By Dan Dickinson
The first TC owners were really loners. “Normal” people drove big American cars, sitting high and proud. When these tiny open roadsters appeared, no one knew just what to make of them. Occasionally someone would pull alongside and ask, “What’ll she do?” or “What’s a UNDO?” But before long someone would drive by with another TC, and “the wave” became the secret signal.
After waving at each other for a while, meeting to discuss the obvious merits of the cars had to happen. As the word spread, these meetings started to become often, and someone suggested making it a regular occurrence. After getting together at one another’s houses for bench racing, it was realized that a closer type of relationship was necessary because more and more MG’s were appearing on the streets.
Dr. Hammer and Jim Easton struck the spark that was to result in what is now the Long Beach MG club. A meeting was held at Dr. Hammer’s apartment for all interested owners, and a beginning was made. The second meeting at Sam Caldwell’s resulted in the naming of Dan Dickinson as President, Jim Easton as vice-president, and Kay Hammer as Secretary-Treasurer.
The original group included Caz Bartlett, C.D.”Pete” Evans, Tom Frisby, Frank Ouirado, Dale Halliday, Bob Lockness, Clarence Mulvey, Vic Trodd, Ross Sherwood, Dr. Paul Winters, John McFarland and others.
This little group of pioneers answered the questions of the envious and disregarded the gibes of the scornful with equal aplomb. They kept their cars in immaculate condition. Whenever they parked, a crowd gathered to ask about the cars – the usual multitude of questions – some of them intelligent. And the crowd stayed to find that the owners were fine people who were individualists refusing to conform to the pattern of regimentation being forced on the public by Detroit. These groups of owners were the finest salesmen that Britain could possibly have had. “Gentlemen, a toast to this group of owner-drivers.”
To further enjoy these fine cars together, driving events were organized, the first being a rally from Belmont Shore to the top of Ortega Highway. There was only one average speed, and the event was won by Dottie Dickinson. That was the beginning of many years of really wonderful rallies, often attended by nearly a hundred cars.
Then, someone thought up a “Gymkhana”, containing several different types of contests, such as blindfold driving, Slaloms, balloon-popping, etc. These events were very popular, and always had a good turn-out. A “Road Trials” was tried a few times, running one car at a time on a small closed course for best time. Of course, any excuse for a party was looked for, and an annual “Steak bake” was instigated, with a mini concourse d’elegance included. Everyone was extremely proud of their cars; so this event was very popular.
It didn’t take long before the meetings in people’s houses just weren’t making it; so someone looked around and found a hall where we could get together. The Long Beach Marine Stadium Clubhouse was one of our first. In February 1954, we moved to the Recreation Park 18-hole Clubhouse (on the hill). The 9-hole Golf Clubhouse followed a few years later.
But rallies were still the most popular event put on by the club. It was amazing how many new roads were discovered in Southern California in those years. In 1953, Barney Jackson put on something new, a night rally. He called it St. Nick’s Trix. This club is still enjoying a diabolical rally by that name every December.
The Spokesman had been a little two-page newsletter until 1953, when I decided I could make more of it. By the end of ‘531 had it up to 8 pages. I was art director, columnist, editor, printer, publisher, label and stamp licker, and delivery service to the post office. The “art director” part consisted of drawing cartoons onto the mimeograph stencils, t did the typing of all the stuff, editing as I went. Once in a while someone would give me a story, which was very seldom, but muchly appreciated. Usually, if I had enough beer on hand, someone would come over and help with the collating, stapling and stamp licking. But, you know what? It was fun.
In ’54, I laid down the law. Someone would have to take over the job of writing some of the stuff, because I was running out of things to say. Six people volunteered, and from then on each issue had 10 full pages. In ’55, Harry McKinney took over, and convinced Dot Neal to take care of the mailing, and things took off. There were real pictures, and the pages were printed on both sides.
Do you know that in August, 1954, the Long Beach MG Club put on a “Continental Rally”, whatever that is, that had 85 entrants from nearly every sports car club in Southern California? Entry fee was $5.00. There were 105 instructions, 7 checkpoints, and 20 average speed changes. Big license plate type rally plates were affixed to each car. I don’t know how many trophies were given, but Kelso and Swanson in a TD, from the Four-Cylinder Club won.
Those were “The Good Old Days.”
By Dan Dickinson