Andy Maksymchuk (back left)

Andy Maksymchuk (back left)

Scavengers always ready to lend a hand

Automobiles were front and centre, but for members of the Scavengers Car Club, giving back to the community also played a key role

Editor’s note: Following is the second in a two-part series on the Scavengers Car Club.

Weekly dances, a popular form of entertainment particularly with teenagers, were being held at various halls around the city and the club added its name to provide bouncer services for a nominal fee.

Many of the teen events were organized by Robbie Dunn, a part-time DJ at local radio station CJIB (now KISS FM). With most of the gyrating juveniles using up their overabundant energy by jiving and doing the twist, very few problems arose. However, some of the adult dances could get rowdy at times so a minimum of four Scavengers would don their black nylon club jackets — with a large black and white “Scavengers Car Club” crest on the back — whenever they performed those duties on behalf of the club.

One of the most memorable security details was provided for Canada’s rock ‘n’ roll legend, Bobby Curtola, during the Vernon performance of his trailblazing coast-to-coast tour circuit across the nation. There was no shortage of volunteers, and his big hit, Fortuneteller — a song still occasionally aired by Frank Martina on the Saturday afternoon KISS Classics show — was hummed and sung for days after the event.

Another notable activity performed by the Scavengers was doormen duties when Texan Buddy Knox came to town. Knox was the first artist of the R&R era to write and record a number-one hit, Party Doll. Imagine the thrill for stock car racing buffs when he was present at the Langley (B.C.) Speedway in 1969 to hand out the trophies! Buddy must have had a special place in his heart for the North Okanagan, so much so that the retired star moved up to Armstrong from the U.S. in the ‘90s, providing some of the Scavengers — along with others — the opportunity to bump into him on occasion.

As money trickled into the club coffer from income sources which included car washing projects at Ernie’s Esso, an account was opened at the fledgling Vernon & District Credit Union (today VantageOne). Since another purpose of the club was to support the community, it was now time to start giving back. In less than six months after the Scavengers’ formation, the second annual Vernon Winter Carnival was to take place and the novice club was bound and determined to enter a float in the parade. The end result of a lot of hours crammed into a short period of time was a weird contraption made mostly of available tractor parts. But it won first prize in its category!

The formation of the Scavengers coincided with the television debut of what would become a popular animated cartoon series called The Flintstones. In its third year on the tube, when Fred and Wilma’s daughter, Pebbles, was written into the series, the Scavengers built what they thought would be their best winter carnival float — Fred Flintstone’s car! It was hollowed and carved from a huge log dragged down from a nearby mountainside. But on that coldest of February winters, with Eddy Yamada scantily clothed as Pebbles and shivering behind the wheel of the wooden convertible, the judges showed little sympathy and gave it only third prize.

In 1963, Ray Dase offered the club the opportunity to construct a clubhouse on his orchard property off MacDonald Road. The new building was designed by Pete Pasechnik of S.J. Pasechnik & Son Construction who, at no cost to the club, also supplied most of the materials and assisted in the erection of the structure. When completed, the new facility not only increased pride within the membership, but offered a great place for meetings, parties, and jam sessions for those members with rock ‘n’ roll or country star dreams.

From the nucleus of their clubhouse, the Scavengers continued to display community interest and support. A proud example of their dedicated efforts was sponsoring the Scavengers little league baseball team. Coached by Scavengers member George Lee and assisted by John Wolfe, the team became division champions for the 1968 season. Named the team’s most valuable player, Ken Holland is today’s general manager and executive vice president of the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings! Other notables on that team are Robert Foord, president of Kal Tire, and Kevin Mitchell, sports editor for The Morning Star.

A significant degree of interest in cars was held by most Scavengers members. Needless to say, when the Tillicum Raceway — now referred to as a “ghost track” — opened in 1970, it didn’t go unnoticed and the club became involved. Stock car races were held every Saturday from May to September and few were missed by club-supported car #40, a 1958 – 289 cu. in. V8 Ford. Driven by Chuck “Grubber” Hayhurst, and supported by crew members Ken and Ray Dase, Ken Henczel, George Smith and Ed Hubner, an extra shelf had to be installed in the clubhouse to display the trophies!

In another car-related money-making venture, the entrepreneurial ability of Scavengers members was put to the test when they held a Demolition Derby at the Kin Race Track. Twenty-seven entries from centres throughout the Okanagan and as far away as Revelstoke rammed and smashed for first place. The Scavengers’ net profit of $1,000 was donated to the Vernon Girls Trumpet Band for an upcoming performance competition trip to Europe.

Another noteworthy public service venture by the Scavengers was the offer of a free ride home for New Year’s Eve revelers. Promoted over the air by CJIB radio announcer Don Warner, and even supported by the local Valley and Capitol taxi companies, anyone desiring transportation between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. need only phone Scavenger Eddy Yamada at his parents’ residence and one would be provided free of charge. It was a time before cell phones, so 20 club members voluntarily brought in the new year by gathering at the Yamada abode to drive any callers home. Fifteen calls for rides were received and four for towing in the first year of this annual project!

The demise of the club came as swiftly as its birth. Less than 10 years after its construction, the clubhouse burned to the ground and all contents, including records, were destroyed. Of the three dozen Scavengers that had joined the club in their teens and early 20s, several had already spread out across B.C., other provinces, and even the U.S. for purposes of employment, marriage or further education. With others on the fringe of doing likewise, it was obvious that an attempt at a new beginning would be fruitless.

But the club had served its purpose in its dozen years of existence. It had given 36 young men a sense of belonging and improved their lot in life. It had created purposeful activities, emphasized the importance of community service, created feelings of self-satisfaction through helping others, expanded horizons, and encouraged career aspirations. It would be quite a stretch to say the high-spirited Scavengers never displayed rambunctiousness during that stage of their development, but peer pressure kept them out of trouble, and any internal conflicts were settled within the membership.

Almost all of the former Scavengers are now retired and those who had left in pursuit of desired employment continue to trickle back to their hometown. Their careers, as varied as their personalities, included: ranching, construction, the forest industry, heavy duty equipment sales, loggers’ equipment sales, mechanics, electrician, professional truck driving, teaching, firefighting, law enforcement, the automobile industry, railroad, finance, retail sales management, and the newspaper media. One — Roger Scales — even brought back an Edmonton Eskimos “Grey Cup” ring during his time with the CFL!

Fifty-six years ago, four teenagers came up with the idea of a no-car-needed car club. They became the catalyst within its membership and an inspiration to others.

Today, the Scavengers Car Club doesn’t formally exist, but the rekindled camaraderie of its past members (less six who have passed from medical issues, vehicle accidents and a plane crash) proves that the bonds of friendship bind tightly. Their tendency to assist the community and help others also remains. Following their golden reunion celebration six years ago, the considerable amount of surplus funds was donated, without question, to a local non-profit organization. Attendance at monthly dinner gatherings continues to grow with each new arrival of a retired former member.

The Scavengers, a car club existing in spirit only, has come full circle.