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Cadillac & LaSalle Club
Potomac Region
"The Standard of the World Wide Web"

Region History

As the name suggests the Potomac Region is based in the Washington, DC area, also serving the state of Maryland and Northern Virginia.  Tracing its origins to 1969, the Potomac Region was one of the earlier active Regions in the East.  In the summer of 1968, two brothers, Richard and Steven Sisson, answered a classified ad in The Washington Post for Cadillac parts being disposed of by the widow of a Mr. Lineback in Silver Spring, Maryland.  He had owned several 1938-40-era Cadillacs.  After being led to the parts stash in the basement, getting near the parts proved a little bit difficult due to a certain Ron Van Gelderen rummaging through them.  Actually he was more going back and forth, loading the trunk of his car with the best goodies.  After quick introductions, the search was on for anything that might be useful for the 1946 Cadillac Convertible that Steven was then restoring.  Ron asked Richard and Steven about any cars that they might own, and in turn they learned that Ron owned a small fleet of four or five collector Cadillacs and that he had recently transported to McLean, Virginia from Chicago.  They invited Ron to their Dad’s nearby home where Steven’s 1946 Convertible was resting.  Talking there, they were amazed to learn that Ron had come from a very active Cadillac - LaSalle Club (CLC) region in Chicago and had already become distressed to learn that there was no active local CLC region in the Washington, DC area.

 

A few weeks or a month later, Ron called Steven and asked if he could come up with a mailing list of interested Cadillac fanciers in the area.  Steven said “yes” because he was a member of the local AACA Region and CHVA Region and knew a lot of people.  He did come up with a list of names and forwarded them to Ron, who along with his wife Sherie, hosted a meeting in January 1969.  Pictured above are the attendees arriving in their classics for the historic meeting.  On that cold but sunny day, Ron’s neighborhood was transformed into an Apalachin, New York scene circa 1957 when Mafia bosses from all over arrived in their Cadillacs for a historic sit down. Unlike the Apalachin get-together, the vintage cars did not cause suspicion resulting in the arrival of the State Police at the residence.  Below are the attendees, the Potomac Region's founding members!
   

L to R Standing - Marthajane Kennedy, Fred Westenberger, Earl Broyles, Juan Aranda,
C. P. Johnson, Robert F. Schilling
and Ralph Pekins

L to R Kneeling - Zane Griner, Elwood Brown, Steven Sisson and Richard Sisson

L to R Standing - George G. Teebay, Sue Teebay, Mike Smith, Sandy Smith, Cari Davis, Akin T. Davis, Glen Cole, Pat Cole,
Bryce Frey and Nancy Frey

 L to R Kneeling - Ron Van Gelderen and Sherie Van Gelderen

 

Ron led the meeting and announced that he wanted to start a local Region.  He also came up with the idea of having CLC meets at Turkey Run Park in McLean, Virginia in the Summer and Fall of 1969.  The first shows were a lot of fun and some 12 or so cars were shown.  Soon after, a Region planning meeting was held and after some discussion, it was decided that the Region would be called Potomac and Steven Sisson would be its first Director.  They soon applied to the National CLC for provisional status. 

 

After helping to form the Potomac Region, Ron Van Gelderen later served as National President of the CLC (1972-1978 and 1984-1986).  Although Ron left the area and lived in different parts of the country, he kept in touch with the Potomac Region.  In 2007, he returned to attend the Legacy of LaSalle car show at Capitol Cadillac (pictured right) where he spoke on the history of LaSalles (along with Matt Larson, he co-authored the most comprehensive book ever written on LaSalles).  Ron passed away in 2016 but will always be remembered for his contributions to the hobby, the CLC and to the Potomac Region!

 

The infant organization was very informal in a number of ways, including not requiring dues for the first couple of years.  The hat was passed around at the various get-togethers and this brought in enough money to buy paper supplies and to pay for postage.  Steven ran the club more or less from his office across the street from The Washington Post on 15th Street.  Bryce Frey was the secretary and the keeper of monies, while Steven served as newsletter writer/editor.  Different people came up with ideas for gatherings, meetings and so forth.  Eventually dues were put in effect when it became necessary to buy trophies to give out at the CLC national sanctioned shows. 

 

From the beginning, the Potomac Region kept growing.  Its members in the early years of the 1970s include a number of members who remain active members today such as Juan Aranda, Bryce Frey and Richard Sisson, as well as others.

To show how a car club can be run on a low budget, the June 1971 Potomac Region News reports that, at an upcoming concours, it “… is currently planned that a CLC car emblem will be given as a first-place prize and one of the new patches will be awarded for second-place winners in the three classes.”

Besides the DC area enthusiasts, Cadillac and LaSalle owners from Pennsylvania and New Jersey made the journey south to attend Potomac Region events during the '70s.  These included Gary Anderson, Lew Howells, Bill Lanning and Gus Drake.  Steven Sisson, who by then, was the CLC's Eastern Vice President of Regions, felt that there was a need for a CLC Region in Pennsylvania because, "we have a large number of members residing there, but no Region for them."  Steven published an open letter to CLC members residing in Pennsylvania in the February 1975 issue of the CLC’s publication, The Self-Starter, promising that if a CLC Region could get started in Pennsylvania, “The New York, Potomac, and New England Region people will assist you in getting started and I assure you that I will give you all of the guidelines necessary.”  From this appeal came the Valley Forge Region which has not only flourished but has become one of the most active Regions in the CLC.

Over the years, Potomac Region members too numerous to mention kept the momentum going.  Steven Sisson served as Director of the Region from 1969 until 1976.  The successive Directors have been Charlie Lightbown (1977-1982), Ralph Bennett (1983-1984), Bill Thomas (1985-1992), A. Keith Peirce (1992-1996), Nick Wilson (1997-2001), Bill Sessler (2002-2004) and Vince Taliano (2005-present).

For a time during the 1980s, the Potomac Region became less active, and there were concerns about its continued viability.  But, in an interesting irony, the Valley Forge Region -- which had begun with an enthusiasm sparked by the Potomac Region -- provided welcome support to its neighbor to the south.  Several Valley Forge Region members joined the Potomac Region when it was trying to build its membership back up, and a considerable number of cars with Pennsylvania and New Jersey license plates regularly attended the Potomac Region’s meets and shows.

 

The Region's most recent resurgence started in 2003 and was led by Bill Sessler, the Region's immediate past Director, Richard Sills, Past CLC National President and Henry & Diane Ruby, Car Show Coordinators (pictured right).  Bill understood the importance of having regular meetings; a monthly newsletter; and increased activities.  Richard provided the National CLC perspective needed to take the Potomac Region to the next level.  He has been invaluable to the Region offering timely input on a wide range of CLC and the automobile hobby topics.  Starting in 2005, the Region began holding annual fall theme-car shows, which became some of the most successful events in CLC region history.  The 2008 theme was Cadillac Dream Cars and featured both of the remaining 1953 Cadillac LeMans concept cars for the first time ever.  Henry & Diane were instrumental in the success of all those shows until his passing in 2012.  Diane passed in 2016 to rest in peace with her beloved Henry. 

Membership in the Potomac Region has continued to increase every year.  In 2004, the Region received the CLC Mary Lou Evans Membership Award for its membership activities.  And in 2006 membership hit an all-time high, making the Region the second largest in the entire CLC.

In 2005, the Potomac Region received the CLC Norm Uhlir Regional Activity Award for the first time in its long history.  The Region was recognized for its remarkable resurgence and innovative initiatives (e.g. electronic distribution of newsletters, neighboring Region ambassadorship program, etc.).  The Potomac Region won this award again, just three years later in 2008, for its excellence in membership, hosting Regional meets and special activities, providing timely and complete reports to the CLC, submitting articles to The Self-Starter, and participation by members in Grand Nationals and other CLC activities.

Similar to its actions to help with the founding of the Valley Forge Region, the Potomac Region assisted with the formation of the Hampton Roads Region in the Tidewater area of Virginia and the Potomac Region assisted the Central Virginia Region in Richmond, Virginia with the development of their regional boundaries.

Like any organization that has lasted over 40 years, the Potomac Region has had high points and low points, but the one constant since 1992 has been the unbelievable support received from Daniel Jobe and Capitol Cadillac, an historic dealership established in Washington, DC in 1934 by Daniel's grandfather, Floyd Akers.  For many years, the dealership was located at 22nd and M Streets, in what is now a busy commercial area with shops and restaurants.  In 1979, the dealership moved to its present facility in Greenbelt, near the intersection of the I-495 Beltway and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.  The two annual car shows that Capitol Cadillac sponsors rival any in the country and the awards that are given to the winners demonstrate Capitol Cadillac’s amazing generosity.  Daniel Jobe (picture above holding left side of painting) was awarded the CLC Cadillac Herald Award in 2009.  Daniel was recognized for his “promotion and generation of conspicuous recognition for the Cadillac marque and important activities of the Cadillac & LaSalle Club.”

In addition to the CLC Norm Uhlir Regional Activity Award, Newsletter Editor, Vince Taliano, and the Region also received the CLC Newsletter Excellence Award in 2005 (and again in 2016) for the Caddie Chronicle.  The Caddie Chronicle was awarded the 2006 Old Cars Weekly Golden Quill Award and has repeated these honors in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.  The Caddie Chronicle newsletter is the Region's crowning achievement and has played a major role in its resurgence.  Complementing the Region's newsletter is the Region's website, which was awarded the CLC Website Excellence Award in 2012 and the CLC Website Merit Award in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.  To date, over 3,000 pictures of cars, club events and club members are available on the website.

Besides the contributions of Region members to our newsletter, several members have submitted articles to the The Self-Starter. In fact, Potomac Region member Chris Cummings (pictured left) was the honored recipient of the CLC Maurice Hendry Award in 2008 for his “journalistic contributions in furtherance of the purposes of the Cadillac & LaSalle Club,” for his submissions to The Self-Starter and for his authorship of the book, The Cadillac That Followed Me Home Chris' latest book, Cadillac V-16s Lost and Found, was published in 2014.  It traces the history of the 1930s classics.

Throughout the years, Steven Sisson (pictured right with microphone) continued to serve as a leader in the Region.  And in 2008, the National CLC recognized his 40 years of service by presenting him with the CLC’s most prestigious award, the CLC Henry M. Leland Award.  The Leland Award is presented to an outstanding CLC member who has performed acts of great merit.  Steven performed acts of great merit for the CLC until his passing in 2011. 


Thanks to the Potomac Region, and all of the support it receives from its members and from the CLC, the Cadillac and LaSalle hobby remains alive and well in our Nation's Capital!

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