By Charles Genrich, F104360D
During the summer of 1967 five couples with motor coaches gathered on weekends to camp at the lakes in Kansas. They decided to form a club and invited others to join. By the next year there were 10 couples, and their excursions had extended to adjoining states. In 1969 the club once again doubled in size and met the requirements to be chartered by the Family Motor Coach Association. The new FMCA chapter was known as the Jayhawk Coachmen and was chartered at FMCA’s sixth annual summer convention in July 1969.
Once chartered, the club grew rapidly and gained members from outside Kansas. At FMCA’s 13th annual summer convention in July 1976 in Centreville, Michigan, the club received approval to change its name from the Jayhawk Coachmen, which represented Kansas residents, to the Heart of America Coachmen, to reflect the broader scope of the chapter membership. Use of the word “Coachmen” in the group’s name is merely a coincidence, and membership is open to owners of all types of motorhomes.
The chapter currently has 65 active members, one of whom is a charter member, Curley Zitzer, L2894. We also have several honorary members and friends, generally former FMCA members who no longer own coaches but wish to continue their involvement with the chapter.
Six chapter rallies are held annually in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Oklahoma throughout the spring, summer, and fall. During the winter many members spend their time in southern climates. The chapter is a strong supporter of the annual South Central Area (Six State) Rally and is a host chapter for the South Central Area Rally in 2005.
To celebrate its 35th anniversary, the club held a rally this past October at Lake Shawnee Campground in Topeka, Kansas. The campground is part of a 1,600-acre park centered on a 411-acre lake. We had 25 motor coaches with 49 members in attendance, plus a number of former members and guests. On Thursday, October 14, the chapter hosted a welcome for everyone at the Reynolds Lodge. As usual, it was a time for greeting all of the arrivals and catching up on events, trips, and happenings since the last rally. A dozen scrapbooks were available to help club members reflect on the past 35 years. The weather on Thursday was a harbinger of the entire weekend: clear skies, warm days, and cool evenings “” a perfect fall weekend.
Friday began with a hearty breakfast, and then everyone scattered to do their own thing with a “Sell, Swap, Trade or Barter” event set for the afternoon. With items such as purses, books, and tools available, this is generally a chance to “clean the coach basement,” according to chapter president Frank Andrews, F193221. On Friday evening, everyone enjoyed the catered meal. After dinner we were entertained by comedic magician Rex Getz, who made items disappear and then reappear where least expected.
Saturday morning meant another group breakfast followed by a business meeting, with two highlights. First, we installed chapter officers for 2005. As is typical, the new officers were provided with plenty of “advice” for the coming year. Second, Jim Ammenheuser, F157201, past South Central Area vice president, presented the chapter with a 35th anniversary certificate and check from FMCA.
The first order of business conducted by the new officers was to make Curley Zitzer a life member of the chapter. He is now a life member of both FMCA and the Heart of America Coachmen.
We spent that afternoon visiting the Topeka home of Charles Curtis, 31st U.S. vice president, who served with President Herbert Hoover from 1929 to 1933. Our catered meal that evening was topped off with a custom-made dessert: a special 35th anniversary cake bearing the Heart of America Coachmen logo.
Sunday morning commenced with a get-away breakfast, with members wishing each other well as they prepared to break camp and head home.
Plans for 2005 are well under way, with six rallies on our calendar, in addition to the South Central Area Rally.
For more information about the Heart of America Coachmen, contact FMCA’s Chapter Services Department at (800) 543-3622.