By Glenn Kramer
Originally published in the Lincoln and Continental Comments magazine (Issue # 374)

ABOVE:  Ready for judging.  The Lincolns at the La Grange Meet were phenomenal.  Photo courtesy of the author.

One of the hallmarks of the LCOC is the respect for tradition. For over 30 years, the Texas regions have met for an All-Texas Regional Meet over a weekend in mid-April. For over 25 years, we met at the Historic Stagecoach Inn in Salado, Texas. The inn changed hands, and we moved to a local hotel. Even though we still had a great time, it was not quite the same. Couple that with the COVID- based two year pause, and this classic Texas tradition was in danger of becoming a memory. Gary Birk and Dean Forbes of the Texas Gulf Coast Region (TGCR) and Pat Corbett of the Lone Star Region (LSR) discussed what to do post-COVID. Do we continue at a Salado location or move the meet? The issue wasn’t finding a place; it was recovering a feeling.

Enter Russel Joseph. A longtime LCOC member who had attended a few TGCR events, Russ had converted his family’s old Ford dealership in La Grange into his personal car collection home. He invited Gary and Dean out to look at the place, and the idea of a new home for All-Texas was born.  The La Grange site was just being finished in April 2022 when we had our first post-COVID reunion. Well, it was a huge hit! Russ and his lovely wife Elise couldn’t have been more gracious, and the facility was elegant yet welcoming in the Texas tradition. Suddenly, it looked like we had the makings of a revival!

Segue to 2023 when Russ emphatically renewed his invitation and we accepted. The meet was held April 21-22 and was terrific. The weekend started off with a Friday night party hosted at Russ’s “showroom,” the old Ford dealer site converted into a beautiful collection of cars and memorabilia. Tables were set up amid the cars, and we all circulated through the Mexican buffet and then table-hopped with longtime friends. Gary Birk’s patented hospitality was evident throughout the weekend, thanks to those laboring behind the classy bar and the Forbes’ frozen margarita machine, which also worked hard. It was good to see returning longtime members. James Simmons, who moved with his companion Kent McClintock to San Antonio and joined the Lone Star Region, attended. Bill Culver and his wife Cheri came from New Orleans to join us. We were glad to see Mike & Frances McNeil. Mike was recovering from illness and was in great spirits.

Saturday morning brought a continuation of the beautiful weather, as well as the arrival of the last few attendees. The cars were positioned outside on the parking lot, and judging began. Our “relaxed” judging format starts at zero and adds points as appropriate. This format has been very popular and encourages more members to participate.

ABOVE: Part of the fabulous John Burkland collection.  Visitors got to see a diverse assemblage of automotive history.  Photo courtesy of the author.

This year our field consisted of about 15 cars, and the quality was excellent. Some of the many notable cars and owners were Dean and Diana Forbes’ beautiful Continental Mark II; Greg Alexander’s 1958 Lincoln Continental Mark III; 1969 and 1968 Lincoln Continental Sedans owned by Craig Adams and Steve & Louise Sawyer, respectively; last year’s Best of Show, a beautiful, mildly-customized black 1963 Lincoln Continental Convertible owned by Scott & Lindsay Aronstein; our host Russ Joseph’s 1979 Lincoln Continental Mark V; 1992 and 1997 Town Cars owned by Leonard & Wendy Schulze and Pat & Linda Corbett respectively. Exhibition cars included Mark Ferrari’s 2012 Lincoln MKZ and Bill & Cheri Culver’s 2008 Lincoln Mark LT, driven from New Orleans.

After judging, there was a trip to an unusual car collection set up by Russ, with the cooperation of his friend John Burkland. After a short drive to the aptly named Five Garages Ranch, we were greeted by five buildings of mostly Corvettes, muscle cars, and assorted goodies. The assorted goodies also included pies and kolachkes graciously provided by our host, Mr. Burkland.

After the Saturday night banquet in the old showroom, we made our way to the awards ceremony, held in Russ’s second building, the beautifully converted former garage facility of the Ford dealership. We began with a moment to remember one of our stalwart members who recently passed, Gary Birk’s mom, 99-year-old Eileen Birk, who always contributed earnestly to our TGCR events and is sorely missed. The slide show of class winners highlighted each victory, ending with the coveted Best of Show, won by David & Bernadette Boullosa with their immaculate 1979 Lincoln Continental Town Car Collector’s Series. The festivities continued long into the night.

This meet was a huge success. Many Texas LCOCers worked very hard to make it so- Dean & Diane Forbes from Texas Gulf Coast; Pat & Linda Corbett from Lone Star; Gary Birk with the trophies and registration. I’m leaving a lot out, but this dedication makes the meet and the Texas regions unique. Thanks to all.

You may remember how we’ve talked about the “Salado Spirit,” which highlighted the old meet for over 30 years. There was a real sense of camaraderie, with a great deal of time spent on meeting, greeting, and socializing. Russ & Elise Joseph, with their graciousness, hospitality and unparalleled facility in La Grange, helped recreate that spirit.

During the awards ceremony, it was unanimous that La Grange was, indeed, the new Salado, and Russ immediately put out the invitation to come back next year.

La Grange was truly special this year. Memories of old friends, gathering with new friends, and sharing the unique spirit that comes from being together and having a great time. Thanks, Russ & Elise, and we look forward to continuing the All-Texas tradition for a long time.

Glenn Kramer is an LCOC member from Houston, Texas.

BELOW:  Best of Show was David & Bernadette Boullosa’s  beautiful 1979 Lincoln Continental Town Car Collector’s Series.  Photo courtesy of the author.

ABOVE: The converted dealership is a real treat.  Photo courtesy of the author.

ABOVE:  Our hosts, Russ & Elise Joseph.  Photo courtesy of the author.

ABOVE:  LCOCers Dawn Pirone, Trish & Brian Felt enjoying the festivities.  Photo courtesy of the author.

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