20th birthday. We had it all.
It took a great deal of planning to accommodate the enthusiastic occupants of the 52 coaches that wound their way to this quaint old mining town. Basil and Eunice Bottenfield, F224811, and Ed and Gail Michayluk, F219173, willingly took on the task of organizing this event, with the help of our volunteer parker, Tom Kosiancic, F134290, an experienced ex-Greyhound Bus driver. We were honored to have Northwest Area vice president Jim Phillips, F158824, and his wife, Ann, as our guests. They certainly were good sports and joined in all the activities.
The chapter received its FMCA charter on August 10, 1983, and the first B.C. Bus Nuts rally was held at the Dogwood Campground in Surrey, B.C., on August 26, 27, and 28, 1983. It was hosted by Dale and Marg Olsen, F34436, and Bob and Margaret “Muggs” Blair, F43320, with the help of their friends Norm and Yvonne Gill, F52451. Many members of the Northwestern Bus Nuts chapter attended the rally and offered their support. We were off to a terrific start.
Our largest rally ever, Expo ’86, was held in Richmond, B.C., and included 100 coaches. Another memorable rally took place later that year in September in Salmon Arm, B.C., when Jim Hodge, F12, a founding member of FMCA, told us of the early history of FMCA and gave us a copy of the original minutes from FMCA’s first meeting, held in Hinckley, Maine, in July 1963.
Over the years the chapter has acquired a fair amount of equipment “” a tent, grills, and pots and pans. Fortunately, we’ve also been able to purchase a trailer to carry it all. Jim Chamberlain, F72013, has kindly taken on the job of hauling our gear from rally to rally, for which we are truly grateful.
Many of us have become more acquainted with British Columbia as members of FMCA, traveling north, south, east, and west, exploring areas that would still be unknown to us had we not been members of this chapter. It has truly been an awakening experience.
We must thank Eunice Bottenfield for getting the chapter’s Red Hat Society off the ground and hosting our first luncheon with 32 ladies “dolled up” in red hats and purple clothing. The “girl talk” we shared during the get-together was a nice respite from the constant “motor talk” when the men are around. While the women were dining, the men carpooled to the nearby town of Keremeos, where they enjoyed the celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday at a tractor pull. Men and machinery just seem to go together.
The highlight on Saturday was the after-dinner entertainment of local actor Bob Strosser who performed an amusing “hillbilly” skit, complete with the proper attire, dialect, and humor. We all had a good laugh that night.
Three charter chapter members attended the rally in Princeton: Dale Olsen, and Walt and Ruth Enns, F45602. Active charter members who we missed at the rally include Bob and Muggs Blair; Lorne and Shirley Dobbin, F45654; and Bob Cotherman, F35955. Thanks to Bob and Bunny Walker, F172310, for filling in at the Bus Race Games for Ron and Diane Walters, F64765, who were unable to attend this year.
We thank Ed Michayluk for faithfully stoking the “washer stoves” the fellows made that have kept us warm and together through the years; Basil for his generous morning hugs; and Gail, Eunice, and all those who labored in the kitchen and elsewhere. The birthday rally was a success.
Flags of the United States and Canada, as well as the FMCA flag, adorn the front lawn at FMCA headquarters on Clough Pike in Cincinnati. The U.S. flag was installed after the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The Canadian flag recently joined the others; it is a gift from Don and Kathy Crawford, F11012, who reside in London, Ontario. Don served as national vice president, Great Lakes Area, from 2000 to 2003.