As I start to compile a few dates for the 2012 Cruisin’ Photography calendar, my mind wanders back to some of the memorable shows/cruises that Kathy and I attended last year. For both of us, some of our best times were spent with the extremely friendly folks at van shows. Our first vantastic weekend was at the Four Town Fair Grounds in Somers for the Super Somer gathering. The day was hot and humid, but immediately the friendly nature of the vanners was apparent as they offered soda and water to make sure that we didn’t get dehydrated as we photographed the vans and interviewed the owners.
These guys want people to know that the halcyon days of vanning in the ‘70s never went away, and they’re working tirelessly to promote their side of the car show scene.
We watched Paul Mennett, of Cruisin’ New England, interview Pete Guthrie for a segment on vanning to be aired on the NESN TV channel. Guthrie, president of the Spindle City Truckers back home in Fall River, MA, bought his van on July 10, 1981. “I’ve done all the work myself except for the paint and artwork. The 1970s were a great time in America. Gas was about $1.00-a-gallon. People were working. Even in the early 1980s, it only cost $12.00 to fill Golden Voyager up.”
For 2012, the tie-dye and bandana-wearing Guthrie is the newly elected Public Relations Officer for the New England Van Council. The reserved-and-retiring “PR Pete” will be an asset to the community once he overcomes his shyness! Okay, those of you who know Pete will know that I’m teasing about being shy.
Trish Kenney and her husband Joe “Rooster” Kenney met while vanning. “We were both involved in vanning before we were married,” said Trish, owner of Wizard of Oz-themed Emerald City van. “I was selling t-shirts as a vendor at the Washington County Fairgrounds, and Joe bought one. Well he bought a few,” she laughed. “I love T-shirts,” according to Joe, whose van is called Neverending Story.
Our old friends Todd Vaillancourt and Mary Odom were troopers, donning their vanning coats that are covered in patches from the vanning events they’ve attended over the years, and posed for photographs. Had it not been for a chance meeting with Todd, Mary and their ’87 Astro van, Vanformer, we may not have even known that vanning was still in existence.
The following weekend Kathy and I were at the Berlin Fair Grounds for a Connecticut Street Legends show when we saw Rooster and his van. As we spoke with him, we saw Mike Siering, Pat Doolan and John Ostrander arrive in a van convoy and fit right in with the multitude of muscle cars, hot rods, classics and antique cars already parked. As we chatted, the guys invited us to Vandango XIII at the Brooklyn Fair Grounds in early September.
Upon arrival at Vandango, we headed over to catch up with Johnny O. After a hearty welcome, he offered us some much-appreciated beverages. “I’ve been vanning since 1982. I was 18 years old and right out of high school,” he told us. “I was always interested in custom vehicles, and this is my third customized van.” After owning 1971 and 1976 Ford vans, Johnny O bought the 1973 Dodge B100 short body seven years ago, and did the interior and motor work on it. The van is actually white with sunset pearl, a striking orange color, over it.
Meriden, CT resident Roger Moyles was taking five in his “Sinsational” 1965 Chevy G10 van. He was quick to show us the custom bed frame and lights in the back of his van and said fellow vanner Mike Midnight did the work. “I did the welding and basic bodywork and the interior. Ron “Knighty” McCasland did the stitching on the bed. I’ve owned 41 vans that were built from 1964 – 1971, mostly for parts. I bought this van in 2001 and it sat for seven years before I did a swap of the body.”
On Saturday November 12th, Cruisin’ headed out on I-84 West to the CoCo Key Resort in Waterbury. Todd and Mary had invited us to the New England Van Council meeting, hosted by Just Us Vanners from Watertown, as their guests. In all, 25 van clubs were represented, so we got to meet a lot of new faces. Kathy and I were formally recognized by the Council and thanked for our involvement in the promotion of vanning.
After the meeting, we had the opportunity to catch up with Rooster Kenney and Trish Morrell, John Ostrander, Roger Moyles, Pat Doolan and Pete Guthrie. Pat and Johnny O asked if Cruisin’ Photography could produce a high-quality 4 x 6 promotional piece for vanners to give out at shows in 2012. We sent a list of prices/quantities to Pat, and early in the New Year, Johnny O gave the green light to design the promotional card.
Cruisin’ Photography’s images were supplemented with supplied images and text, resulting in an initial design and layout. The design was retooled after input from Johnny O, Pat and Doug “Virtual Vanner” in Toronto, Canada. Johnny O started a thread on the Vannin.com web site to gauge people’s interest and to determine the print quantity. The initial response was very positive and resulted in a print order of 10,000 pieces. After uploading the files to the printer, we took delivery of the finished product just five days later. Johnny O picked them up just 90 minutes later, opting to beat the threatened snow that weekend.
The cards are now with vanners in San Diego, Staten Island, Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Canada. Johnny O also took promotional cards to the Council of Council meeting in Florida, which means the initial order of 10,000 has almost all been distributed.