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About CVA

The Early Days of the Connecticut Volkswagen Association

by Steve Mierz
December 30, 1998

I am careful not to call this the Early *History* of the CVA, as it is not intended to be detailed, fact-checked, technically perfect historical record, bur rather a brief overview of the origin and early evolution of the organization. Besides, trying to compress six full years of VW hobby activities into a few short paragraphs is all but impossible. Still, as founder and Director of the organization for it's first six years--from the beginning of 1985 to the end of 1990 (and having a 3-inch-thick binder-full of the 69+ newsletter issues I produced during that period for inspiration), I guess I am more "uniquely qualified" than anyone to write this account, and I appreciate the invitation from our new President, John Kelly, to do so at this time, as the organization enters an exciting new phase for 1999 and beyond.

Again, lacking precise records, my earliest recollection of the inspiration to "get something going," VW-hobby-wise, in Connecticut, came somewhere around 1984 or 1984. Diane and I had run across a notice in a VW magazine for the Vintage VW Club of America, and decided to join. Again I don't remember the exact circumstances, but somehow or other we met up with a super-enthusiastic gentleman from Naugatuck, who had just started trying to organize a Connecticut Chapter of the VVWCA. That man was of course Tom Shoemaker. To say his enthusiasm was infectious is an understatement, and I'm pleased to say we remain friends to this day. Not long after meeting Tom, I got the inspiration to put together a "Connecticut Chapter Directory" of local state VVWCA members, and did so, with the 14-page publication being distributed in 1984.

Wanting to do something more active in the hobby, and observing the successful local VW hobby organizations in other states, such as the V-Dub Club of Rhode Island , headed by Coy Bethune, and the Long Island VW Association, headed by David Hamcke, I got the idea to start up the Connecticut Volkswagen Association, and we launched it at the beginning of 1985. I procured a post office box near where I worked in Stratford, got some stationery, business cards, & envelopes printed up, window decals too, and set about spreading the word, via mailings, and I believe, the occasional magazine ad also.

Tom Shoemaker was given the honorary CVA membership number "1," in recognition of his tremendous inspiration and enthusiasm. Other very significant people came on board very shorty afterward, and many have proven their commitment and staying power, remaining vital forces on the Connecticut Volkswagen hobby scene to this day. Bill O'Brien of Avon's "O'B Racing" was CVA member #3, and the first "Sustaining Member" of CVA, via his business's special support of the organization, and offering a special discount to CVA members (O'B also was to become the first CONNection display advertiser, furthering his company's support to the organization, in early 1988). Chuck Pisconski was CVA member #9, and soon volunteered to set up and run the CVA Video Tape Library--an invaluable service to the club which Chuck ran in a super-efficient and friendly manner. Mark Lavoie was CVA member #13, and remains a super-active and helpful enthusiast; he is now often seen working at the Bug City sales booth at the local shows.

The membership numbers start to fade now, as I'm no longer in possession of the original CVA membership records, but my collection of early CVA newsletters provides more names who were there in the *Very* Early Days, who are now still very active in the hobby and the organization: Garth Collins, Tom Matulis, Joe Delaney, Richard Borchers, Mark Andstsrom, John Kelly, Randy Lindquist, Greg "Mr. Rusty Bug Restorations" Curello, and the late, great Jerry Kelly of Bristol's "Kelly Enterprises," among them. Jerry and Pat Kelly hosted the first festive "Kelly Enterprises Holiday Open House" their then-new Bristol facility in late November 1987. Jerry's company was also to become our second newsletter display advertiser in 1988, demonstrating his outstanding commitment to the local VW hobby. What a dramatic loss to our local VW hobby it was when Jerry passed away in the summer of 1990. Burt Strom and his RI- based company "M&T Manufacturing" became our third display advertiser later in 1988, and the list continued to grow from there.

In late summer '85 we staged our first annual summer car show at the old Beetle Barn in Warehouse Point, CT. The crowd of cars & swap meeters was much larger than expected, proving the strength of the local VW hobby, even back then. Beetle Barn held their own similar event in the summer of 1986, while we had already moved on to a larger facility for our official CVA show: the Montesi Volkswagen dealership in 1986. Our first show there was called "Beetle Mania," and we continued holding our annual shows at Montesi through the last one I was personally involved in organizting--in the summer of 1990. The well- known VW toy maven Jerry Jess from Arizona also started writing toy & collectible articles for us way back in 1985.

The newsletters in those early days were all typed out on my trusty Smith- Corona electric portable typewriter--it wasn't until the beginning of 1988, when I first started using my then-new "Macintosh Plus" computer and "Apple Imagewriter" dot-matrix printer to construct the newsletter (thanks to significant help & inspiration from my wife Diane and her older brother Rob). Laser-printing soon follwed, and then a move to a new professional print shop in late 1988 (Charles Havrda's Guilford Printworks in Guilford, CT) made for an even-more professional-looking publication, and even sharper photo reproduction.

The man who was to eventually take over the organization and the newsletter from me at the end of 1990, Bob Dorr of Waterbury, joined CVA in early 1987. Other fine local Connecticut VW events started up around that time too: Dave Camp & Dennis Theriault's "Bug Splash" in Salem, CT, started in the summer of 1987, and Chuck Pisconski & Tom Matulis now-legendary "Litchfield Bug-Inn's" started in the summer of 1988.

I realize I've either fast-forwarded through or totally omitted a *ton* of important details and important people & their accomplishments/contributions from this brief account, but again, as stated at the beginning, six full year's-worth of experiences do not fit easily onto one page. I've tried to just hit a few highlights of the organization's development and activities over those years.

Anyway, by the middle of 1990, I began to realize that I wouldn't be able to continue with the commitment to the organization, and began placing notices in the newsletter soliciting either a person or committee to come forward to take over by my projected date of retirement: the end of 1990. Mr. Bob Dorr eventually came forward as spokesman for the committee of concerned people who wanted to become actively involved in keeping the organization going after 1990, and wrote a for-publication letter outlining their commitment to the CVA, that was published in my last official CONNection issue (#69, issue date October 17, 1990). The super-talented and super-enthusiastic Mr. Dorr went on to become the new CONNection editor and club "focal point" for the next *eight* years, and I couldn't have been happier!

In closing, my thanks once again to Mr. John Kelly for his (& his committee's) magnificent commitment to the CVA future, here as we stand ready to enter 1999. My thanks to Mr. Bob Dorr and all his helpers for all their amazing work keeping the organization alive & vital during the years 1991 through 1998. Finally, my thanks to all those people who helped develop the organization during the Early Years, 1985 through 1990, especially my family, who understood how much the Connecticut Volkswagen Association meant to me.

I welcome any and all inquiries from my old CVA friends from "the early days," and wish to add that I'm currently producing an independent antique Volkswagen hobby monthly newsletter, "Common Gear," which has been an official sponsor of several recent Connecticut VW Association events, and also continues to sponsor the special "VW Only" class (for *all air cooled VWs*) at the large "Time Machines" antique auto events in Durham, CT (this year's event: Sunday July 25, 1999). Feel free to contact me at: Common Gear, c/o House of Buggin', P.O. Box 3353, Stony Creek, CT 06405, e-mail: CommonGear@aol.com, web site: http://members.aol.com/CommonGear/

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