Enter the Back Door Cruiser

Part X

The 32nd Annual Cleveland Auto-Rama took place February 6th through the 8th, 1998. This was our 12th year of participation in Cleveland’s largest car show. Eleven Club members displayed their cars around a landscaped illuminated fountain.

This years theme was “Rock-N-Roll Capital Street Machines Auto Museum” Our efforts were rewarded with a second (2nd) place award for our display. Six of our cars received 1st place awards in their respected classes. Three cars received 2nd place awards and the final two received a 3rd and 4th place awards.

Sam LaNasa suddenly found himself taking over as Club President after the abrupt departure of Debra Sue Tobak. At this point in Sam’s Club career he has served as Secretary, Vice President and now President. He has served each position with confidence, dignity and honor.

The City of Detroit, Michigan held its Auto-Rama several weeks after the Cleveland Auto-Rama. On February 14th, 46 Club members took the bus trip to Cobo Hall to see some of the countries top custom cars. General admission to this show was $12.00 in 1998. Club friend, Ron Heitman negotiated a price of $5.00 per person for our Club members.

All day trips such as this one always included a stop at some restaurant on the return trip home. On one trip to Detroit we ate at a rather nice restaurant a few miles from Cobo Hall. On this trip however, after traveling a mile or so it became apparent we were not heading into one of Detroit’s finer areas. This had become a trip through a war torn third world ghost town.

Ahead you could see signs of life, a building with some lights. As we approached you could see a high cyclone fence topped with barbed and razor wire, surrounding a windowless building and its parking lot. This was our destination. Safely inside it became apparent that at one time this restaurant was a top attraction in a once thriving downtown Detroit. The food was good and well worth the trip.

On other Detroit trips we ate at safer locations including Olive Garden in Dearborn or the Old country Buffet in Toledo. The busses were always top notch, spotless and comfortable. We would show movies that were viewed on multiple screens. If someone should need Psychotherapy we always had our own Dr. Mary Lou on board.

Plans had been on the drawing board for a third entrance to the Solon Commons rear parking lot since 1997. At first a gate and a separate drive at the South end of the lot seemed like a good idea. It would alleviate the traffic jams at the end of the Cruises.

With the West drive blocked off we had complete control of the show area from the East drive. At times it would be necessary to reject cars that were not acceptable or show worthy. This was an advantage we were not aware of at the time.

The rear drive became a reality in 1999, a year later than anticipated. Along with the new drive came a new type of cruiser. Those cars that had been rejected at the front gate simply drove around the block to the unmanned rear gate. You can find these “Back Door Cruisers” parked somewhere in the rear of the lot. They don’t register their cars or support our Cruise in any way.

Our first official cruise night for 1998 was on May 19th. Chevrolet was the featured car of the night with 425 show cars in attendance.

The Clubs first Mystery Cruise took place on June 20th, 1998. Departure was from the Solon Commons at 2:45 P.M. The trip was to take one hour and cover 34 miles to a secret destination. Each participant was to follow a map and drive at their own pace. It wasn’t long before some found it hard to drive while reading directions. This lead to a parade following a leader.

Stop signs and traffic lights quickly broke up the parade and people started getting lost. After regrouping, the cruise ended at Georges Dinner Bell Restaurant in Painsville. Georges was known for its long running feud with the city. As his battle with the city intensified he resorted to painting his building in questionable color schemes and bring in farm animals to graze on his property. He was making news headlines on a regular basis. Georges was also known for its good food. Most of the 35 members that ate there seemed to agree.

A second Mystery Cruise took place on Saturday, September 19th. 12 Club members Departed the Solon Commons, drove through the Cuyahoga Valley, South to our secret destination which turned out to be the Skyway Drive-in Diner in Fairlawn, Ohio. After burgers and fries we drove to Winks Drive-in Diner for their Saturday night cruise.

Other events for 1998 would include the Bedford/Bedford Hts 4th of July Parade in which we won 1st place in our division. On July 5th we participated in the Garfield Hts Home Days. Five days later on July 10th we displayed several dozen cars at the Bedford Hts Home Days. Saturday, July 11th we had the honor of displaying our cars at Loehman’s Plaza. One week later we were the featured attraction on Broadway Ave. in Bedford. This year it is called a “Street Fair”, with sidewalk sales, food and live bands.

Test and Tune events took place on June 28th, July 19th and September 20th. We had over 100 cars at our first drag event on the 28th. On July 19th the turnout was down to 78 cars racing with ten of them belonging to Club members. From there everything went down hill. Sunday, September 20th was our third and last drag event of the year, and guess what??? It rained!

With beautiful weather on Thursday night July 23rd our Club was the featured Club at the Wal Mart Car Cruise in Streetsboro. Our members displayed 28 cars that night.

The 1998 Charity Cruise was held on August 25th at the Solon Commons. The day started out a bit wet. Even though the crowd count was on the light side all the Charity Night Tickets had been sold, with all the proceeds of the evening going to the Ronald McDonald House. The annual cruise in Sandusky, Ohio, “Cruisin’ by the Bay” took place on September 11th. Several dozen Club members reserved rooms and stayed the entire weekend. This was one of the nicer annual cruises in Ohio.

The last event the Club participated in was at the Stow Falls Center on October 3rd. Our Club was part of the main attraction designed to attract shoppers to the area. This was also a paid event to benefit our treasury.

On Sunday October 22nd, 94 Club members and friends, filling two busses and a spill over group following in cars departed the Solon Commons at 10:30 A.M. Heading East, the destination for our Fall Cruise would be Quaker Steak and Lube in Sharon, Pennsylvania.

Sharon, PA had many attractions other than the Drive-in Diner everyone was familiar with. It was a shoppers paradise. Chocolate lovers could spend hours at Daffins Chocolate Factory drooling over the candy and chocolate wonderland display.

The last stop of the day was at Kraynak’s in Hermitige, PA. This one stop store has something for everyone. On weekends people are lined up to see the Christmas Wonderland display.

A new program was introduced in August of 1998 called the “Club Member of the Month” The program would require members to B visible, B active and B involved to qualify.

By September, Dave Zuber would be the first person to demonstrate the three B’s. By never missing a Club event, taking pictures for our albums and serving as Newsletter Editor. Dave was chosen as the first “Club Member of the Month”. A twenty five dollar gift certificate to Applebee’s Restaurant went with the nomination.

Our October recipient of this prestigious award went to Gary “Chico” Oberc and Mary Lou Krawczyk had the honor of being chosen for November. John Phillips finished the year as Decembers recipient.

The cruise season was to end with the Halloween Cruise on October 18th. Our entire cruise season had been plagued by rain except for 7 nights. Luckily October 18th wasn’t one of them.

Donetta Lemmerman-Maczko and Mary Lou Krawczyk made arrangements with the Sherwin Party Center to Host our Fall Social. This was a dress up Saturday night event on November 7th.

Sixty (60) members enjoyed a buffet dinner consisting of meats, fish, salads, sides and desserts. Dinner and dance music was provided by DJ Troy. There were corsages for the ladies and boutonnieres for the gentlemen.

The highlight of the evening was the “Ron Fox Roast”. This fun filled evening cost members a mere $18.50 each. Non-members paid $28.50 per person, still a great bargain.

Donetta and Mary Lou were busy again in December. They handled the arrangements for our Club Christmas party. This is one tradition that, except for location, has not changed throughout the years. There was a brief meeting, followed by dinner with our friends. Santa arrived thrilling the children with gifts and the adults with door prizes. The Club also contributed non-perishable food to the Food Bank.

Your fellow cruiser, Joe Artale, member since 1987.