By Dwight SITYAR

Beginning in the summer of 2001, Rick Chew, Don Tubbs, Bob Vacca, Tom Stires, Brent Unger, Gail Frey, Ron Lee and Gary Evans met every Saturday morning at the parking lot between the UA Theaters and the Starbucks in La Cañada. Each one drove their hot rods. Rick Chew suggested, “We should give ourselves a name.”

The common thread was that they all met early Saturday mornings and all of them drove hot rods. Everyone came up with different names but in September 2001 they unanimously agreed to name themselves “Early Rodders.”

Rick was the light and guiding force of the group, recalled Bob Vacca.

Rick’s dream was to have a place where car enthusiasts, whether young or old, could go. Anyone who had a hot rod, classic car, new car, old car, truck or motorcycle and wanted to be an Early Rodder could do so – without any membership, bylaws, meetings or restrictions. Rick contacted the UA Theaters management and got their permission to use their parking lot to meet. This is where the Early Rodders has continued to meet and, over the years, has grown from a handful of guys and their cars to more than 250 cars on any given Saturday.

There are now the regulars who always show up, like Mark Davis who started coming with a Jaguar and now brings his Trans Am; Vic Luchessi drives a 1955 Chevy and sells Early Rodders hats and shirts; Dave Dunkel brings his

“woody bus;” Dave Maher drives his flashy yellow 1941 Willys complete with flames painted on the side; and Armand Mailan, together with his son Derick, brings his classic Cadillac. Derick started going owith his father to the Early Rodders when he was 9 years old. Now a teenager, he is probably one of the most knowledgeable people regarding cars … and is a very classy dresser – a true Early Rodder.

The Early Rodders has become a solid presence in the community due to their voluntary work: the car meets held every Saturday, car shows for local convalescent homes, participating in the Crescenta Valley Hometown Country Fair, holding Thursday car meets at different businesses, taking part in National Night Out for law enforcement, Montrose Movie Night, Montrose Christmas Parade, Sparks of Life Christmas drive and partnering with the Crescenta Valley Chamber of Commerce for the 9-11 Memorial Motorcade.

The Early Rodders celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2021 by being a major sponsor in the Crescenta Valley Hometown Country Fair. Rick Chew said, “We have been around for 20 years and I hope we can all make it to celebrate 30 years.”

Unfortunately Rick passed away on Jan. 14, 2022. Like many other Early Rodders that have gone before, we all cherish their lives and memories. For the rest of us, we will always have Saturday morning car meets and continue on with Rick’s dream, “Early Rodders Forever.”