“We grew up with these cars, they remind us of our families and high school. It’s our heritage,” said club president Al Crane.
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 Jones, a former mechanic from Mathews County. “And lo and behold this group of guys showed up.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
John Mangalonzo (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News).
Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah.
John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.