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Story by Lois Grace

I always get sentimental this time of year.  If you know me well, you know that I am by nature a sentimental person (probably too much so for my own good), but something extraordinary happens each time this year that makes me even more sappy.  What is it?  VW show season.  With the coming of spring, VW fans in garages all over the country begin to stir, breaking out bottles of wax and wheel polish, laundering the 'special rags' saved just to detail a special car, changing oil and adding this and removing that and installing some more of those and before you know it, were all at shows drinking in the results of our hard work.  Call me sappy (its been done before) but I get a bit nostalgic every year right about now.

As I sit and write this, my club (the Golden Gate Chapter of the Vintage VW Club of America) is gearing up for our annual VW Meet at Kelley Park here in San Jose.  This show has grown from a very small local event to a huge, 3-day extravaganza attended by people from all over the U.S.  I joined the club in 1986, right as they were preparing for this same show.  Of course when the day came that year, Rob and I drove Vernon (my 1959 Single Cab, who was unrestored then and scary in all his original-ness) out to Kelley Park, to spend the day with some of our new friends and their cars.  The show itself turned out to be perhaps 30-40 vintage Volkswagens; a good percentage owned by club members and the rest a few brought in by the public who'd somehow found out we were having a show that day.  We did little advertising other than show flyers distributed to various VW businesses in the area.  There were no trophies, no judging, and no swap meet.  What the show was - and remains today, in large part - was a gathering of VW friends who rarely saw each other outside of club meetings.  I think this is the main reason why I get so sentimental at our show now.  This huge event gives me the chance to reconnect with people I don't see any other time of year.  Some of my VW friends live on the other side of the country, others I have 'met' only through email or phone calls. The enormous number of people I now call my friends is due directly to this wonderful hobby we are involved in, and even seeing them once a year is better than not seeing them at all.  VW shows and events put us all in one place at the same time. What could be better than that?

I think I get sentimental about show season because it also allows me to actually enjoy driving my two oldest Volkswagens.  We generally don't have severe winters here in California, but the weather we do get doesn't make for great vintage VW-ing.  I'm just one of those psycho-vintage-car-owners who refuses to subject my babes to wet pavement and flying goo.  I paid a lot for those paint jobs, and I sure do hope they cover every square inch of my cars, but I have no desire to test that out by inviting rust into anything they missed!  So, my three oldest cars spend most of the winter indoors, covered up, looking exactly like what they are then:  giant bookends.  Once the weather clears, its great fun to fire them up and stretch those tires with a short ride here or there.

But the best part of show season is by far the people.  I love showing my cars, don't misunderstand me, but the big deal now has become socializing.  Its kind of like it was in high school, school itself wasn't BAD (I was also one of those psycho kids who enjoyed school), but the big thing was going to school to hang out with your friends. That's how I feel at a VW show.  I am surrounded by people who understand how important this hobby is to me, because it's that important to them too.  These people also tend to think the same way I do, and don't think it's strange to be in love with a car.  They understand how great it is to see someone you only see once a year, at that show. They also understand the frustrations and rewards of restoration, and most do their own repairs so they also can relate to any stories I might want to tell of my own escapades with a wrench (not that it happens that often).  We help each other solve problems and refer each other to mechanics and body shop people and other 'auto artisans' that can help each of us make our cars the best they can be.  No one thinks it strange to spend $3000 on a round tool kit made to fit inside your spare tire.  These VW people, my friends, are the reason why I  make such a point to attend as many of these events as I can. I simply enjoy their company that much.

Sure, we admire each other's cars and we trade tips and secrets.  But most of the time is spent sharing what we've done during the year since we've seen each other.  At the end of the day we know whose child has started school, who's gotten married (or divorced!), who has moved or bought a new house or decided to sell the one they have and go somewhere else.  Life constantly brings changes and we catch up on that as we sit by our cars and watch the crowds.  We chat and compare notes and become comfortable with each other again. And, if you're lucky like I am, this is done over and over and over again, all throughout the day with different people.  The cars are just the catalyst, to get us all in the same place once more.  If you're really lucky (again, like me), you find you have friends that live a lot closer than you ever expected.  My email friend Carla and I met for the first time a few years ago and have met each year since at Kelley Park to enjoy the show and each other's company.  The amazing part of this friendship is that we even get together when there isn't a VW event to attend!  We live two hours apart, but somehow that distance doesn't keep us from having fun or seeing each other.  She is one of my dearest friends, and if it weren't for the common bond of Volkswagens, we never would have met.  

So this year, as the show season begins, go ahead and detail that VW.  Clean and polish and vacuum, and during the process think about all the great friends you've made in your years in this hobby.  Think of how great it is to share this hobby with people who care about it the way you do, and how wonderful it'll be to reconnect with all of them.  Think of all the people that will be looking forward to seeing you again this year.  I'll bet you get a little sentimental too.  


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