This story was written by Dwane Carlson for the 25th Annual TCMG / ARR Conclave in 1981. Dwane was the only member to participate in every one of the first 50 Conclaves before his passing in 2007. Typos have been left in place for historical reasons.
Reflections on the Conclaves
by Dwane Carlson
I have been asked to set down some of my impressions of the past conclaves in honor of the big 25th. There are so very many memories it would be impossible to relate them all in the time and space available. It therefore seems prudent to start at the beginning and muck about from there.
Back in 1957, when I joined the TC Motoring Guild, it was assumed that we were the only TC club. Bill and Helen Stone showed movies of their spring “TC Sierra Vacation” at the meeting. As they bounded across a lonely bit of two-lane road in the San Joaquin Valley, a black TC appeared on screen. It was Lucian Remey, first president of the Abingdon Rough Riders. Addresses and phone numbers were exchanged before each motored on with the glad tidings “There are TWO TC Clubs!!”. It only took a moment for each club to suggest a meeting. Arrangements were made for the CONCLAVE at a common midpoint for Sept. 28 & 29 th at the historical Motel Inn in San Luis Obispo. It would be a 500 mile round trip for the ARR and the TCMG. Thus the spark was struck that has led us the the 25th Conclave.
It has always been a concern whether some TCs were up to the 500 miler. Tech sessions and shop nights are staged to shore up the weaker links. Has there been a conclave when someone hasn’t put his car together the night before? Spare parts are squirreled away with the tool kits to ward off minor disasters. Luggage can then be stuffed into the remaining space. Clever luggage carriers blossomed on TC rear-ends. All is in readyness.
“Getting there is half the fun” can be a relative statement. Who hasn’t arrived at the start early only to wait and wait for the straglers and last minute overhauls. Some of the tours seem more like a Duncan Hines restaurant check. One Guild member once said “When we see a EAT sign, it means us personally”. The tales of roadside repairs are legendary. It someone’s TC falters, several TC wizards hover over the car and all is right again. Only twice, to my recollection was a TC left along the route. One was repaired on the return trip when the saturday arrivals brought a spare half-shaft. The other, a blown piston, had to be retrieved later via Floyd Burts trailer from Santa Barbara. Another had to be towed home behind some Detroit iron. Would you believe finding a replacement TC oil filter in a San Luis Obispo parts house?
Arrival and greeting old and new friends is always a high point of every conclave. At the first couple of conclaves each club appeared sporting club flags. The Guild had silk-screened a yellow TC in an octagon on a green pennant. The Rough Riders had a red felt like rectangle with black lettering, TC in an octagon, sewn on. They were flown from dowels attached to the windscreen or gas tank. Club presidents carried their colours in solemn, if not sobering, ceremonies. Word is this pagent was dropped when the sight of each others bloodshot eyes was too disconcerting and the official handshake required the dignity of more stable hands.
Whenever you assemble two or more TCs, the results are predictable. Bonnets are raised and owners compare notes for some serious “Tyre Kicking”. The other guests and locals heads turn to watch the unusual MGs go by and someone wants to know where they can get one of these “new cars”. It isn’t long before a long line of TCs motor to a scenic spot for a lineup. What TC enthusiast is not thrilled at the sight of multi-colored TCs curving along some road —- Chrome wheels (?) and knock-offs flashing in the patches of sunlight. The overtones of many exhausts laboring in harmony is a sound no one can soon forget.
When the group assembles in late afternoon the tyre kicking is mixed with the “happy hour”. This has evolved fron beer and crackers in the parking lot into a classy party. At Huntington Lake it snowed while we socialized. Whether before or after dinner, or both, the party has been a tradition since Room J2 in 1957. Ask Bill Fulton about J2.
The banquet has been an annual event, too. If the lodge didn’t have a dining room we found restaurants to handle the group. With rare exception the food has been great. At the first Monterey, the drunken cook served over-ripe steaks. That was the year the newly-weds got a bit high, had an argument and the bride took off in his (before equal opportunity! -ed.) TC. Whatever became of them?
The joint meeting gravitated from the Sunday line-up, mentioned earlier, to the banquet. The more elaborate programs are better suited to after dinner, as Sunday forenoon is a bit disorganized.
Sunday morning is the test of TC owners recouperative powers. Some are up at the crack of dawn to observe the scenic wonders. As groups form in the parking lot, car covers come off and other cars are dusted or dried. Breakfast is the nixt order of business. Now it’s time to reorganize for the trip home. At Giant Forest, three ARR/TCMG pipers appeared to rouse the lagging and astound everyone. “Play it again, Sam.” There are always some who are anxious to head home. The cors tour to the final line-up where closing rituals are observed, and farewells said. One of the most impressive closings took place at the first conclave. The TCs pulled out of the park alternating ARR and TCMG with colors flying. The CHP had stopped traffic on 101 for the column to peel off right and left as they headed for home. Some form of this farewell lingers today.
As the TCs head for home the procedures are reversed. It’s amazing how well the TCs run on the way home. Most of the bugs have been worked out. The ever present question is “where do we stop for lunch and dinner?”. Many times I had to push on after lunch to get home in time to get to work. One of the favorite scenes in my memory is winding down 101, into the San Fernando Valley bathed in the deep golden rays of the setting sun. As turn off points come up, groups of TCs break away with waves and beeping hooters.
In the years since I moved to Willows most of the route is solo. Memories of past and most recent conclaves make the miles pass easily. Flashbacks of the many, many happenings will be savored until next year. One idea that often crosses my mind is what has happened to the many people who attended past conclaves and do they still own their TCs? While the MG TC is a great car, a true thing of beauty, it’s the people that make the Arr and TCMG great groups.
Iv’e been asked “How did you make all the Conclaves?”. After the first one I was sold on the whole idea. Working and going to college put a lot of pressure to stay home. I was able to trade nights off and even threatened to call in sick if I couldn’t swap. Many times I would get off just in time to meet the group and return home a couple of hours before work. I wonder if I could do it today. luck had a part in it, too. The date was switched to Spring the year of my parents Golden wedding anniversary. In 1979 my mother had a stroke the Tuesday before the Conclave. She seemed well enough so I came and drove from Giant Forest to San Jose on the way home. That was the closest I ever came to missing a Conclave. I wonder what occasion will cause me to mis a Conclave?