Verdugo Views: When car shows were the fashion

Many people around town remember the car shows hosted by National Charity League and the Glendale Motor Car Dealers Assn. But even longtime residents might not realize that they were not the first of their kind.

The first known showing of new model cars in Glendale was in 1925. That's when the newly formed car dealers association, now up to 18 dealerships, displayed the latest cars. The seven-day show was a great success, with Assn. President Lyman T. Clark leading the way.

But it appears that show may have been a one-year wonder; no account of similar car shows can be found. So fast-forward some 40-plus years to October 1967 when NCL launched the first of many car shows.

It was held at the new Glendale Fashion Center, which had opened just a year before on the northwest corner of Glendale Boulevard and Wilson Avenue with three major stores, many satellite shops and a couple of restaurants.

The four-level parking structure provided parking for 1100 cars, more than enough room for car show guests. The NCL ladies chose a Spanish theme, “Fiesta de Carros,” for their first gala. As guests entered the Spanish garden setting, they were greeted by strolling musicians and by league president Gwen Green and her husband George.

After following lighted lanterns down the path to the cocktails and buffet tables, everyone went on to view the new 1968-model cars. Mrs. Wilbur S. Newman was in charge, assisted by Mrs. John Waltman; they had a large committee organizing all the details, from invitations to the decorations, large wrought-iron bird cages with white doves placed inside.

The recipient of all this effort was Twelve Oaks Lodge, a retirement home in La Crescenta. By 1967, the NCL ladies had already raised more than $70,000 through previous fundraisers. Those monies had gone to construction of Stern Hall on the lodge property; the car show funds would also go to Twelve Oaks.

The next year, they were all back in the same place, with the same theme, another beautiful fall evening and the first showing of the 1969-model-year cars in the Southern California area.

By 1973, they had expanded to a Concours Internationaux theme, with a Wednesday-night preview for members and guests. The $5 tickets included appetizers and the buffet. The show itself was open to the public, free of charge. Sue Howard was president that year.

One of those was on hand for the first car shows was Maryann McCaffery, whose daughters, Robin and Kelly, were Ticktockers (junior high and high school-age members of the NCL).

“In the early days, everyone was excited to have the new Robinson's, the Robin Hood restaurant and the rest of the shopping center that came to Glendale,” said McCaffery, who now lives in Santa Fe. “All who came were dressed in their finest outfits.”

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World