Thursday, September 8, 2011

The short history of The Volkswagen Club of Rochester - Part One - 1959 to 1965

Editor's note: I recently came into the possession of 43 newsletters from the late 50s and early 60s from the Volkswagen Club of Rochester. The newsletter's name was "The VW Motorist". Mine were addressed to "John Cole" of 52 Legionarre Drive. From it, I was able to pull details about the club. I share them with you here only to put the club's record out on the internet, and share some details about some early VW nuts.

The Volkswagen Club of Rochester was started in 1957. The first edition of their newsletter, titled The VW Motorist, was printed and mailed in October of 1957. Sterling Parks Jr. (who had helped organize the VW Club of America in 1955!) was the founder of the club and first editor of the newsletter. In 1959, he would be given a lifetime membership.

The purpose, as stated by the club was

To enable VW owners and drivers to obtain all the pleasure, usefulness, efficiency, and economy in the maintenance and operation of their VW's that the manufacturer wants them to have.
To enable VW owners to interchange experiences.
To furnish reliable VW information and advice to owners.
To supply local, national, and international VW news and other automotive news of interest to VW owners.

Membership dues during the clubs early years were $5 a year. It seemed to grow pretty well. In 1959, the club listed 109 members in one of the newsletters. The club enjoyed support from F.A. Motors (who were members and hosted clinics on care for the VW).

In July, 1960, the club became incorporated. They also improved their newsletter format using thicker paper and a better printer.

By 1963, the club moved to street addresses rather than a PO box. The address seemed to be the address of the president each time.

They loaned each other books and offered club badges "at a cost of $1" to mount on your car. Club sweatshirts ($2.25 each) and jackets (around $6 depending on size) were also available to members.

The club was mainly about organizing events. Mainly they focused on rallies (which seemed to be the trend for all car clubs at the time), such as the "Spring Thaw Rally" held in March. Nonetheless, there were also social events. Examples were club excursions (annual trips to Toronto to visit Volkswagen of Canada in May), a visit to Corning Glass Works, annual picnics, economy runs, and, of course, monthly club meetings.

The newsletters are a plethora of information. I enjoyed the other VW clubs mentioned: The Jersey Four Cylendars Club, Detroit VW Club, Heart of Illinios Volkswagen Club, Karmann Ghia Club of America (out of Brooklyn, started in 1963), Volkswagen Club of California (who published their own newsletter called Wagen Tongue), VW club of Pittsburg (who published "Wagen Tales"), Volkswagen Owners Club of Los Angeles (who published flat four), VW Club of Western New York (who published a newsletter called "Wagen Wheels", a Buffalo club (who seemed to be tempted to join the Rochester club) and a Syracuse club. They even swapped emblems in their own version of a cultural exchange with the Volkswagen Club of Natal (Africa).

The club was very structured in a 1960s sort of way, with minutes, notes, procedure, etc. This is the sort of "Parliamentary procedure" that one would expect from such a club in the 50s and 60s.

1959 - David Van Borz
1960 - Bob "Corky" Whitaker
1961 - Arvid Ellsworth
1962 - John Cole
1963 - Philip McNaney
1964 - Albert Capone
1965 - Roger Pearson

So what happened to this club? I followed up with the current club in the area, the Finger Lakes Region VW club. The person I talked to didn't have any info, but will hopefully ask the old timers in the club. If anyone has any info, send it my way! bigbluevw (at) gmail dot com.



The president of the club in 1964 seems a little shady.


Ahh, a time before the interweb. Where social interactions were actually in person. I'm not sure if I lonf for those days or not. I have definitely become guilty of using the internet to replace a large portion of my physical interaction with others. I don't even have phone conversation at all anymore. It's all emails and comment boxes for me these days. Cool glimpse into the VW culture of that era.

Big Blue's Driver

Jeremy - I have more club posts coming up as it has been my latest obsession. I think the thing that is interesting is how much more they were organized they were than us today (and they were without the internet)!

Steve - I hadn't caught that. Perhaps that's why the club is no longer around. Tax evasion, perhaps?

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