I’d spent the afternoon taking picture after picture of old cars.
Some as shiny as new candy, others sporting their original decades-old finishes, all of them restored and adored by the throng of people I slipped through in the late afternoon sun. The golf club grounds were still drying out; a steady rain had threatened the event. But when the Slowpokes of Dunnville, Ont. hold a reunion, it seems even Mother Nature gets the memo.
The club was formed back in 1956, and last week was their 60th reunion. Four of the original six members — total membership would loosely sit at a few dozen over the years — are still about. But the roster of those who have passed away weighs heavily enough for club spokesperson Ed Bucsis to announce that this will probably be the last formal dinner.
As Ed’s wife, Linda, started assembling a group picture, I scrambled to get down names from men who were chatting and drifting about; some joking about cats being difficult to herd.The men hold the stories, and there is no detail too small to be counted or corrected.
At dinner later that evening, I watch the faces in that picture I’d taken go backward in time. It’s easy to see the camaraderie as well as the knots; you don’t get this many people who share such an intense interest to all hold the same memory.
It’s an easy kind of jousting, however. These men still meet up for lunch once a month to talk cars, and you know both the exploits and arguments are now as smooth as soapstone.
But the women also hold the stories. These were often the family cars being worked on, work and hobby joined at the hip.
“Well, who do you think was home with the kids?” laughs Jean Smith.
Her husband, Bob, was an original Slowpoke.“The women had that role, though they did have a road rally one time and it was almost all women who did that. I had one kid at home with the measles and one I thought might come down with them, so I just brought him along and he was happy to have the whole back seat to himself for the day. I wanted to win, but my co-pilot couldn’t read maps.”
She pauses. “I really wanted to win.”
Speaking of winning, you know that once a bunch of men build hot rods, they’re going to want to race them.
The Slowpokes held the first Canadian race sanctioned by the National Hot Rod Association out of California at what is now Toronto Motorsports Park in Cayuga. They just called it Kohler in reports at the time, and a black and white photo of proud club members taken in 1957 reveals many of the names in the group photo I’ve taken almost 60 years later.
“I took the oldest three to the track when their daddy was racing,” says Jean. “But between getting this one a drink and that one something to eat and somebody needing to go to the washroom, they missed their daddy’s race. I swore I’d never go again, but we did.”
Linda Bucsis reflects on a different kind of bond as time has marched on.
“The women have been a tremendous support for each other, especially as we lose members or go through illnesses. There is comfort here.”
Friendships that have spanned decades also span distance, and you can see the tendrils of this club throughout the community.
As storm clouds gather, the stars of the day — those cars — are tucked away and I head inside to hear more stories.
From those stars who still meet once a week for lunch.