Origin and Early History of
NORTH JERSEY STREET ROD ASSOCIATION
By Frank Carey

The late 1960s was a time of change. It was the beginning of a new era for those of us interested in high performance cars. Hot rods had all but disappeared from the drag racing scene they once dominated. Even the gassers were dying off and giving way to funny cars. Those wanting fast cars for the street were buying muscle cars. Most hot rod clubs had disbanded as had the New Jersey Timing Association. I can remember one night at the Old Bridge Stadium drags at a time when there was only one eliminator trophy. It was called Top Eliminator and on that night the Top Eliminator trophy run was between a very fast Buick-powered channeled ‘32 coupe and a Super Stock Plymouth. It was a close race but the Plymouth won. So the fasted car at the drag strip that night was stock! The times were indeed changing. I still had my Model-A roadster pickup that I had built in 1960 but I was storing it with a friend. It’s still hard to believe that I had bought a house that did not have a garage! But I planned to build a garage and to get the Model-A back on the road and I eventually did. I knew a few other rodders from the old days who still had their cars but, like me, most were not doing much with them. Back in the 1950s I had gotten to know Pete VanIderstine of the Chatham Squires club. Pete called one day to find out if I still had my Model-A because he had found a handful of other hot rodders who still had their cars and who were focusing on the street rather than the drags. And he was now building a new rod, a highboy deuce roadster. One of the guys he had found, Bill Brutsman of Dover, was building a T-bucket. This was good news. Pete told me that he and Bill had located a few rodders in Westchester County, NY, a few others from Long Island and another few somewhere in Connecticut and that they were all going to try to get together somehow. That gathering took place in New Paltz, N.Y. in the fall of 1969 and was reported by both Pete and Bill. Each sent their report to the rodders they had found so far. Those attending were astonished by the huge turnout. Pete reported 65 rods and Bill reported 85 so the correct number is probably in that range. That many rods by today’s standards would be a meager assemblage but at that time it was an awesomely huge number. That many cars can be seen today at some local cruise nights. This event drew cars from Albany to Long Island and from throughout northern New Jersey and the greater New York metropolitan area. There were even some from Connecticut. How many street rods might be in that large area today?
HISTORY
Over the winter of 1969 – 1970 there developed an effort to organize those of us who still had hot rods but who were interested in the street rather than drag racing. A meeting was soon announced for March 1, 1970, and was held in a Teamster’s union hall in West Paterson. (See attachment A for Pete VanIderstine’s letter announcing this meeting and summarizing the New Paltz trip.) This meeting was well attended and was my first contact with the group. Most of the attendees had been hot rodders for some time, had belonged to hot rod clubs in their area, and were pleased to see such an interest in what was being called “street rodding”. But there was widespread sentiment that nobody wanted another club. As one guy put it: “I’m all clubbed out. No more clubs!” There was no interest in drag racing and, as I remember, no interest in car shows. The consensus was to enjoy our cars by driving them. So we discussed what to do; how could we work together to make this new concept of street rodding more enjoyable? The handful of Northern New Jersey guys who had gone to New Paltz the previous year were already referring to themselves as the North Jersey Street Rods so we kept that name. We have always considered those few guys as our original members. Those who are known to have been on that trip were Pete VanIderstine, Bill Brutsman, Cliff Pultz, Elmo Jones, Nick Maneri, Bill Pries, Tony Brandner, Mark Conforth, John Fonton, Joe Nicastro, Wayne Donlon, Bill Richards, and Dave Baker. At this meeting we decided to form a committee and to maintain a mailing list. The committee had a president – Bill Brutsman -and a secretary/treasurer who was me. We would not be a traditional club and there would be no meetings. Everybody seemed pleased with that. The committee would find things to do and the mailing list was a means to spread the word. We took up a collection for postage and the meeting ended. At some point in our earliest history Bill Brutsman was named the Northeast Division Director by the recently formed National Street Rod Association. One of our early events was a rod run to Bill Brutsman’s house in Dover in 1970. He didn’t even have a garage and had built his T-bucket on the family tennis court. We used the emerging term “Rod Run” for this event and Bill gave us all dash plaques that he had made on the engraving machine at the Doverport Shop, his family’s business. One of his jobs there was to engrave bowling trophies. I still have that dash plaque and it is my oldest. Bill announced this event with a hand drawn flyer (Attachment C.) Ed Flanagan came to this rod run in his nearly finished glass model-A roadster, one of the first glass cars in the country. Ed was an early president and was the creator of our club logo. This was our first and only club logo and he has contributed much artwork over the years for our dash plaques, flyers, and clothing. Ed also created the NSRA striped square logo that has a star in the corner. He’s a very creative guy. Other events I remember from the earliest years included a picnic at Lake Hopatcong State Park that attracted several New York State cars, and also several outings at a swimming lake somewhere in northern New Jersey. I sent out a handwritten mailing (attachment D) announcing a June 1970 outing at one of these places. We even had one of our very earliest shows at such a place. These kinds of places were once fairly common but are, I believe, now gone. In 1971 we planned an informal gathering at Pete VanIderstine’s house near Morristown for May 16th. (Attachment E is the notice of this event.) We got rained out but rescheduled for May 30th and we all had a good time. Although we had certainly not started a traditional club, we nevertheless referred to it as a club. The mailing list grew rapidly. Our oldest known roster from February, 1971, lists over 40 guys. But it didn’t take long for us to realize that the committee form of operation wasn’t really working. The mailing list quickly grew to over 125 guys, all of whom had been hot rodders, all of whom were interested in what we were trying to do, but few came out to the events we held. The committee idea didn’t seem to be the answer. In an August 30, 1971, letter to the membership I wrote: …I’ve talked with several fellows in the last few weeks and there are some who are looking for more action and feel that we should meet from time to time for the purpose of planning events, keeping up the interest (especially for those with unfinished cars), and just plain old car talk. So we’ve scheduled a meeting to be held at VanIderstine’s Speed Shop in Hanover on Friday evening at 9:00 P.M. Sept 19th to talk about some of these things and to discuss whether we should, perhaps, be organized somewhat differently… I don’t recall what transpired at that meeting. I have an undated letter from Ed Flanagan probably from about the same time, summarizing the situation and calling for another meeting to in Wayne. At those early Legion Hall meetings we resigned ourselves to forming yet another traditional club. We elected a full slate of officers and began regular meetings. After having met at the Wayne Legion Hall for a while we changed our meetings to a bowling alley on route 46 in Wayne where one of our members, the late Bob Turi, had a restaurant. We met there for many years. Remembering how many guys had gotten onto the original mailing list, we decided that applicants must have a finished car that passed a club inspection. We ran in this mode until sometime in the late 1970s when membership had dwindled to fewer than 20 guys. So we rescinded that requirement and began accepting applications from guys with cars under construction and guys seeking to buy cars. These kinds of applicants would clearly benefit from the wealth of information our members had to offer. The first Street Rod Nationals was produced by Rod & Custom magazine and was held in Peoria, Illinois, in 1970. Three of our members attended. They were Brutsman, Baker, and Pultz. The second Street Rod Nationals was in Memphis and was also produced by Rod & Custom magazine but was “sanctioned and co-produced by the National Street Rod Association” 1. A group of North Jersey cars went. Those guys learning from the attendant at a gas station stop that a big electrical storm was ahead. They finally found a motel but no rooms were available. So they bribed the night clerk with cash to let them sleep in 1 From a mailing sticker used by Bill Brutsman in 1971.4 the storeroom on the unused roll-away beds. A motel they found later in the trip also had no rooms. But there were guys staying there that our guys knew. So our guys bribed the maintenance guy to put roll-away beds in the rooms occupied by the friends. Everybody had a bed that night, too. These trips in the early years were strictly for the guys. With women along, antics such as these would have been impossible. All subsequent Street Rod Nationals were produced by the National Street Rod Association and our club was well represented at them for many years as they moved among Detroit, Oklahoma City, Memphis, St. Paul, Columbus, Louisville, and other Midwestern cities. Other events from the 1970s included a foliage run to High Point. It was a cold autumn day but there was a good turnout. Foliage runs seem to recur in our history. This first one was in the early seventies. In these early years many of us had small children and we would hold a Christmas party for the kids. These parties were held at the bowling alley where we held our meetings and members Gary Dicso or Ralph Babbitt would be Santa Claus. The kids always enjoyed them and they enjoyed being Santa. We had members from all over the state in the early years – central Jersey, Trenton area, and further. We even had a member from eastern Pennsylvania and several from Orange County in New York State. Eventually some of these more distant guys left the club to start up street rod clubs in their home areas. Some of these clubs grew but some that had grown later declined and are now gone. But we still thrive. Street rodding was firmly established and there developed an interest in having large regional events somewhere in the northeast. It was probably in 1971 that the Northeast Street Rod Organization – better known as NESRO – was born. This was an informal coalition of street rod clubs from throughout the northeast from Maine to New Jersey. We joined. Each member club would periodically produce a weekend event somewhere in the northeast. Planning meetings were held from time to time and our representatives to these meetings were usually Ed Flanagan, Lenni Zaccaro, and Bill Pries. The first several events were held at Catskill resorts; one at Kenoza Lake, several at the Granite, and one at the Brickman. Things got a little out of control at a few of these early events – things like driving a golf cart into the lake. In our September 1973 newsletter George Tibball wrote: …The Brickman was a disaster. In spite of a good job done by Al LeGrow and the others involved, the hotel itself was very poorly managed… By the second or third year our club proposed a run at the Playboy Club in Sussex County. Our reps developed a formal presentation of the kind used in business and it was well received. Our members did almost all of the planning, preparation, and staffing and the event was well attended. About this time the newly formed National Street Rod Association was beginning to think that they, too, ought to hold regional events of the kind later established in York and Dick Wells of NSRA was very interested in the upcoming Playboy Club event. He wanted to talk about possibly having NSRA produce Playboy Club events in the future and make them NSRA regional events. One of the other larger NESRO clubs reacted negatively and accused us of creating this event so we could give it away to NSRA. That club boycotted the event. The boycott, the golf cart incident, and other behavioral problems led to our eventual withdrawal from NESRO and, frankly, I don’t remember how long it lasted after that. We had been one of the original clubs in NESRO and were active participants for about five years. In our working with other NESRO member clubs we had gotten to know many of the Westchester (NY) SRA members. Over the years we have attended each other’s events and enjoyed one another’s company. That club is mentioned several times in this history. Street rodding was developing elsewhere and the Upstate (New York) Street Rods were already holding annual rod runs. Their fourth annual run was held at the Painted Pony Ranch in Lake Luzerne, NY, and attracted cars from our club. Ed Flanagan remembers it as a sort of dude ranch with cabins and that the kids loved it. He received one of the homemade awards. Charlie Parinello remembers it as a rainy weekend but that everybody had a good time, nevertheless. This was in May of 1976. And we produced a poker run. This was put together by Bernie Bernhardt, Terry Cook, and me. Terry had recently returned from California where he had been editor of Hot Rod Magazine and he had joined our club. Terry planned the segments in Morris and Somerset Counties and I planned the end part through Tewksbury Township where I lived. Checkpoints were manned by Bernie, me, and Al Dauernheim (Bob’s brother) and he wasn’t even in the club! The run ended at Don Bigelow’s house in Gladstone where we had a picnic. It was a big success. There’s a group picture in the club scrapbook taken at Bigelow’s house. Charlie Parinello, Paul Erb, and I are probably the only current members in the picture. At some point in the early years we caravanned to the Ledgewood Drive-In theatre to see American Graffiti. That was great. There were more rods in the drive-in that night than there were in the movie. After the movie we went for ice cream; surely the club’s first ice cream cruise night. As we were beginning to produce events we became concerned about the clubs liability if something were to happen at one of our events. In an attempt to prevent our officers from being held individually liable in such a situation we decided to incorporate the club. This was some time in the mid-1970s. We incorporated as a not-for- profit organization and we began our corporate life with our four officers plus three trustees which was the minimum number we could have under state law. It seems that I was often the secretary and I also wrote the newsletter most of the time. There were several notable exceptions to this. Others who did a stint as editor were George Tibball, Ed Flanagan, Lenni Zaccaro, Dick VanNiekerk, Rich Thomas, and Charlie Parinello. Lenni Zaccaro was one of our more colorful members and that trait carried over to the newsletters he wrote. When we separated the writing of the newsletter from the publishing and mailing of the newsletter my life got a lot easier since I kept the writing part. At some point in the early years we were approached by two guys who described themselves as promoters. They told us we were in an ideal position to produce a swap meet. They said that, as promoters, they could help us with it and we could work out some way to share in the profits. We decided to go for it. We held it at a place called Sundance Lodge on route 46 near the Fairfield/Wayne border, across route 46 from the bowling alley where we met. I think it was a picnic grove. The first event was marginally successful but made very little money. When we did the agreed upon math to see how much of the money we owed these guys we found that we got it all and they got nothing. Some promoters! Apparently they wanted their share to start after we had made a modest amount. Their share would then increase as total proceeds rose. If we had made a lot of money they would have gotten a really big chunk of it. But we made so little that they got nothing. But we liked the idea of running a swap meet so we gave those guys some of our profits anyway and began planning our next swap meet with their assistance. We continued having swap meets, eventually without their help. Sometimes we’d have both a spring and fall swap meet and sometimes a swap meet would be two days. At some point we started putting our cars on display. Soon we were inviting others to display their cars, too, and either giving them a discount on admission or letting them in free if they brought a car. Some people began coming mainly to see the cars and we began to refer to it as a car show and swap meet. These events evolved into judged shows with classes and trophies and eventually to the rod run format we now use. The dash plaques tell the story. My 1978 dash plaque says it’s our “Fourth Annual Swap Meet” and the dates were May 13th and 14th. So we must have started in 1975 for this to be the fourth and they were already two days. Our 1986 dash plaque states “Car Show & Swap Meet”. Since we listed the car show first it was probably the bigger part of the event by this time. The 1992 dash plaque says “Second Annual Rod Run”. This is consistent with my recollection that we transitioned to the rod run format in 1991. When we began to transition to shows that raised money for charity we learned that if we wanted to do things like hold a raffle we needed a license from the state and this would require that we be a charity organization, which we were not. So, largely through the Herculean efforts of Bob Grimal we created a clone corporation of the North Jersey Street Rod Association and called it the North Jersey Street Rod Charity Group. This makes our fund raiser show squeaky clean to anybody who might scrutinize us. You’ll see our state license number on the raffle tickets. Also, by creating the charity group, we think it’s now easier to get donations from businesses. The swap meet part of the event which had been the impetus for the whole thing became smaller and smaller. Today it is either very small or nonexistent. Other early show locations we used after being at Sundance Lodge for several years were a swimming lake on route 23 near Butler, Pine Brook Speedway, Morris County College, Boonton Aerodrome, and Horseshoe Lake to which we returned several years ago. Artwork for posters, flyers, and dash plaques for these events was contributed either by Ed Flanagan or by Jeff Tischler, another talented long time member, best known for his skills as a pinstriper. Gary Dicso of Cliffside Park had joined the club in the early years. He had a hemi ’32 coupe and was completing a T-touring when he joined. He soon began an annual rod run at his gas station in Cliffside Park. He’d close at noon on Saturday and the rods would start arriving. This must sound a little hokey by today’s standards; a rod run in a gas station? But we were driving our cars and enjoying the company of other rodders which is exactly what we were all looking for. There were no cruise nights anywhere in the state at that time. Gary’s runs were wildly successful. The station would be completely filled with rods, packed in from the sidewalk to the back fence. Late arrivals would have to park on city streets. Gary served food all day. He raised one of his lifts to table height and put sheets of plywood on it. This was the buffet table. There were large tubs of clams, sausage and peppers, and all kinds of other good things. And, of course, beer all day. On one occasion the Channel 11 news truck showed up to cover the event. This was a truly uncommon happening. From his several trips to the NSRA Nationals in the mid-west, Gary had gotten to know Norm Grabowski, the famous southern California rodder who had built the first T-bucket back in the mid-fifties. Grabowski had a cousin in New Jersey who he would periodically visit and he turned up at one of Gary’s runs. He was a neat guy. Gary’s garage runs also attracted members of the Westchester Street Rods who we had gotten to know through NESRO. They had been coming to our swap meets, probably from their inception, and we always enjoyed seeing them. Gary’s runs would continue on into the night. I can remember one occasion when the crowd had dwindled after dark so Gary closed the station and took some of us cruising town in his T-touring. I don’t think I got home until after midnight. Gary always supplied attendees with dash plaques (designed by Ed Flanagan) and I have four. My first was from Gary’s Garage Run No. 3 in June of 1977. So I guess they began in 1975. My dash plaques are from 1977, 1978, 1979, and 1980. Gary’s runs likely ended with his 1980 event. In 1983 Terry Cook came to one of our meetings. He had dropped out of the club some years before but came to tell us about his new plan. He was going to produce an event for lead sleds that he would call Lead East. He had arranged to use the Flemington Fairgrounds on route 31 just north of town. He wanted our club to help by being the staff and he would make a donation to the club in return for our assisting with the event. We accepted and most of us were there to help the first Lead East be a success. The turnout was impressive with lots of traditional customs like chopped Mercs. The day was brutally hot and as the day wore on it also became very dusty. I remember working the spectator gate and the crowds came all day. We noticed that some spectators had Pennsylvania plates and they told us they heard about the event on local Philadelphia radio. Terry had done lots and lots of advertising. Terry had somehow learned that the legendary VonDutch was still around and open to doing personality appearances. Terry made a deal to have him in Flemington. When I inquired about him I was pointed to an old guy in bib overalls sitting alone at a picnic table in the shade of one of the few trees. Somebody tipped me off that the VonDutch idea had backfired because he had become a surly nasty old man. He had been losing his eyesight and couldn’t pin-stripe anymore. Nor could he do the gunsmithing and knife-making that he had gotten into after his celebrated years as a pin-striper. For this reason I decided not to try to engage him in conversation but I nevertheless wanted to meet him. I approached him, introduced myself, told him I had enjoyed his work, and thanked him for his contributions to our hobby over the years. He nodded and I departed. I had met the great VonDutch. Part of Cook’s program for the first Lead East included renting the nearly defunct Flemington Drive-in theatre for Lead East participants. This was a really cool idea. Of course we all had our street rods with us for the day so we, too, went to the drive-in. The scene that night at the drive-in was memorable – like a time warp. The whole place was rods and customs. Somebody should have taken a picture. I think Terry had arranged for the movie to be Rebel Without a Cause. I hadn’t been to a drive-in since they had the speakers that you hooked on your window. This place used an AM radio frequency for the sound and I didn’t have a radio in my Model-A. But that didn’t matter. We all had a good time and it was a fine way to end a blisteringly hot and dusty but successful day. I still have my event shirt from that first Lead East but it no longer fits! Some things do indeed change. At some point in the distant past – I’m not sure when.

The late 1960s was a time of change. It was the beginning of a new era for those of us interested in high performance cars. Hot rods had all but disappeared from the drag racing scene they once dominated. Even the gassers were dying off and giving way to funny cars. Those wanting fast cars for the street were buying muscle cars. Most hot rod clubs had disbanded as had the New Jersey Timing Association. I can remember one night at the Old Bridge Stadium drags at a time when there was only one eliminator trophy. It was called Top Eliminator and on that night the Top Eliminator trophy run was between a very fast Buick-powered channeled ‘32 coupe and a Super Stock Plymouth. It was a close race but the Plymouth won. So the fasted car at the drag strip that night was stock! The times were indeed changing. I still had my Model-A roadster pickup that I had built in 1960 but I was storing it with a friend. It’s still hard to believe that I had bought a house that did not have a garage! But I planned to build a garage and to get the Model-A back on the road and I eventually did. I knew a few other rodders from the old days who still had their cars but, like me, most were not doing much with them. Back in the 1950s I had gotten to know Pete VanIderstine of the Chatham Squires club. Pete called one day to find out if I still had my Model-A because he had found a handful of other hot rodders who still had their cars and who were focusing on the street rather than the drags. And he was now building a new rod, a highboy deuce roadster. One of the guys he had found, Bill Brutsman of Dover, was building a T-bucket. This was good news. Pete told me that he and Bill had located a few rodders in Westchester County, NY, a few others from Long Island and another few somewhere in Connecticut and that they were all going to try to get together somehow. That gathering took place in New Paltz, N.Y. in the fall of 1969 and was reported by both Pete and Bill. Each sent their report to the rodders they had found so far. Those attending were astonished by the huge turnout. Pete reported 65 rods and Bill reported 85 so the correct number is probably in that range. That many rods by today’s standards would be a meager assemblage but at that time it was an awesomely huge number. That many cars can be seen today at some local cruise nights. This event drew cars from Albany to Long Island and from throughout northern New Jersey and the greater New York metropolitan area. There were even some from Connecticut. How many street rods might be in that large area today?
HISTORY
Over the winter of 1969 – 1970 there developed an effort to organize those of us who still had hot rods but who were interested in the street rather than drag racing. A meeting was soon announced for March 1, 1970, and was held in a Teamster’s union hall in West Paterson. (See attachment A for Pete VanIderstine’s letter announcing this meeting and summarizing the New Paltz trip.) This meeting was well attended and was my first contact with the group. Most of the attendees had been hot rodders for some time, had belonged to hot rod clubs in their area, and were pleased to see such an interest in what was being called “street rodding”. But there was widespread sentiment that nobody wanted another club. As one guy put it: “I’m all clubbed out. No more clubs!” There was no interest in drag racing and, as I remember, no interest in car shows. The consensus was to enjoy our cars by driving them. So we discussed what to do; how could we work together to make this new concept of street rodding more enjoyable? The handful of Northern New Jersey guys who had gone to New Paltz the previous year were already referring to themselves as the North Jersey Street Rods so we kept that name. We have always considered those few guys as our original members. Those who are known to have been on that trip were Pete VanIderstine, Bill Brutsman, Cliff Pultz, Elmo Jones, Nick Maneri, Bill Pries, Tony Brandner, Mark Conforth, John Fonton, Joe Nicastro, Wayne Donlon, Bill Richards, and Dave Baker. At this meeting we decided to form a committee and to maintain a mailing list. The committee had a president – Bill Brutsman -and a secretary/treasurer who was me. We would not be a traditional club and there would be no meetings. Everybody seemed pleased with that. The committee would find things to do and the mailing list was a means to spread the word. We took up a collection for postage and the meeting ended. At some point in our earliest history Bill Brutsman was named the Northeast Division Director by the recently formed National Street Rod Association. One of our early events was a rod run to Bill Brutsman’s house in Dover in 1970. He didn’t even have a garage and had built his T-bucket on the family tennis court. We used the emerging term “Rod Run” for this event and Bill gave us all dash plaques that he had made on the engraving machine at the Doverport Shop, his family’s business. One of his jobs there was to engrave bowling trophies. I still have that dash plaque and it is my oldest. Bill announced this event with a hand drawn flyer (Attachment C.) Ed Flanagan came to this rod run in his nearly finished glass model-A roadster, one of the first glass cars in the country. Ed was an early president and was the creator of our club logo. This was our first and only club logo and he has contributed much artwork over the years for our dash plaques, flyers, and clothing. Ed also created the NSRA striped square logo that has a star in the corner. He’s a very creative guy. Other events I remember from the earliest years included a picnic at Lake Hopatcong State Park that attracted several New York State cars, and also several outings at a swimming lake somewhere in northern New Jersey. I sent out a handwritten mailing (attachment D) announcing a June 1970 outing at one of these places. We even had one of our very earliest shows at such a place. These kinds of places were once fairly common but are, I believe, now gone. In 1971 we planned an informal gathering at Pete VanIderstine’s house near Morristown for May 16th. (Attachment E is the notice of this event.) We got rained out but rescheduled for May 30th and we all had a good time. Although we had certainly not started a traditional club, we nevertheless referred to it as a club. The mailing list grew rapidly. Our oldest known roster from February, 1971, lists over 40 guys. But it didn’t take long for us to realize that the committee form of operation wasn’t really working. The mailing list quickly grew to over 125 guys, all of whom had been hot rodders, all of whom were interested in what we were trying to do, but few came out to the events we held. The committee idea didn’t seem to be the answer. In an August 30, 1971, letter to the membership I wrote: …I’ve talked with several fellows in the last few weeks and there are some who are looking for more action and feel that we should meet from time to time for the purpose of planning events, keeping up the interest (especially for those with unfinished cars), and just plain old car talk. So we’ve scheduled a meeting to be held at VanIderstine’s Speed Shop in Hanover on Friday evening at 9:00 P.M. Sept 19th to talk about some of these things and to discuss whether we should, perhaps, be organized somewhat differently… I don’t recall what transpired at that meeting. I have an undated letter from Ed Flanagan probably from about the same time, summarizing the situation and calling for another meeting to in Wayne. At those early Legion Hall meetings we resigned ourselves to forming yet another traditional club. We elected a full slate of officers and began regular meetings. After having met at the Wayne Legion Hall for a while we changed our meetings to a bowling alley on route 46 in Wayne where one of our members, the late Bob Turi, had a restaurant. We met there for many years. Remembering how many guys had gotten onto the original mailing list, we decided that applicants must have a finished car that passed a club inspection. We ran in this mode until sometime in the late 1970s when membership had dwindled to fewer than 20 guys. So we rescinded that requirement and began accepting applications from guys with cars under construction and guys seeking to buy cars. These kinds of applicants would clearly benefit from the wealth of information our members had to offer. The first Street Rod Nationals was produced by Rod & Custom magazine and was held in Peoria, Illinois, in 1970. Three of our members attended. They were Brutsman, Baker, and Pultz. The second Street Rod Nationals was in Memphis and was also produced by Rod & Custom magazine but was “sanctioned and co-produced by the National Street Rod Association” 1. A group of North Jersey cars went. Those guys learning from the attendant at a gas station stop that a big electrical storm was ahead. They finally found a motel but no rooms were available. So they bribed the night clerk with cash to let them sleep in 1 From a mailing sticker used by Bill Brutsman in 1971.4 the storeroom on the unused roll-away beds. A motel they found later in the trip also had no rooms. But there were guys staying there that our guys knew. So our guys bribed the maintenance guy to put roll-away beds in the rooms occupied by the friends. Everybody had a bed that night, too. These trips in the early years were strictly for the guys. With women along, antics such as these would have been impossible. All subsequent Street Rod Nationals were produced by the National Street Rod Association and our club was well represented at them for many years as they moved among Detroit, Oklahoma City, Memphis, St. Paul, Columbus, Louisville, and other Midwestern cities. Other events from the 1970s included a foliage run to High Point. It was a cold autumn day but there was a good turnout. Foliage runs seem to recur in our history. This first one was in the early seventies. In these early years many of us had small children and we would hold a Christmas party for the kids. These parties were held at the bowling alley where we held our meetings and members Gary Dicso or Ralph Babbitt would be Santa Claus. The kids always enjoyed them and they enjoyed being Santa. We had members from all over the state in the early years – central Jersey, Trenton area, and further. We even had a member from eastern Pennsylvania and several from Orange County in New York State. Eventually some of these more distant guys left the club to start up street rod clubs in their home areas. Some of these clubs grew but some that had grown later declined and are now gone. But we still thrive. Street rodding was firmly established and there developed an interest in having large regional events somewhere in the northeast. It was probably in 1971 that the Northeast Street Rod Organization – better known as NESRO – was born. This was an informal coalition of street rod clubs from throughout the northeast from Maine to New Jersey. We joined. Each member club would periodically produce a weekend event somewhere in the northeast. Planning meetings were held from time to time and our representatives to these meetings were usually Ed Flanagan, Lenni Zaccaro, and Bill Pries. The first several events were held at Catskill resorts; one at Kenoza Lake, several at the Granite, and one at the Brickman. Things got a little out of control at a few of these early events – things like driving a golf cart into the lake. In our September 1973 newsletter George Tibball wrote: …The Brickman was a disaster. In spite of a good job done by Al LeGrow and the others involved, the hotel itself was very poorly managed… By the second or third year our club proposed a run at the Playboy Club in Sussex County. Our reps developed a formal presentation of the kind used in business and it was well received. Our members did almost all of the planning, preparation, and staffing and the event was well attended. About this time the newly formed National Street Rod Association was beginning to think that they, too, ought to hold regional events of the kind later established in York and Dick Wells of NSRA was very interested in the upcoming Playboy Club event. He wanted to talk about possibly having NSRA produce Playboy Club events in the future and make them NSRA regional events. One of the other larger NESRO clubs reacted negatively and accused us of creating this event so we could give it away to NSRA. That club boycotted the event. The boycott, the golf cart incident, and other behavioral problems led to our eventual withdrawal from NESRO and, frankly, I don’t remember how long it lasted after that. We had been one of the original clubs in NESRO and were active participants for about five years. In our working with other NESRO member clubs we had gotten to know many of the Westchester (NY) SRA members. Over the years we have attended each other’s events and enjoyed one another’s company. That club is mentioned several times in this history. Street rodding was developing elsewhere and the Upstate (New York) Street Rods were already holding annual rod runs. Their fourth annual run was held at the Painted Pony Ranch in Lake Luzerne, NY, and attracted cars from our club. Ed Flanagan remembers it as a sort of dude ranch with cabins and that the kids loved it. He received one of the homemade awards. Charlie Parinello remembers it as a rainy weekend but that everybody had a good time, nevertheless. This was in May of 1976. And we produced a poker run. This was put together by Bernie Bernhardt, Terry Cook, and me. Terry had recently returned from California where he had been editor of Hot Rod Magazine and he had joined our club. Terry planned the segments in Morris and Somerset Counties and I planned the end part through Tewksbury Township where I lived. Checkpoints were manned by Bernie, me, and Al Dauernheim (Bob’s brother) and he wasn’t even in the club! The run ended at Don Bigelow’s house in Gladstone where we had a picnic. It was a big success. There’s a group picture in the club scrapbook taken at Bigelow’s house. Charlie Parinello, Paul Erb, and I are probably the only current members in the picture. At some point in the early years we caravanned to the Ledgewood Drive-In theatre to see American Graffiti. That was great. There were more rods in the drive-in that night than there were in the movie. After the movie we went for ice cream; surely the club’s first ice cream cruise night. As we were beginning to produce events we became concerned about the clubs liability if something were to happen at one of our events. In an attempt to prevent our officers from being held individually liable in such a situation we decided to incorporate the club. This was some time in the mid-1970s. We incorporated as a not-for- profit organization and we began our corporate life with our four officers plus three trustees which was the minimum number we could have under state law. It seems that I was often the secretary and I also wrote the newsletter most of the time. There were several notable exceptions to this. Others who did a stint as editor were George Tibball, Ed Flanagan, Lenni Zaccaro, Dick VanNiekerk, Rich Thomas, and Charlie Parinello. Lenni Zaccaro was one of our more colorful members and that trait carried over to the newsletters he wrote. When we separated the writing of the newsletter from the publishing and mailing of the newsletter my life got a lot easier since I kept the writing part. At some point in the early years we were approached by two guys who described themselves as promoters. They told us we were in an ideal position to produce a swap meet. They said that, as promoters, they could help us with it and we could work out some way to share in the profits. We decided to go for it. We held it at a place called Sundance Lodge on route 46 near the Fairfield/Wayne border, across route 46 from the bowling alley where we met. I think it was a picnic grove. The first event was marginally successful but made very little money. When we did the agreed upon math to see how much of the money we owed these guys we found that we got it all and they got nothing. Some promoters! Apparently they wanted their share to start after we had made a modest amount. Their share would then increase as total proceeds rose. If we had made a lot of money they would have gotten a really big chunk of it. But we made so little that they got nothing. But we liked the idea of running a swap meet so we gave those guys some of our profits anyway and began planning our next swap meet with their assistance. We continued having swap meets, eventually without their help. Sometimes we’d have both a spring and fall swap meet and sometimes a swap meet would be two days. At some point we started putting our cars on display. Soon we were inviting others to display their cars, too, and either giving them a discount on admission or letting them in free if they brought a car. Some people began coming mainly to see the cars and we began to refer to it as a car show and swap meet. These events evolved into judged shows with classes and trophies and eventually to the rod run format we now use. The dash plaques tell the story. My 1978 dash plaque says it’s our “Fourth Annual Swap Meet” and the dates were May 13th and 14th. So we must have started in 1975 for this to be the fourth and they were already two days. Our 1986 dash plaque states “Car Show & Swap Meet”. Since we listed the car show first it was probably the bigger part of the event by this time. The 1992 dash plaque says “Second Annual Rod Run”. This is consistent with my recollection that we transitioned to the rod run format in 1991. When we began to transition to shows that raised money for charity we learned that if we wanted to do things like hold a raffle we needed a license from the state and this would require that we be a charity organization, which we were not. So, largely through the Herculean efforts of Bob Grimal we created a clone corporation of the North Jersey Street Rod Association and called it the North Jersey Street Rod Charity Group. This makes our fund raiser show squeaky clean to anybody who might scrutinize us. You’ll see our state license number on the raffle tickets. Also, by creating the charity group, we think it’s now easier to get donations from businesses. The swap meet part of the event which had been the impetus for the whole thing became smaller and smaller. Today it is either very small or nonexistent. Other early show locations we used after being at Sundance Lodge for several years were a swimming lake on route 23 near Butler, Pine Brook Speedway, Morris County College, Boonton Aerodrome, and Horseshoe Lake to which we returned several years ago. Artwork for posters, flyers, and dash plaques for these events was contributed either by Ed Flanagan or by Jeff Tischler, another talented long time member, best known for his skills as a pinstriper. Gary Dicso of Cliffside Park had joined the club in the early years. He had a hemi ’32 coupe and was completing a T-touring when he joined. He soon began an annual rod run at his gas station in Cliffside Park. He’d close at noon on Saturday and the rods would start arriving. This must sound a little hokey by today’s standards; a rod run in a gas station? But we were driving our cars and enjoying the company of other rodders which is exactly what we were all looking for. There were no cruise nights anywhere in the state at that time. Gary’s runs were wildly successful. The station would be completely filled with rods, packed in from the sidewalk to the back fence. Late arrivals would have to park on city streets. Gary served food all day. He raised one of his lifts to table height and put sheets of plywood on it. This was the buffet table. There were large tubs of clams, sausage and peppers, and all kinds of other good things. And, of course, beer all day. On one occasion the Channel 11 news truck showed up to cover the event. This was a truly uncommon happening. From his several trips to the NSRA Nationals in the mid-west, Gary had gotten to know Norm Grabowski, the famous southern California rodder who had built the first T-bucket back in the mid-fifties. Grabowski had a cousin in New Jersey who he would periodically visit and he turned up at one of Gary’s runs. He was a neat guy. Gary’s garage runs also attracted members of the Westchester Street Rods who we had gotten to know through NESRO. They had been coming to our swap meets, probably from their inception, and we always enjoyed seeing them. Gary’s runs would continue on into the night. I can remember one occasion when the crowd had dwindled after dark so Gary closed the station and took some of us cruising town in his T-touring. I don’t think I got home until after midnight. Gary always supplied attendees with dash plaques (designed by Ed Flanagan) and I have four. My first was from Gary’s Garage Run No. 3 in June of 1977. So I guess they began in 1975. My dash plaques are from 1977, 1978, 1979, and 1980. Gary’s runs likely ended with his 1980 event. In 1983 Terry Cook came to one of our meetings. He had dropped out of the club some years before but came to tell us about his new plan. He was going to produce an event for lead sleds that he would call Lead East. He had arranged to use the Flemington Fairgrounds on route 31 just north of town. He wanted our club to help by being the staff and he would make a donation to the club in return for our assisting with the event. We accepted and most of us were there to help the first Lead East be a success. The turnout was impressive with lots of traditional customs like chopped Mercs. The day was brutally hot and as the day wore on it also became very dusty. I remember working the spectator gate and the crowds came all day. We noticed that some spectators had Pennsylvania plates and they told us they heard about the event on local Philadelphia radio. Terry had done lots and lots of advertising. Terry had somehow learned that the legendary VonDutch was still around and open to doing personality appearances. Terry made a deal to have him in Flemington. When I inquired about him I was pointed to an old guy in bib overalls sitting alone at a picnic table in the shade of one of the few trees. Somebody tipped me off that the VonDutch idea had backfired because he had become a surly nasty old man. He had been losing his eyesight and couldn’t pin-stripe anymore. Nor could he do the gunsmithing and knife-making that he had gotten into after his celebrated years as a pin-striper. For this reason I decided not to try to engage him in conversation but I nevertheless wanted to meet him. I approached him, introduced myself, told him I had enjoyed his work, and thanked him for his contributions to our hobby over the years. He nodded and I departed. I had met the great VonDutch. Part of Cook’s program for the first Lead East included renting the nearly defunct Flemington Drive-in theatre for Lead East participants. This was a really cool idea. Of course we all had our street rods with us for the day so we, too, went to the drive-in. The scene that night at the drive-in was memorable – like a time warp. The whole place was rods and customs. Somebody should have taken a picture. I think Terry had arranged for the movie to be Rebel Without a Cause. I hadn’t been to a drive-in since they had the speakers that you hooked on your window. This place used an AM radio frequency for the sound and I didn’t have a radio in my Model-A. But that didn’t matter. We all had a good time and it was a fine way to end a blisteringly hot and dusty but successful day. I still have my event shirt from that first Lead East but it no longer fits! Some things do indeed change. At some point in the distant past – I’m not sure when.

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