By Harry and Alma Gates and Larry Stalions

In the early 1970’s the hobby of building street rods, hot rods and custom cars was growing quickly in the southern Oregon region. In response to that growth of interest several street rod families got together in the fall of 1973 to organize a street rod club. The original name of the club was “Medford Roadsters.” One of the first priorities was to have a membership drive and let others know of the existence of the club. In February of 1974 the members had a small booth at a local car show and were amazed at the number of people who were interested in the club. From the small group that started, the club more than doubled its size in three days. In April, 1974, the members of the club voted to change the club’s name to the “Rogue Valley Street Rods” to more accurately reflect the composition of the organization.

In those early days, the club was sponsored by Bob’s Drive-In Restaurant and the club held its meetings in the drive-in’s dining room. Hamburgers and french fries were available during the meetings, and the people at Bob’s gave the club many free burger tickets to be given away at various events.

Some of the club’s early activities included appearances at local parades and rod runs. In those days rod runs were weekend campouts hosted by street rod clubs in various cities all over the nation. There were also regional and national meets, sponsored by the National Street Rod Association, to attend. Keep in mind that this was prior to the time of today’s many “Goodguys” events and most of the ones put on today by local business organizations to attract tourist trade.

In 1978, the Rogue Valley Street Rods members decided to present a winter charity car show. The original name chosen for that 1978 event was the “West Coast Charity Benefit Rod and Custom Show”. The admission price was just $1.00! The show was set up to include a cross section of all types of cars to introduce the general public to the diversity of the automotive hobby.

That first show was produced on a shoestring budget. The expenses were paid from the gate receipts, and only a small amount, $1,747, was donated to local charities. From 1978 to 1981, RVSR produced the show but in 1982, the 5th Annual Show was produced by the local Mustang Club, and the money was donated to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. From 1983 through the current show, RVSR has produced the show and donated the proceeds to the Child Development and Rehabilitation Center – Oregon Health & Science University.

The show continued to grow steadily through the years reflecting the growth of the club membership, the region’s population and the effort put in by the members to improve the quality of the event. By the 1990’s the annual donations from the show were in the $10,000 to $15,000 range. In 2002, the Silver Anniversary show, the club members decided to put on an expanded event. Additional sponsors were recruited and an expanded promotion program was rolled out. A general improvement of the show’s quality was the goal. Attendance at that event set new records as did the donation from the proceeds – jumping to $21,500.

The 2003 through 2006 events, managed by RVSR President and Show Coordinator Troy Boyd, were even larger and more successful extensions of this new philosophy. In 2004 the event’s name was changed to the “Southern Oregon Rod and Custom Show.” This shortened the name of the show and more accurately identified its location geographically. The successes of the 2004, 2005 and 2006 shows resulted in each setting new donation records. The 2006 donation was $30,000. Through the 2006 event (the 29th) the cumulative total of donations to charities from this event has been some $317,000!

Many, many southern Oregon kids, and their families, treated by the Child Development and Rehabilitation Center have received help from these donations. Kids who struggle with diagnoses like cerebral palsy, developmental delay, Spina Bifida, craniofacial disorders and genetic syndrome. Since the CDRC’s general operating funds do not always enable them to supply items such as wheelchairs, van modifications for wheelchair lifts, computers, walking aids and special therapies for these kids the donations from the Rogue Valley Streets Rods club are used for these purposes.

The show has gained a reputation on the west coast as being a friendly, quality indoor winter event. The club membership, now at over 160 members, work hard to promote that image. And many of the citizens of the region look forward to the show as an annual family entertainment item. Spectator totals run about 8,000 to 9,000 a year.

Aside from an increased regional awareness of the club’s community welfare efforts and involvement, national recognition has been bestowed on the club for its efforts. In 2001, Eagle One Industries (a national manufacturer of vehicle care products), presented the club an Award of Merit in their Eighth Annual Golden Rule Award Program. RVSR was one of only two automotive clubs in the northwestern United States chosen for recognition by Eagle One Industries. Their award letter to the club said, in part, “This award program is designed to recognize those whose members have worked to support community and charitable causes, an honor that has long been overdue. Your club is a perfect example of such dedication.”

The 2007 event, scheduled for February 17-18 at the Jackson County Expo and Fairgrounds in Central Point, OR will be the 30th Anniversary of this long running show. A bigger and better show has been put together by Troy Boyd and the club’s members with three large fairgrounds buildings being filled with over 110 selected vehicles on display and some 50 commercial and product display vendors.

We invite you to join us at the show, enjoy the displays, meet some new friends and help out some terrific kids.