Richard Petty Refuses to Sign

Part 7

Our first ever food drive, which we collected at our December Christmas party was a great success. The bounty was taken to Avon Baptist Church where it was distributed to the needy.

In the past, those mysterious Board meetings that our Club officials attended were scheduled on dates that were mutually convenient. Starting in 1993 it became standard practice to hold the meetings on the Monday evening following a regular Club meeting. This Board meeting time is used to discuss ideas for future events, address members concerns and to handle the business aspects of our organization. The meetings were open only to Board members and committee Chair people.

From the very beginning of our Club we have tried to somehow make a connection with the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. As a Club we donated to their fundraisers. It was Chuck Vella’s dream to have his Club there on opening day. I’m sure he did what he could in the early days of planning. I spent my three years as Club president sending letters on a regular basis to the R-N-R Hall of Fame officials only to learn that no one was there long enough to receive more than one letter. This had become very frustrating. I was always introducing the Club, but never making a true connection.

Things were about to change. Our then newsletter editor Leslie Sekerak accompanied by her husband Chuck attended a year end party. Leslie struck up a conversation with a lady who had left a teaching position to become the research coordinator for the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. This was an incredible coincidence.

Sensing a chance to make some connection here, Leslie launched into a conversation that included an explanation of who we are and what we do. Leslie also mentioned our interest in being part of the opening festivities at the museum. The result was acquiring the Research Directors business card and instructions on how to contact the top man himself, Michael Benz.

Never one to miss an opportunity, Leslie sent an introductory cover letter and a copy of “News and Views” (Our Club newsletter) to Mr. Benz so he could get a better picture of who we are. She states in the letter that the Club would be honored to be a part of the opening ceremonies. After six years of wasted efforts Leslie finally had us headed in the proper direction.

Auto-Rama, February 5th to the 7th 1993 was one for the record books. Seventeen cars, two pick up trucks and one t-bucket were displayed around our Club gazebo display. Once again we win the “Outstanding Club” plaque and the coveted “ISCA Best Club Display” plaque.

This years “Pit Stop” contest had a ladies division. Our ladies team finished second, winning $200.00. In the men’s competition our team won first place awards and the $300.00 top prize. In the “Wacky Gas Grill” contest our homemade dragster, the “Roaster Coaster” won the second place trophy. In 1993 the Board introduced an idea to spice up meeting nights. Refreshments were served to the surprised Club members and munchies and sweets have since become a common part of our monthly meetings.

Some major events take place in March. First, our newsletter editor is taken ill and no newsletter goes out. The stay at home members don’t learn that Club president Mario Bennici has stepped down until the April newsletter arrives. Vice President Bill Ellis steps up to fill the vacancy. A special election is held in April to fill the vacancy of Vice President. Rick Markko is voted in. On a positive note, the newsletter has taken on a new look. Starting with the April edition the pages are now 8 1/2 x 11″. The old newsletters were a thin Readers Digest size book.

The Solon Commons has now become a second home to our Club members. We meet there every Tuesday evening throughout the year. Members show up on March 30th with cars all polished up for the new cruise season. The first official cruise is scheduled for April 27th. Bill King is the DJ for 1993.

Our Club is featured in the May 10th edition of the Plain Dealer in a series of articles dealing with various Cleveland area car clubs. In one section our upcoming events and meeting information was listed. Under fundraising events and charities we are given five paragraphs. Our Club is earning a positive reputation, not only for our first rate cars, but because of our first rate attitude, Too.

By June 1993 some Club members are beginning to feel that we are going to be overtaken by another car club for our number one spot at the top. It seems that the American Cruisers are gaining in strength and numbers. The competition only pushes us to be more creative, more enthusiastic and more involved.

Back for a second year in a row our Club once again participates in Cleveland’s Square to Square. Saturday June 5th the weather is cold and dismal. Our cars are displayed in front of Woolworths on Euclid Ave. The only highlight of the day is the marching bands. Things improved immensely on Sunday June 6th. Warm and sunny. No need to visit Tower City to thaw out. There was food and games, the band Starship performed and the telethon to benefit Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital was going strong. Our Club pledges $50.00 and a challenge to other clubs to meet or beat our donation. Mini grand prix racers are zipping around hay bales on Public Square. Corporate teams sponsor, drive and service these racers to raise funds for crippled children.

A younger, and more aerodynamic (streamlined) Rich Krawczyk came home with a funny story Sunday night. He had been wearing a dark colored wide brimmed cowboy hat and dark sunglasses. Standing among the celebrities and race cars he certainly looked like a person of interest. Out of the crowd comes a well dressed man and his lady companion. The exact words have long been forgotten and this is as close as Rich and I can agree on the exact dialogue. “Richard, what a surprise and honor it is to see you here!” Rich looks up puzzled and quickly places his hand on his wallet. The stranger continues to talk to Rich as if he is a long lost friend. Rich wonders who this man could be and how does he know my name? After some more small talk the man asks Rich for his autograph. “Why do you want my autograph?” Rich asks. “Mr. Petty, you can’t fool me, I would know you anywhere” answered the stranger.

This leads to a no I’m not, yes you are debate that goes on for several minutes with the stranger becoming angrier by the minute. The man finally storms off telling everyone within sight that Richard Petty will not sign an autograph today. Thirty four Club members participate in the Cleveland event with another several dozen members showing up at the Hot Rod Nationals at Canfield that same weekend.

Bill Tompot and Rick Markko have established a scholarship fund to honor and recognize our young hard working students. Student are asked to submit their applications by July 30th.

Saturday night, June 12th Mayfield Village holds it’s 4th annual Cruise Night. As a club we are no longer taking part in their event. Members are still attend the event as individuals. July 3rd our Club is the featured attraction at the Bedford Hts Home Days with 27 cars. The following day we take part in the annual 4th of July parade.

The Club is now in the early stages of planning a new Social Events Committee. It will be responsible for arranging the Clubs social calendar.

At our July meeting the members are asked to vote on a member participation issue that would require each member to participate in a minimum of three (3) events per year or risk expulsion from the Club.

The Garfield Hts. Home Days was a fun and profitable event in July. The twenty cars the Club displayed enriched our treasury by $200.00.

Sunday, July 25th we make our first appearance in the Highland Hts Home Days parade. The Club picnic was held on Sunday, August 8th at the new Brecksville Rec Center on Rt 21. Those members that were there will surely remember the Super Soaker squirt guns. I would like to take one sentence from the August 1993 issue of our “News and Views” as written by then President Bill Ellis in his Drvers Seat column. “Please note that nominations are NOT closed until voting begins at the Sunday meeting”. I only mention this because thirteen years later a last minute nomination changed the outcome of our election.

The August elections usher in a new board. Rick Markko is elected President, Jerry Magyar Vice President, Ron Fox Treasurer and Laura Cherry Secretary. Also at this time our newsletter editor Leslie Sekerak steps down and her position is filled by Ralph Waugh.

Our 7th Annual Car show was held on Sunday, August 22nd at the Solon Commons in the front parking lot. We had 193 registered cars. Special attractions that day included MADD, DARE and Ron Heitman’s funeral coach. The WMJI 105.7 Jukebox was present and Bill King our DJ filled in. The Club raised enough money to make a $200.00 donation to MDA. On August 29th Dave Shostek and I ( Joe Artale ) escorted the Bedford Hts Ten Kilometer Race through the city streets with our cars.

The Clubs new Secretary, Lori Cherry made a big impression at our September 12th Test and Tune held at Norwalk. I was at the far end of the track passing out the timing slips when the sound of some serious horsepower filled the air. Out pops a slip with a 10.70 time! I believe the speed was 127 MPH! As the car approached the E.T. shack I was surprised to see that it was a Valiant. I was shocked when the driver removed her helmet. It was Lori driving her fathers race car. Seventy five Club members attended our September 18th hayride at Blazin’ Bills. Frank LaManna was our DJ for the night. Larry Schrader handles the square dancing duties. This year we offered two hayride choices. Hayed and unhayed. Both rides are identical at the start. The unhayed ride would return in the same condition as when it left, passengers neat and clean, hay still in place. When the hayed wagon would return the passengers would be picking hay out of their socks, hair, pockets, underwear and misc. body cavities. It was also a good idea to carry a flashlight. You never could tell when someone would be hiding in the dark ready to set off a roadside hay explosion.

After much debate the Club has finally voted to drop the minimum event participation issue. In it’s place the Club decided to place new members in a six month probationary period. Up until 1993 new members were voted into the Club. The problem was that some people were never seen again after they became members. The six months of probation required new members to attend all meetings and take part in Club events. It would be nice if showing up would become habit forming.

The Club now has a “Complaint Department”. If a Club member is unhappy about something and are uncomfortable about bringing up the subject Tim Dragony will speak for you. Just send him a note, it need not be signed and Tim will handle your problem.

“News Flash” Gary Oberc was so proud to have the only rod at the Commons on Tuesday. September 28th. Cold, rain, lightning and sleet!! What a trip for a ’53 Merc with no heater. Saturday, November 27th Frank and Cookie LaManna host a Niagara Falls Festival of Lights bus tour. The first stop was the Clifton Hill Mall across the Canadian border. A fine meal with a view of the Falls was enjoyed at the Minolta Tower. This was followed by the Lighting of the Falls Ceremony at dusk followed by a guided tour of Niagara Park and the Christmas lights. Last but not least, all of our bus trips come with on board entertainment such as movies, comedians and Doctor Mary Lou.

December ends with the same traditions. Getting ready for Auto-Rama, Club Christmas party and collecting canned goods for the needy.