The Canadian River Cruisers car club takes relaxed approach to organized motoring 

Next up for the Canadian River Cruisers: a yurt excursion.

David Saunders, leader and founder of the Norman-based car club, talked about the planned spring trip during the weekly Saturday morning breakfast meeting at the Midway Grocery & Market.


"Lani Malysa and Jon Forman have set up a yurt, which is a Mongolian nomad tent, near Sulphur, and we're going to drive there in a caravan and camp out around it. It should be a lot of fun," Saunders said. 

Saunders restores and drives antique vehicles, such as his 1915 Model T Ford and 1960 Triumph TR3. He also has a remarkable talent for getting people together and having a good time.

A recent Houston transplant, he attended some of the area's small car shows and was surprised to learn that Norman didn't have a classic car club.

"I thought it would be nice to be able to talk cars and car repairs with other folks," the oil industry retiree said.

Saunders made a flier that proposed starting a club and distributed it at the next '89er Day car show in Andrews Park. Six people responded initially, and it's grown to the current membership of around 70.

"We meet at the Midway because it just feels right. Not everyone comes to every meeting. We don't have a lot of structure. No elections, no dues, no budget and few rules," Saunders said. "You don't even have to have a classic car, just an interest."

It's not surprising that the Midway has become the focal point for the Canadian River Cruisers' gatherings. Centered in one of Norman's historical districts, the small grocery and deli has a unique ambience. Midway is a neighborhood fixture where regulars drop in for coffee and friendly conversation. Proprietor Bob Thompson has actively contributed to his market's status as an impromptu community hub; for years he has hosted the Midway Jam, an annual outdoor music concert featuring local bands.

"The Canadian River Cruisers' meetings here have been a very pleasant surprise to me," Thompson said. "I wish they'd been a point of marketing genius on my part that I could take credit for."

The laid-back approach to all aspects of the club blends perfectly with Midway's comfortable atmosphere.

"We have all these great old cars in the parking lot and that's all the agenda needed," Thompson said. "They chat, trade tips and make friends. I hope we can have a car show here in the spring."

Some of the cars one may see on any given Saturday morning at the Midway are truly museum pieces.

"We have a '50s-era Riley in the club. It's a beautiful car made in the UK, kind of a cross between a MG TF and a Jaguar," Saunders said.

Perfection is not a club requirement; one member has five vehicles, none in running condition.

Much of the old iron could be right off the sets of "Happy Days" or "American Graffiti," but the club also has unexpected wheels, such as a 1953 Cushman scooter and a 1959 Austin Healey "Bugeye" Sprite.

"We've been doing road trips together," Saunders said. The Norman group recently drove with the Central Oklahoma chapter of The Studebaker Drivers Club to visit the Belleville automobile collection in Lawton.

As an indication of his incurable motoring fanaticism, it should be noted on the day of the jaunt, it was only 39 degrees, yet Saunders drove his convertible 1976 Triumph Spitfire 1500 all the way there with the top down.

Kaye Cook of Norman owns one of the club's finer rides. She's held onto a 1939 Pontiac Business Coupe that she drove at Chickasha High School in the '60s, which has been lovingly restored.

"The guys make me feel very welcome and comfortable. David Saunders bends over backwards to make sure everyone is included and has a good time," she said.  "Doug Hill

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Doug Hill

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