What's the right balance?
by Richard Lewis
Fall in Northwest Florida is perhaps its best time of the year. Normally, it is when the air takes on a sharper edge, the few trees that have leaves that will turn are roused enough to get about their work, the sun shines briskly, and the anticipation of the multiple holidays just around the corner makes its happy presence known.
Not so much thus far in our little slice of paradise. Thus far, gloomy days, intermittent rain, and scudding clouds have wrestled their way, with their sharp elbows, to the forefront for all too many days. It won’t be that way forever, but the weather might be a little more vigorous in doing its proper job, before it’s too late to enjoy the glorious driving weather we normally have about now.
However, inclement weather does cause one to be more introspective sometimes, and since Your Loyal Correspondent (YLC) is possessed with a morose, inward turning nature on a par with E. A. Poe and Bram Stoker, he has been reflecting on a question that might have crossed your mind, to wit, what should a sports car club have as its ultimate goals? Ruminate with him as we probe this question.
Ever since YLC returned to his hometown a few years ago, he has been active in the British car club arena. He has seen the Panhandle British Car Club grow in membership and activity, making several changes, mainly for its improvement. Still, he wonders if the members have examined the question of where they are going and what do they want the club to be. Therefore, we boldly leap into space and examine some things YLC believes any car club might want to accomplish. You might have an entirely different view. That’s what makes horse races.
First among them might be the recognition that we are preservationists, a noble calling. We are happy to see the marques that manufacture British cars continue to manufacture British cars, but perhaps we have a keener interest in those marques that have gone on to the big boardroom in the sky. We should, and we do, try to see that they are cherished, maintained and refurbished. This sense of preservation comes from a notion that they represent in some cases simply history, and in some cases art. While a marque like the Mini may fail in the aesthetic sense, it succeeds admirably in the sense of a car that changed motoring history in the British Isles, carving out its niche as both fun and practical. A car like the Austin-Healey succeeds admirably in the fun category, not so much in the practical, but wonderfully well in the aesthetic dimension. These, and many others, occupy a warm place in public history, cultural history and memory for countless people on all sides of the Atlantic. They merit our tender care.
Another goal for any, including our own car club might be to help owners and enthusiasts find new ways to enjoy their cars. Although a case can be made for simply garaging a beautiful car just for the purpose of admiring it, in the way one might admire another piece of sculpture by Rodin or Giacometti, actively engaging with it by driving it in competitive or non-competitive events, sharing with others one’s feelings and knowledge about the car, or simply being with others who share one’s enthusiasm adds dimensions absent in the passive admiration alone.
Another goal might be to provide a wide enough array of club events that some, if not all of them will capture the imagination of most of the members. Not everyone is satisfied simply to go to car show after car show, viewing mainly the same marques over again, perhaps rarely discovering one unseen before. Certainly for those for whom the accumulation of trophies is their main interest, this is not the case, but for many, this is not enough. Driving events, safe and spirited competitive events, clinics where one gains additional technical knowledge, making connection with other car club enthusiasts, and simply social outings draw on the myriad interests that are likely to exist within any large group. No one can attend all the events of a vigorous club like the PBCA, but the wide array of events will touch almost everyone in some way.
Still another goal might be to engage as many members as possible in all aspects of the club, including encouraging members to accept leadership positions, attend club meetings, attend and assist with club functions like the driving and social events, and be engaged in the multiple activities any vigorous club will present. It goes without saying that making these various events interesting and engaging is a prerequisite for strong attendance. It is the nature of many social organizations that, unless steps are taken to prevent it, the club will soon find itself with a small leadership group that takes all responsibilities and a large membership that take little interest in it, beyond dues paying. To prevent this, the club must make sure members feel welcome into all the club’s functions, including the leadership function, and that they feel their contributions will be valued and appreciated. It is perhaps appropriate to note that the PBCA has increased membership participation in its “Brits on the Bay” annual show by the simple expedience of clarifying the tasks to be performed and encouraging members to select and sign up for the multiple jobs, while impressing on all how their help will enhance everything. Participation rate went up dramatically when this practice was adopted.
However, we will likely agree that the most important thing is that attendance at meetings and events must be fun! A wise person once told YLC that if you do not look forward to the events, reconsider your options. Maybe this just isn’t for you. Good advice. Then, above all, fun.
Therefore, preservation, finding ways to utilize and enjoy one’s car, expanding the range of activities, and promoting participation are at least four goals that any vigorous car club might pursue — but most of all, fun. You can no doubt add to this list, or perhaps replace some of them with clearer and more important goals. Admirable if you do so. Through such examination can we build an even better PBCA?
Now, let’s discuss some of the events that have occurred recently, and some that the future promises.
September 18-19 — Brits on the River in Natchez, Miss. Six cars showed up for a beautiful day in beautiful Natchez, winning eight awards, including Bill Silhan’s Best in Show for his 1956 Morgan Plus 4. Congratulations to all.
September 26 — Dog Days Rally to benefit the Pensacola Humane Society. Some ten cars and twenty contestants competed in a challenging rally organized by Tom Matsoukas, with winners Werner and Alicia Kettelhack in their Jaguar XK120 carrying away the laurel crown, but not before members had exceeded last year’s contribution with over 801 lbs. of pet food and $150 in donations. The day ended with lunch and the distribution of dog bone wrenches shared by Tom as consolation prizes. A great day for the club and the pups, both of whom thanked Tom for his fine work.
October 3 — South Alabama British Car Club Ice Cream Social, held as always at the Cunninghams’ Garage Mahal in Daphne. Welcoming PBCA and MGMG members as well, the SABCC again prepared an ice cream extravaganza of desserts and food. The large crowd enjoyed the drive over and the great camaraderie. Thanks to the Cunninghams for their generosity.
October 6 — PBCA Breakfast at the Grand. This ever-popular event attracted about twenty members and friends and provided everyone a chance to catch up in a relaxed atmosphere of good food and fun.
Until next time, yes, that was a red light.