Family & Friends
By Sandy King, F182280
The 18th Annual Western Area Rally took place at the Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival in Indio, California, January 11 through 15, 2006. The event definitely sparkled and shone in the warm desert sun, attracting approximately 1,370 family coaches and 1,900 interested visitors who purchased day passes.
The rally kicked off Thursday afternoon with a delightful parade. Nineteen chapters decorated floats and donned costumes to the theme “Puttin’ On The Glitz, California Style.” The judges had a tough time deciding the winners. Joining in the festivities were the wonderful volunteer clowns; FMCA national officers; and the local high school band.
Every morning coffee and goodies were served, courtesy of Guaranty RV Centers, C4161, and Outdoor Resorts Las Vegas/Motorcoach Country Club, C10274, while the Frustrated Maestros entertained. An Ice Cream Social, sponsored by Miller Insurance Agency, C3045, and Western Motor Home Association (WMHA), was held Friday and Saturday at noon.
The volunteer clowns were at their best during a visit to the children’s ward of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio. Children and grown-ups alike delighted in the clowns’ performances and the Beanie Babies gifts that were distributed to each patient. This was the seventh year the clowns have visited the hospital, and the group was asked to return again next year.
Thursday evening began with the opening ceremony, followed by the presentation of trophies to the parade winners. Chapters that received awards included the Gold Diggers, California Heartland, Elegant Cruisers, California, Sierra Ramblers, and Southwestern Bus Nuts. Congratulations to all. The evening culminated in a terrific comedic performance by Brad Zinn, courtesy of Country Coach, C2132, and WMHA, which together sponsored all three nights of evening entertainment.
Like past Western Area rallies, this gathering had something for everyone. There were 74 seminars and 24 craft classes, 150 motorhomes on display, and 188 commercial vendors, not to mention the great food vendors.
On Friday afternoon numerous indoor vendors presented their fashions and accessories in a fashion show, emceed by Elaine Johnson, F163832. The evening featured recognition of the more than 900 volunteers, led by volunteer coordinator Alice Bernard, F79098, and was topped off with the toe-tapping music of the Barbary Coast Dixieland Band and their complete stage show.
A Chapter Fair was held Saturday morning and 27 chapters were represented with booths. Feedback from those who participated was terrific, with more than 850 visitors stopping by the various booths. Thanks to chairperson Connie Norton, F225809, and her assistant, Sharon Chase, F53951, for all of their efforts to make this a big success.
On Saturday afternoon ladies donned their purple dresses and red hats for the first-ever Red Hat Tea at a Western Area Rally. It should come as no surprise that it was very popular. The event even had live entertainment, performed by members of the California chapter’s CCFMCA Players.
The Saturday evening program started with the introduction of officers and the presentation of the newsletter awards. Chapters recognized included The Elitists, Traveling VIP, California Southwinders, Frustrated Maestros, Southwest Country Coachers, Apollo Amigos, and Delta Sierra Country Coachers. The highlight of the evening was the performance by singer, songwriter, comic genius, and entertainer extraordinaire Jim Stafford. A great finish to a great rally.
This yearly event is well worth a visit. The desert weather is warm and the evening sky looks like blue velvet behind the palm trees. Family members and volunteers are welcoming and friendly. Hope to see you next year in Indio for the 19th annual Western Area Rally “” “Route 66.”
S.O.I. Motorhome Club Celebrates The Rose Parade
By Ed Waldheim, F42831
The last time it rained on the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade was 1954. That was until this past January, when it poured. Quite a few members of the S.O.I. Motorhome Club, an FMCA chapter, can attest to the wet conditions, since we were there for our chapter’s 25th annual Rose Parade Rally at Santa Anita Park, Thursday, December 29, 2005, through Monday, January 2, 2006.
On the first day members and guests were welcomed to the S.O.I. tent for a fantastic catered dinner. Afterward attendees were provided with all the rally information they needed for the next five days. One of the first items on Friday’s itinerary was to work on the Sierra Madre Rose Parade Float, a volunteer float, which just so happened to win an award at this year’s parade.
After cutting flowers and pasting them to the float, it was off to the races at Santa Anita Park. What a beautiful, sunny California day. Everyone was able to wager on the races, and many won. Following our trip to the track we had a fantastic lunch prepared by some of our S.O.I. volunteers, led by Ann Watkins, F181282.
On Saturday we had the chance to go to the Rose Bowl Stadium to see the floats being constructed by professional float builders. Some of these wonders cost between $50,000 and $200,000. The day ended with a ride to see the Christmas lights in the local communities, an S.O.I. tradition that’s gone on for as long as we have been attending these rallies. Our New Year’s Party was a blast with the tent completely decorated with lights and trimmings. At 6:00 p.m. the Crown City Dixieland Band struck up their first tune, signaling the start of our party. This was after everyone had a chance to warm up at the bonfire outside the tent. Following another catered meal, a crazy hat contest, and a lot of pure fun, we rang in 2006 a little earlier than most on the West Coast as we watched the crystal ball drop in New York City’s Times Square.
New Year’s Day was a rest day “” except for Scott and Wanda Brady, F19147, who were married that afternoon. This was a highlight for the couple who have done so much for S.O.I., Spartan Chassis, and FMCA (Scott served as FMCA’s International Area vice president from 1988 to 1992).
Monday January 2, 2006, was the day of the Pasadena Rose Parade. Buses arrived at 6:00 a.m. and we all left with our rain gear on; some folks could grab nothing more than a trash bag. The parade was beautiful, even though the downpour was hard and constant, but no one left their seats. Even though it rained on our parade, everyone was in high spirits and had a good time.
We returned to camp for another fantastic lunch set up by volunteers. We also were treated to all the leftovers from the Brady wedding dinner, so no one can say they went home hungry. A lot of folks went to see the floats after the parade. Of course, it had quit raining by then.
We want to thank all the volunteers, including Ron and Ann Watkins, F181282; Cal Landreth, F98169, and his guests Kathy Gibson and her son, Jim; Carl Duckworth, F147070; Jack and Wilma Paulson, F4486; my wife, Linda; Vic and Linda Corona, F46248; Chet and Carolyn Shurtleff, F42828; and, of course, Scott and Wanda Brady.
Please join us for our 26th annual Rose Parade get-together December 28, 2006, through January 2, 2007, at Santa Anita Park. While in camp, we have an enclosed tent, water and sewer for emergencies, and five days of electricity. The cost will be $1,150 for two people in a coach. The package will include four catered dinners, two luncheons, four breakfasts, and a day at the races. Also included in the rally fee are buses to take us to the viewing of floats and to the parade; a program; and tickets for the post-parade event.
All FMCA members and their friends are invited to join us. We already have purchased 400 seats in the best location along the parade route and they will go fast, so register today. A registration form for this and other S.O.I. Motorhome Club rallies can be found at www.soiclub.com. For more information about this rally or any of the chapter’s activities, contact Ed Waldheim at (800) 423-2639, ext. 215, or at email@example.com. Hope to see you there!
With Business Done, The Whitbeys Hit The Road
By Pamela Selbert
When my husband, Guy, and I met motorhomers Clarence and Dorene Whitbey, F44860, in sunny northern Indiana, they were worried about their RV site in Melbourne Beach, Florida. A pair of hurricanes “” during one of the worst hurricane seasons ever for the Sunshine State “” had cut destructive paths throughout the state, including parts of Florida’s Atlantic coast. The Whitbeys, who live in the Detroit suburb of Rochester Hills, Michigan, were having a difficult time determining what kind of damage the most recent storm had caused. Television coverage, they said, had shown destruction in the Melbourne area, but no word had come as to the fate of their 576-site gated park.
Clarence said they bought the site in 1981, a year before they joined Family Motor Coach Association. By that time they’d already been motorhoming enthusiasts for half a decade.
“We had traveled the Florida coast all the way to the Keys that year, and it seemed that every campground we stopped at was full,” Clarence said with a smile. “We had read in the FMC magazine that the Ocean Holiday RV Park [now Outdoor Resorts of America Melbourne Beach] was going condo. We liked the ambience and bought the site even before it was developed.” Since then they’ve spent many happy weeks there. One of the best benefits, he added, was that they never have to worry about finding a place to stay.
“We prefer Florida’s east coast to the Gulf side “” find the slower pace more suited to our lifestyle,” Dorene said. “The park fronts the ocean and backs to the Indian River; our site is near the river.” A favorite pastime, she added, is “sitting on our patio watching the sun set over the river.”
Dorene told me that before 1996, the year she and her husband closed their Michigan printing business and retired, vacations at the park were limited to about two weeks a season. But since then, they’ve called it home from early January until the end of March every year.
Clarence noted that they have many friends there. At that moment, his cell phone rang. A friend in Florida was on the other end calling to say he was en route to the park to find out what might have happened there.
Preferring to travel to a destination by motorhome and then stay put for a while, the Whitbeys purchased a second condo site in 1990, this one much closer to their northern home. The condo is located 25 miles south of Mackinaw City (and the bridge to the Upper Peninsula) in Michigan, providing a perfect getaway for long weekends, Dorene said. Both sites are generally rented out when the couple is not using them, she noted.
At the time we met them, the Whitbeys were headed for West Plains, Missouri, not far from Willow Springs, where Clarence had grown up. There they would hook up with relatives for a trip to Branson, Missouri, another favorite destination.
The couple said that when they operated Avon Printing, a four-color print shop, there was little time for doing anything else. However, they now are thoroughly enjoying retirement. They estimate that they now spend at least 140 days a year in their RV, a 1998 40-foot Country Coach Affinity, which they bought in 2002. It’s the fourth coach they’ve owned in nearly 30 years of RVing. Before buying their first motorhome, they rented coaches for a couple of trips when their children Jeffrey and Lorene were youngsters.
The Affinity is elegant, with a white wood interior; stained-glass windows on several of the cabinets; pocket doors; and white leather chairs and couch.
Dorene gestured to a table behind the captain’s chair where several small ceramic owls stood. These, she said, were just a small part of her owl collection, adding that her “pets” are made of wood, ceramic, and other media. She joked that they will never be able to motorhome full-time, because she would need a bigger place to keep all of her stuff.
Earlier we had noticed the relatively low FMCA number on their “goose egg” membership emblem and mentioned it to them. “It would be a lot lower if we had joined when we first thought about it,” Dorene said. She and her husband come from a long line of motorhomers, she said, and joining FMCA was suggested by several family members. Among them was an uncle of hers who had lost an arm in a farming accident, but managed to proceed with his farm chores and motorhoming.
During their first five years of motorhoming, the Whitbeys didn’t think they’d be able to devote enough time to the organization. After joining in 1982, they did find time to attend several FMCA international conventions. But until they closed their business in 1996, Clarence said that printing was “pretty much our life.”
Clarence got his start in the trade at a very early age. “I began working in printing with the local newspaper when I was just 13,” he said. “My father didn’t want me on the streets or playing football.”
He shook his head in disbelief, recalling how he worked 47 hours each week and was paid $10. Not only that, but he said that he often was the only printer who worked on Saturday afternoons. By the time he was 22 he had worked at 16 different printing plants or weekly newspapers.
Clarence left Willow Springs in 1952 to join the Army and was stationed at a base in Virginia just outside Washington, D.C. There his job was to instruct others on how to print topographical maps. Dorene interjected that Clarence “rewrote the manual [on map printing] “” and his version was still in use 20 years later.” Now, Clarence said, topographical maps are created using aerial surveillance and computers. But at the time, those who made them took on the more dangerous task of using equipment on trucks that were as close to the front lines as possible.
After a two-year stint with the Army, Clarence worked a short time for a Kansas City newspaper, then in 1955 was offered a position with the daily paper in Utica, Michigan. Through mutual friends he was introduced to Dorene, a secretary for a local electrical company. The couple married in 1957 and two years later opened their printing business in Rochester.
Clarence noted that he spent “half a century” in printing, 37 of those years running his own company with 20 employees, including four family members; Dorene was the firm’s accountant. When it came time to sell the business, they sent out more than 1,000 faxes advertising their inventory of equipment, which Clarence said was “sold from Guatemala to Montreal.” The couple still owns the building that Avon Printing occupied. It was renovated and is now home to an upscale restaurant, a winery, and a bakery.
The couple began their motorhoming career in a “highly aerodynamic” 25-foot 1972 Sportscoach they bought in 1976. They made their next purchase in 1978, a 31-foot 1978 “Million Dollar Baby” Sportscoach (the name is derived from the expensive wind tunnel its manufacturer built for testing the coaches). Five years later they bought a 40-foot 1986 Monaco Crown Royale, “which we picked up the day after Christmas in Junction City, Oregon, and then drove for the next 16 years,” Dorene said.
Particularly memorable trips have included a caravan-style excursion with nine other coaches that began in the Black Hills near Rapid City, South Dakota, and traveled across the northwestern United States and north to Banff, Alberta, Canada. Other favorite memories were made on a six-week jaunt through Maine and on to Nova Scotia. The couple also enjoyed visiting Williamsburg, Virginia. They make annual pilgrimages to Missouri to visit Clarence’s family, and to Tennessee, where their daughter works as a technical writer. And, of course, they are especially fond of Florida. Somehow their current coach seems appropriate for that sandy locale.
“We had never thought of owning an all-white coach until we saw this one in Florida three years ago,” Dorene said. But they fell in love with the one-slideout unit and bought it on the spot.
During their three-month stays in Florida, Dorene paints with watercolors, something she had always wanted to do before retiring but never had the time. She said that she’s even sold some of her work, including a painting of a lighthouse. She also enjoys antiquing wherever they happen to be, and said she has acquired a “houseful of glass collectibles, vases, candlesticks, bottles, compotes “” and, of course, owls.” Clarence joked that he keeps a book handy in the motorhome to pass the time when she shops.
Clarence’s interests revolve more around RV maintenance. He handles whatever needs to be done on their coach and has even rebuilt engines. He reads books to learn how to make mechanical and electrical repairs, and also has proven to be quite handy with woodworking. He built new kitchen cabinets in his workshop for their Michigan home, and created an ingenious coffee cup holder for their coach.
Even though they waited a few years to join FMCA after becoming motorhomers, they are pleased that they made the decision. Clarence said that he likes Family Motor Coaching for a variety of reasons: the technical questions and answers, and information about RV parks and other destinations.
The Whitbeys both like the “camaraderie of FMCA people and motorhomers in general.” And they love their coach.
Clarence said, “It’s our home away from home.”
FMCA Remembers Several Who Have Passed Away
A trio of FMCA members with ties to the formation or operation of the association passed away recently.
Russell Cole, F43, a “founding father” and charter member of FMCA, died on February 7, 2006, at his home in Safety Harbor, Florida. He was 80.
The Coles were one of 26 coach-owning families who gathered in Hinckley, Maine, on July 20, 1963, to witness an eclipse of the sun and, in the process, start what would become Family Motor Coach Association.
Mr. Cole was born April 15, 1925, in Pluckemin, New Jersey. His family eventually moved to Massachusetts and he graduated from Kingston High School. He was a member of the U.S. Navy’s Seabees and served in World War II. After the war he returned to southeastern Massachusetts, where he worked for 27 years as an operating engineer and crane operator. He also was a member of the Halifax Fire Department for 29 years.
He was a member of the Hilltop Club of Kingston and the VFW of Halifax.
Mr. Cole is survived by his wife, Mae; his children, Alan and Jean; a brother, Arthur; three grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his daughter Mary and son Russell. Donations in his memory can be made to the Hospice of Florida Suncoast, 300 E. Bay Drive, Largo, FL 33770.
Kathrine Freeman, A1160, wife of former South Central Area vice president E. Ray Freeman, died January 28, 2006, in Dallas, Texas. She was 80.
Mrs. Freeman was born in Denton, Texas, on April 28, 1925. She graduated from North Texas State Teachers College and moved to Dallas, where she met and married Mr. Freeman. Together they started E. Ray Freeman Concrete Contractors and later extended their business to building homes, with Ray the builder and Kathrine the decorator.
The Freemans joined FMCA in 1980 and made many friends through the association. Mr. Freeman served as South Central Area vice president from 1986 to 1990. The couple had been married for 49 years when Mr. Freeman died in 2001.
Mrs. Freeman is survived by her four children, Eddie Ray, Bob, Sandy, and Connie; eight grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.
John B. Mitchell, F4436, a former national vice president of FMCA, died on July 28, 2005, in Fletcher, North Carolina, after a short illness. He was 87.
A native of Washington, Connecticut, Mr. Mitchell, who also went by the name Jack, graduated from the University of Georgia in 1939 with a bachelor of science degree in agricultural engineering. He married his wife of 62 years, Mildred, at around the same time. She died in 2001.
Mr. Mitchell was employed as the general manager of Mitchell Dairy Farms in Fletcher from 1946 to 1973, and then became the owner/operator of Mitchell Enterprises, C611, a motorhome dealership, from 1973 to 2004. He also was a cofounder of the Fletcher Volunteer Fire Department.
Mr. Mitchell joined FMCA in 1970 and served as national area vice president from 1974 to 1976.
He is survived by his son John Jr. and wife, Rachel, and son Paul; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
Cruisin’ Cajuns celebrate
Approximately 400 members of the Cruisin’ Cajuns chapter gathered at the City of Rayne RV Park in Rayne, Louisiana, November 17 through 20, 2005, for the group’s 35th anniversary rally. The birthday bash included the traditional cake and champagne on Saturday night, with several descendants of the founding chapter members on hand. Gene Wakefield, son of chapter founder Harry Wakefield, F3666, and his wife, Ethel, who served as FMCA national vice president (1974-1976) attended, as did George Magnon Jr., F4713S, son of charter members George and Vera Mae Magnon, F4713.
The chapter received its charter from FMCA executive director Ken Scott, F63, on November 6, 1970, during the group’s first official rally at Lake Ramsey in Covington, Louisiana. Even though the chapter was just getting started, it already had 85 members at the time it became an official part of FMCA.