Part XI

Auto-Rama ’97 was a departure from anything the Club had done in the past. It had two themes. The first theme was “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. Gone was the macho image of gear heads and racers. Fairy tale caricatures are displayed with each of the eight cars on display. An added touch never before seen were the helium filled cow udders.

The second theme was based on the Clubs 10th appearance in a row at the Cleveland Auto-Rama. Someone flunked math 101 here. Our first Club display at Auto-Rama was in February 1987. My ten fingers tell me February 1996 was the 10th appearance.

The point of all this is we were each given a patch to wear on our jackets. The patch read, “Commemorating 10 Years of Participation” Auto-Rama” “Cleveland ’97 Ohio”. If you happen to see one of these patches keep in mind they are in error. 1997 was our 11th year of participation.

According to our February 1997 newsletter our display was crowned “Best Club Display”. Each of the eight cars received awards ranging from first to third place.

Something new was added in 1997, a monthly Cruise that actually went on a Cruise. On May 4th, thirty-nine (39) Club members cruised down to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. We toured the restored buildings in the area and paused for a photo session. Each of our cars was photographed in front of a restored 1950’s style Pure gas station.

Having finished our tour of the park we headed off to “Whitey’s Booze and Burgers” in Richfield. Dinner and door prizes completed the day.

Last year (1996) work was started on a 500 space parking lot behind the Solon Commons Food Court. The project has now been completed. On May 20th the Club proudly opened the 1997 Cruise season in this huge new display area at the Solon Commons.

We opened with the live band “Eddie and the Edsels”. Our opening night sponsor was “Slam Jams” and the featured vehicles for the night were all “GM”.

A new magazine was brought out in 1997 and our Tuesday night Cruise was featured in that first edition of “Cruisin’ Times Magazine”. On the cover was a familiar looking ’53 Merc. One decade later Club member Gary “Chico” Oberc would again have the honor of seeing his ’53 Merc gracing the front cover for the 10th anniversary issue of Cruisin’ Times.

We ran into a problem with our Club jackets in 1997. They suddenly stopped producing our chosen style jacket. We finally managed to find another manufacturer to produce them. Ten years later in 2007 the same problem has resurfaced. History seems to have a way of repeating itself.

The Club had three Test-N-Tune events scheduled for 1997, June, August and September.

Our June monthly Cruise took us to the “Grand Opening” of the West Market Plaza in Fairlawn. Robert L. Stark Enterprises had asked the Club to display our cars at this special event.

On August 11th, 1990 our Club had a major roll in starting the annual Mayfield Village Cruise. The event was a major success due to our efforts. Our reward for all our efforts was a complete loss of recognition in the following years.

On June 21st, 1997 Mayfield Village once again asked the Club for assistance. This time they needed help identifying cars that should be admitted to the Cruise. I believe the answer was “Thanks, but no thanks!”

Other Club events in June included our annual weekend in Bucyrus, Ohio for their Cruise. The downtown streets of Bucyrus are closed to regular traffic in the evening. Show cars are everywhere and you can see and hear them cruisin’ the main drag. The Bedford Hts Home Days are once again graced with our display of Club cars.

On June 28th, nineteen (19) Club cars head off to Willoughby, Ohio for their second annual Cruise. We assisted them in getting this event started in 1996. A large number of Club members participated in this event. Everything was free including goodie bags. This year they charged us to park and we get a “Thanks for coming, hope you can join us again next year”.

A family man/home owner/Club member would be hard pressed to keep up with the Club events scheduled for July of 1997.

These events included the Bedford Hts 4th of July parade, The Garfield Hts home Days parade on July 5th and our monthly Cruise on July 12th. Once again Robert L. Stark Enterprises has a “Grand Opening”. This time it is the “Shops of Willoughby Hills”, formerly known as Loehmann’s Plaza.

On July 19th the Club displayed our cars at the Bedford Street Dance on Broadway. The street was closed to traffic and the roadway was filled with vendors, people and music. On July 20th the Club held it’s annual picnic in Brecksville.

On July 27th the Club participated in the Highland Hts Home Days Parade and won 1st place in the “Auto Division”. The first place prize of $100.00 the Club received was donated to the Bedford Firefighter’s who were collecting money for Bedford Firefighter Terry Tench who recently found out he had Lou Gehrig’s disease.

We were the featured Car Club at the Streetsboro Wal-Mart Cruise on July 31st. Add five (5) Tuesday night Cruises at Solon Commons and one monthly Club meeting and that averages out to one Club event every 2.4 days!!

With all this Club activity we have caught the attention of Plain Dealer Columnist Ann Gelether. Almost every Sunday our Club is mentioned in the Automotive section of the paper.

Up to this point charity events have been a regular part of our Club activities. This year we have our first annual “Charity Night”. The net proceeds will benefit Ronald McDonald House. On August 26th we pack the Solon Commons with people and cars. Dennis Chandler and the Stratophonics perform first followed by Memory Lane. Both groups donated their time for this event. A replica of a St. Louis jukebox, a VCR and a color TV were given away as raffle prizes. 50/50 tickets were sold to help raise money. Channels 19 and 43 covered the event on the evening news. Our efforts were called a great success. The proceeds totaled $1,256.53!

“Cruisin’ by the Bay” took place on September 5th and 6th and had become another favorite with our Club members. Each year a few dozen members spent the weekend in downtown Sandusky for this annual Cruise event. Due in part to it’s location in the downtown bay area this Cruise was unique. The area was always well maintained to take advantage of the bay area view.

On Friday the downtown area was shut down to local traffic. Hundreds of show cars lined the streets. Open cruising started at 7:30 P.M. with “rapping” (loud exhaust) and flame shooting contests being the nightly attractions.

On Saturday the stage was set for a static car show with limited cruising and some contests. “Blind driver” and the “slow crawl” were for the normal contestants.

Ask anyone that witnessed the 1997 Panty Race to recount the event and they will laugh before they can speak. Two of our Club members had the crowd laughing and then cheering. Then the judges were loudly booed when they disqualified Dave Zuber and Bill Ellis for taking advantage of a gray area in the rules. Here is how it went down. A pickup truck belonging to Summit Racing pulled up to the starting line. This was a speed equipment test vehicle. The timers started as Dave and Bill jump out. They each must put on a size small pair of panties over their double wide clothed bodies. Previous contestants had problems with their shoes tripping them up. Dave and Bill are shoeless. Step two requires driving to mid course and swapping panties and drivers.

The crowd went wild at the sound of the roaring engine and screaming tires. Dave and Bill swapped panties as the cloud of tire smoke drifted by mid course. The smoke and noise was now attracting people from near by streets.

Having changed panties and drivers the boys crossed the finish line in record time, sideways, engine screaming and the tires near ruin. As they stopped the tailgate popped open and their stash of melons and peaches were sent flying like bowling balls.

Dave argued that nowhere in the rule book are the words shoeless, reckless, speeding or littering. Unfortunately, the judges would not yield. The disappointed crowd booed their decision.

Our final Test-N-Tune of the season was held on September 14th. The event drew over 160 cars which required opening additional staging lanes to accommodate the volume.

Once again our Club is called back to active duty at Norwalk Raceway Park. A three day event running from September 19th to the 21st requires a large work force. Take charge people are needed to judge show cars and to aid with parking, registration and racing. Unfortunately, heavy rains and cold weather from Friday to mid Saturday kept the show cars away. Everything had dried up enough by Sunday to allow the race program to take place.

Our new 500 space parking lot at Solon Commons has served us well for our weekly Tuesday night Cruises. With only two driveways we now had complete control of the show area. The Food Court, restrooms and easy freeway access made this the perfect location for a car cruise.

Our older members had become accustomed to seeing 40 or so cars at Pal’s and a hundred plus cars at our annual car shows. They were astonished when they saw the new lot completely filled for the first time.

The 1997 Cruise season came to a close on Sunday, October 19th with our Halloween Cruise. By now, we are without a doubt the biggest weekly Cruise in the area. Welcome to the “Big Time”

Our Fall Social/Dinner Dance is given a “Prom” theme this year. On Saturday night, October 25th, we ate, drank and danced at the Sherwin Party Center in Maple Hts. The cost for the buffet dinner with open bar, and a DJ cost members $17.50 each and non-members $27.50 each. Ron and Nancy Fox were our “Prom King and Queen”.

One hundred and fifteen (115) Club members and their families were treated to dinner at our annual Christmas party on December 21st. We all gathered at the Bedford Hts Community Center for a fun event that pleases the children and attracts an early visit from a gift laden Santa Claus. As always the Club donates to the food bank.

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