Motor Caravanner articles on the restoration of NZMCA founder Andy Anderson’s REO motorhome – the completed vehicle is due to be unveiled at the 2019 National Rally in Gisborne – have reminded a couple of members just how different our history might have been if it wasn’t for a ‘difference of opinion’ way back in 1951.
Brother and sister Rhys Pearson (#35514) and Jan Pavarno (#65623) say it all sounds a bit ridiculous now, but in 1951 things were very different. Those were the days when women wore white gloves and hats in town shopping, Rhys writes: “Married women were always referred to as Mrs XXX – never by their Christian name. Even old friends would ask, ‘Would you like a cup of tea Mrs XXX?’ Everyone was very careful to be correct and proper.
“In 1951 the Gisborne Caravan Club was formed. Our parents, Laura and Allan Pearson, had been members of the Auckland Automobile Association Caravan Club, which closed down when petrol was scarce during the War. Some members later bought land at Eastern Beach and the club ceased to be mobile. “The Auckland Automobile Association Engineer, Mr Robinson, suggested that our parents start a caravan club in Gisborne when they returned home. The AAA offered twenty pounds as start-up expenses – an offer not taken up.
“Alan Webster, the AAA representative in Gisborne, hosted a meeting of those interested. Our mother wrote ‘most of our members were found by me visiting the caravan builders and supply factories asking who had new vans or who were building them and then visiting each person’. “The Gisborne Caravan Club was formed on 11th June 1951 in the AAA rooms. Bill Fraser was elected President, a position he held (if my memory is correct) for the rest of his life. Laura Pearson became Secretary/Treasurer for the first nine years.
“There was a lot of enthusiasm from those first members, with rallies at Pouawa Beach almost every weekend in the summer. A few names of early supporters were: Roger & Mrs Hunt, Eric Scragg, Bernie & Mrs Scandrett, Ernie Bilham, Trevor & Eileen Birch, Jack McCormack. “Bill Phipps, a talented artist and signwriter, designed an emblem – a circle with a wing, the membership number to be in the circle. The emblem was to be mounted on an angle, indicating movement – Bill painted these by hand.
“Then came the fun; even as children, my sister and I remember overhearing some of the discussion. “Gisborne man Andy Anderson applied to join the club, but he had converted an old bus and it was not, strictly speaking, a ‘caravan’. “The purists argued that only caravans could belong to a caravan club; while others knew and liked Andy and wanted to welcome him. The purists prevailed.
“Andy and the REO were excluded and he decided to form his own club – and the Motor Caravan Association began its journey to what it is today. “One can’t help wondering what may have eventuated if our parents’ generation had been less restrictive. “Interestingly enough, Andy Anderson later moved to Auckland and opened a factory in Mt Wellington building caravans. My parents visited him there.”