Editor’s Note: This story originally ran in 2018.
A car club, fraternity, or just a group of guys who wanted to hang out, whatever way you want to remember them, they will always be known as Faros. Cruising, dragging, looking for girls, beer, parties, community activities all were part of the experience of being a Faro back in the day.
Although the “American Graffiti” movie gave the club some fame and was based on the actual Faros club in Modesto, the name of the club in the movie was Pharaohs. They were depicted as bad boys in the movie and some members believe the movie to be spot on with a few others not so much.
Club member Joe Wylie said that there were two beginnings of the Faros. In 1957, Modesto High School students John Husband, Chuck Billington and a few others discussed the idea of a car club, creating the name Faros, the FRS crest and membership cards. Lasting about two weeks, the Dean of Boys at the school heard about this plan and nullified it with the warning that if they continued they would be expelled.
Three years later in August 1960, seven guys collaborated on Edgebrook Drive in Modesto to make the original idea of the Faros a reality. The seven guys were: Wylie, Dennis Billington, Harry James, Larry Baker, brothers Chris and Wayne Ludvickson, and Ron Goncalves. Billington informed the group that he had the 1957 membership cards with the name Faros on them so they decided to stay with that name and save a few bucks. They had weekly meetings with about 20 to 25 guys in attendance in the early days.
The club grew quickly with members added like Darrell Bailey, Daryl Weitl, Larry Landis, Larry Williams, Al Schaeffer, Harold Bowen, Jerry Jackman, Don Podesto, John VanNostrand, Jay Salter, Don Bradley, Rick Hudson, Adolf Mauksch, Steve Roberts, Johnny Mercer, Ron Pippin, Steve Martin, Bill Fliflet, and Bruce Schafer.
To become a Faro, members had to vote you in and they had to go through an initiation that varied over the years.
“Several early members soon went off to honor our country in Vietnam, some went away to college, and others married and started families,” said Wylie. “Membership required a 100 percent vote and on occasion, someone was not allowed membership by just one ‘no’ vote of a current Faro.”
“In 1961 we had ‘FAROS MODESTO’ car plaques made and that started our transition from a fraternity to a car club,” added Bailey. “Most of us had cars and we didn’t do anything different but the plaques gave us a lot of notoriety.”
“Cruising was a fun evening activity enjoyed by many when gasoline was less than 50 cents a gallon,” said Weitl. “We were just a bunch of teenagers who hung out together and did typical teen things.”
Joining the Faros in the late ‘60s, Jackman was blackballed during his first attempt to join the club.
“I was fascinated with the evolving engines and transmissions of the new cars and loved hot rods,” said Jackman. “I read all the car magazines each month as they arrived at our family grocery store, Paradise Market. However, my folks discouraged my felt need for speed by buying a 40 horsepower 1960 VW beetle for me to drive to MJC. It had four on the floor so I perfected the speed shift. I have actually never owned a custom car, other than the 1962 Austin Healey which I’ve owned since 1969. It is my garage queen.”
“My initiation took place on a cold, foggy, damp winter night,” said Martin. “Everyone knows how friggin’ cold the foggy winter nights can be in Motown. That said, a few of us initiates jumped into the back of a pickup truck and were driven from the Faros meeting place to Del Rio. We sneaked onto the golf course and found one of the waterholes. Stripped down to our skivvies and dived for golf balls. Once we found one, we navigated back to the truck, jumped in and headed back … soaking wet. Even as cold as it was, it was a fun night.”
“When I was initiated, I had to swim for golf balls at nighttime and had a mud bath in Dry Creek,” said Schafer. “Cruising and racing from light to light on 10th and 11th streets was great fun. I can remember going to Delta Blood Bank on a Friday afternoon to give blood. At that time they paid $5 per pint. That was enough to almost fill my ‘57 Chevy to cruise the weekend.”
“They (initiations) were quite funny but tame for the most part,” added Pippin. “Modesto was a small town even back in the early ‘70s; chances are if you got pulled over the officer knew your parents. If you got caught with beer in the car at times the officer would follow you home and let your parents know. When this happened you knew you were not cruising for at least a couple of weeks.”
Remembering the McHenry cruise, Pippin explained that they would cruise from Five Points to the McHenry Village and at times “stack’m up” which meant having two cars in both lanes cruising about five miles per hour stacking up traffic for blocks.
“Funny thing is everybody loved it for the most part,” added Pippin. “You could visit with the car next to you while cruising. Our place to race was the east side mosquito abatement runway. We would position a car at Parker Road and one at Milnes Road; if the sheriff came they would flash their lights and we would scatter.”
At a 50-year reunion a few of the club members reunited and talked about reviving the club. Weitl, Billington, Schaeffer, Jackman, James and Bailey met up a few months later in Tahoe for a weekend and decided to get the Faros back together. They came up with a list of club members and started adding in more names as time went along.
The Faros Car Club was inducted into the Cruising Walk of Fame in June 2016. They were given a framed certificate and a plaque with their name that was placed in the sidewalk on 10th Street between J and K streets in Modesto, which was very close to where the guys hung out back in their prime.
There have been no new members since 1973 when the club disbanded with about 155 members. Some of the members began to get together for lunch and meet once a month for lunch.
“At this time we are not a formal club; we are just a group of guys who were in the Faros back in the ‘60s,” expressed Bailey. “We like to say ‘once a Faro, always a Faro’.”