Chrysler 300 Club International
Spring Meet in Tallahassee, Florida
May 16 - 19, 1995

Bob Crawford, Bob Cornett

George Riehl, at home under the hood.

An out of focus Terry McTaggart with his D convertible

Don Warnaar and Jerry Kocur

Bob Eaton with Carl Krepps and Carl's L convertible

Allan Moon, Larry Jett, Dave Agnew, Gary Hagy

Ks of Vern Graber, Don Cole, Ken Langdon

300L of Don Warnaar

Vern Graber and his K

Photos by Bill Elder

Celebration of 25 Years, at Tallahassee, Florida
by Gil Cunningham

Carol is responsible for this one! In what was, no doubt some altered state of mind, she yelled to then meet coordinator, Don Cole, in the convertible next to us; “We want to host the 25th Anniversary Meet!” Well, “Put it in writing” was Don’s response. Somewhere among the odds and ends in our H’s console or glove box or Carol’s purse was found a napkin or piece of tissue or other-not-for-writing paper and the deed was done. That was Pittsburgh, 1989 – a very considerable timespan from 1995.

Time spans do have a very consistent characteristic of melting away though, don’t they? Sometimes, way too fast. 300 meets came and went – I think we attended most during that period. All were great and getting better. After we experienced the Cornfoot’s, Kerrville, Texas meet and noted the preparation and precedent setting meet folder, we looked at each other with a kind of “Oh-Oh what have we gotten ourselves into” expression. Of course, occasionally during these years we had given a thought or two towards activities we might come up with to entertain our meet guests, but now we were beginning to wonder if we would need to put on a five day meet just to equal what was becoming ever longer and more sophisticated events. Tallahassee might be a nice place to visit – or even to live – but folks, there just ain’t that much to do around here.

Then there was the Burke/Riehl meet of September 1994. What can I say – it had everything – Chrysler dream cars, barbecue, barnfuls of 300s, a tour of the most prestigious auto museum, in America. How much better could it get? I’ll tell you how much better – the President of Chrysler dropped in by helicopter! Tuff act to follow, eh? It seemed that we would have to bring back Bob Rodger or Virgil Exner, or even Walter P. from the hereafter to equal that show! Thanks a lot, guys!

As in most things in life, the best route to success is to be yourself, go with your strengths – don’t try to artificially force something (I personally haven’t learned that yet – I just thought it sounded good). To this end, Carol and I determined our meet’s focus would be on a celebration of our club reaching its 25 year milestone. Essentially, a birthday party for all of us. We wanted no activities that would tend to distract us from this central theme. If there was to be any special recognition of speakers, they would be from our own ranks who have given so much through the years to the success of the organization. Since we now live in Tallahassee, activities would be planned to highlight the characteristics of this unique area. Experiencing an area is one of the things I like most about our 300 meets. 300 Club meets give us a reason to visit places we might never go and allow us to discover all kinds of neat new things. We hoped that would be the case with our meet as well.

Alain Lebas, our friend and 300F owner, would be the first to arrive. Would you believe a week and a day before the official meet commencement? But Alain had an ambitious agenda. There are not too many 60 Chryslers in French junkyards, so he had high hopes of filling up the bright red “dust buster” he rented for his three weeks stay. Other early arrivers include David Agnew from New Zealand and the Graefens from California, who popped into our office to say “Hey” and then went exploring. We had hoped this would happen – members arriving a day or two early so they could more leisurely see the sights of the north Florida area via a non structured itinerary.

As meet day approached, we watched the weather forecasts more closely – they continued to look favorable. Were we glad that the hotel had been unavailable for the previous weekend, which we originally requested – it had rained that whole time!

Wednesday finally arrived! We hoped we had everything covered but with just the two of us – something could have been missed. Time would tell – it was probably too late to do anything about it anyway – even if we knew the something we should do something about. 300s arrived throughout the day, but more frequently towards evening of course. It was an on your own car/look at and car/talk and car/get acquainted day. It was especially exciting to see Arnold and Johnneen Lueth drive up in their beautiful white 300C – all the way from Michigan in a car that probably hadn’t averaged one mile per year for the last 20 years. Then Don Cole arrived in the very same 300K that Jim Bartuska drove to that first meet in Holly in 1970. The next day was to be a full one and it dawned ----- beautiful! At 10 AM, we all left the Ramada Inn parking lot for a 55-mile drive to Pebble Hill Plantation, just over the Georgia border. Before the tour, we were served a really nice fried chicken lunch in the courtyard under the Spanish-moss covered live oaks. After the guided tour of the main house and an at-your-own-pace self tour of the grounds, we departed for the town of Havana, Florida to do some antiquing. Havana has become a rather major antique center in northern Florida and many members were seen carrying “treasures” back to their 300s.

About 6:00, we left Havana for a short 5-minute trip to Nicholson’s Farm Restaurant for our evening meal! Nicholson’s has grown from the original farm house built in 1828 to a group of 7 or 8 antique buildings collected from many areas in northern Florida and southern Georgia. Most are used for dining. We were greeted by the owner, Paul Nicholson, and a banner “Welcome Chrysler 300 Club” (a nice surprise – Carol and I did not arrange that). After a very fine meal, we all headed back to the hotel for an evening of doing what we pleased – visiting one hospitality room, then the other, then the parking lot, then around another time.

Friday at 10:00 AM, we queued up in the hotel parking lot again, this time to head to Wakulla Springs, about a 35-minute drive south. Water flows from the large spring at the rate of about 14,000 gallons per second, forming the Wakulla River. Most all members took the hour-long riverboat ride where we saw our favorite north Florida reptile the alligator (and plenty of them) plus many birds, turtles and the occasional snake. Some also took the glass bottom boat ride over the 100-foot-deep spring. This time the weather was not quite so accommodating and a heavy shower occurred while some were on the riverboat ride. Not to worry – the boat had a roof and the shower was brief.

About 1:00 PM, we departed for the Cunningham’s where, so it was said, a backyard barbecue awaited. Such was indeed the case! With a lot of appreciated help from our friends, we served up a good ole Down South barbecue with chicken potatoes, salad, beans and cole slaw. Enhancing the authentic nature of the feed were collard greens, cheese grits and corn bread. The collards proved unexpectedly popular with the predominately northern guests (at least I don’t think Tom Turner ate them all). The dessert of homemade pound cake with fresh sliced Georgia peaches and real whipped cream proved very popular as well (read that I didn’t get any!)

On Friday night, duty calls at a 300 meet so the dutiful ones reluctantly headed back to the hotel for the 8:00 PM business meeting – the proceedings of which are covered elsewhere in this news letter. Then it was talk time, play time, party time until the usual early morning hours. We may be getting older, but 300 club members will bring out the youngster in us.

By now, you know what we did at 10:00 AM the next morning. That’s right, lined up in the parking lot! This time we did it chronologically so the cars would arrive in order and minimize confusion when parking in our designated block downtown. We did have a great looking display - all backed in at an angle – a block of 300s. Our reasons for the downtown day were twofold. That day, May 20th, was to be a very busy one in Tallahassee with several sesquicentennial events (yes Florida, has been a state for 150 years) and a rather extensive bead festival. It was, therefore, anticipated that a larger than normal amount of local people would get a chance to see our rare cars. Our friends Karen Cooley and Eric Favien, owners of Chez Pierre Restaurant in front of which our 300s were displayed, helped by putting up posters advertising our meet all over downtown. Secondly, it was hoped our members would take advantage of the location to explore downtown Tallahassee, its historical districts, the sesquicentennial activities and other attractions. From what we heard and saw, these two goals were accomplished.

About 4:00 or so most members had headed back to get ready for our 25th anniversary celebration banquet. We had livened up the banquet room with red, white, blue and silver balloons and lots of silver candles. It was determined by our French representative that 5 of these balloons would successfully float an empty Shaeffer’s beer can around the room! Guess the party was getting a little more lively! Among those generally recognized were the charter members in attendance, Jim Bartuska, Gil Cunningham, Terry Lightener, Arnold Lueth, Terry McTaggart, George Riehl and Dave Werner as well as past Presidents Gil Cunningham, Tom Turner and George Riehl. The following people should really have been recognized at the banquet, but we neglected to do so. They also attended both the Holly 1970 and Tallahassee 1995 meets: Lynn Bartuska, Carol Cunningham, our son Graham Cunningham (one year old at Holly), Johnneen Lueth, Eleanor Riehl and son George Riehl III.

The now traditional “George and Gil” award presentations followed with these winners being called forward to receive their plaques.

People’s Choice Awards

Group I – C300, 300B, 300C, 300D

First Place Bill Elder - 300C Coupe

Second Place Terry McTaggart – 300D Convert

Group II – 300E, 300F, 300G, 300H

First Place Dave Schwandt – 300F Coupe

Second Place Tom Turner – 300E Coupe

Group III – 300J, 300K, 300L, 300 Hurst

First Place Don Warnaar – 300L Coupe

Second Place Don cole – 300K Convert

Long Distance
Frank Driscoll, South Dakota – 2,097 miles in a 300L Coupe

Hard Luck
Roman Robaszewski – Electrical trouble on the way to meet in a 300 Hurst.
He valiantly tried to make it but failed and returned home.

Great Distance Travelled to the meet
Dave Agnew – New Zealand, Murray Neindorf – Australia
Alain Lebas – France, Peter Wait – Australia

In addition, two very special cars received individual dash plaques for attending both the organizational meet in Holly, Michigan, 1970 and this Silver Anniversary Meet. They were the black 300D convertible, owned then and now by Terry McTaggart and the black 300K convertible, now owned by Don Cole.

Three additional awards were presented to Michael Burke, Ken Mack and George Riehl for outstanding achievement in special projects of the club.

Adding a historical touch was the display of Jack Streamo’s banner of welcome from the “Good Ole Florida Boys”. It was originally hung on the side of a motor home at the Fall 1977 Pocono, PA meet and has been carefully preserved by Jack, since then.

Last, but most certainly, not least, Don Warnaar presented his video of the history of the Chrysler 300 Club International. It was just outstanding and very well received. Plans call for adding the 25th anniversary events to it and then making it available to the membership. Thank you Don, for making this very important chronicle of our Club’s history.

Sunday morning dawned clear and sunny for those heading home early. A farewell breakfast area was reserved and I am told many took advantage of it. Some of us weren’t able to because we had to minister to the needs of a certain D convert’s distributor problems. It was a labor of love. I was so dam happy to see Terry arrive with that car, I wouldn’t have minded changing the rod bearings if it had needed it.

The final event, though not officially planned (and the confusion showed it) was a caravan over to Cunningham’s junk – er- I mean collection. It is housed about 35 miles from the hotel and the only people who knew how to find it were riding in the lead car! How’s that for planning? No way can a string of about a dozen cars go 10 miles without some separations. Oh well, everybody finally made it and despite my fears, no one seemed particularly upset. I forgot (for a moment) these were 300 people – used to sniffing out 300s in the most out of the way places imaginable. Never a doubt they would find these!

We hate the end of meets. It’s always a downer for us – that’s why we are usually last, or fighting for last with the Moons to leave the parking lot. So, it was with relief that we heard the Riehls and Moons say yes, they could probably bunk out at our place for another day or so. Of course, our great ace in the hole for putting off the meet finish was Alain Lebas, whose plane ticket was not good until Thursday. Yes, we got some more partying in, looked over old meet photographs, my 300 spec and VIN books (it’s more fun with company) and even had a “new” local junkyard discovered by Alain, Gloria and Allen. (Appropriately called Allen’s Auto Parts).

Well, Thursday did come just as the previous Wednesday had and when we said our goodbyes to Alain and saw that bright red “dust buster’ disappear down the driveway, we realized the 25th anniversary meet was now history. Carol and I would like to thank our fellow club members and friends who made this special effort to attend this special meet. Florida is not a central location and we really appreciated your efforts to attend – members and friends from Australia, New Zealand and France, a 300L driven 2,000 miles from South Dakota, 300s from many, many miles, from Canada, Michigan, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, Maryland and from closer too? We very much appreciated you all coming with or without 300s and hope you had a good time. We did.

  • Alain’s dust buster, if you haven’t guessed was a rented Pontiac Trans Sport.

Thanks to Bill Elder for typing this article for the web