By Jerry Yeatts, F39000
FMCA Executive Director
I nearly missed an opportunity to recognize some very special people in my life, ones who helped to mold me into the man I am today. They both passed on many years ago, so it may not make a difference if I am a little late in paying tribute to them. In fact, I want to emphasize the importance of not missing an opportunity, no matter how late it may seem.
The first Sunday after Labor Day in the United States, and the second Sunday of September in Canada, marks a day “. . . to honor grandparents, to give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children, and to help children become aware of strength, information, and guidance older people can offer.” National Grandparents Day became an official day of recognition in the United States in 1978, and now it is observed by several countries throughout the world.
In Canada, the House of Commons passed legislation in 1995 recognizing grandparents by stating, “That, in the opinion of this House, the government should consider designating the second Sunday in September of each year as Grandparents Day in order to acknowledge their importance to the structure of the family in the nurturing, upbringing, and education of children.”
Marian McQuade is recognized as the founder of National Grandparents Day. A native of Oak Hill, West Virginia, she made it her goal to educate the youth in her community about the important contributions seniors made throughout history. She encouraged youth to “adopt” a grandparent, not just for one day a year, but rather for a lifetime.
I really didn’t have much of an opportunity to know my grandparents. My maternal grandfather died several years before I was born. My paternal grandfather died when I was very little. I do remember my maternal grandmother, Mary Shook Lanman, and my paternal grandmother, Ida Cox Yeatts. Both were extremely strong women with never-ending love.
Mary lived on High Street in my hometown of Circleville, Ohio. Although I don’t have many memories of her modest home, I do remember a hand-stitched butterfly she had attached to a pair of curtains in her living room. She wore Lily of the Valley perfume, or at least that’s what I think it was called. She would take me up to the soda fountain on Main Street, or to the G.C. Murphy Company on the corner of Court and Main streets for a special treat.
Ida was a pretty special woman — a cancer survivor for many years, yet nothing seemed to slow her down. Her faithful dog, Tippy, would lead the way down wooded pathways behind the home she shared with my aunt and uncle in Portsmouth, Ohio. She was strong in her faith, as ornery as could be, and always had that special sparkle in her eye for her grandchildren.
I’ve had some conversations over the past several weeks with a few of FMCA’s younger members. What I continue to hear is how important it is for younger RVers to have more “seasoned” members provide guidance to them as they learn the intricacies of properly operating and maintaining their home on wheels. While they may not change the oil or filters, or perform other preventative maintenance on their coaches, they still need to learn the important aspects of motorhome ownership. While YouTube videos, social media pages, blogs, forums, and other information-sharing on the Internet may give the motorhome weekend warrior a 30,000-foot view of operating a motorhome, the fact remains that networking at a campground or at a local rally provides a much better opportunity to really learn.
A group of younger FMCA members got together during the Family Reunion in Madison, Wisconsin, to discuss common interests of motorhoming and how this association can remain relevant to a new generation of motorhome owners. Some great ideas were shared about networking, activities, benefits, and educational opportunities. A U60 Facebook page has been established for members under 60 years old in order to share stories and ideas, as well as to more fully engage this segment of the membership. A group also has been created on RVillage.com for the under-60 members. A forum has been reconstituted on FMCA.com, and activities are being planned at area rallies, as well as the two international Family Reunions, in order to offer exciting and unique experiences for younger members and families.
I often wonder what it was like back in 1963 when the first group of motorhomers got together in Hinckley, Maine. I know times have drastically changed over the past 50 years within the industry and with campgrounds. Who needed 50-amp electric service and room for slideouts back then? Judging from early photos, many of these converted buses contained bunk beds for the kids. Old photos also show multiple families gathered around a campfire, kids on bikes, “canoe battle” competitions on a lake, and folks generally having fun. You know . . . networking. Although “network” in 1963 meant ABC, NBC, or CBS.
The founding families of Family Motor Coach Association welcomed younger members with open arms. It didn’t really matter what type of motorhome they had; it was the mutual interest in this lifestyle that formed a special bond. Acceptance of each other created the excitement to extend the hand of friendship and the offer of membership in this association for many years.
As with anything a half-century old, it doesn’t hurt to consider what we may need to do to maintain or restore the luster to this association. A dear friend of mine in Oregon has restored many classic automobiles and travel trailers over the past few years. Although he has preserved the classic nature of these vintage vehicles, through a great deal of work, and a passion for this hobby, he has breathed new life into something that many may have dismissed as obsolete or irrelevant. These once-neglected vehicles, now beautiful and the envy of many, have been restored for the enjoyment of generations to come.
Just as I nearly missed an opportunity to recognize all grandparents on their special day, I don’t want our more established members to miss the opportunity to “adopt” a younger member, not just for one day a year, but rather for a lifetime.