Monday, May 16, 2022

Like high school, but with better cars, for these area nostalgia buffs

Every day, cars get people where they need to go.

For members of Yorktown’s Classic Cruisers Car Club, however, their wheels take them back in time.

“We grew up with these cars, they remind us of our families and high school. It’s our heritage,” said Al Crane, a U.S. Air Force Vietnam Veteran and former space, reconnaissance & intelligence systems scientist.

This year, the car club celebrates 25 years of cruising in the automobiles of yesteryear. Its 70 members include aerospace engineers, Vietnam veterans and a fourth-grader with a lemonade stand.

What brings them together is a love for cars — and a desire to serve their community.

The club started as a way to raise money for charity, and the organization has raised nearly $200,000 for various local charities over the past 25 years, Crane said.

“When I retired I wanted to find some kind of organization that not only supported my love of cars but gave back to the community,” said Paul James, a former mechanic from Mathews County. “And lo and behold this group of guys showed up.”

The club hosts cruise-ins and car shows that raise money for organizations such as Natasha House, a home for homeless women with children, or the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters. A cruise-in April 14 raised about $500 for the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank, Jones said.

Cruise-ins are held to display a range of models, from classics to imports. Spectators can interact with the owners, hear the stories behind the cars and donate to that night’s charity, if they choose.

The Classic Cruisers Car Club hosts cruise-ins and car shows. Paul Jones, a former mechanic from Mathews County, said the club's motto is "We have fun with our cars and make money for charity." (Alexa Doiron/WYDaily)
The Classic Cruisers Car Club hosts cruise-ins and car shows. Paul James, a former mechanic from Mathews County, said the club’s motto is “We have fun with our cars and make money for charity.” (Alexa Doiron/WYDaily)

Remembering the good ol’ days

Many of the club members have cars that bring them back to their childhoods. For John Wyatt, an Army veteran who fought in Vietnam, his car is the same as one his father and many of his friends had in high school. Back then he couldn’t afford it, but now he can ride in style.

“A lot of us are driving these cars and it’s like being in high school again,” Crane said. “Although we drive a bit slower now.”

Still, the cars are more than just a means of transportation; each one comes with a story.

The Classic Cruisers Car Club has 70 members, with the youngest being a fourth grader that sells lemonade on the side to raise money for the various charities the organization supports. (Alexa Doiron/WYDaily)
The Classic Cruisers Car Club has 70 members, with the youngest being a fourth-grader who sells lemonade on the side to raise money for the various charities the organization supports. (Alexa Doiron/WYDaily)

For Larry Hanson, a former Army comptroller, it was always a mystery why he loved cars. His background as an accountant had nothing to do with them, but ever since he was a boy, he remembers loving cars.

In Panama City, Panama, a burgundy 1950 Mercury, his dream car, caught his eye, and he just had to have it. So, Hanson bought the car and had it shipped back home. But not without his wife’s permission.

“I told my wife if she just let me have that ‘50 Mercury, then she could have anything she wanted for the rest of her life,” Hanson said. “And boy, she pretty well made good on that.”

Many of the members add accents to their cars and even name them.

Crane’s parents named their cars, as did his friends in high school. So he decided to do the same.

“Mr. Lucky,” the name of Crane’s 1949 Ford Custom, is painted inside the hood of the two-door sedan.

Al Crane, an Air Force veteran and president of the Classic Cruisers Car Club, named his car "Mr. Lucky" after his wife found it at a garage sale.
Al Crane, an Air Force veteran and president of the Classic Cruisers Car Club, named his car “Mr. Lucky” after his wife found it at a garage sale. (Alexa Doiron/WYDaily)

The name originated from a time in college when Crane found himself dateless for a while. Back then, he named his car “Mr. Lonely” after a Bobby Vinton song.

But now, Crane and his wife have been married for almost 50 years, and she was the one who found the Ford at a yard sale. So, Crane calls his car Mr. Lucky because he considers himself lucky for his wife.

And for still another member, it all comes back to the cars.

“My dad started me in a garage when I was three years old,” said Larry Munk, an Air Force veteran and former member of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. “I love cars. Always have, always will.”

Alexa Doironhttp://wydaily.com
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at alexa@localvoicemedia.com.

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