ACA, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA CHAPTER
A Trip down Memory Lane
By Myrna Gray
In 1987, the American Coach Division of Fleetwood manufactured an upscale gas engine motor coach version of the Pace Arrow, called Limited. These first coaches were tan and nicknamed the "Brownie". Fleetwood’s entry into the luxury coach market was so popular that in late 1987 they built a new facility in Decatur, Indiana for manufacturing. After extensive design changes in 1988, the Limited, which was gray, sleek and aerodynamic on the outside and pure class on the inside, was introduced.
Casey and Barbara Sturm, a full timing couple from Southern California, were among those who bought the ’88 Limited. They loved their new coach and were able to obtain a list of new ’88 and ’89 owners who had sent in their warranty to American Coach. For the purpose of starting a travel club, they contacted these owners to find out who would be interested in starting a travel club for Limited owners. While Fleetwood did not sponsor the club, they did pledge their support. In June 1989, the concept of a Limited Owners International Travel Club was born.
As owners of a 1989 Limited, we received several letters from Casey inquiring of our interest in forming a new club. Being new to motor homing, we had not heard about travel clubs for owners other than the Good Sam Club, but eventually we responded affirmatively.
Next, we received a notice that a rally would be held at a RV Park in Hemet in May 1990. After procrastinating, we eventually sent in the form and attended the rally. Membership numbers were assigned in the order that applications for membership were received. Ours is number 154. It was a surprise to see all those Limited motor homes in one place, 91 having registered for the rally, and 84 showed up.
At that organizational rally, the first officers were elected, bylaws adopted and the club name was shortened to Limited Owners International (LOI). Ben Reinhardt, an attorney from Southern California, and owner of a 1989 Limited, wrote the by-laws. The cut-off for the Charter Membership was set at 175 coaches, the number that had responded to form the club. It was decided to have two rallies each year, with the next one being held at Lake Wales, Florida in October 1990.
While at the Hemet rally, we met several couples from southern California and thought it would be nice to have a local chapter. A few months later, we received an invitation to attend a rally put together by Ben and Marleana Reinhardt and Vern and Sue Parton for the purpose of organizing a southern California chapter. The rally was held at the Parton’s turkey ranch in Yucaipa on the last weekend in September 1990. It was dry camping adjacent to their olive orchard. Vern told us to empty our gray tanks around the olive trees, which we did, plus he had a fresh water supply for us. What fun we had getting acquainted and exploring the ranch. On the Parton’s patio of their beautiful home, the guys barbequed steaks for us. One evening we held our very fist potluck dinner; the Partons served a roasted turkey. In addition to all the turkeys in pens, we explored further and had fun visiting the llamas in their pens, some of us actually petted some of them. (I have pictures)
Immediately adjacent to their property was an ostrich farm, which we had strolled past to the turkey pens, down to the turkey processing plant where Vern led a tour. On Saturday, we car-pooled and drove up to Julian and the apple orchards, and brought back apple pies for the steak barbeque that night.
Twenty member coaches had signed up by the time of this rally, and there were 10 in attendance. We called ourselves Limited Owners, Southern California Chapter. By-laws were adopted and the chapter officers were duly elected. You will find a list of officers for each year in the chapter roster.
Other chapters were gradually being formed across the U.S.; geographical information on these chapters is in the ACA National Newsletter.
Ben and Marleana hosted the next chapter rally at the Ventura RV Park, December 7-9, 1990. We were guests at one of the Ventura Yacht Clubs, where Ben is a staff (past) commodore, to view the Christmas Boat Parade of Lights on Saturday night. We had our next rally in March 1991 at Desert Hot Springs, hosted by Chuck and Esther Pierson.
Early May 1991, Al and I organized a caravan and we traveled to the LOI National Rally held at the KOA RV Park in Greenfield, Indiana. The new American Eagle diesel pusher was introduced as the factory brought several coaches for us to look at. At that rally, we were all bussed 90 miles to the plant in Decatur on Saturday for a tour of the plant. Pat Terveer and the marketing department hosted a barbeque there for us after the tour. Randy and his crew came out to Greenfield to perform various tasks on our coaches. Things were much more informal at the service department in those days: Randy was service manager at the plant as well as for the rallies. You could just show up without appointment and have service performed. A few overnight spaces were provided.
Only a few gas engine Limited coaches were turned out in early 1991 as they were discontinued and replaced by the new diesel engine American Eagle that year. After some controversary, Casey Sturm, then LOI National president polled the board and it was decided to recommend accepting American Eagle owners into the club. A resolution was submitted to the members at the May national rally in Greenfield/Decatur, and it was approved, but the LOI club name remained the same.
By the end of 1991, membership in the national organization had grown to 200 coaches. New chapters were still being formed across the U.S. By 1992 the national membership was 256 coaches. In June 1993, with membership at 307 coaches, the LOI national rally was held in Frankenmuth, Michigan with a record 82 coaches, and of those, 32 were attending their first rally. Another name change was discussed; after lengthy debate, the members chose to change LOI to American Eagle & Limited, (AE&L).
Starting in 1994, Fleetwood’s American Coach Division expanded their line to include the American Dream, followed later by the Tradition and Heritage. The national club’s name evolved into the current American Coach Association (ACA). Subsequently, the local chapters adopted the same name change.
In those early years, most of our SoCal chapter rallies had 12 to 15 coaches in attendance, with total membership averaging around 40 coaches. The rallies were fun packed events at such places as Newport Beach, Lake Havasu City, El Centro, Bakersfield, Laughlin, Newhall, Ridgecrest, Pismo Beach, Chula Vista, Buellton, Palm Desert, San Dimas, Las Vegas, Hemet, lake Powell, Temecula, and Tucson. We frequently attend local events and tour places of interest, which makes each rally different and interesting.
Currently, the national membership totals over 1800 coaches, and still growing. We now have over 120 coach members in the SoCal chapter and enjoy an average attendance of 35 to 40 coaches at our chapter rallies. Frequently, caravans are loosely organized for travel to the National Rallies, and we hold a Pre Rally prior to attending the national rally. The SoCal Chapter hosted a National Rally in October 1997 at Las Vegas, and one in May 2004 at Palm Desert, California. Early in our organizing, we decided to hold 4 SoCal rallies per year.
With the growth of our SoCal Chapter in recent years, it is exciting to have new members with new fun ideas for things to do and places to go for rallies. They are doing a superb job of hosting rallies. In recent years, under the guidance of Bev Petty, we have introduced an Ambassador program, which helps first rally attendees, become acquainted with our friendly fun group.
Roy and Phyllis Nichols, and Al and Myrna Gray are the only remaining charter members of the Southern California Chapter, as well as charter members of ACA National. In addition, Ben Rhodes and Bill Miller, are national charter members and are currently members of our chapter. At the 10th Anniversary of ACA held in Decatur in May 2000, a dinner was held at a local restaurant honoring all the Charter members attending. At the Board Meeting that year, it was voted that the national organization would sponsor a dinner at each national rally for the charter members and include the national president and spouse. Bob and Ann Beadel are the “shepherds” of this group of old friends. At the present time there are 16 charter member coaches in the national club.
We inherently live by the by-laws of the national ACA and SoCal chapter. The following is a quote from the by-laws:
“The purpose of American Coach Association shall be to encourage, foster, and promote the interest of motor homing among owners of American Eagles, American Dreams, American Traditions, American Heritages, and Limited motor homes and to provide an organization encouraging camaraderie, motor home rallies and trips, and motor home information exchange among its member owners, as well as information exchange with the manufacturer of the coaches.”