In the late 1940s when Jerry Melland was 11 years old, a neighbor stopped by to ask his dad a question.
“The neighbor was moving away and this Model A was sitting on the place and he had to get it off,” Melland said. “He come down and asked Dad if he could give me that Model A, so we went and got it.”
The 1930 Model A Ford two-door that he obtained at the time was only the beginning. Collecting them turned into a lifelong passion for Melland, now 83.
“I’ve had that one for 10 or 11 years,” Melland said, gesturing over to the Model A sitting on his front lawn.
The vehicle was situated where it was for a private photo shoot — or so he thought. In reality, it was a setup for a surprise that was coming his way. A few minutes before 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5, a line of Model A Fords rolled up to his home on College Street.
The drivers were members of the Enduring A’s Model A Ford Club, an organization that numbers 120 strong and is based in Albany but also with members from Philomath, Corvallis, Lebanon, Sweet Home and beyond.
“We’ve even got a couple of members from Canada,” the club’s Martin Harding said. “They don’t make very many meetings.”
Melland, who has been in the Enduring A’s for 22 years, was about to receive a prestigious honor. Harding told him that he had won the Model A Ford Club of America Service Award — a national honor that requires a nomination and is bestowed upon only a handful of individuals.
“Our officers this year were made aware of the service award and we started looking at all of the stuff that Jerry had done for our club,” Harding said. “He’s served as president and other offices and he’s presented programs of a technical nature. Every car you see here probably has his fingerprints on the engine, transmission.”
Melland has also organized and operated a “road worthiness clinic” each spring for several years before the Model A’s begin their touring season.
“He’s been a nationally certified Model A judge for a number of years,” Harding added. “He only has one more step up and he would be essentially a chief judge at a national event. And he’s a nice guy and just is always willing to give advice and help people.”
Melland, who has lived in Philomath most of his life, can tell you pretty much anything you’d want to know about a Model A, which were built by Ford from 1928-31.
“Like I’ve told the guys in the club, ask me anything you want to about them and I’ll tell you whatever I know,” he said, “but you’d better do it while I’m still alive because it’s going with me.”
Melland’s reaction to the national honor?
“It’s a big surprise,” he said. “I had never even thought of anything like that.”
Harding said he believes that the Model A Ford Club of America’s magazine, “The Restorer,” plans to publish the names of all winners in its January edition.
Although Melland loves the Model A’s, he actually didn’t own one for several years while he owned his own business.
“I had an auto repair shop all my life and I wouldn’t work on these cars, I wouldn’t let them in there, they’re hobby cars,” he said. “But after we got rid of it, then I started collecting Model A’s again. Right now, I’m down to one … I’ve had four.”
The Enduring A’s club members gathered on Melland’s lawn for a short award presentation with most wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Harding said the organization is a family-friendly group.
“I stress we’re family-oriented and it’s been that way from the very beginning back in 1977,” Harding said. “Everybody in the family’s been welcomed and in my car in particular. It belonged to my dad and I’ve driven it since 1984 and have put about 85,000 miles on it.”
Harding’s daughter won a driving knowledge award for a Model A when she was in high school and he has a couple of grandkids.
“So I’ve got four generations that have fingerprints inside that car,” he said.
Harding said the Enduring A’s are always on the lookout for new members.
“These people in this club, I tell people they’ve got Midwest values,” he said. “I can’t think of anyone in this club that I wouldn’t hand my house keys to and be gone a month and say, ‘there you are, I trust you with what I’ve got.’ We’re basically friendly and we’re just trying to have fun.”
Fun with Fords, friends and food to be precise. Even at Melland’s award presentation, Harding handed over a food item — vanilla ice cream — to the man of the hour.
“I figured Jerry may like the surprise and the certificate, but I knew he’d love the ice cream,” Harding said. “If we are anywhere and you mention ice cream, he kind of perks up and pays a little bit more attention. So we just figured we’d have a little bit of fun.”