Hank Welch is one of the founding members of the Modesto Area A’s.
Hank was friends with Gene Jamison, the co-founder and first president of the Model A Club. Jess Blaker, Turlock Concrete and Pipe, had a big open shed where he allowed Hank to sand blast his vehicle parts at no cost if Hank paid for the sand. Around 1960, he invited Hank to go on an annual Model T run to the Mother Lode at the Twain Harte Lodge. Gene Jamison was on the run also. Gene and Hank started discussing the possibility of forming a Model A club in Modesto because they enjoyed the Model T run so much.
When they returned to Modesto, they started contacting people who had Model A’s. Bill Jones, who was active in the National, came and met with them and was instrumental in helping them obtain their charter.
Hank recalled that the first club name was Yosemite Area A’s. A businessman in town suggested the name because Modesto was the gateway to Yosemite. At a national convention in San Francisco in 1962, everyone commented “You are from Yosemite?” They came back and renamed the club.
Hank recalled how the patches on the back of our jackets came about. He took a picture of a 1930 Coupe to Dell Colclaw to make the illustration. He requested that arches be on the patch. Joe Curry and Hank selected the illustration they wanted.
Hank purchased his first Model A in 1958 from Gene Burcher for $35 in Ripon, California. It was a 1929 green Roadster pickup. He still owns the vehicle. He owns four Model A’s: A 29 roadster Pickup, 29 Roadster, 31 Deluxe Tudor, and a 31 Cabriolet 68C.
His favorite vehicle is his red Roadster pickup which be built from scratch around 1977-78. After he retired, he started purchasing parts piece-by-piece until he had all the parts – it took him five years to acquire and complete the pickup. He estimates the cost was $5000. This pickup has been displayed in national magazines four or five times.
When asked about tours he remembered, he related a tour to La Grange where all stopped for a break. Alex Leventini, who had only one eye, got into his car and left Ada behind when they started up again. She was picked up by another club member.
Another Alex Leventini story. Bog Bell and Hank were traveling together about 4:00 in the afternoon on a hot day. They were looking for a motel with a pool. Bob and Hank lost Alex. They went looking for him and found him on the side of the road with the right front wheel off. Alex had taken it off because he had run over strips on the side of the road and thought something had happened to the car. They got the wheel back on as fast as possible and went back to the motel and the pool.
Hank related that the first tour the club took was to Snelling on a cold, foggy day. He remembers Stan Braden in a 29 Roadster pickup with no top and no curtains – open air, but Stan drove it tall.
When asked to recall fun times he had with his Model A, Hank cited two incidents that stood out the most in his mind. One was when the 1928 Roadster won the Best of Show at the 1971 Northwest Regional meet in Estes Park.
The second occasion was on a trip a group of Model Aers made to Nashville. Marshall, Kenner, Curry and Hank attended the Grand Old Opry – that was special to him. This was his first long trip, around 1975 or 1976.
Bill Jones recruited Hank for judging. Hank was the only certified Master Judge in the area. On a meet in Washington, D.C., he was the National Board Technical Director. When he got to the meet, they did not have a judge. Hank was asked to find one. He put together a team consisting in part of Marshall Lewis.
Hank talked at length about the Club Truck. Braden bought the flatbed truck for $300. After about a year, nothing had been done to restore the truck. Several members worked at various work days, but the job was not progressing very fast. Hank and Joe Curry tore the truck down to the frame and started putting it back together. They charged the club $6 an hour. After it was finished, it won 1st place.
During his years in the Model A Club, Hank served as president in 1968 and was in charge of the Almond Blossom parade and the Mother Lode Roundup for many years. Hank was also co-chairman, with Marshall Lewis of the Turlock Swap Meet for many years.
Hank had three daughters: Linda Berlingeri, Debbie Travaille, and Gail Hilvers. Gail died about eight years ago from cancer. Hank has eight grandchildren, 26 great grandchildren, and soon two great, great grandchildren.
Since his retirement, Hank has built a 1929 Speedster that he drives around his property in Sonora where he spends most of his time. His other property is in Ripon. Hank has always loved to dance and still does so whenever he gets a chance, but only to live country music!
Hank traveled with Frank and Marge Nunes many times. Frank collected signs on these travels and Hank carried them in his pickup. The barn in Ripon belonged to Frank and Marge where there were many happy Model A get togethers according to older club members.