The Counts have recently surpassed their 60th Anniversary as a club for those with an interest in "fun with cars."
Formed in October of 1957, the charter members included Chuck Johnson, aka Charlie Brown (President), Del Johnson, Billy Jo Bush, Vic (Tyke) Vanlelivan, and Brad Flagg. Vanlelivan suggested the name, and wanting to get back to working on their cars, the other members readily adopted it. Within weeks of the initial meeting, Carl Kurtz, Smokey Lien, Ron Sherwood, Lonnie Evans, Larry Skog, and Don Wickman joined the club. Weekly meetings, always on Tuesday evening were adopted, and a consecutive string has been maintained ever since.
Ongoing annual activities include: Black Hills Rod Run, Annual Indoor Car Show, Cruise nights, Greaser Dance, and garage tours.
Alas, the infamous Beer and Vittles Run and Campout has lost it's appeal as most of us have gotten older.
Memorable car shows began at the old Rapid City Auditorium, where the Batmobile wowed the crowds in 1967. An affiliation with Bill Colson/Champion Auto and the World of Wheels organization assisted in car show production for about 15 years. The show once again became an independent Count's production in 2000. Now the money generated goes back to the exhibitors or local charitable organizations.
The following is a hazy account of a few years for which records can be found:
1973: In June the second annual Beer and Vittles run was held at Silver Mountain Picnic Grounds with a large number of Scottsbluff Valley Street Rod Association members in attendance. Due to the beer part of the event, it was reported that two sets of keys were temporarily lost.
The last weekend of July had the Counts hosting the West Central U.S. NSRA Mini-Nats at the fairgrounds in conjunction with the Black Hills Rod Run. For $10, you and your car got to go to all the events, and for some reason the registration form asked who you were employed by...The club requires all members to wear a special uniform of blue polo shirts and white pants during the entire event.
This was also the first year of the autumn Greaser Dance, with well known club members Carl Satterlee presiding as President, Marv Pothoff as V.P., and Jim Neuzil as Secretary/Treasurer.
Meanwhile, Frank Potthoff offered his '50 Ford pickup for sale with a 283 Chevy already installed for $250.
1974: New officers were installed; Al Willey as President, Leo Sogge as VP, and Neuzil retaining his prior year Secretary/Treasurer duties PLUS being the Newsletter editor.
For fun we went swimming at Hot Springs in March. That must have been quite a sight, but would be even more frightening now. Family nights were usually at Shakey's Pizza Parlor, where for $2.95 you got all you could eat.
The Beer and Vittles run, due to prior year events, had been re-named the Low Buck Run (this was before Rat Rods were cool!) and now included no charge camping at Sheridan Lake. Rodders from Iowa and Minnesota attended, so it was good that we had lots of beer and a place to sleep.
Inflation was out of control, and Jim pleaded for donations to help cover the additonal 2 cents that it cost to mail each copy of the Streetin' News. The state of the economy was further proven by the '65 GTO listed for sale...good body and interior...no engine or trans...for $100. If that didn't suit you, you could opt for the '56 Chevy with fenderwell headers, listed as low mileage and cherry for $900 including the chrome wheels.
The Rod Run had moved up to the third weekend in July. Over 70 cars showed up at Sheridan Lake for the Show-n-Shine. Burn out marks from the New-for -'74 two hour Go Whoa contest can still be seen in the parking lot. Colorado Sabre club members entered 10 cars and took home 9 of 10 trophies. Our friends in Scottsbluff held their first Rod Run.
Local businesses supporting the club included B&B Auto Salvage, Whisler Bearing, and Johnson Machine. Martin's Auto Service, the only gas station on the west side of Mount Rushmore Road, even had a coupon offering a 10% discount on any purchase...should have bought every Cadillac sombrero hubcap that he had.
Meanwhile, club members reported that streakers were seen at the NSRA Nationals held in Minnesota.
1975: Marv Potthoff was President, Joe Balfe VP, and Stuart Anderson stepped in as Secretary/Treasurer. Jim Neuzil was in charge of the Rod Run and the newsletter.
The Beer and Vittles run was now called what it was. A June 8th date meant plenty of rain, and the picnic was finished up at Carl Satterlee's little garage. Carl's place, R.C. Cycle Center was still advertising, and Mamola Motors on West Main featured "sharp specialty cars" and used mag wheels and tires. Mamola actually did buy and sell a ton of muscle cars in the day from his lot by the Mr. Donut that was torn down after a fatal armed robbery.
The Black Hills Rod Run moved to its now traditional early July date and included a cruise to the South Dakota State Drag Racing Championships in Belle Fourche, with over 200 cars from 5 states competing. Can you imagine that...have you seen that drag strip lately?
The third Greaser Dance was on October 18th. Tom Donahue, a long time club supporter from Nebraska, brought up a finished and "slithery" '50 Merc that had temporarily been owned by club member Gordon Marrs before its completion.
Jim Neuzil borrowed white walls from Carl to use on his newly acquired and not-yet-flamed '36 Ford pickup. Nobody is sure if he returned them.
The Counts proclaimed 1975 as the "Year of the Showdown." The Counts aligned with the S.T.O.P. organization and Bill Napoli who worked on the bill that eventually led to the Motor Vehicle Inspection law being repealed in South Dakota. Efforts were being made to eliminate sections of the vehicle inspection, especially the restrictive sheet metal and bumper requirements. Side exhaust was also illegal at the time, so who knows what you were supposed to do with your '67 Vette with side pipes. Members were urged to write to specific state congress representatives, including Ralph Herseth (father of future politician Stephanie Herseth).
Neuzil's red '32 Chevy took people's choice and best closed rod in Manitoba, so he promptly sold it. Not to worry, he had his'36 Ford pickup or could have went a bought Carl's "Model A Coupe, late 50' style, flathead power, good shape" for $1,000.
This marked the first time that the Counts offered the club built truck, Charlie Brown, for sale at $4500.
1976: Elected president, despite a floppy hat, was Carl Satterlee. Marv Potthoff was VP and Secretary was Ed Smith. Jim Neuzil was entrusted with the Treasurer position, as well as the Newsletter and the Rod Run.
Member Harlan Brand, at the age of 20, was featured in the newsletter along with his nicely finished '55 hardtop. Leo Sogge was also featured with his candy and pearl red 1923 Dodge roadster pickup, powered by a dual 4 barrel Cadillac. Long time and widely known club supporter Roger Blum finally joined up.
Family meetings were still at Shakey's Pizza Parlor, and the S.T.O.P. organization had an indoor car show the first weekend in May. A Darryl Starbird '51 Merc custom, "The Fabula", was featured...it was then owned by Tom Donahue. Counts had 9 cars in the show, with associate member Don Herman winning just about everything with his popular "super sano" black '57 Chevy. (Don went on to form the Classic Chevy organization.) The club pickup, Charlie Brown, won Mayor's Choice and first in class.
The affiliation with S.T.O.P was instrumental in the new liberal safety inspection that went into effect on July 1. Only tires, lights, brakes, and suspension were now included as they were part of a federal safety inspection requirement. The actual SD inspection law was completely repealed. Of course, this made the NSRA safety inspection even more important! Jim Neuzil had made many trips to Pierre working on this legislation, and it probably dawned on him later how much more work he had made for himself as the NSRA representative.
Enactment of the law..or repeal of the old law...started a new trend in Rapid City, with local police carrying tape measures and handing out "altered suspension" tickets all night on 8th Street. Termed "harassment" by the club, this become very unpopular with the magistrate court as they waited for clarification on the law. The cops finally backed off, and we all stopped by the Exxon station and filled the air shocks on our daily driver muscle cars.
A Beer and Vittles run on May 31st was made even more fun by all the members that now had something called 23 channel C.B. radios installed in their cars. Members had handles like: Deputy Dawg, Blue Flame, Woodenhead, Mr. 35, Tin Indian, Scrounger, and of course club president Carl with "Roadster King." This year's run was a nice mellow event with sunshine, a picnic at Stockade Lake, and some volleyball.
The Black Hills Rod Run was settling into the "first weekend in July after the 4th of July weekend" and included a show-n-shine at the Belle Fourche dragstrip. Everyone wanted to come to Mt. Rushmore the bicentennial year, and over 100 cars showed up. Entry fee was still only $10 including two meal tickets for the barbecue.
Granny's II speed shop, owned by Tim Lane, was a new advertiser. Unfortunately he was out of business by 1978. Fortunately, Bob Dunfee got to buy his rough '56 Chevy with the best of everything from the air cleaner to the tailshaft. Unfortunately the car was from Lead so was smashed on both ends, had a bumper mount trailer hitch, a caved in door, and aerated floor boards.
Long-time Rapid City fixture Martin's Auto finally sold out, but "Wolf" kept the business open as WLD Auto and continued to support the club. Gordon Marrs got his '37 Chevy coupe on the road. However, there is still not a gas station south of Saint Charles Street on the west side of Mount Rushmore Road. Something about covenants that the guy who owned Martin's put into place when he owned all the land....
A membership list was published, with 20 active members and 46 associates. To protect their privacy, we did not print anyone's e-mail address or cell phone number. (Yeah, that's a joke.) However, home phone numbers, addresses, and wives' names were provided. The oldest cars listed by active members were a '35 Dodge, and a '35 Chevy...the newest was a '57 Chevy.
A Street Rod wedding was held September 18th at the Stavkirk in Chapel Valley, and Ann Crago became Ann Neuzil.
In the sale and swap arena, we can only assume that Jerry Strensland of Casper is still waiting to trade his '57 Sedan Delivery for a '57 Nomad.
1977: Elected President was Dennis Masteller. Gordon Marrs was V.P., Tim McCasky was secretary, and according to records no one was responsible for the money.
The NSRA was recognizing a new category of custom cars, the Street Machine/Van category. This was short-lived.
The Rod Run was moved all the way to the end of July in deference to the Scottsbluff run and the Nats in St Paul. A new venue was tried out, the shady Busted 5 campground near Rockerville. Entry fees jumped by 50% to $15, but you could camp for only $2 per car.
In the on-going altered suspension issue, club representatives met extensively during the legislative session with the South Dakota Highway Patrol. Their legitimate concern was that unsafe and poor handling cars would be on the road, so a slalom course was designed for some trial testing. A vehicle was required to be able to do the course at 25 mph. Live testing was set up, and Carl brought out his only semi-streetable T Roadster. The highway patrol cruisers with their "COP" tires, "COP" suspensions, and professional drivers best time was 36 mph before spinning out. Carl laid down consistent passes at 35 mph, hindered because as he slid across the seatbeltless vinyl seat his foot would come off the gas pedal...."Ya see? Jalopies with dem goofy suspensions is unsafe!"
Carl's T-bucket also saw considerable use blasting through snow drifts that February. If you haven't driven your topless hot rod in the snow, you should have visited with Carl about the best technique before his untimely passing.
Brent Willan and The Speed Center appeared as a new advertiser. Brent built a fine business that has unfortunately outlived him.
On the bargain of the year front, Joe Balfe listed his '56 2 door wagon, with everything new including white pearl paint, for $1750... he was also trying to dump a '70 Torino 429 Cobra Jet for $1,000...gas prices were going up!
1978: Carl Satterlee was once again President. VP was Joe Bahr, Secretary Denny Masteller, and somebody gave the money back to Jim Neuzil.
Following is the text published in the newsletter as the Counts began their third decade:
1957 to NOW
Counts of the Cobblestone Car Club Celebrate 20th Anniversary
That's right everybody, it's been over 20 years since a group of young fellas got together and formed a new car club.
This 1978 summer will be the Counts 10th Annual Black Hills Rod Run venture and with this the 20th year of the club, it'll be an extra special event to say the least! If you're making plans to hit some rod runs this summer make plans to come to the beautiful Black Hills on the weekeind of July 28-30. The Counts will let you help them celebrate their birthday!
It was October 1957 when the late Chuck (Charlie Brown) Johnson, Dell Johnson, Bill Jo Bush, Vic Vanlelivan, and Brad Flagg had the first meeting and Vic came up with the name no one seemed to like, but when it came time for a vote everyone voted for "Counts of the Cobblestone" Car Club. It wasn't long after that when a garage was rented for $75.00 a month at 3rd and St. Pat. This was a little over everyone's income bracket so that didn't last long.
Chuck was elected president mostly because he had the neatest car, an Olds powered '40 Ford with louvers and flames yet. Membership started to grow in 1958. That's when yours truly joined up. It was July and we were ordering club jackets, plaques and membership and courtesy cards.
About this time to really be in you had to have a lowered car. Most everybody had 50's Chevys or Fords and one Sunday one after another we lined up in front of Rod Sherwood's garage and got the front coils either heated or cut. About three inches of front bumper clearance was all we allowed. Ol' Brad Flagg took the springs completely out of his '42 Chevy sedan. Then it was over to cruise the drive-in that was located across from the guard camp. Those were the days!
A lot of guys have come and gone over the past 20 years. Some are still around like Smokey Lien, Bruce Pererson, Dell Johnson, Brad Flagg, Jim Smith, Dave Smith, Jim Paget, Lonn Evans, Dave Schleuning, and Larry Skog; and some are gone. Chuck Johnson was killed in a tragic car accident in 1962. Chuck was president again that year but his mother donated his 1934 Ford pickup "The Night Crawler" to the club as a remembrance of him.
This was quite a challenge to the club and for several years different approaches were tried on the truck like making a drag racer out of it. After several false starts it was decided in 1969 to shoot our wad, so to speak, and completely rebuild the '34 truck as a show feature for our own 10th Annual Rod and Custom Exhibition.
We had already put a club member built 265 c.i. Chevy (punched out to 283) V-8 and powerglide in to replace the 430 c.i. Merc Turnpike Cruiser heavy motor that was put into the truck just prior to Chuck's death.
Now we started with a '32 passenger car frame that was filled and had new cross members put in. The wishbones were split using PSI parts, and much chroming was done. The rest was sprayed black epoxy with stained glass panels covering the inside of the frame.
Mucho body work was done on the channeled body including a 3 inch tunneled firewall that was made from polished stainless steel. The top was already chopped about 4 inches so it was just detailed out and the entire body--fenders (glass '32 repros)--grille shell ('32 passenger car sectioned 4 inches)---was sprayed a silver metal flake and smoothed with clear. Then a wild candy red was put over the silver. The fenders have a stained glass treatment done in matching panels. All this body and paint work was set on a 4 inch dropped I- beam '32 axle with '40 Ford hubs re-drilled for Chevy bolt pattern. Brake drums and backing plates were plated.
At the rear, chromed Corvair coils and sway bar support a '55 Chevy rear end. Detail work on the undercarriage is outstanding, especially with special panels made to cover the inside of the frame rails hiding brake and fuel lines.
A special walnut pickup box was built by member Larry Skog and after many coats of polyurethane, chrome rub strips were added.
Credit for paint goes to ex-club member Dick Neuzil (Tricky Dick). This is only one of his high quality show winning paint jobs.
On the interior it was decided that we ought to go all the way, so A&B Upholstery of Box Elder put in a wild button tufted crushed velvet interior in an off white color. The dash was done in walnut and carpet was high class red nylon.
To date the truck has won 1st place in six out of seven shows entered and in 1972 it won Best Radical Rod and Best Use of Color at the Kansas City ASRA Rod Nationals. It was even featured in "Street Rod" magazine in November of 1972. We believe the "Charlie Brown" truck ended up a fitting tribute to its original owner Chuck "Charlie Brown" Johnson.
Besides building and owning the truck as a club we've done things like produce a car show from 1960 to 1970 (we quit because the financial end was getting too close) and we still produce the annual Black Hills Rod Run.
New members included Dan Gorman, and Scott Loux. Dan was only 16 and working on his '54 Chevy hardtop and '34 Chevy pickup. Scott had switched from stock car racing and he and his wife Deb had a '29 High Boy, a '29 Ford pickup (Vega powered!), and a '34 Chevy two door sedan in the works. Tim and Todd Sime also joined this year and were finishing up their wild Olds powered '27 Chevy truck, the T'n'T Special. Brent Willan, who first joined in 1969, became an active member again and his hammered and flamed Ditzler # 2094 Model A Sedan hit the streets this summer.
The NSRA added the requirement for scrub line clearance to their safety inspection. This ultra-important feature of engineering (along with the need for lock washers/safety fasteners) had been overlooked by some when they sacrificed everything to get the right stance. Even today, many a first time builder still overlooks this until a wise old sage like Skip points it out in his gentle way.
A membership drive was in order, and the result was that Charlie Brown had the distinction of being the first Hot/Street Rod to ever be displayed at the new Rushmore Plaza CIvic Center.
Gene Jobgen was already in the vintage tin business, and offered your choice of a '56 Merc Convertible, '36 Dodge 4-door, '53 Chevy Pick-up, '42 Chevy sedan, '35 Ford Coupe, or a '34 Ford 2 Door sedan all available at his place out by Scenic. I think we'd all like to have at least three of those today.
The club had a first and last Valentine's Day party at Carl's garage that included chili and "soda". Due to the raging blizzard, Scott Loux parked his car unexpectedly in the ditch in front of Carl's. Another such party was never held as most of the members ended up married or in jail within the next twelve months.
On a happier note, the previous summer's rod run was covered in Tex Smith's Rod and Machine Gazette.
The club constitution was revamped, and included the following important changes:
1. Potential new members must attend 4 weekly meetings in a row prior to being voted on.
2. A review will be held on new members after one month in the club.
3. All club members will have a project, rod, or machine. A monthly progress report will be received and judged by the Club Officers. Adherence to this law is mandatory to remain in the club. Each member will be given personal consideration. Officer's cars will be inspected and progress reported by the membership.
4. All members will belong to the NSRA by the time of entry. This will be renewed yearly.
5. Members having 75% of possible points to date excluding car points (local meetings and events) are admitted to the Black Hills Rod Run free.
6. All members cars that qualify for points must be voted on by membership.
7. Any member who missed three (3) unexcused meetings in a quarter without an excuse acceptable to the Club, is automatically dropped from the membership.
8. Any member who is cited for a moving traffic violation can be dealt with according to the wishes of the Club.
It seems like a Sergeant at Arms position was also put into place...with all those rules to enforce.
Once again the Rod Run was the last weekend in July at Busted 5. Of the cars entered, 49 were Fords, 39 were Chevys, and the rest were a scramble of 9 other makes. The 109 rodders lucky enough to attend could buy raffle tickets on a pair of L60-15 Super Sport GT tires that had been donated by The Speed Center. Proceeds from this raffle went to the Jerry Lewis Telethon. A lot of games were incorporated into every run back then. Of the 10 scheduled events it is interesting to note that the Blind Driver contest was first, before any beer was available.
In August, a few members attended the nationals in Tulsa, OK and got to meet Olivia Newton John who was on a promotional tour for the movie "Grease."
Denny Henrikson raved about the $59 cruise control (with Resume feature) available from the J.C. Penney catalog, mentioning how it was a much better deal than the unit that Montgomery Wards had on sale for $64.
A couple of weddings, a huge auction of Tom Donahue's stuff in Scottsbluff, and soon it was time for the bigger-than-ever October Greaser Dance.
The dance was held at The Box Elder lounge, described as being located in "the beautiful east side of Box Elder, SD." We didn't even start until 7:30, and they kicked us out 64 gallons later at 2:00. That was p.m and a.m., not the other way around. Amazing what Olivia Newton John must have done to make us act like that.
Deal of the year was the the '34 Ford Coupe body on frame, complete except for right door, $550. Available from Stan Tyburec in Winner, SD. However, the club pickup was still for sale, now listed with an asking price of $6,000.
1979 Street rodding was really catching on. The member list boasted 24 active members and 112 associates. Of the active members, about 50% were not yet 30 years old!
Newly elected officers included: President Art Herder, Vice President Bill Brady, Secretary TIm Sime, Treasurer (again) Jim Neuzil.
The year started with the 2nd Annual Awards Banquet. The Fireside Inn, before it was destroyed again by fire inside, was the venue. The goal of owning land and a club house was announced. The traveling Active Member of the Year trophy, consisting of grille shell/clock went to Carl Satterlee, with Denny Henrikson picking up similar honors for Associate of the Year.
Dave Dewall was a new member with a very black Chevy small block powered '40 Ford 2 door sedan. John Gisi, age 17 and owner of a '34 and '41 Chevy also became a Count. Marv Potthoffs '37 Pontiac finally hit the streets, and Tim and Todd Simes' very un-truck-like '27 Chevy also got out of the garage and to the shows.
The Gatlinburg, TN, Rod Run was cancelled by the town fathers due to burn outs, drag racing, traffic blockage, littering, beer drinkers over indulging in the wrong places. Rumour had it that next to be cancelled would be the Sturgis Bike Rally.
The Ms. Counts auxillary of wives and girlfriends was formed by Deb Herder and Candi Willan, and their organizational skills really helped to get the women involved and assisting with the club activities and promotions.
Roger Jetter, now a well known columnist and author about our hobby, was the first entry received for the upcoming Black Hills Rod Run, bringing up a '40 Studebake coupe with 400 SB Chevy power.
A new club was formed in Rapid City, the Dakota Machiners or Dakota Street Machines. Unfortunately, after their organizational meeting at Shakey's, their announcement stated "The first activity for the year will be a kegger party to be held at my shop Feb. 3 in the evening. Two dollars a head for all you can drink and everyone is invited." Sounds like fun, but we never really heard about this group again.
You could run over to Casper and buy a '55 Chevy 2 door hardtop, built 327, 4.88:1 rear and metal flake paint, "a real runner", for $2,000
Old Clubhouse History:
The club met in many locations over the years. Businesses and homeowners gave up some space for the Counts. Unloading and re-loading the club benches became a ritual for every meeting. In the early 80's, the show winning club pickup "Charlie Brown" was sold as some visionary leadership chose a new direction for the club. Cash was used to buy a number of rebuilders, which talented members put together and got back on the road. Beauties such as a Chevy K-10 pickup, a Triumph TR7, and a stellar Vega were rebuilt, sold, and the money went into the clubhouse fund.
The year 1981 was also the first year that the Counts got back into the big indoor car show business with the ISCA World of Wheels event held that February. This was planned as a money-making opportunity for the club, and helped move the Counts to the goal of a permanent clubhouse.
In 1982 a fine 400 s.f. building was purchased on West Omaha Street. The kitchen was removed, the windows and siding repaired, and new curtains were put up. A whole bunch of trophies now adorn the walls, along with memorabilia back to the 50's. This was all done with just 16 members.
The new clubhouse was completed after many donations and volunteer hours in 2010.