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State of the VAE

Gael Boardman [ January 2004 ]

State of the club message for 2003 and the first 50 years of action since the club’s founding in 1953. Presented to the Board of Directors, January 5, 2004.

First let me thank and congratulate all those members that have helped establish the VAE over our history and especially in our golden year 2003. It has been a good term and I feel, a great year. Praise goes to our outgoing officers and an eager welcome to those incoming folks who will keep our banners flying.

Special thanks to Sandy Lambert, who with a little help from Ellen Emerson, has done a great job as Secretary. This is one of the more difficult jobs in an organization such as ours and her work is appreciated. She and Dan also gave us a great Christmas party. Thank you!

Conception Conti, Tom McHugh and Fred Cook gave us a great 50th Book along with an active committee with kudos to Jim Sears (the roster guy), Jim and Nancy Willett and Francine and Graham Gould. VP Ray Tomlinson was also there and helped with special products and running commentary.

Taking just the year 2003, my nomination for “Enthusiast of our Golden Year”, is Ellen Emerson. Responsible for Wheel Tracks and our web site, Ellen has also done much more… enthusiastically. She has taken a lot of the Shelburne Show weight (notice her last years work there), has filled in for Sandy, has made all kinds of meetings, has volunteered to host a monthly meet in 2004, etc. Ellen is always upbeat, fun and really likes cars. The club salutes you… Ellen.

Our two major car shows continue to be big and successful events. Stowe maintains its place as the premier Northern New England old car event. Tom Maclay and Dick Currier continue to be the primary force behind this event… with the help of many, many members. There are some concerns about Stowe, however. The club will be facing some decisions about our relationship with the Stowe Area Association… this needs work. Also there is always discussion about growth, location, events, and judging. Member input is welcomed. The Stowe Show committee meets a lot throughout the year. Those with interest should contact one of the co-chairs: Tom Maclay or Dick Currier.

Shelburne is new enough to continue to be a “work in process”. This show is unique in location and presentation and holds a big future for the VAE. Our relationship with the Shelburne Museum alone is noteworthy. Our future as a club interested in transportation is only enhanced by our friendship and co-operation with a transportation oriented museum like Shelburne. More about this in a moment… first thanks to our Shelburne founding co-chairs Bill Erskine and Avery Hall, who, claiming semi-retirement, are still providing the organization and leadership to mount this big project. There is exciting potential in the Shelburne Show… and now with an extended time and hub-tours bringing in new participants. I feel that Shelburne is just beginning what will make it a “Mecca” event for old car people.

The “little sister” event in our show calendar is Thunder Road. Under the enthusiastic leadership of Gene and Lucille Napoliello this event will become in 2004 an event beyond a monthly VAE meet. With help from Fred Cook and VAE founding member, Thunder Road owner/operator Ken Squire, this meet fills a need in the clubs activities. It is here that we can host cars and owners that haven’t historically been active parts of our club. Later cars, younger owners and a contemporary venue indicate our general automobile enthusiasm and the fund raising aspect is more than a worthy cause. I recommend that we all support Thunder Road and welcome the results.

Monthly meetings are the glue that holds our club together. I wish more members would get out more often as we have a lot of fun… and most of us get to drive some favored rig. But not having a car ready is no excuse for not coming. Show up “modern” and chances are there will be all kinds of places to ride in style with another proud member. Our roster lists over 400 families. Our average monthly meeting attendance is just under 50 people. If you talk the talk… you should try the walk… oops… the ride. Please come.

There are several additional concerns… Les Skinner, esteemed VAE Treasurer, is having a difficult round with the IRS. Non-profit organizations like ours are often subject to review. We do handle a lot of money due to our major shows and Les’ job is not easy. He will keep us posted as to the outcome.

As President through the past year I have heard a lot of comment and conversation about judging at VAE events. It appears impossible to please all – especially those having judging experience in other car clubs – and feelings run quite high. If you are unhappy with the results don’t go away mad. I thank those that have taken the time to write or call me about judging and I continue to feel at a loss as to just what to do about it. I am impressed with the work Gene Napoliello has done on a “judging manual” for general judging by novices. It explains just what the criteria are for any event that the manual is used for. Do we need to judge more? Less? “Owner-class” judge? I don’t know. I do know that those attending and asking to be judged expect to be judged, like to win and basically attend with this in mind. We need to have some major discussions on this topic – the sooner the better.

There has been some discussion this past year about the future of the VAE… direction, projects, membership, etc. Our Futures Committee has met and one large thing they have brought forward is the desire to think about and possibly plan for some kind of permanent clubhouse facility for our group. Talk has stretched this thinking over anything from a library room for auto related literature, VAE memorabilia, etc. to something much larger to possibly include available work space, car display area and general museum. Good thinking – all.

The Officers and Board have not yet officially heard from the Audit Committee. Long time members Dave Otis, Lou Young and Chair, Leo LaFerriere make up this group and have the task of making sure that our records are understandable and that our financial house and its reported status are in order. This year, in addition to being reactive to our records, Leo has raised some questions about fiscal policy and made some initial suggestions that may find their way into a formal report. Thanks, Leo and committee for the extra time and effort contributed to our club.

The Bylaws Committee (Fred Cook and long-time bylaw people Adrian West and Mary Jane Dexter) have made some suggested changes to our bylaws (published in the December Wheel Tracks) and after some discussion at the annual meeting are refining them for presentation to the membership early this year. It is important that we keep our governing documents current to the clubs needs and direction.

Before his unfortunate death, long time member Joe Bettis spoke to me about how good it felt to be remembered by the club with calls, cards, and letters…and from our Sunshine chair, Julie Greenia. Julie has done an excellent job reminding those with burdens that we old-car people are interested, friendly and concerned. It makes us a better organization. Thanks Julie.

As incoming Board Chairman, my interest in the future only increases. 2004 is my 50th anniversary with our club and I feel a strong personal investment in what has been and what I owe to the future. The following are my personal feelings and are offered to maintain ongoing thinking and conversation about what we might do in the time to come.

The largest looming question is membership. Although our 400 families appear to show interest and support for our club and hobby, we are aging. “Families” doesn’t seem to include our “kids” as much as we would like and we are not planning well for new torchbearers. People… we need to take this seriously. Old cars are great and another generation will discover them ONLY if we make it a guided discovery. Young people are hands on… we need to let them get their hands on… touch, ride, drive, listen, understand and want an older car.

A related topic might be the thinking coming from the Futures Committee. Jan Sander and company have generated a lot of interest in the clubhouse idea. If we build a clubhouse without new younger members to use and support it, it could look like a mausoleum fairly soon. The positive idea of making a large commitment to a major project is interesting and challenging. This mental exercise has started me thinking about how best we might plan in this direction.

First, I believe that there is probably some money available to fund a well-planned project. Gifts, grants, subscriptions, etc might actually produce quite a lot. The larger problem would be support and maintenance of any facility. We aren’t big enough or rich enough to do this. Here at the beginning of this thinking I would suggest the following… find a partner group or organization that could provide what we can’t. Fund the lion’s share of the upfront cost and rely on the partner’s resources to keep it going. For starters, if we were looking for just library and meeting room space, it could be a chamber of commerce, a corporation with automotive or historical interest, etc. If we wanted more… to include an automotive display area for example, if could be a fairground, theme park or museum. I haven’t turned the “available work space” corner yet, but there are probably possibilities out there as well. My early on interest favors the alliance with a museum… and you can probably guess which one.

2004 President Ray Tomlinson is very interested in a clubhouse project and has investigated several possible sites for our use. If you have thoughts or interest in this, contact Ray or Jan Sander. Ray may well continue with a Futures Committee and your contributions would be valuable.

To sum, I believe that the VAE is presently healthy, mostly happy and adequately wise. I salute our founding members, commend our present officers, and thank our active members. It has been fun to help steer in our 50th year, and as a board member I look for more in 2004.

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