Victoria MG Club History (First Decade …1981-1991)

Octagon Newsletter … September 1991

By Alan Fraser

Despite it's Biblical overtones, the Victoria MG Club was created by a small band of enthusiasts who wandered aimlessly around southern Vancouver Island for somewhat less than forty years until receiving a message from a mountain top and becoming a club.

In the days before oil cartels, while all sensible people drove eight m.p.g. behemoths with enough horsepower to light small communities, a collection of local eccentrics clung to the belief that cars should be challenging and fun to drive and maintain and that British sportscars were at least comparable to VW Beetles despite an unflattering reputation for poor parts availability and dependability. A staunch few who drove their cars, particularly MGs, for fun and as second cars would wave in passing to others likewise afflicted. Eventually two or more would meet to discuss mutual problems and pleasures until by the mid‑1970s an informal band could be found, usually on New Year's Day, taking it's interesting little cars for a run, ending at a hot fire and a hospitable thawing out.

Among the early enthusiasts was a young city fireman named Rick Mosher who drove a museum‑restored TD, a retired Calgary physician, Jim Waddell, in a very nice black TD with shockingly shiny turquoise vinyl upholstery, businessman Mike Manning with a beautifully maintained MGA Mk II, owned from new and driven daily, Les Pillar, an octogenarian with a new MGB whose first model had been an M-Type close coupled coupe in 1929 ("justa spiffed up Morris Minor!"). Eric Johnson wearing various models of various marques, Hugh Pite on his many visits from the Antipodes with assorted MG pieces and Robin Brown after he acquired the Waddell TD when Jim opted for the decadent comfort of a Volvo PI800. Sue and I drove the TC and later the Y Saloon as second cars for about fifteen of those years. As more cars came out of the woodwork the number of names in my address book swelled.

In late 1978, I was contacted by a lady who had just purchased what, she thought, was a TF and who had been given my name as being knowledgeable in the finer points of the MG marque. Thus I met Dot and Guy Beaudoin and family and their unique "TY" roadster (therein lies another tale entirely!). Despite early disappointment, the, Beaudoins soon acquired a real TF and set about on a meticulous restoration and involvement in the marque. Dot was amazed to discover the size of my address book and the number of sportscar lovers alive and well in Victoria, and while attending the 1981 GoF West in Spokane she sat at a Hilltop picnic and decided that we could host an equal event and that we should form a MG club in Victoria. At the same event she noted that, at the banquet, various clubs reserved tables in their names, so, without hesitation, she reserved a table far the Beaudoin and Zilkie families in the name of the "Victoria MG Club". We were a club and even had a name, just didn't know it yet! All she had to do was get us organized.

In the fall of 1981, Dot put an ad in the paper inviting interested MG owners to an organizational meeting at her house. A dozen people attended, a name was chosen, philosophy established and dues were taken from the first ten families at $6.00 per year, despite Les Pillar's prophetic statement that they were too low (within three years, dues rose twice to their present level). Monthly meetings were scheduled at various member's home, weekend runs were organized and a newsletter was started. Our first New Year's Day run saw fifteen cars in attendance; the 1983 run saw 200 people attending and cars lined Sooke Rd. for a mile around the Beaudoin home. We decided that we needed a hall for future meetings.

Despite its youth, within two years, our club was invited to host the 1984 GoF West, an impossible task in the eyes of all but Dot who goaded us into action. We succeeded with one of the finest events held, taking place over 5 days and including participation by post-1955 models. It was a magnificent achievement for an enthusiastic bunch of amateurs. The post GoF reaction saw our swollen membership decline from 200 to about 60 as the inevitable burnout occurred. The following 5 years became a period of rebuilding as we reassessed our role as a car club. New faces appeared to guide the membership and a diversity of small but interesting events were organized.

By 1987 we had become a registered club with a constitution and membership had evened out at 100. We continued to provide monthly events to keep British cars on the road and hopefully be involved in more than just being polished and admired. Mall displays, parades, and inter-club participation have all helped to make the club more visible in the community. Driving events such as slaloms, funkanas and rallies give organized outlets for those members who desire a little more performance from their cars.

Socially we attempt, at times, to arrange meets which end at one of the many local establishments for a social occasion.

Unlike many MG organizations, ours is not geared strictly to the older 'square-rigged' models. It was stated from the outset that we wish to provide membership and support for all models of MG and to welcome enthusiasts whether or not they own British cars. Over half of the membership drives various versions of the MGB. One early rule was that members of the executive must own an MG. This absurd rule was changed within three years so that "TR Jim" could become president.

The spirit of the Abingdon MG did not die in 1980, it is alive and thriving in Victoria with the Victoria MG Club, and other similar organizations throughout the world. The club continues to provide events, assistance, parts and fellowship for those many owners who still like to drive their funny little cars for fun.

This year's Tenth Anniversary meet is a testimony to the dedication and enthusiasm of all our members who continue to enjoy and encourage others to enjoy the pleasure and aggravation of owning traditional British sporting cars. With this continued support of our membership the Victoria MG Club will continue to thrive into the next century.

Webmaster's Note: Al was quite right … the Victoria MG Club continues to thrive with a membership that currently totals in excess of 100 enthusiasts.

Victoria MG Club Second Decade (1991-2001)

By Alan Fraser

The Victoria MG Club entered its second decade still in a rebuilding mode as the club stabilized at just over 100 with older members taking a back seat and a new generation assuming the reins of power. Many children appeared for our events as families expanded.

The club embarked on a number of extended runs with weekend camping trips to Rathtrevor Park, an excursion to Kamloops to stay with Ken Finnigan, a tour to Lake Tahoe by way of Portland, two trips to Laguna Seca for the vintage races, weekends at Mount Washington and the GOF West at Whistler.

We enjoyed slaloms and post-slalom barbecues and had a picnic with ‘Queen Elizabeth’ at Government House where the only person more surprised at her arrival than club members was the shocked Commissionaire at the entrance, who furiously thumbed through his appointment book looking for dates of regal visits.

Using any excuse for a meet, we celebrated Robbie Burns Day with our cars suitably decorated in tartan. For the occasion, Jack Baker wore his beautifully hand-pleated kilt and a gorilla mask, as he answered the age-old question of what is worn under his kilt. “When you get to my age, everything is worn to a nub!”

Over the past decade the Anniversary Meet has become more casual and of shorter duration, as we discovered that few members could sacrifice a whole weekend for club events. At the same time the Christmas dinner has become a highlight of the year for members and our New Years Day Burn as the first event of the year has evolved into a parade of up to 40 cars.

It is not unusual for the club to take over a complete pub for the New Years Day lunch. The "Blizzard of ‘96" caused the only cancellation of this event.

Presidents during this decade were: Derrick Sparks, Wayne Watkins, Roger Burgess, Neil Fawdry, Bob Hughes and Cam Russell.

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