Executive Director’s Commentary
By Don Eversmann, F240000, Executive Director
This July 21 marks the 45th anniversary of FMCA’s formation. While FMCA may celebrate it in a quiet manner, it is something to be proud of and to recognize. As I stated in one of my earlier commentaries this year, the founding families only had a dream of what FMCA could be. I have had the opportunity to talk with some of them. They definitely have been amazed and pleased with what FMCA has become. In honor of this occasion, I would like to share a bit of history and shed light on FMCA’s humble beginnings.
In February 1963, Bob and Jean Richter, L1, “house car” owners from Hanson, Massachusetts, learned that a solar eclipse would take place on July 20 and would be visible across a path in Maine. The Richters chose this occasion to plan a gathering of their fellow motor coach owners, figuring they could view the eclipse together and also share in their common interest of a newly emerging form of travel. In April 1963, the Richters circulated a letter to 11 families, inviting them to attend the gathering and asking them to spread the word to other families who might be interested.
In the meantime, Ted Austin of Owosso, Michigan, and Dennis McGuire of Alma, Michigan, arranged a meeting of fellow coach owners in Corunna, Michigan. Held on June 2, 1963, it is believed to be the first meeting of any coach owners to take place in the United States, and families in attendance later formed the Michigan Knights of the Highway chapter. Shortly thereafter, the Richters learned of this informal meeting and invited these folks to the Maine gathering.
As a result of these efforts, 26 coach-owning families gathered on the grounds of the Hinckley School in Hinckley, Maine, on July 20, 1963. Indeed, these families viewed the eclipse and, in the course of that weekend, reached for the stars in other ways, too.
During that weekend in Hinckley, the house car owners exchanged information, stories, and technical tips about their vehicles. They also discussed the merits of forming some sort of club that centered on travel by house car and would be devoted to sharing information about these vehicles while also promoting fun and fellowship.
Eighteen families at the Hinckley gathering decided to form a nonprofit association. An organizational committee was selected, with Bob Richter at the helm. On July 21, 1963, after several names were presented for consideration, “Family Motor Coach Association” was chosen as the official name of the group. This suggestion came from J. Raymond Fritz, L4, who would later become the association’s second president.
When I came to FMCA more than 10 years ago, I quickly became aware of how loved and appreciated Family Motor Coaching magazine was among the FMCA membership. The magazine’s humble beginnings again highlight the true dedication and foresight of the founding families. I always say, they knew from the beginning that communication among members regarding the coaches they were operating and enjoying was paramount in building and growing this fine organization. I also have been interested in the fact that they didn’t opt to create a small newsletter; instead, they launched a full-fledged magazine right from the start.
Family Motor Coaching Magazine
Volume 1, Issue 1 of FMC magazine, dated February 15, 1964, was produced by a small group of people who generously donated their time and expertise. Given the meager treasury at the time, launching a magazine seemed an ambitious undertaking for the fledgling organization. However, Bob Richter recalled in a 1988 interview that shortly after the formation of FMCA, “It became a real necessity to get out a magazine to the members, although economically it was a crazy idea.”
Putting that first magazine together was a challenge. The work was done in parts and parcels at various locations and with the help of probably 30 different people, a couple of them paid, one for typesetting and one for artwork, but most of them volunteers. The volunteers even included one gentleman who was not a member of FMCA but operated a nearby newspaper and was up at 3:00 in the morning at one point doing paste-up. Dick and Nancy Parece, F22, were in charge of the printing of the magazine, which took place in their basement. The finished product was assembled at the home of Doc and Mary Whiting, F7, where volunteers gathered around a pool table to fold and collate the pages. To complicate matters, this frenzy of activity took place during the worst onslaught of a Massachusetts winter.
Twenty-one hundred copies of Volume 1, Issue 1 were completed just seven months after the Hinckley gathering, and this first magazine contained 36 pages. The magazine appeared regularly as a quarterly until February 1971, when the publication schedule was changed to bimonthly. In January 1978, Family Motor Coaching became a monthly publication and has remained so to this date.
Perhaps it was best said in 1998 by FMCA president Dottie Pierce, L57064, as she reflected on FMCA’s 35th anniversary. “I’m so proud to be a part of this very special organization. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the many fine folks who created the Family Motor Coach Association, and to those who have continued to nurture it over the years. Those folks worked so hard to realize their dream of creating a national motorhome owners association, and every member now benefits from their foresight. Today FMCA’s future is indeed bright.”
And Bob Richter said it all when he dedicated the inaugural issue of Family Motor Coaching to “those far-sighted people who can realize that here we begin a new era in American travel.”
As we all reflect on our memories and experiences related to this lifestyle and the opportunities that it provides all of us, let’s not forget those who have made FMCA what it is today, including those who have contributed to the motorhome industry and support structures that have served us in the past and still today.
Happy 45th birthday, FMCA. We look forward to many, many more years of the association’s support of our fun and fellowship