By CHERIE ILG HAAS
For 40 years, the California chapter of FMCA has been the umbrella under which many motorhomers have gathered. At one point more than 1,500 members belonged to the chapter, but as FMCA grew, more chapters sprouted from within the California chapter and its membership decreased to a more manageable number. Currently almost 400 FMCA member families are part of this group.
The substantial size of this chapter doesn’t detract from its sense of family, though. According to chapter president Mel Beckert, F137699, the members themselves make the California chapter successful. “Our members care about each other. Our members have prided themselves on the ‘family’ aspect of FMCA. There has continually been the atmosphere of belonging to an extended family. When good times are celebrated, the chapter family celebrates as a whole. When there is a time of need, the chapter family networks to assist in meeting that need.”
Even after 40 years, some of the California chapter’s charter members still participate in chapter activities. “These early members have provided historical information that has helped and encouraged newer members to become active in the management of the chapter,” Mel said.
It’s easy to see why members would be eager to continue to be a part of this group. California chapter rallies boast fun and countless activities, from “liars’ contests” to having unsuspecting members involved in “shotgun weddings.” Rallies are held eight times a year and include communal meals; group activities such as cards, sight-seeing, and horseshoes; and entertainment. The latter seems to be the group’s specialty.
For example, at the chapter’s annual Oktoberfest rally, members enjoy live polka music, dancing, frankfurters, sauerkraut, and contests with categories such as “best dancing couple,” “best-dressed couple in traditional German clothes,” and a pet competition. The fashion show has been known to steal the attention of the crowd as well. Mel said that one year some creative ladies who organized this event chose their own husbands to model women’s clothing. Fortunately, these men have a great sense of humor.
Mel said that he was expected to wear a maternity outfit for the fashion show. “I was supposed to parade around the stage and have [my] water break halfway through my routine. When I reached down in my pocket to uncap a water bottle, the cap was on too tight and I couldn’t loosen it.” Mel finally managed to open the bottle, much to the crowd’s amusement.
Chapter members volunteer at FMCA’s annual Western Area Rally and also participate in the parade held during the event. The group has consistently won awards for its creativity, including the 2005 theme award for its carhop entry. One member drove a 1959 Corvette while others roller-skated along, carrying food trays. Mel remembers it well: “They made a hit with the spectators all along the parade route. As they approached the judges’ reviewing stand, the judges had their eyes trained on a group ahead of them. When the judges turned their heads to focus on our entry, their facial expressions exploded into huge smiles and one could read their lips all saying, “˜Carhops.'”
Whether they’re entertaining themselves during Oktoberfest or others during parades, this group obviously has a wonderful time at every rally. “The chapter has had a great 40-year ride and we are looking forward to our 50th anniversary celebration,” Mel said.
For more information about the California chapter, visit the chapter’s Web site at www.ccfmca.org or contact FMCA’s Chapter Services Department at (800) 543-3622.