Gone Racin’…to see the Meadors
Story by Richard Parks and Photographs Courtesy of Goodguys
A highlight of last year’s Goodguys Rod & Custom Association 6th Del Mar Nationals Show ‘N Shine event held on March 31-April 2, 2006, was the chance to meet the Meadors family. Gary and Marilyn Meadors turned out to be regular hot rodders just like the rest of us. Warm, friendly and at ease with the throngs of well-wishers who come to their events, it was an interesting interview. Gary Meadors is the founder of the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association, and the promoter of all those great shows that attract zealous hot rodders and their fantastic cars. The Meadors really enjoy their work, and when I asked Gary if being Chairman of an organization as large as his was hard on his wife, he shook his head and told me, “she loves it.” That is not always true in the car show milieu, where a guy’s fascination with automobiles has often led to divorce. But not only was Marilyn Meadors enjoying the constant travel and car show work, but the whole Meadors family was involved.
“I still own the 1947 Plymouth that I used to take Marilyn out on dates,” said Gary, who attended Dinuba High School, while Marilyn went to Reedley High School in the San Joaquin Valley. “American Graffitti, the movie, accurately portrayed how we lived and what we believed in,” he said. Gary’s Grandfather, a Mennonite preacher, married them. They spent two years at Junior College and then Gary went to work for Gillette Corporation in the San
Francisco Bay area in the 1960’s. For a while Gary and Marilyn were out of the car club culture, having enough to do working and raising a family. But in the late 1960’s, the call of the hot rodding culture brought them home and Gary bought one of Andy Brizzio’s “Instant T” hot rod kit cars. With 5 other friends, he started the Nor Cal Early Iron Club, which grew to become the biggest car club in Northern California. The hot rod car clubs had been very popular in high schools everywhere from the Great Depression of the 1930’s up through the early ‘50’s. Then World War II, the Korean Conflict and a shifting and swirling population moved the hot rodders around. Finally, a new sport, called drag racing, drew many car club members to its ranks. By the 1970’s, these young men and women had raised their families and the siren call of the hot rod beckoned them back.
In 1973 the Nor Cal Early Iron Club promoted the West Coast Mini Nationals at Lodi, California for cars 1949 or older, and 566 cars showed up, signaling a new trend in hot rod car shows. Gary was still working as a traveling salesman, but began to use his skills to promote shows, with his friend, Bruce Olson, and they called themselves “Gary Goodguy and Deuce Bruce.” They also wrote How To articles and books featuring customizing. He incorporated Goodguys in 1985, and worked with the NSRA. A year or two later, in 1987, the concept took off and he separated Goodguys from NSRA. Gary and Marilyn drive to all of their events, sometimes leaving a car at a certain destination for later use. They now promote 22 events and they love to get out on the road and meet with sponsors, friends, businesses and other fans of hot rodding. Even at the Goodguy events, they are out watching the cars and talking to their friends. They sincerely enjoy what they are doing and it is a husband and wife team. You could see the look of love that they have for each other and for the sport that they have built around the concept of the Goodguys car shows. Their son Marc walked by, bringing his wife JessAnn, and their two small children, Grace and Grant. Gary and Marilyn walked away, talking to the spectators and thoroughly enjoying the sunny day at Del Mar.
Marc Meadors was named President of Goodguys this past January, 2007 and is now in charge of running the day to day operations of Goodguys. Gary is now Goodguys Chairman, Marilyn is at the office daily, JessAnn is in the Sales department, and her daughter Breann works in the sales booth, when she is not in high school. Gary and Marilyn’s other son, Marty, is married to Michell Meadors and they have a son, Reece, age two. Marty works for C&C Machine Company in El Dorado, California. Marc promoted his own import shows for three years and was quite good at it but the stress of long hours working alone made his company unpleasant and the family struggled. This prompted him to return to the family business where he has thrived ever since. “Our whole family is involved with Goodguys, in one way or another,” Marc said, “if the children wish to follow our footsteps, they will be welcomed into the company, but if they want to be doctors, teachers or lawyers, that is all right too.” Goodguys employs 36 full time staff members. “One of the perks of the job is that my family can come to the events with us,” he said, “my wife works in the sales department, but can bring the children with us on the road.” Marc and JessAnn have been married for 11 years, and they create a happy and positive environment for the kids to grow up in, and even join the business if they choose to someday.
Marc was called away and JessAnn was the next to tell her story. “It’s much easier for us because we have family helping family,” she said. “My mother, Joann Lares, stays home and takes care of a lot of the burden. We take our younger children, who are too small for school, with us everywhere we go. We have been to all of the states and gone to places that kids like,” she said. JessAnn mentioned factories, aquariums, zoos, parks, museums, toyshops and more. “It’s a great life and a great job all rolled into one,” she said, “it beats looking for a real job.” I asked her what it was like to have your husband and children with you all the time. “It can get frantic at times and the kids have a lot of energy, but we find fun things for them to do and they know more about geography and things from their travels than most kids.” When things get too out of hand they visit the souvenir booth or local toy stores where Grant likes to buy Hot Wheels and Grace opts for pink dolls or pink Cadillac toy cars. JessAnn’s oldest daughter, Breann, has worked in the sales booth since she was 8 years old. Breann is now 14 and is in high school, but she works the booth during the summers. “She’s a great salesgirl,” says JessAnn. “She knows how to get the crowd to buy the slower moving merchandise.”
JessAnn would like to see the children carry on the family business. She loves to write, and the company and her family give her a lot to do. JessAnn says that one of these days she just might write a book on the travels of her family. They lead a happy, exciting life, and when I asked the family what event and what part of the country they loved the most, they replied in unison, “everywhere.” Said Marilyn, “every site and place has something special and lovely, and it never gets old. It’s a thrill to travel throughout America to get to the Goodguy events, to visit people on the way, and then to see our fans and friends at the events.” JessAnn said goodbye, and walked away with Grant and Grace, and arm in arm with Marc, they went back to work being a family, and a business.