HISTORY OF THE OVER THE HILL GANG

As it began in San Diego and San Bernandino, California, in 1973.

A Brief History of the San Diego Chapter of the Over The Hill Gang

By Bill Hogue
Written for the 25th Aniversary Scrapbook – 1998

The year was 1973. The sport (hobby?) of hot rodding was changing. Drag racing was becoming too expensive for the common car enthusiast and 11 muscle cars", which had replaced the traditional hot rod in the sixties, were boring. Old cars were making a comeback and were now called street rods to separate them from their racing predecessors. Street Rodder Magazine had been created and Rod & Custom Magazine was reborn the year before. The newly formed National Street Rod Association had staged a couple of events (one had almost 2,000 cars in attendance!) and was chartering, car clubs across the country.

In Southern California, the street rod scene pretty much consisted of a few well organized clubs (40 Fords Ltd., Early Times, LA Roadsters, Prowlers, Pick-ups Ltd., etc.) and a lot of "Lone Wolves". Like today, most activities centered on club-sponsored events, and if you were not part of a club you were often excluded from participating. If a lone wolf did attend an event, he often could not take part in many of the team activities such as volleyball, tug-of-war, relay races and so on. This problem was compounded by the strict enrollment requirements of most of the established clubs (i.e. the person's car must be finished and approved by the club; person must be sponsored by an existing member, must pay high dues. etc.). Many independent minded rodders did not feel like following these rules, but still wanted to be part of a like-minded group. Out of this was born the Over the Hill Gang.

One of the biggest local runs in 1973 was the Colorado River Run staged in the spring by the Early Times Club. It was at this event that a group of rodders, led by Tom 'Pappy' Sterkel from San Bernardino, got together and decided to form a regional club with loose rules and a family orientation. This concept evolved into a club with three independent chapters, San Bernardino, Pomona and San Diego. The club would be called "The Over the Hill Gang Southern California Street Rod Association" and I have the original club plaque to prove it. Craig Lake brought the idea back to San Diego and hooked up with local rodders such as John Pickle, Paul 'Kip' Dunne, Mike Closser and Dou- Clark. An organizational meeting was scheduled at John Pickle's office for July 18th and the San Diego Chapter was launched that night with about 28 members.

The following Sunday a run was staged to Live Oak Park in Fallbrook. Members of the other two chapters met us there and the club was officially established. Note: Today there seems to be some rivalry between San Bernardino and San Diego about who was the "First" Chapter, which falls under the heading of "who cares?" Well, I was there and I'm here to tell you that as far as I know, there was no "first" chapter. We all started together.

As I said earlier, the San Diego Chapter was formed as a family oriented club. Most of the members were married and probably half of them had families with children. If you look at the early club rosters, you'll see only males listed as members and this has fueled the idea that the club was a 'guy' thing. Not so! The wives and girlfriends might not have been listed back then, but they attended the weekly club meetings, went on the runs, drove the cars, took part in contests and⁄or games at events and generally did everything the guys did. The first woman to have her own car (as I remember) was Joann Schade, (a Charter Member with her husband Chris) in 1975. If you have any doubt about women's roles in the OTHG history, just ask her.

Until a few years ago, club meetings were held weekly. After outgrowing, Pickle's office, we moved to an old (gas station. then to Mike Closser's tire store. For several years we actually had a "club house", a rather decrepit old house in Lemon Grove that Craig Lake let us use. When he rented that building- out, we moved to a long succession of restaurants, pizza places, night clubs and an ice cream store and who knows what all. Probably the shortest-lived location was a small Mexican restaurant on El Cajon Blvd. After only one meeting, we were evicted because the old cars parked in front attracted too much traffic for the parking lot to hold!

Over the past 25 years, the San Diego Over the Hill Gang has enjoyed a great success as a social organization. While the cars have always been the central theme, what has made the club one of the largest in California is the friendship, camaraderie and helpful attitude of the members. An example of this is a minor event that occurred in 1980. That summer, OTHG member Jack Reeder (founder of the Chili Run) was in route to the Nats West in San Jose with his wife and 3 young sons, Half way there, at 5:00 in the afternoon on Route 1 in the middle of nowhere, he snapped an axle on his '47 Ford Sedan. He made a phone call to the fairgrounds in San Jose and told a 'Gang' member who was already there about his problem. Within a half an hour other 'Gang' members were heading the 250 miles south to Jack's location with a truck and trailer. By 5 am the next morning Jack, with the help of other 'Gang' members, had the axle replaced and they were crusin' the Nats. No problem, no big deal.

Today, being a member of the San Diego Over the Hill Gang means monthly meetings, yearly dues, an established governing board, a lot of cruise nights and rod runs, some trophies and lots of friendships. In ' 1997, thanks to KeyInfo Services Inc., we set up an OTHG web site at: www.overthehillgang.com For the youngest old car lover to the oldest, if you have a pre-1949 vehicle, attend 3 meetings and go on one I run with the club, you've met the requirements to become a member of the San Diego OTHG. The San Diego Over the Hill Gang has enjoyed many triumphs over the years, from helping to host the Western Nationals in 1975 to staging the very successful OTHG Streak for 25 events. We've received a great deal of publicity for our exploits, had a lot of cars on magazine covers, made people happy with our charitable contributions and tried to be credit to our community. All along we've supported our fellow members when needed. My own wedding was a street rod affair with the reception held at a 'Gang' members home and the use of 2 of Craig Lake's cars for the wedding and honeymoon (my own '34 was down with a broken piston). I've attended many other street rod weddings and some (too many) funerals. No matter what the event, happy or sad, good or bad, 'Gang' members have always been there for their friends.

So as we come to the San Diego Over the Hill Gang's 25th birthday (July of this year-1998), we 'Gang' members can enjoy many positive factors:
  1. Club membership is higher than it's ever been.
  2. We stage one of the longest running local rod runs in the Southwest, The Streak..
  3. Club participation and enthusiasm at almost any run is very good.
  4. We have made and will continue to make, many generous contributions to worthy charities in our communities.
  5. The club seems to have an endless supply of hard working people willing to step up to positions of responsibility when needed.
  6. We have proven through all these years that no matter how old you get, you never have to grow old.
  7. We now have chapters all over the United States.

Congratulations Over the Hill Gang on your 25th Anniversary!