The Southern California Woodie Club Story

By: The Pirate


Out of the darkness, Mark heard his buddy Doug whisper, “Push, Mark, push”, as  the ’48 Ford Woodie rolled silently out of the garage, down the long driveway, and past the lighted window of his mom’s kitchen where she was up early making coffee.  The Woodie rolled out onto the deserted street as Mark jumped into the passenger seat: Doug slipped, lost his footing and barely made it into the driver’s seat. He popped the clutch and with a roar the eight-cylinder flathead came to life. They stopped at the vacant lot down the street and picked up their boards that were stashed in the weeds; finally they were headed for the beach!

The year was 1983 and Mark Gansel and his best buddy, Doug Keyzers, had just ventured out with Doug’s 1948 Ford Woodie, heading for San Onofre State Beach.  It was 4am Friday, June 21 and the sun was just rising as they hit the gate at Sano.  The guard opened the gate and they were first in the water at “Old Mans” surf break.  The water was still cool but the waves were epic, breaking overhead with the first big swell of the summer.  They surfed Sano until totally exhausted; at about 2 pm, with rubber-like arms and bad sunburns, Doug insisted they get the Woodie home and back in the garage before his dad arrived home from work.

Mark Gansel, THE BIG KAHUNA, founder of the So Cal Woodie Club, was born in 1967 in Tustin, California.  His family was involved in all types of water sports, and his Dad would haul all the neighborhood kids to the beach. 

Mark’s fascination with Woodie wagons germinated one day as he was riding his beach cruiser down the strand in Newport Beach and happened onto a car show.  There were many cool rides parked neatly in a row, but the one that caught his eye was a bright yellow1946 Ford Woodie owned by Bud Legg, a legend in the Woodie world. 

Mark was able to purchase his first Woodie in 1996. The wagon was a 1946 Ford -well kind of a Woodie - it was just minus the wood!  The frame, cowl and pan were usable and he began the task of disassembly and restoration.

Now Mark was looking for a club to join; only problem was, there were no Woodie clubs in Southern California!  Mark thought, why not start one?  Another problem: he had no idea how!

The year was 1996; he needed to come up with a name.  He thought, “Doheny Woodie Club”; no, how about “San Clemente Woodie Club”?  Nope, too local. Ah, “Southern California Woodie Club”; that would include a larger geographical area, as there was a Santa Cruz Woodie Club already established that covered Northern California. So it was settled, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WOODIE CLUB; SoCal Woodie Club for short.  Mark attended the Woodie meet at Doheny that John Siragusa and Jim Cocores had organized three years earlier. The Woodie get-together boasted no organization, no trophies and no T-shirts, just a bunch of Woodie lovers hanging out for the day.  Mark signed up a few new members and the ball was rolling.  Then came L.A.Wood: more new members. He then attended Wavecrest 1997, set up a booth and signed up a number of eager members.  Enter myself, looking for a local Woodie club; I was very impressed with Mark’s wonderful personality; he was easy to talk to and was extremely eager to expand and improve this new club. I signed my name and thus began a valued friendship with the BIG KAHUNA. 

Mark now had enough members to apply for to be a chapter of the National Woodie Club.  Only problem, now he needed officers!  Calls went out to John Siragusa for V.P., Mick Carolan for Treasurer and Jim Cocores for Secretary.  This was all on paper; the above board members were not required to participate as Mark would handle the running of the club.

On June 20, 1997, President Lee Kidwell of the National Woodie Club informed Mark that The SoCal Woodie Club had been accepted as a new chapter.  This is very important, as all Woodie events by SoCal Woodies are covered by the National’s insurance.

Now a venue was needed for a gathering of all these Woodie lovers in the fledgling club. 

Mark called me and asked that I perform the function of Vice President; I jokingly asked how much did it pay- Mark just laughed! 

We established a location, that of the old Woodie gathering that Cocores and Siragusa had started three years earlier; we met with Doheny State Park officials and were greeted with a guarded reception, but they eventually conceded and charged a whopping $115.00 for the permit, with the stipulation of “NO PROBLEMS! “ With permission secured, we set about planning the event.

Mark also needed a name for the club’s yearly event - for some reason “Doheny Wood” sounded right!

The very first Doheny Wood was scheduled for March 28, 1998.  The Double Tree Hotel had just opened and was chosen for the host hotel; it had a secure underground parking structure for the Woodies.

Now imagine!!!!!!!!  March is still the RAINY SEASON!!!!!!

March 27 arrived with ominous black clouds covering Southern California, and rain threatening the weekend and OUR FIRST DOHENY WOOD…THE HORROR OF ALL HORRORS!!!

Mark and I met Friday evening to discuss the possibility of rain on Saturday, and to decide if the event should happen. The decision was made to postpone the event for a month and hope for NO RAIN. 

The word was put out, but unfortunately there were still 17 Woodies that showed on Saturday to face the rain and cold.  The Woodie owners would not let little rain dampen their enthusiasm, and held a mini-Doheny Wood in the parking structure of the host hotel!

Since then, every President of the Southern California Woodie Club has pondered the possibility of our dilemma: what to do with a rained-out event?  Believe me, we had egg on our face, and it took a long time to live down the postponement of the very first event!

The next date was established as April 25, 1998; as some of you know, my wife is a witch (born on October 31st); she consulted her crystal ball, and for good measure the Farmer’s Almanac, and assured us it WOULD NOT RAIN!

Well, the weekend of April 25th rolled around and the first cocktail party was held Friday night at the Doubletree Hotel with hopes of wonderful weather on Saturday.  Our prayers were answered as dawn broke with sunshine and cool breezes.

The first Doheny Wood was a resounding success, with a whopping 36 Woodies and, to the relief of everyone, nice weather.

We are the largest Chapter of the National Woodie Club, with almost 300 members, and   Doheny Wood has seen an average of 180 Woodies of all makes and descriptions. We have experienced the full range of weather, from pounding rain to glorious blue skies, but one element that cannot be dampened is the spirit of the Woodie people.  The ultimate compliment paid about the club is that it is comprised of such wonderful people. As we have always said, the cars are a catalyst to bring some of the most special people together to enjoy each other’s company; we have all made cherished life- long friends among the club members.

Mark Gansel founded a very special club, and his fondest thought is that of PEOPLE GIVING OF THEMSELVES TO THE CLUB WITHOUT ASKING FOR ANYTHING IN RETURN.

The club has a very bright future, with new members joining monthly; we can look forward to many years of new experiences and people to enjoy them with.

The club would not be as successful without the leadership of the following Presidents:

Mark Gansel (1997-1999).  BIG KAHUNA, the first President and Founder, The Leader of The Pack, Big Cheese, Head Honcho, cool dude.  There would be no SoCal Woodie Club without his insight, leadership and dedication. 

Dan & Val Simmons (1999-2000).  Dan and Val Simmons are two of the most influential figures in the history of the SoCal Woodie Club.  They stepped up and accepted the challenge of this fledgling club, and set the standard for all the presidents to come.  They handled the clothing sales for years after their presidency, and contributed greatly to the success of the club.  Dan also was editor for Wood Matters for a couple of years and did a fine job making it difficult for others to follow!

Mike Chase (2000-2001). Mike Chase is a historic figure in the Woodie world, and did a great job leading the club in the early years. His iconic lowered, flamed Woodie is one of the most photographed and famous Woodies of all time.

Jay & Betty Nordgren (2001-2003). Jay and Betty Nordgren were also very influential in the early days, and led the club for an unprecedented 2-year term.  They also were editors of the early Wood Matters and did a wonderful job.

Joel & Bev Cincotta (2003-2004).  Bev and Joel Cincotta joined the club early on in the club’s infancy, accepted the presidency, did a great job and are still influential in guiding the club.  Bev has served for years as the club’s treasurer, membership organizer and both Bev and Joel have participated continuously as board members. 

Doug & Pat Blasingham (2004-2005).  Doug and Pat Blasingham also accepted the presidency and helped organize many functions of the club in the early days.  They volunteer for all activities during events and definitely have the Aloha spirit.

Terry & Baer Rogers (2005-2006).  Terry and Baer helped to guide the club as President.  Terry built the wood surfboard stands and other wonderful maple and mahogany inlayed equipment for Doheny Wood.  They no longer reside in California and are greatly missed.

Johnny & Gay Fotsch (2006-2007).  Johnny and Gay Fotsch led the club and brought the pre-event party to Doheny Wood, featuring The Eliminators surf band, and also contributed to one of our first silent auctions at the Friday night welcoming party.  

Tom & Lisa MacDonald (2007-2008).  We cannot say enough good things about our Superman, Tom MacDonald.  He led the club and brought the great Meguiar’s products to our club.  He has volunteered for all activities at events and is a valued member of the SoCal Woodie club.

Steve and Candy Garretson (2008-2009).  Steve and Candy Garretson go back to the beginning of the club; Steve not only led the club as President but has been the Web Master from the infancy of our club.  He has stayed involved, contributed greatly to the success of SoCal, and is a valued and irreplaceable member of the executive board.

Janeann and Gary Clark (2009-2010).  Janeann Clark made the presidency a breeze with her organization and handling of all club matters; Gary has never met a microphone he didn’t love.

Bill and Alice Medina (2010-2011).  Bill and Alice led the club with unbelievable grace and professionalism.  Bill has always been involved with procuring surfboards and deals for the club, and coordinating events with other clubs.  He and Alice are assets to the club, and also have loads of Aloha spirit.

Mike and Kitty Keenan (2011-2012).  Mike and Kitty Keenan have had a history of running car clubs, and as President led SoCal into new territory; Mike’s involvement with the City of Dana Point brought October Wood to the Woodie world. Mike and Kitty, along with the assistance of many volunteers, get full credit for the success of this event. In only two years October Wood has become a premier Woodie event, and with Mike’s expert guidance will continue for many more.     

Roger and Norma Roundy (2012-2013).  Roger and Norma Roundy took the club to new heights, and are responsible for the club’s involvement with the famed Bruce Brown Productions.  Roger collaborated with Bruce Brown Productions for the Doheny Wood artwork; he and Norma both worked diligently for a successful year and a great Doheny Wood 2013.

Howard and Vicki Bauerle (2013-2014). are the most recent former President and First Lady of our club. Both have been involved in organizing the vendors for OctoberWood, overseeing the recent Doheny Wood show as well as many other club functions; Vicki also served as Treasurer previously.  Both worked tirelessly to make sure the club ran smooth during their term in office.

Chuck and Janice Elliott (2014-2015). Chuck Elliott is a "real car guy" and  brought that enthusiasm to the club in his term as President.  He is a true American patriot and spearheaded the club's donation to the Marine Corps "Wounded Warrior Program" and other worthy club contributions. Janice worked alongside Chuck and was extremely helpful behind the scenes during the many club functions.

Tony and Pam Elmo (2015-2016). Tony  Elmo has been with the club almost since it's inception and brought  a solid business approach and a subtle sense of humor in his term as President.  His business savvy elevated the club financially and he will also be remembered for his warm personality and deep thoughtfulness for others.  Pam also worked diligently behind the scenes and always volunteered at club activities.

Greg and Shelley Chandler (2016 - 2017). As Greg and Shelley began their Presidency and like Tony and Pam, brought both a business-like approach coupled with warm personalities. We were looking forward to a great year from the pair and as expected, they continued to keep the club moving forward.

Janeann and Gary Clark (2017-2018). Janeann and Gary were back for a second tour of duty but this time with Janeann handling the Presidency duties and Gary as the co-President. Needless to say, it was a fun and lively year.

Bruce and Diane Wood (2018-2019). Long-time members Bruce and Diane will have their organizational skills be put to the test. But years of experience will insure that the Club will continue to stay organized and growing. 

Many other gracious, unnamed members have given of themselves to SoCal Woodies and are to be congratulated for their efforts. Mick Carolan, who needs no introduction, also is a founding member of SoCal and contributes greatly to out raffles.  Mick has the distinction of winning more surfboards through the raffles than any other member; he is truly loved by all. Others that stand out are Phil and Elaine Wilder, who were among the founding members of the club and served as Social Director for years. The Wilders are dedicated and cherished members of our tribe.  Also many, many mahalos go out to Mickey Christiason, a long time member since the beginning of our club. He has served the Woodie clubs as a Director for the National Club, and has been involved with the Marine Corps and the toy drive at Christmas with Cars and Coffee.  Big thanks go out to Frank and Karen Pickett, who are always volunteering to help with club events.

Finally, I would like to thank the Pirate’s wife of 45 years, Janeann, who has worked behind the scenes with the club as advisor to the new presidents and first ladies, and  has helped organize the raffles, parties and many events for SoCal woodies…she truly deserves a “BIG MAHALO” from us all. 

We will update the history of Southern California Woodies as time goes on, so stay tuned!