The Lions Club of Willow Grove wanted its big annual event to be distinct from other charitable organizations also based in Upper Moreland.
“We were looking for something we could have yearly,” Al Stachel said. “Proceeds would go back into the community in different ways.”
Stachel, who was president of the Lions Club in 1964 and 1998, said that Lions Club members were looking for an event that would be big enough to help continue the organization’s charitable projects throughout the year.
According to his son, Jan, the organization’s current president, the Lions Club of Willow Grove, like the national Lions Club organization, focuses on sight-related projects.
Such projects include:
- Eye glasses collections and donations
- Leader Dog connections
- Beacon Lodge access for special needs youth
- Youth eye and hearing exams
The Lions Club also provides $1,000 scholarships each to a and student.
“It’s a terrific feeling to help the families and individuals that need it,” Jan Stachel said, adding that the Lions Club of Willow Gove donates over 100 eye-glasses to local individuals each year.
“Cool Cars in the School Yard”
According to Lions Club member Don Shields, the organization used to hold a walk-a-thon to raise project funds. He said the event lasted throughout the 1970s, but participation dwindled by the end of the decade.
Not yet a member by the early 1980s, Shields suggested that the club tap into the ever-growing American car culture, and reach out to the die-hard car enthusiasts sustaining that culture.
“It’s a hobby, but it becomes a vocation,” Shields, a self-described ‘Car Guy,’ said. “It’s like a calling.”
Shields, who owns a 1954 Packard, said that it takes dedication, passion and patience for a car enthusiast to restore, preserve or modify their cars.
By 1980, the Lions Club of Willow Grove hosted its first “Cool Cars in the School Yard” auto show, attracting nearly 200 vehicles to the Upper Moreland High School parking lot in its first years.
The event featured, as it does today, cars and motorcycles of all characteristics, including classic, antique and next generation, as well as stock and modified models.
A few years ago, a combination of construction at the high school and the event’s popularity moved the Lions Club auto show to its current location at the school district’s school complex in Hatboro.
According to Shields, who is now the Lions Club chairperson of the event, the auto show pulls in an average of $5,000, depending on the weather. The funds are collected from show participation fees to the refreshments available at the event.
While there are several other car shows occurring during this time of year, Shields attributes a part of the Lions Club auto show’s success due to the fact that it’s the only show in the Upper Moreland area to take place every year on the second week of June.
In light of this, Shields said that several prominent and popular auto clubs attend the “Cool Cars in the School Yard” event each year, including the Corvette Club of Delaware Valley, the Valley Forge Mustangs and the Abington-based Down the Road Cruisers.
“It’s our Facebook,” joked Ed Plazek, a Down the Road Cruisers member.
“We form friendships,” Ted Wack, the organization’s vice president said.
According to Wack, car enthusiasts that join auto groups and attend auto shows gain invaluable advice and tips on restoring and preserving their vehicles. At the “Cool Cars in the School Yard” auto show, it was apparent the ease of conversations revolving around the present vehicles, although most of the people talking have never met prior to the event.
According to the Down the Road Cruiser’s president, Joe Fite, his organization has gained over 35 members over the last 13 years, and has participated in the Lions Club auto show for a majority of those years.
This year, the organization proudly displayed 18 classic and antique cars.
“A lot of us of a certain age go back to a second childhood,” Fite said. “There were a lot of cars we grew up admiring, and we can now get them and preserve them.”
“It’s a Rolling History Lesson.”
While most car enthusiasts enjoy the labor-intensive restoration and preservation of their vehicles, others choose to take the process to the next step.
“It’s a rolling history lesson,” Alan Eickhoff said. “I teach 20th-centuary U.S. History … I lived half my course.”
Eickhoff, who brought his 1948 Dodge Four Door Custom, retired this month as a History teacher from Springfield High School, after 44 years in the classroom.
Since Eickhoff was alive during most of the material he covered in class, he would often incorporate keepsakes and memorabilia he’s collected since childhood. Items he didn’t already own, he would find through venues such as Ebay.
“History is a story,” Eickhoff said. “You tell a story in a lot of different ways.”
Among those ways, Eickhoff would showcase his 1948 Dodge into his lessons, teaching his students that the car in 1948 cost only $1,785; then he would teach them that the minimum wage back then was only $1.
Now that he’s retired, he plans on bringing his history lesson on the road at auto shows, such as the “Cool Cars in the School Yard.” At the June 9 event, Eickhoff also showcased items of the era, the most popular of which were roller skates that used a key to adjust over the user’s shoes; and a child’s car seat, called the “Kiddie Drivette,” which was precariously strapped to the front seat of the car, and featured its own steering wheel.
“It wasn’t a safety seat, it’s a just a seat to keep the kids in place,” Eickhoff said, adding with a smile, “But, we lived through it.”
Auto Show Awards
The Lions Club of Willow Grove’s “Cool Cars in the School Yard” took place from 3 to approximately 9 p.m. At the end of the event, awards were given out to the top 50 most voted for cars and motorcycles.
According to Don Shields, the voting process is based off of participation, so that those who showcased their own vehicle could vote for the cars and motorcycles of their choosing.
Three distinctive awards are also given out each year, one for Best in Show Motorcycle, Best in Show Modified Car and Best in Show Stock Car.
This year, the Best in Show Stock Car was renamed to the Don Magee Memorial Best Stock Car in Show, in honor of longtime “Cool Cars in the School Yard” participant, the late Don Magee.
This year, the first went to Ted Wack of the Down the Road Cruisers for his 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass CVT.
For more information, visit http://www.wglions.com/
Check out the full photo gallery of the 32nd-annual .