Family & Friends
By Jim Burns, F256885
The 13th Annual Northeast Area Rally was held July 13 through 16 at the Eastern States Exposition Fairgrounds in West Springfield, Massachusetts. This year we turned the clock back for a “Fabulous 50’s” celebration that had us reminiscing about the happy days of classic cars and rock ‘n’ roll. Approximately 950 coaches were in attendance, including the display models.
Any successful rally requires the help of countless volunteers, and we got plenty of help for this event. It is the spirit of all these volunteers that makes us all happy and proud to be part of the Northeast Area. Under the guidance and direction of Northeast Area vice president Bill Conway, F99081, and his wife, Pat, as rally hosts, the rally couldn’t have gone any smoother.
As with any FMCA rally, it all starts with the parking crew doing their job, and their first order of business was to lay out the different parking areas that were available. Crew chief Les Vose, F278342, supervised a group of volunteers from the Northeastern, Bussin’ Buddies, and GMC Nor’easters chapters to accomplish the task of getting everyone parked safely. However, even before they began they required some basic equipment, such as golf carts and radios. The distribution of these items was the responsibility of John and Gloria Demers, F68294, Bill and Bonnie Carson, F70768, and Roland and Corinne Cloutier, F154065. Les and his crew did a wonderful job under the circumstances, as the weather was unbearably hot. Fairgrounds gate security and day gate coverage were provided by the Granite Staters chapter under the direction of Bob Smith, F83027, Fred Roberts, F183106, and Bill Elkins, F284445. Incidentally, Bill Elkins sprained his knee and required treatment in the emergency room the first night. He was back on the job first thing the next morning; thanks for your dedicated service. At 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday when the coaches were being parked, Dave and Judy LeBlanc, F169600, and their volunteers from the Yankee Travelers and Cape Codders chapters manned the Registration and Information booths to make sure everyone received a goodie bag when they dropped off their locator cards.
What would a rally be without the dealers and vendors? A big “thank you” goes out to these folks for participating in this and other rallies. Helping to get the inside vendors settled were the wonderful volunteers from the Long Islanders chapter, under the leadership of Steve and Andrea Sponenberg, F283908. They also did a great job securing the building both before opening time and at closing. Earl King, F184517, from the Massachusetts Minutemen handled the job of parking the outdoor vendors as he has done for many years. In charge of the dealer display coaches was the great team of Roger Merrill, F11560, and Al Thorpe, F51315, both charter members of the Mt. Laurel Travelers chapter.
On Wednesday afternoon FMCA executive director Don Eversmann, F240000, held an introduction seminar for first-timers and non-chapter members. He gave them an overview of what FMCA and the chapters are all about and also discussed the many advantages and benefits that go along with belonging to a chapter. This was followed by a Chapter Fair organized by the second vice president of the Northeast Motorhome Association and rally volunteer coordinator, Esther Rogers, F98387. Esther reported that 24 chapters set up tables decorated with pictures and stories of their respective chapters. Helium-filled balloons were placed at each table to give the fair a festive atmosphere. Thanks, Esther, for a job well done.
We received a sneak preview of the display coaches and indoor vendors on Wednesday night from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. After this we were treated to a bonus evening of entertainment by Marty Hanoud, owner of Marty’s USRV, C5670. He held the attention of young and old in a hot building without air conditioning. Marty has performed for us at past rallies, but this year he had the largest audience yet.
Throughout the rally, a special table was set up in the Better Living Center near the vendor area where a large number of jigsaw puzzle pieces were laid out with a sign asking for help in putting the puzzle together. In keeping with the theme of the “Fabulous 50’s,” the puzzle was a 1956 Ford Thunderbird coupe and within the outline of the T-Bird were 25 other cars, dating from a 1929 custom Ford Roadster to a 1969 Dodge Charger. A number of people took turns working on the puzzle, and every time it was put together it was dismantled to give more people a chance to work on it. During the three days of the rally the puzzle was put together seven times.
Thursday at 7:30 a.m., members of the Maine Wheels chapter, all decked out in their volunteer T-shirts designed by the chapter’s own Scotty McBeth, F165277, served coffee, Danish, muffins, and doughnuts. The group, headed by Tim and Vornie Colbath, F130029, did an outstanding job each morning. While folks were enjoying their morning treats, the Frustrated Maestros-NE, Yankee Doodle Dandies chapter, led by Jay and Donna Blumenthal, F230605, supplied the music, to the delight of all who gathered. Dan and Mary Clark of DMC productions performed during the soul-stirring opening ceremony, leaving everyone in the building with a lump in their throat.
Later on that evening, master of ceremonies Gary Adams, F62729, helped get the night started with the assistance of Bill Conway, who introduced the national officers and their spouses. Attending were FMCA national president R.G. Wilson, L21025, and his wife, Jeri; vice president Don Moore, F154921, and his wife, Darlene; secretary Ginger Painter, F23514, and her husband, Charlie; and treasurer Jim Kern, F63208, and his wife, Jo Ann. Also in the audience were International Area vice president Max Durbin, F76454, and his wife, Joanne. After the introductions, Gary welcomed the procession of chapter banners and state and provincial flags starting with the FMCA banner carried by Victorya and Christopher Pilbin, the grandchildren of Bill and Pat Conway. They were followed by the police, fire, and EMS personnel, along with veterans from the five branches of the military. The Marine Corps League Detachment #1094 from Southborough, Massachusetts, provided our color and honor guard by presenting the U.S., Canadian, Marine Corps, and prisoner of war flags, respectively.
Gary then introduced Dan and Mary Clark, who were the featured artists for the evening. The couple, along with their two children, put on a spectacular two-hour show. Dan is a retired Massachusetts state trooper who decided to go into the field of entertainment full-time. He started the evening off with his rendition of the national anthems of Canada and the United States, which left everyone spellbound. The couple delivered an unforgettable performance with a wide selection of songs that included opera, Broadway, folk, and contemporary pieces that showcased their extraordinary vocal talents. They captivated the audience so much that no one wanted to leave. Credit goes to Lou Snow, F201098, president of the Massachusetts Minutemen, and his wife, Lucille, for lining up this talent, along with the band for Saturday night’s entertainment.
Youth program captain Lori Lindfors, F794D, Northeastern chapter president, and her chapter helpers had approximately 70 members of the youth group participating. The youngsters surprised the audience on Thursday night when they marched in after the chapter banners wearing T-shirts that they had dyed themselves, jester hats that they had made, and a banner that they had created. These kids became experts under Lori’s tutelage. They also painted sun catchers, colored their own mugs, and made nametags and holders to put them in. That wasn’t enough, for Lori kept them busy the rest of the time with trips to the local science museum and planetarium, movies in the youth room, a pizza party, bingo with prizes for all, and their own private ice cream party. Lori said that some of the children were supposed to head home early, but chose to call their parents for permission to stay with their grandparents until the end of the rally. She also wanted to thank all who volunteered to help her. Our hats go off to Lori and her volunteers for doing a tremendous job with the youth program. Lori and her husband, Karl, have accepted a position on the national youth committee and look forward to working with the youth at FMCA’s international convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
For the third year in a row, Lou Snow and the marvelous Massachusetts Minutemen and Constitution Cruisers chapter members worked with the Red Cross to organize and conduct the blood donor drive. Volunteers began at 6:30 on Friday morning by unloading all of the Red Cross gear needed for this effort. By 8:00 a.m. the beds and tables were set up and the ladies were ready to take over with the administrative duties for the rest of the day. By 2:00 p.m. 45 units of blood had been collected, much more than the expected goal. Thanks to those who volunteered for this effort, as well as those who so willingly gave. During the past three years we have collected 200 units of usable blood.
Just before the blood drive ended, volunteers from the Green Mountain chapter, led by Gerry Gage, F64589D, descended on the gathering with their ice cream scoops in hand. At 1:00 p.m. the legendary Northeast Ice Cream Social started, serving huge dishes of ice cream with all of the favorite toppings. From the size of the crowd, you’d have thought that most people came to the rally just to get the ice cream. Many went back for seconds. Two golf carts were loaded with buckets of ice cream to be delivered and served to the vendors, dealers, and volunteers who couldn’t get in line because they had duties elsewhere. This was greatly appreciated.
Threatening skies and a disappointing weather forecast caused the oldies car show to be cancelled on Friday evening. For those of you who don’t understand classic cars (and their owners), they are simply not taken out in inclement weather. Fortunately, the DJ Party with Marty was on hand and folks were entertained with a selection of old-time favorite songs, which got several couples up and dancing.
Throughout the rally, many folks saw two people scooting around on golf carts who seemed to be everywhere at the same time. They were responsible for making sure everything went according to plan. They assisted anyone who had a problem and solved it with extreme and precise measures. I’m talking about the first vice president of the Northeast Motorhome Association and rally master Rich Tufano, F261995, and his wife, Kathie. Not only did they serve as rally masters, but Kathie, with help from Rich, produced all the directional signs that helped attendees find their way.
Rich also took on the task of organizing the trams. He was shocked by the number of people who came forward to volunteer when the word got out that there was a dire need for drivers. Yet one more reason to be proud of the members of the Northeast Area.
Assisting Rich and Kathie whenever they could were rally volunteer coordinator Esther Rogers and her husband, Jerry; commercial chairman and Northeast Motorhome Association secretary, Jim Burns, F256885, and his wife, Elinor; and rally treasurer and Northeast Motorhome treasurer Paul Dammers, F135857, and his wife, Mary. Paul made sure that everything was done according to protocol.
The women, all dressed in their unusual colors of red and purple, held their Red Hat Tea on Saturday from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., with 128 in attendance. I tried to sneak in but was turned away, not because I am a male, but because I wasn’t wearing the required attire. Maybe they’ll let me in next year. A donation of $1 per person was collected and the money is usually donated to a local charity. But the NMA’s executive committee agreed that the donation should be rounded up to $150 and the ladies agreed to donate that amount to the Shriners Hospital for Children in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Prior to the Saturday night entertainment, Bill Conway recognized all the chapters that provided volunteers to help make this a successful rally. He then saluted all the Northeast chapters that were celebrating milestone anniversaries in the past year. A special tribute to the Northeastern chapter, the first FMCA chapter chartered, was made to honor its 40th anniversary. FMCA president R.G. Wilson presented the chapter with a certificate and check. Accepting on behalf of the Northeastern chapter was Howard “Bud” Stone, L3. He was escorted to the stage by his daughter, Martha S. Hoxley, and Lori Lindfors. Incidentally, the bus that is depicted on the FMCA goose egg is Bud Stone’s Flxible. He received a rousing standing ovation. It was an honor and privilege to be in the audience for this special occasion.
Gary Adams then introduced Power Pac, a four-piece ’60s-style rock band from New York. Their upbeat music had many attendees dancing all night. Their wonderful set list of songs and music from days gone by took us back to our younger years and was much appreciated.
This concluded the festivities for the 13th Annual Northeast Area Rally. The 2006 Northeast Area Rally, which was to be held at the Sussex County Fairgrounds in Augusta, New Jersey, in July, will not take place. However, the area has scheduled a rally at this same facility for July 11 through 14, 2007.
A sad footnote to this story: “Bud” Stone passed away on August 19, 2005, just days after the rally. We will miss him, and our thoughts go out to his family.
Maine Wheels Chapter Keeps FMCA Monument Looking Good
On the weekend of May 13 through 15, members of the Maine Wheels chapter journeyed to the Good Will-Hinckley Homes for Boys & Girls, located in Hinckley, Maine, to do their part to help keep FMCA’s memory alive and looking good at this tranquil campus.
The Good Will-Hinckley Homes for Boys & Girls, a school for youth in need due to neglect, abuse, emotional or behavioral problems, or homelessness, represents a special place in the history of the Family Motor Coach Association. It was at this site on a late July weekend in 1963 that 26 coach-owning families gathered to view a solar eclipse. During the get-together, owners talked about their travels, discussed technical issues involved in operating a motorhome, and reveled in the shared joy of traveling by “house car.” Attendees also considered forming an organization that centered on traveling by motor coach in which members could share information about their vehicles and journeys while developing friendships.
From that initial meeting sprouted the Family Motor Coach Association. And to commemorate the site where the organization was born, FMCA erected a monument on the grounds of the school on July 4, 1994. The monument includes an inscription detailing the first meeting that resulted in the birth of FMCA.
Since then, members of the Maine Wheels chapter, the group that played a significant role in developing the monument, have become the unofficial keepers of the shrine. They arrive at the site each spring to clean and beautify the area around the large granite stone that incorporates FMCA’s “goose egg” logo. In all, members from 32 coaches arrived at Good Will-Hinckley this year to put a shine on the monument and its surrounding commemorative brick walkway and to clear away winter debris. Since it was still too cold to plant the signature geraniums that surround the monument, several Good Will-Hinckley students planted them later in the spring, and the flowers flourished the entire summer.
While most coaches dry-camped in the school’s campground, some hooked up to the 20-amp electric and water services provided. Monica Russo, director of advancement at Good Will-Hinckley, said that the school planned to install up to 10 more 30-amp electrical hookups this fall, so FMCA members can be more comfortable when they visit the school.
While working at the monument was the purpose for the rally, there was plenty of time for attendees to have fun. On Saturday evening they gathered in the school’s dining hall for a New England boiled dinner cooked by chapter members. This year the chapter invited the 13 graduating seniors from Good Will-Hinckley’s class of 2005, as well as several members of the school’s staff, to join them.
Etta Bryant, F45695, who along with her husband, Mike, has attended each Maine Wheels beautification rally since the monument was erected, said the dinner gave members and students alike a chance to interact. “It was really nice to get to meet some of [the students],” she said. “Whenever we’ve been there we’ve seen students walking around and they’ve always been very polite to us. But when they walked by you could see in their faces that they had questions about the coaches and why we were there. It was so nice to be able to talk to them and find out more about them. There were more than a few of us that had tears in our eyes from the stories they told about their lives.”
For the second year, the group displayed a number of afghans made by chapter members that were to be donated to Good Will-Hinckley. Following dinner, the students were asked to select their favorite afghan, which was theirs to keep. The students, who have very little that they can call their own, were visibly touched by the gesture, and their reaction warmed the hearts of the chapter members in attendance.
FMCA members throughout the world owe the Maine Wheels chapter a big “thank you” for taking care of the monument and making sure that the association’s relationship with Good Will-Hinckley remains strong.