“VWAWNY — The Birth”
by Rob LaPorte Jr.
In September of this year(1992), the Volkswagen Association of Western New York will be celebrating its fifth anniversary. I thought this would be an appropriate time to share some of our club history. Since Marv Ruch and Greg Carr were the originators of VWAWNY, I interviewed them briefly to be sure I had the facts straight.
Reading a magazine one day, Marv came across the name of Greg Carr listed as a member of the Vintage Volkswagen Club of America. Consequently, Marv phoned Greg to discuss the possibility of pooling local interest into an area VW Club. At the time, the only nearby VW club was the Niagara Volks Folks in Ontario. Naturally, Greg was interested.
Eight VW enthusiasts showed up for the initial meeting at Marv’s Buffalo business office in Sept. of 1987: Marv Ruch, Greg Carr, John Reedy, Bob LaPorte, Robbie LaPorte, Mike Thompson, David M. Clark and David R. Clark (yes, there was some mention of the “Dave Clark Five”). Three of these guys, David M. Clark, Mike Thompson and John Reedy, were old friends of Greg’s. David R. Clark of Rochester noticed Marv’s name in a VW magazine. Dave phoned Marv and Marv told him about the meeting. My dad and I met Greg at the July 1987 Michigan VW show. We were showing a custom ’73 bus. Greg told us about the meeting and potential club.
During the first meeting we decided there sure was enough interest to form a club, and within a few months, VWAWNY was incorporated. Marv served as the club’s first president; Greg Carr vice president; David M. Clark secretary; and Bob LaPorte treasurer. It was decided that meeting on the third Wednesday of every month was convenient for everyone. We talked about hosting the first VW show in Western New York, which became known as the Northern Bug Fest. The original key logo was Bob LaPorte’s idea and was created by me using a key from my ’63 Beetle as a template.
The club has come a long way since 1987. The membership has grown from eight to 86 in just over four years. Four successful Bug Fest car shows have come and gone that helped the club gain recognition across the country. Both “Hot VWs” and “VW Trends” have covered our Bug Fests at one time or another. This newsletter has had major improvements over the years and has been distributed to VW clubs worldwide. The newsletter publications and the monthly club meetings have helped many VW buffs with their problems and has unified us in the common cause of preserving our beloved VWs. I am very proud to be a member of VWAWNY and particularly to be one of the eight charter members.
“History of the VWAWNY Newsletter”
By Greg Carr
Having established the club late in 1987, an early order of business to establish a club newsletter. Secretary Dave M. “der Barr” Clark started the ball rolling with his monthly secretary’s report. Der Barr called it “Keynotes”, after the club’s VW key logo. He combined club news with anecdotal news of interest to members.
After several months it became apparent we needed a real monthly newsletter. Up stepped Ed Button of Canandaigua, who took the whole project on himself. The first sample newsletter was dated November 1988, and included a hand drawn version of the circular club banner surrounding the key logo, overlapping a photo of an oval window bug. The contents included a description of an October 29 VW show at Holbert’s VW dealership in Warrington, PA, with photos of a green/ivory convertible and an early ambulance.
Ed wrote a commentary explaining the necessity of a newsletter: “My purpose is not to philosophize, but to build the club membership, present our club to others and help keep ourselves well informed, all with the addition of an organized newsletter.”
Ed presented his prototype newsletter at the Nov. ’88 club meeting at Barnaby’s tavern on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst. This first newsletter was a surprise to everybody and met a positive response. Ed asked for input and I suggested restoring the Keynotes moniker.
In December ’88 an unofficial Keynotes (Vol. XXX No. XXX) was sent out to the membership. It included the first installment of the long-running Model Spot column by Dave R. Clark of Rochester – featuring a Mercury 1/43 scale diecast oval window bug toy – and an article by me describing club members’ projects. (Frank Orsini had just completed his ’65 bug; der Barr was showing his then-cherry ’78 right hand drive camper and racking up awards; Dave R. Clark was readying his 1954 oval restoration and I asked him if it would be done next year – I am still asking – and Bob LaPorte had a feeding frenzy buying a ’61 camper, a ’67 crew cab pickup and a ’53 beetle. Marvin Ruch unveiled his ’57 coral red bug restoration and Tom Meyers rebuilt a Sea Blue ’64 sunroof bug he bought from Mike Thompson.)
In January of 1989 the first official (Vol. 1 No. 1) issue of Keynotes was published. It was a four-page newsletter with a picture of a vintage VW parked in a white stucco German village.
Ed Button led off the newsletter by wishing everybody a happy new year. “…and to start off 1989 in the right direction I submit to you this FIRST ISSUE club newsletter,” he wrote.
Keynotes No. 1 included a treasure hunting article by me, telling how Tony Dickash and I sorted through a mother lode of VW parts Marv Ruch bought from United Import Motors’ obsolete stock, and from Jim Kelly’s VW when it closed.
Dave R. Clark presented a Model Spot article on the Tootsietoy 1/32 scale oval window bug, and he also had a Love Bug movie poster for sale in the classifieds. (Wish I could get it now!)
In February the club gained nine new memberships including Doug and Polly Smith, film and restaurant reviewers for WIVB channel 4. The Smiths debuted their “Bug Shots” column, describing the VWs that turned up in new movie releases. For the first installment, they told us about a red beetle convertible from the movie “Stealing Home,” that was driven by a teenage Jody Foster, who used the car to “lay rubber and leave a Coupe de Ville in the dust.” Model Spot featured a 1/43 scale Maerklin barndoor bus and I wrote about my ’49 beetle.
In March the format of the newsletter was changed from a folded letter to the little book that would be used through the Aktuell. In addition to Model Spot and my first “Beetle Babble” column, Doug Smith told us that “Herbie Goes Bananas” finished third from lasting network viewing for January, and der Barr returned to fill us in on the rigors and rewards of car show campaigning.
Spring fever hit in April with Ed Button anxious to design a racing wing for his ’56 bug; Doug Smith lamented a VW convertible-driving Cybill Shepherd trying to pass herself off as a 20-year-old; and I wrote about toy shows and chassis numbers. Model Spot featured PMC promos, and there was an events calendar and a flyer for our first spring rally, a jaunt around Grand Island.
In May there was an article by Ed about resto-customs and I wrote about the Love Bug. The June ’89 issue was a milestone, for it was the last Keynotes edited by Ed Button. In addition to the regular features, I wrote an article on the Spring Fun Rally with a picture of winners Mike and Wendy Thompson, who won the event with 2 ½-year-old Aubrey on board. We also learned of Frank Orsini’s immense Ghia project.
In July, I took over as editor. Sadly, Ed Button was never heard from in Keynotes again. He went on to become a member of the Finger Lakes Region Club. I entered the job with enthusiasm, an interest in writing and design, and a big enough stash of VW clippings and cartoons to last for many newsletters. I also had a lot to learn about being a tactful editor. I got into trouble right away by bashing the Niagara Volks Folks show at Sherkston beach in Fort Erie. (The Volks Folks subsequently corrected all of my complaints and today have the most successful show in the region!) I also slammed one of our first show sponsors – real dumb!
Humbled, I set to work improving the quality and content of the newsletter. In addition to the regular columns, Keynotes added the “Ministry of Transporters” column by Canadian John Kellestine.
Following the huge success of the second Northern Bug Fest, club membership zoomed to 70. By January 1990, Keynotes had a regular format, and those old newsletters are still fun to read today.
As Keynotes continued for the next two years, I put a lot of creativity into it, culminating with the most controversial newsletter ever – the April 1, 1992 “Fordnotes” newsletter parody that surprised everybody.
Fordnotes which was a send-up of Keynotes, contained the motto “Fix or repair daily,” and listed officers “Fairlane Orsini,” “Merc Ruch” and Bobcat LaFord.” The newsletter even included a puzzle with such clues as behemoth, fossil, jalopy and scrap. There was also a 1961 road test featuring a For Econoline, a Chevy Greenbriar and a VW Kombi.
It was a surprise to many. Some members weren’t sure if they were supposed to be receiving it. A couple got miffed. (Ford-lover Gregg Zimmermann sent me a letter.)
Despite this, Fordnotes still holds up as a great satire and it was a metaphor for the goofiness I faced each month. It was also the beginning of a Keynotes decline caused by a lack of club input. (The only contribution I got that month was an ad for a welder.)
At the end of 1992 I introduced the most popular feature of my tenure as editor, the “Wo is der Barr?” comic strip that chronicled the adventures of fictional characters who somehow seemed to resemble club members.
By mid-1993 we saw some great newsletter features, including a retrospective on Granville VW on Niagara Falls Boulevard (today Delia) and a great Bob LaPorte feature on his original early ’70s chop-top bug. (I recently heard he finally sold it.)
Towards the end of ’93 I had poured a lot of time and energy into Keynotes and I was beginning to burn out. In December I announced that Mike Thompson would be the new editor starting in January, and the torch was passed.
During my tenure as editor, I had a lot of help from members, especially Marv Ruch, Bob LaPorte and Roger and Catherine Reynolds. Upon my departure the club graciously presented me with a custom made plaque to acknowledge my contributions as editor. The plaque featured a laser engraving of characters from my comic strip and today hangs in my home office wall.
In January of ’94 Mike Thompson took over as Editor. Mike had created the artwork for the previous four Bug Fests, which had also appeared on newsletter covers. Mike is an official VW factory trained technician. Mike wrote: “For my new post as editor, I felt a need to contribute something to the club, not having held office since joining.”
Roger Reynolds began sending notices to the membership asking for contributions, and giving members six weeks to send them in. In February we were treated to first glimpses of the Concept One. Roger’s contribution plan was working great, and the newsletter teamed with articles and clippings. Editorial content included my top ten excuses for not adjusting valves (No. 1, it still runs); and Catherine Reynolds provided an article from the Irish Times explaining that the first bug build outside Germany was built in Dublin in 1950.
In March, we read about Dennis and Carol Kieffer’s 20-year search for the ideal beetle. In April, Han-Juergen Jacobs told about Unluftgemischabschaltventil and Scheibenwischeranlage. The May issue was a bonanza with contributions by Paul Dougherty, Donald and Helen Kossuth, Jason Fedder, Ron Sprandel, Bob LaPorte, myself and Doug and Polly Smith told the tragic tale of the Pennsylvania Pinch Bug.
Other newsletter highlights for ’94 included an August article by Floyd Benzig on buying his first new VW (in 1956!); and in November John Reedy told about buying his first new VW (also in 1956!); and Dave Henning wrote about his nearly 30 years of convertible ownership.
In January of ’95 Keynotes became a quarterly and the Aktuell was introduced to fill the gap other months. Aktuell is a German word meaning “current information” and was modeled after the publication of the German bus club Bulli Kartei.
Mike Thompson continued to edit the quarterly keynotes, while Catherine and Roger Reynolds took over for the Aktuell (Vol. 1 No. 1). The first quarterly Keynotes was the March issue that included two eloquent articles by Mary Cassata and George Ferry on their first beetles, and also an article by Scott Bowers on one of his many VW hunts.
The June quarterly newsletter marked the passing of Mike Thompson’s year-and-a-half editorial input, and the Reynolds took on all newsletter duties. Editorial content included Jim Krause’s recollection of his first VW. (Maybe we should compile these!)
The September quarterly featured Bob LaPorte’s article on his trip to Germany and there was a retrospective on Bug Fest flyer and newsletter cover art.
Other newsletter highlights included Evelyn Reedy’s recollections in the March ’96 Keynotes; James Wasenko’s story in the June newsletter on how he won a ’71 beetle at a contest held at Galleria Mall in Cheektowaga; and my Herbie the Love Bug reincarnation article in the September issue.
Over the years, Keynotes has featured numerous technical articles by many members. The Reynolds will continue to produce Keynotes and the Aktuell through 1997, and then plan to pass newsletter duties along to a new editor – possibly long-time member Mike Lannan – after 3 ½ years of work.
Congratulations to everyone who has ever worked on the newsletter and all the contributors from the past decade. Great job!
Comments from club founder Greg Carr
Some of my own observations — My original name for the club was “Buffalo Bugs” – a spin-off of Buffalo Bills. This was nixed by Bob and Marv as not being inclusive enough of the entire range of VWs (Bob would probably have preferred “Buffalo Buses”), and not being inclusive of all of Western New York. My argument was you didn’t need to live in Buffalo to love the Bills, or to be in our club. Also, the Bug is the mascot of the entire VW range. Fortunately cooler heads prevailed and the club was christened the mouthful, “Volkswagen Association of Western New York.” Most clubs put the name of the town first, but we deliberately put “Volkswagen” at the front of the name, thus our motto, “We put Volkswagen first.” But to this day, I still think “Buffalo Bugs” sounds cool.
An amusing anecdote concerns the club’s initials, “VWAWNY.” I thought it should be “VAWNY” because it was an acronym — the letters spelled an actual word. But Bob argued that “Volkswagen” was actually two words in German, so it should be “VWAWNY.” Well I don’t know when we moved to Germany, but we’ve been the “VWAWNY” ever since!
— Greg Carr