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Spotlight: Modern ‘American Graffiti’

henever I see the movie “American Graffiti,” I think about what it would have been like to belong to the Pharaohs, the gang that Curt (Richard Dreyfuss) ended up riding with, albeit unwillingly, for a time.

That movie is a time capsule of the early 1960s; the music and the cars were outstanding. The gang that Curt rode with, “The Pharaohs,” was actually inspired by a car club of a similar name (spelled “Pharoah”) that got its start in 1948 in Modesto, California.

That club continued on into the 1970s, when interest was waning and membership dwindling.

Then in the ’70s, Wyatt Bowman took over the club and revamped it; and, as more members joined, made it a goal to get chapters set up around the country.

According to International Vice President Carl Nathans, “One of the main features of the local chapters is that there are no presidents, vice presidents, no electable officers. Instead, the head of a chapter is the ‘commander’ and is appointed to that position. The commander then appoints other officers, who hold ranks similar to those used in the military. There are no elections, no required number of meetings to hold, all of which does away with the politics that occurs in other clubs.”

In Pennsylvania, a goal was set to create at least one chapter in each county. So far, 22 counties in the commonwealth have chapters, including Carbon County.

In late 2020, local car enthusiasts, husband and wife John Courgis and Karin Bristow, who own several classic cars and attend classic car events around the country, started “The Pharoah Car Club, Jim Thorpe, PA.”

John is the commander of the local chapter. The club is still in its infancy, but has eight confirmed members, and hopes to get more members involved. He is hoping to find a place in Carbon County where they can get together and hold their meetings, and eventually plan events to show the cars.

“The International President Wyatt Bowman gave each chapter commander full authority for that chapter,” Courgis explained. “So what the commander says is what goes down. I’ll check with the higher-ups to make sure everything is good and they’re happy. If I make a decision and someone has a problem with it, I’ll have a discussion with them; but, if it’s for the good of the club, it’s going to happen.”

“The thing we love about this club is, there’s no politics,” Courgis added. “There’s no meeting every month that you have to be there no matter what, there’s no gavel coming down, it’s not like that at all. It’s a place to go to enjoy looking at beautiful cars and having fun with good people.”

The membership fee to join is a one-time fee of $65 which makes you a lifetime member. Your spouse is included in that fee. In addition to membership, you get a plaque, window stickers and a key chain. Those who join the chapter are expected to have a car or truck that they wish to show.

Karin Barstow offered this philosophy, “The cars are the stars, but the people are the purpose for what we do.”

And John’s philosophy, “If you live for tomorrow, today is slipping away.”

For more information, visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/jtpharoahs or you can email them at JThorpePharoahs@yahoo.com.

John Courgis and Karin Bristow show off their car collection.
The interior of a 1932 Buick series.
Below: 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454; big block motor, 5.7L, Holley 750 carburetor, with the Z15 package.
Below: The interior of the 2007 Chevy Corvette.
The cars in John Courgis and Karin Bristow's collection, including a restored 1932 Buick Series 7. See a photo gallery at www.tnonline.com. JIM LOGUE JR./SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
A 1995 Excalibur Cobra, built to look like a '66 Shelby. JIM LOGUE JR./SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
A Vanderhall three-wheeled autocycle is part of the collection.
Right: 2007 Chevrolet Corvette Indianapolis 500 Pace Car Convertible, one of only 500.
Right: 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454.