Artist profile: Linda Rawls likes old cars

Linda Rawls is an organizer for Fourth Corner Elites Car Club.
Linda Rawls is an organizer for Fourth Corner Elites Car Club. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Hot rods and horseless carriages are on show at the Fourth Corner Elites Cars Club’s 35th annual Summer Fun Rod Run this weekend at the Deming Logging Showgrounds.

The event benefits the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Project Santa Claus, and the club gives a $2,000 scholarship each year to help a student pursue an automotive career at Bellingham Technical College or Western Washington University.

Information for people who want to show their cars is available at the club’s website. Spectators can see the vehicles at the showgrounds for $3 admission on Saturday. There will be food vendors, and anyone can watch for club members along the cruise route Saturday evening — they leave Deming by 7 p.m. and usually travel toward town, cruising along Lake Whatcom and Lake Padden — or the public can go to Boomers Drive-In on Samish Way around 7:30 to 8:30.

Linda Rawls is one of the longtime event organizers for the club.

Question: How did you became involved with Fourth Corner Elites?

Answer: My husband, Mike, and I purchased a 1940 Chevrolet, black with yellow-and-orange flames on the front, in 1987. Mike’s first car, a gift from his grandfather, was also a 1940 Chev. He always wanted his first car to look like the one we have today. A friend told us about the Fourth Corner Elites Car Club and we joined.

We enjoy helping the club with their functions, shows and love of old cars. Because I am a secretary, I soon became the go-to person for anything they needed to have created with the computer and put on paper for distribution; rosters, newsletters, fliers, ballots and entry forms.

Q: Are you a native of the area?

A: I was born and raised on a dairy farm in Whatcom County, graduated from Ferndale High School and went right to work as secretary in the real estate industry. I currently work for Arnason Appraisals.

Q: Why do you enjoy being members of the club?

A: The reason Mike and I really like being a part of the club is that we focus on helping others. We raise money all year long for Project Santa Claus, which is organized through the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office. We support each other in times of need. We’ve lost many members and friends over the last years, and we all help out with funeral services and support for each other.

The club also gives a scholarship each year to a student who is excited to learn mechanics or automotive body work, chosen via the Dollars for Scholars Program. My fellow club member Baerbel Marquart and I love to go to the assembly each spring and meet the student who receives our scholarship.

One young man actually has a photo of himself next to the car of one of our former members, his grandfather. I organized a Mystery Cruise to BTC to have a tour of the automotive department. That’s when we learned about the need for each student to own their own tools just to take the classes, so we increased our scholarship amount to $2,000, hoping it would encourage them to continue their studies.

I stay with it because of the great people I meet who join our club or just come to participate in our shows. And because we aren’t just about “getting a trophy.” We all love to drive our cars and we love to laugh and eat. We meet at the Elks Club and Moose Lodge and appreciate their hospitality. I do love to see the smiles of trophy recipients. No matter how many trophies you have on your shelf, there’s always something special about the one you received at the Summer Fun Rod Run or at Project Santa Claus, knowing you also helped local families.

Q: What are some other activities?

A: A Mystery Cruise is when club members drive their show cars to a certain meeting location, then we create a caravan with a leader and drive together to a fun or educational tour somewhere, usually followed by dining or at least dessert. The club regularly goes on Mystery Cruises to see rebuilds in progress, collections of specialty vehicles, and more.

Besides this weekend’s event, we put on three other shows throughout the year: Leprechaun Daze in March near St. Patrick’s Day, at Hardware Sales; and the Punkin Run, a Halloween-themed Fun Day on Oct. 25, also at Hardware Sales.

And we wind down for the winter with our Project Santa Cruise, which leaves this year at 10 a.m. Nov. 15 near Costco on Meridian Street and we caravan, our cars decorated for Christmas and Santa hats on our heads, to Whatcom County Courthouse. All the funds collected that day, along with donations from many other car clubs in the area, add to what we pass along to the Project Santa Claus Committee lead by Sgt. Kevin Bowhay and his team. It is our goal to raise $10,000 and a truckload of toys for them to use to help bring a joyous Christmas to underprivileged families in our county.

The Elites help out with several shows that they don’t even sponsor themselves, like the Old Settlers Car Show in Ferndale, little shows at local care centers or commercial establishments, sharing our cars as decorations at the Northern Heights School Sock Hop — that’s my favorite — and the Mount Baker Lions Club show in Maple Falls.

Q: What’s the history of the club?

A: The club is a little over 50 years old. Anyone with a car that is “special” to them is invited to join. It began as The Fourth Corner Timing Association by a group of guys who wanted to have a “drag strip” of sorts. They incorporated and registered with the state and timed the hot cars of the day. They ran a quarter-mile on the runway at the Bellingham airport, or on Slater Road.

Soon the issues of liability came into play, and the Vietnam War sent lots of young men to Asia, and the Timing Association “took a break.” It was reawakened in 1972 by current member Gary Gilfillen, one of the first young men to join up and help turn it into a “car club.” They met up — “guys only” in those days — to show off, talk about, and help each other preserve or repair their cars or turn them into hot rods.

Our current car show “celebrity” is Dan Graham, who has won more than one Best in Show at the Portland National Hot Rod Show in Oregon and at Hot August Nights in Las Vegas. He has at least two amazing vehicles, one is a wild orange 1950s pick-up truck and the other is a gorgeous, green ’57 Ford convertible.

Q: What else do you enjoy?

A: When Mike and I are not at a car show on the weekend, I’m probably in the yard messing with my flowers while he does his real estate duties, or hanging out with our kids and four grandkids who live here. You also might find us playing in a charity golf tournament, or taking some friends or clients in our boat to catch some crab or enjoying a sunset over the bay near Semiahmoo, or helping out at First Congregational Church. One day we’ll slow down a bit, but for now it’s go, go, go.

Reach Margaret Bikman at 360-715-2273 or margaret.bikman@<code_dp>bellinghamherald.com. Read her columns at bellinghamherald.com/<code_dp>behind-the-scenes.

35th Annual Summer Fun Rod Run

Open to the public: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22.

Where: Deming Logging Showgrounds, 3295 Cedarville Road.

Cost: $3.

Details: 360-809-0785, or 319-0185, or fourthcornerelitescarclub.com.