How it All Began
It all began with a short drive in a friend’s 1937 Packard, I was hooked on Packard. Soon I had my very own Packard, a 1936 120 coupe needing a lot of work. (The first of many). This prompted several annual trips to Hershey, PA and the giant AACA club meet there in October. There in the Packard section, I met George Hamlin, PAC Director of Regions. I expressed an interest in a local region, but told him we might have a very small group. He said, ‘All we had to have was 5 to begin.” We had five! I sent a letter to as many Packard owners and hobby groups as I could locate addresses for in June, 1975. From this we received a number of favorable replies from Missouri and Illinois. Since many were in or near St. Louis, I scheduled our first meeting as close to the city as I could get a “free” meeting room. Charter members were Dr. Harry Brady, Danny Davis, Steve Chapman, the late Phil Stallone, and Ken Chapman. I was first director of the club and served until 1980, when Earl Rosen, Jr. presided for a year, with Assistant Director; Gerry Perschbacher taking over the duties in 1981 through 2001. George Schroll served as long time Asst. Director also. Brother Steve Chapman has served as secretary and I have been both Treasurer and editor of The Helm from the beginning in 1976. In our formative years, MVP struggled with membership, but due to the great help of Dr. Brady; we were frequently able to use his office in Des Peres for our meetings. Slowly our membership and activities grew. We held meetings there and met at member’s homes. We had a pool party at Fred Zahns, a photo meet at the Museum of Transport, a joint meets with the SDC, HCCC; Allen Sinclair’s collection and then there was our first big milestone: “The slide Show” at Kirkwood Community Center. This was 1980, we had a big Packard presence, some 20+ Packards, 7 former Packard Dealers and Associates and several more local dealership employees. Prominent among them George Berry, long time Packard distributor in St. Louis. They all seemed amazed at the continued interest in those “old Packards”. Some 100+ members of the general public attended the presentations and the car display. One of the next big highlights of MVP was the 1982 Detroit PAC national. Quite a few members attended, and it was a trip of a lifetime. We were treated to tours of the factory building, a fine Detroit area car show, and a trip to the Utica test-track. As the factory deteriorated and seemed in danger, this became a valued memory. MVP had both good years and slow years throughout the 80’s. Our growth necessitated a larger meeting place and therefore we often met at the Farm & Home S & L location on Manchester Road in Des Peres. Frequently the club would have an event at a members’ home. Several times “slide shows” were offered to the public and were very well attended. This often provided continued growth and new ideas. Over the years, we kept to a schedule that featured members hosting garage and special events. Slowly attendance and members grew; fewer were the 8 to 10 attendance meetings, more with 15 to 30 present. We met at Jerry Naus, the Chapman garage in Farmington, a street display in St. Charles, Don Gutting’s, Edgar Eatons, Karl Hudson's’ Packard ranch in Washington, Missouri, as well as Norm Fizette’s. Later years featured trips to Wilson Dalzell’s Premier film studio, the Oakland House in Affton, a Bob Radel picnic, the Keesers in Eolia and many more events too numerous to list. By the beginning of the 1990’s we were looking for a place to hold our every growing membership meeting. We adopted the meeting room at the Kirkwood Museum of Transport on Barrett Station Road. Here, it was possible to hold meetings and Packard seminars as needed, with plenty of parking. So our director Gerry Perschbacher was often able to present some very timely and interesting Packard lore to the membership. Also, certain meetings were opened to the public in order to broaden our membership base. Soon our membership featured members from central an east Missouri, and several in central and southern Illinois. Even some out state members such as Bob Aller and John George joined the crew. Growth as more committed members including Tom Roberson, Robert Henson, Harold Rushing, Fred Sumner, and Rory Ramin joined MVP, now included were, Don Huber, Dave Duckworth, Jim Schild, and Walter Sharpe who contributed to events, home socials, and projects, so many we cannot list them all, short of including the whole membership roster.
With this club growth a new milestone and club goal was set in ‘ as the PAC national picked MVP to host the 2000 year national convention in St. Louis. It was a major planning job for our now 70 to 80 member region. How to finance this? A timely donation of a 1955 Clipper by Bob Cole provided a car to restore by the region and raffle off for funds. With help from nearly everyone, in garage space provided by the Keeser's, Elliott Cytron headed up and farmed out the work. Nearly all the members participated in some way completing this car. The raffle was on… proceeds split 50-50 with the St. Louis Shriners Children’ Hospital. With this project done, we planned for the 2000 PAC National, Packard 2000. A special steering committee was set up headed by Jim Fleming. While this was being planned, MVP participated in events for charity like “ Wheels in Motion” Another Packard milestone was the 1999 Warren, Ohio experience. Many members attended this once—in—a lifetime Packard Meet where some really super Packards were shown amid a very hot Warren summer. MVP was there promoting our next year event. As 2000 neared, regular meetings, spiced with tech sessions, and history presentations by Gerry continued. Schedules were set, souvenirs bought, prices and contracts set… we were ready! The Packard 2000 meet met all expectations, and was favored by nice weather and few problems.
MVP begins it 25th anniversary year with 2001. We have made the Packard Club an important hobby force in the St. Louis area and have presented the area with an appreciation of why Packard is important and worthy of preservation. We look forward to a strong club, able to help its members, encouraged the keeping of the Packard name on the road and its history remembered to new generations of car lovers. All this has only been possible through the dedication and hard work of the officers and members. We face many future challenges to operating, maintaining, and preserving our Packards in the new century. With your support Mississippi Valley Packards will meet them and lead the way.