50 years of Vintage Cars

By Thalen Zimmerman (Published by the Echo Press during my internship)

ALEXANDRIA, MN - “We are calling it 50 plus one,” said John Chlian, the treasurer of the Vintage Car Club of Alexandria, “since last year was a loss with COVID and all.”

The Vintage Car Club of Alexandria, which officially started in 1970, will celebrate its slightly belated 50th anniversary with its 33rd annual car show at the Douglas County Fairgrounds on Sunday, June 27, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The show is free to attend and will feature craft and hobby vendors, music, food, and of course, cars.

“It has always been a family-oriented thing,” said Rod Eldevik, a club member since 1970.

No alcohol will be served at the event or any of their events. “No drinking and driving is encouraged of any kind,” stated Chlian.

The club started simply, “Just a couple of guys gathered in the garage working on a carburetor,” said Don Kingston, one of the original and lifetime members of the Vintage Car Club. The guys started meeting regularly, and eventually, more and more people began to get involved. Finally, they decided they needed to get organized, and a handful of the men agreed it was a good idea to start a hobbyist club for vintage cars to promote the love and interest of old cars. What started as cruises, family outings, and picnics eventually led to parades and car shows.

Their first official meeting took place on Dec. 18, 1969. They elected Wally Withrow as president, Merlin Peterson as secretary, Al Nordheim as vice president/treasurer, two year board member Herman Sternberg and one year board member Bill Becker. The club was officially established in 1970.

Now, just over 50 years later, the club is still going strong with about 130 members.

“Even with some of our older members passing, we still get new ones every year. Even this last year with COVID, people stayed involved,” said Chlian.

“I never thought we’d go for 50 years; we just kept going year after year,” said Kingston.

“Most of us wondered if we would even survive 50 years,” chuckled Eldevik,

More than cars, the friendships, and memories made have been the most important part of the member’s lives. From Wally’s tires catching fire on a cruise to Inspiration Peak to trading off batteries every few miles because someone’s alternator wasn’t working, to getting pulled over just because the officer wanted to admire the vintage car. “I wasn’t even speeding,” said Chlian.

“Many, many friendships have been made in my time as a club member, lifetime friendships,” said Jerry Cline, a club member since 1983.

“The friendships made are more important than the cars,” said Eldevik.

“I’ve made a number of friendships; you can’t put a price on that,” said Kingston.

Nowadays, the club meets every third Thursday of the month at Shalom Church in Alexandria and can be found at car shows around the state, still driving in parades and now visiting senior care centers.

“The residents are from the same era as most of our cars, so it’s good to bring them some nostalgia,” said Chlian.

The club’s events are designed to bring people together and have a good time, “that’s really what it’s all about, community and fun,” said Chlian. One year, the club raised around $5,000 to donate to local nonprofits.

There are no criteria to become a member other than having a passion for cars. All one must do is simply apply. Club meetings are open to the public, and you can apply via their paper application.

“We encourage people to join even if they don’t have a car, let alone a vintage car. We want the younger generation to come and keep the club going,” said Chlian.

More information about the club can be found on their Facebook page: Vintage Car Club of Alexandria.

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