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by: Barb Bergstedt, Club Historian

NOTE: If you would like more specific information than what is contained here, you can look at the history notebook, which has 3 sections. One section contains details extracted from the minutes of each meeting. Another section lists when and where we camped each year, as well as the wagonmasters for each outing. The third section lists the members, when they joined and when they left the chapter. The original charter from WIT is kept in this notebook.

You can also refer to the scrapbooks, which include pictures and memorabilia and recount some events during the outings. The first one covers 1982 through 2005. The second scrapbook starts with 2006. Not every outing is included because we don’t have pictures for all of them.


A Short History 

Don Bishop, then regional director of the Winnebago International Travel Club, called the first meeting of the future Fox Valley Winnies to order on Aug. 31, 1982. Volunteers took on the duties of officers for 90 days: George Raab, vice president, Diane Shannon, treasurer, Mary Fetta, secretary.


Travel America, Inc. offered to pay the initiation fee ($5) for all coach owners who joined Winnebago-Itasca Travelers before Dec. 1st, 1982. If they joined before Oct. 1st, Travel America would pay the $15 WIT dues also. Jim Trinchitella of Travel America said the company’s facilities would be available for future meetings.


On Sept. 26 the group elected Glenn Young president. The 12 members present chose the name Fox Valley Winnies and voted to have monthly meetings on the third Friday of the month, with yearly dues of $6.


Tom Cloke served as wagonmaster for the first outing in April of 1983 at Blackwell Forest Preserve, Winfield. A blizzard blanketed Blackwell Forest Preserve during that weekend. The Holmses, Poupas and Fettas stayed overnight at the campground and the Foresters and Traharnes joined them for the potluck on Saturday. Henry and Mary Fetta and Elinor and Tom Traharne both owned Winnebago trailers, which the company manufactured because motorhome sales were slow at the time.


The chapter learned that reservations made good sense when they gathered at Governor Dodge State Park in Wisconsin and were deferred to Hidden Acres Campground in Dodgeville, WI. Members approved an emblem featuring an Indian, teepees and 2 foxes, designed by a friend of the Foresters. Yearly dues were raised to $10.


In 1984 the members decided to have outings on the second weekend of the month. In 1985 the men served breakfast to the ladies on Sunday morning for the first time.


Motor Homes Unlimited took over as sponsor of the club in 1989. Members voted to order shirts with banded sleeves and soft collars, a vintage motorhome logo displayed on the front.


Through the years chapters members have had many different experiences during outings, including some rather harrowing near misfortunes prevented by cooperation and ingenuity. 


Georgie Ryl’s account of the storm in 1993 at Tom’s Campground in Dodgeville, WI is exciting. The Fox Valley Winnie’s encampment was at the top of a hill. Wagonmasters Georgie and Otto Ryl and Ed and Rose Lundgren had prepared an elaborate mystery dinner with a tent shelter for the mystery food. Since it was beginning to rain, the Ryls and the Hendlers put down their awnings to protect the diners. Then it turned dark as night and the wind came up and the rain poured down, in buckets. Some frantically tried to get the food inside, others made a futile effort to keep the tent up and save the Ryls’ awning, which eventually ended up flying over the roof of their coach. The camp owners, who later stopped by to see if everyone was all right, reported that a tornado had passed nearby.


 A cold wind blasting right off Lake Michigan made the May 1996 outing at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, IL a memorable occasion. The group circled their wagons (er, coaches), making it seem warmer. The scrapbook pictures of them all bundled up in their winter coats say it all.


The year 2001 brought several memorable events. Barrington Motors agreed to sponsor the chapter. The Fox Valley Winnies received their first Chapter of Excellence Award. They spent the weekend after September 11 in Springfield, where their visits to the National Cemetery and Veterans’ Memorial seemed especially meaningful because of the tragedy in New York. In October that year it rained on the Feast of the Harvest Moon in LaFayette, IN, and a gigantic John Deere tractor dragged all 13 coaches out of the mud. 


Who can forget the October evenings we spent at Hickory Hollow Campground in Utica agonizing with the Cubs during the World Series in 2003? The first night we sat around listening to the game on the radio, like most of us did years ago. The second night a storm drove us inside our coaches to suffer through the defeat watching on television. Some of us probably still have ladybugs in our coaches from the swarms of them that weekend.


Then there was the time elephants arrived at the campground during the first evening of our outing in April 2004, at Goodfield, IL KOA. The pachyderms gave us a little performance the next day.


Other fond memories include the many plays we enjoyed through the years at The Barn Theatre in Goodfield and more recently at Circa 21 and Dinner Theater in Rock Island. We will always remember the visits to the Sandwich Fair and Bob and Edna Gardners’ home camp, not to mention the culinary delights Bob has provided. There have been countless tours, hikes, museums, gardens, cemeteries, circuses, shows, rides in an assortment of conveyances, potlucks, cookouts. The list goes on. Recently golf enthusiasts started a new tradition of arriving early to play their favorite game together.


The chapter as a whole has voted to donate to several causes. Yearly we send a gift to support children’s activities at GNR. We supply prizes for Illinois Indians State Club activities. When a member passes away we donate to his or her favorite charity. Individuals contribute regularly to collections for food banks. We sent funds to Utica when the town was devastated by a tornado. We also raised money to send to New Orleans after a hurricane.


 As the chapter has matured members have participated in various service projects. Each year we send shoeboxes filled with gifts to the Good Samaritan Christmas Child Project. Some of our members make blankets for babies for the P.A.S.S. Pregnancy Center. 


But we couldn’t review our history without mentioning those whom we miss around the campfire: Ruth Lundgren, Rose Lundgren, Jim Cortino, Everett Wurtz, Ray Hritz, Dale Hagemann, Don Puttkamer, Stan Myers, Mary Fetta, Elmer Champlin, Betty Powell passed away during the chapter’s 25 years. They’ll always be with us as we remember their contributions, sitting around the campfire, sharing the work, joining in the fun.


The fun, the companionship, the cooperation, even the work are elements that have made us glad to be part of this chapter.