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It all had a simple beginning, Shades of the Past club members said.
“It was just kind of a group of guys that had a common interest in restoring old cars,” said Rod Wilkison.
“Doug (Mosch) said, ‘We ought to have a car club,’” Mike Leese said. The rest was history.
Now, 35 years after the Shades of the Past car club was founded, events like the annual cruise and classic car show in Marshall are still going strong. The 2021 Shades of the Past show will kick off with a cruise around Marshall on Friday evening, and the main show will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Long-time club members say it’s not just Shades events that have stayed strong through the years. They’ve also built lasting friendships. Several of the club’s charter members are still active with Shades of the Past. A group of charter members, including Curt Anton, LaVerne Gawarecki, Bob Larsen, Mike Leese, Darrell Mercie, Daris Nelson, Gale Swart, Tim Swenson, and Rod Wilkison spoke with the Independent about their time with the club.
Shades of the Past was founded in 1986, with the purpose of promoting interest in car-related hobbies, and encouraging better understanding of safe construction and restoration of vehicles. Doug Mosch was the first club president, and Keith Burckhardt was the first vice president, said Mercie. Mosch’s and Burckhardt’s classic cars went on to become a permanent part of the club — illustrations of both vehicles are part of the Shades of the Past logo, Mercie said.
Larsen said the club’s very first meeting was held at his business, Bob’s Repair. Members started organizing special events early in the club’s history. Shades of the Past held its first car show in June 1987, at the Market Street Mall in Marshall.
“It was inside the mall one time,” said Nelson.
At first, the event was a ’50s revival weekend with dancers and music as well as classic cars, Wilkison said. Although the annual car show has a different location now, near Runnings in Marshall, “We always kept it the first weekend in June,” Swart said. Early summer is a good time to draw classic vehicle owners out to an event. “People want to get their cars out after the winter,” he said.
“Over the years, we’ve tried to do different things” as a club, like going on road trips, or going to watch races at Huset’s Speedway in Brandon, S.D., Wilkison said.
Attending events like classic car shows and cruises has been a great way to meet people and make friends over the years, Shades charter members said.
“Car people like to have fun with their cars,” Wilkison said. Club members said even when they travel to different cities for events, they run into people wearing shirts or jackets from the Shades of the Past show.
Of course, building and restoring classic vehicles, as well as hot rods and other custom vehicles, is also a key part of the fun of Shades of the Past.
“Everyone has their own idea of how to put a car together,” said Swenson.
Charter members all had stories about their cars and trucks. Wilkison’s restored Chevrolet Bel Air originally belonged to his parents, and still has its original 1956 license plate. Anton said he built his 1940 Chevy tow truck because “I always wanted one.” Larsen rebuilt his 1937 Ford together with the help of fellow charter member LaVerne Gawarecki.
Over the years, charter Shades of the Past members have stayed close friends. Although he now lives in Glenwood, Larsen is still a member of the club and plans to be back at this weekend’s car show to announce the awards.
In some ways, the group was like family, members said. A lot of members had kids who grew up around the club, Anton said.
“It’s been just a great organization for our family,” Wilkison said.
Club members have also been there for each other when members have died. Wilkison said there have been times where he or other club members drove their vehicles to a fellow member’s funeral.
But you don’t have to be into restoring cars in order to bond with people over them, charter members said.
“It’s a link to the past for everyone,” Swart said.
Shades members said some of their memories from the past 35 years have come from times when they shared their vehicles with others. Wilkison talked about the time he gave a Lake Benton couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary a ride in his Bel Air. The couple once had a black ’57 Chevy just like it, he said. Club members said another fun event has been giving local nursing home residents rides in their cars. It’s a way for area residents to connect with their pasts, they said.
“You hear a lot of stories,” Leese said.