The Story of the CRR-VCCA
As remembered by Lee Matthews
After 50 years my memory is a little hazy; but I will try to give a history of the Columbia River Region as I remember it. The late Dick Larrowe had mentioned to me that it would be a good idea to have a local Chevrolet club . Since I was already an early member of the VCCA, I took the idea and ran with it. But how was I going to do this?
At the time I was driving a little ‘35 Chev standard coupe and would park it in front of my service station. It became a magnet for people who liked old cars. That is how I met Art Larrance and his 490 Chev that he owned. I remember passing a guy driving a green ‘32Chev four door going towards Portland on Canyon Road. I sped up pulled over and flagged him down, much to the embarrassment of my ex. This resulted in a charter member. I can’t recall his name. He was not in the club that long.
I also saw a guy driving a ‘31 Chev fire truck-- like Dave Koetje’s--and flagged him down. That was Wesley Ellis; the fire truck belonged to his fraternity at Oregon State and he was responsible for its care. Another charter member. Well, I still needed more people to form a charter; what to do?
I ran an ad in the Oregonian newspaper in the antique auto section with my phone number. I remember it like it was yesterday. A young man saw the ad and since he had a 1936 Chevrolet standard coupe; gave me a call. That young man was Mike Larsen. He wanted to know if he could come out to my house. I said sure and he pulled into my driveway with his green ‘36 Chev. Mike let me drive it and I gave him a tour of a local junkyard that was near my house. We became lifelong friends.
To tell the truth, I can’t recall the names of the other charter members that helped start this region. Anyway the first meeting was held at my house in Beaverton, OR. Should be a plaque there; but house has been torn down! It was at that meeting we decided to call our group the Columbia River Region. The second meeting was held at Art Larrance’s dad’s cabinet shop on Kinnamon Road in Aloha, OR.
Our first tour was held at Champoeg Park. I rescued a beat up ‘40 Chev coupe with a rod out and brakes down to bare metal and drove that for my tour car. I sold the ‘35 standard coupe to a VCCA member in Illinois to make a down payment on my first house. During the Harvest Swap Meet in Centralia we would meet with a region from around Tacoma. Later that would become an overnight tour.
I do remember one member, who became prominent in our group, didn’t think there would be enough interest to form a local region. It was not without some bumps in the road. At that time, a lot of people thought that brass cars--Fords and classic cars--were the only ones worth restoring, and they would laugh at the idea of someone wanting a wood bodied Chevrolet, let alone a club for them.
We barely became involved with the Portland Swap Meet. A friend of mine in the Model T club convinced me it would be a good idea to join the group. I will not mention the guy’s name because he is still very active in car clubs. He was sore at me because he came out to my house to buy a part that I thought I had but didn’t. My phone rang off the hook (before cell phones). He informed me that the Chev Club was in no way welcome to join the swap meet committee. You know the rest of the story--I persisted and we won! One of our members, Dick Crampton did loads of work on the swap meet, building ramps, etc. Not sure if Dick was a charter member, but he was close.
Dick Davies was a member of the national VCCA before I was (he had a two digit number)! He worked for Chevrolet management and he got us the use of the General Motors training center in Tigard, OR. for a meeting place. Fast forward fifty years, and there are many people who have worked hard to make this club what it is today. This is one of the accomplishments in my life where I planted a seed and watched it grow into a beautiful tree.