In 1981, when former Bethany Beach Postmaster Jack Powell came home with a 1975 dark brown convertible Corvette, his wife, Sandy, exclaimed, “What have you done now?” But she couldn’t really complain, because she had her own Nissan 280ZX.
Then came a family, and the Powells substituted their sporty rides with “grown-up” cars.
Two years after Powell retired, he came home with another surprise. Sandy Powell, who works at Good Earth Market, called it “Jack’s mid-life man crisis.” It was a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and this time Sandy was miffed.
She started to remember those Corvette days and the fun they had in the First State Corvette Club (FSSC) and so, without Jack knowing, she started her search for a replacement ’Vette. But she couldn’t keep her secret, so, together, they went back to Solloway’s – a Corvette specialist in Smyrna – and found the perfect 2002 arctic-white coupe.
“I fell in love with it the moment I got in,” said Sandy Powell.
And so did Jack, whose motorcycle now stands, rarely driven, in the garage, awaiting a more appreciative owner. It wasn’t long before they renewed their membership in the Dover-based club and found many of their old Corvette buddies still active, still having fun and still finding ways to raise money for Delaware charities.
Rick and Linda Berry are the longest active members of the club, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary on Aug. 7 at the Hartley Fire House in Kent County.
“We have 67 active members and many former members from all over Delaware. We are trying to reach out to them all, to invite them to come and share the occasion with us, as well encourage new people with an interest in Corvettes to join us too,” said Rick Berry who is serving as the event’s chairman.
Berry is known throughout the region for sharing his knowledge and insight about the iconic automobile – long esteemed for its sleek elegance, speed, maneuverability and youthful vitality. After all, he owns 12 Corvettes – of which several were Indy 500 and Daytona pace cars, and which have vivid colors with names like “atomic orange” and “radar blue” – as well as over 20,000 pieces of Corvette memorabilia.
The Berrys note with a laugh that their two-story garage is larger than their house and is more aptly called “Rick’s museum.”
“The ironic thing is,” said Linda Berry, “in my high school yearbook, my pet peeve was listed as ‘old men driving pretty sports cars’!”
The Berrys and their adult children are known for driving their cars in local parades where, perched on high, sit beauty queens, minor celebrities and Make-A-Wish kids. Rick Berry also had the thrill of shipping one of his cars to France and taking a parade lap in the legendary Le Mans race.
Bruce Ballard is the FSCC’s president and his wife, Donna, is the secretary.
The Ballards got their first Corvette shortly after they were married. Donna Ballard recalled it as being “lime” green, but Bruce corrected her that the official color was “bright” green. (Precise color terminology seems more important to male Corvette owners, who also reacted to the color “radar blue” being called purple!)
Now on their fifth Corvette, they noted that the cars are great investments and that one of theirs was sold to an enthusiast in New Zealand.
Bruce Ballard said members love the conviviality of the club and the opportunities to display their cars in shows and parades and to drive them on scenic cruises. But for many members, the best part is being able to use their cars as a way to do charitable work for the community.
“We make money by working at Dover Downs and the Delaware State Fairground and by being sponsored by businesses, like Soloway’s Sales and Service and Townsend Brothers Chevrolet,” explained Ballard. “Each year, we give four scholarships to high-school graduates for college, and we donate to various charities, like Debbie’s Fund, that supports animals in need; Make-A-Wish; Home of the Brave; and Mended Hearts. It is very gratifying. We also have adopted a highway for clean up,” he said.
The next big event for the club is the FSCC Corvette and Custom Car Show, on June 11 at Legislative Mall in Dover. Trophies are awarded, and food is available.
“It would be a great way for people to get to know about our club, meet our members, look at these wonderful all-American automobiles and maybe even get tempted to purchase one,” said Sandy Powell.
Last August, the Powells drove their “baby” to Carlisle, Pa., where their car was one of hundreds that participated in the Corvette American Flag Display. For them, this is certainly no “grown up” or “midlife crisis” means of transportation. It is a source of fun, pride and friendships.
Those interested in learning more about the club can call them at (302) 632-8041 or go to the club Web site at www.firststateCorvetteclub.org .
For those interested in a little bit of trivia, the first Corvettes were made in 1953 and sold for $3,513. And when Jack Powell started to work for the U.S. Postal Service in 1969, each first-class stamp cost a whopping 6 cents.