Some of the original founding members of the Pharaohs Car Club: Top Row, L to R: Fred Smith, John Kahaian, Donald Simonian (deceased), Ronald Kazarian, George Merigian, Jr. (deceased).
Bottom Row: L to R: Marvin Baxter, Gerald Hamp, Russell Smith, and Mr. Al Leal (Advisor and Fowler High Auto Shop Teacher).
The Pharaohs Car Club of Fowler was founded in 1957 by a small group of Fowler High School seniors and recent graduates who shared an interest in classic and vintage cars. Its purpose was to promote fellowship among members, encourage driver safety, and to promote musical productions, car washes, and other events for charitable causes – including the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation, March of Dimes, and Fowler Hospital. Fowler Police Officer Bill Gonsalves and Fowler High School Auto Shop Teacher Al Leal served as Sponsors/Advisors.
The Club’s name – The Pharaohs – was unique when adopted in 1957. However, in 1973 the legendary film “American Graffiti” was released to widespread popularity and critical acclaim. Its stars included Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Harrison Ford, Mackenzie Phillips, and Cindy Williams. It was written and directed by George Lucas, and the plot was influenced by Lucas’ own teenage years in the early 1960’s in Modesto, located only 100 miles north of Fowler. The car club featured in American Graffiti was named the “Pharaohs” and Bo Hopkins played the role of its leader, “Joe the Pharaoh.” Because of the popularity of “American Graffiti” many car clubs formed thereafter adopted “The Pharaohs” as their name. An interesting note here is that there has always been an issue with the spelling of “Pharaohs”. In the movie it is spelled correctly if you look closely at the club jackets being worn. However, there are some plaques being sold at car shows with a Bo Hopkins cast signature (inside of a car outline) which has the name is spelled incorrectly – Pharoahs – and yet another version (no car this time!) which has the correct spelling! One version is a race horse, the other a car club!
In the late 1950s, The Pharaohs Car Club of Fowler sponsored musical productions entitled Talent
Extraordinary and Review of Stars that featured nearby amateur performers and helped fund the Club’s charitable contributions. The performers included Jeannine Riley of Madera, CA, who later starred in Petticoat Junction and Hee Haw, and Jean Del Carlo Lane of Sanger who became an educator and starred in Fresno musical and stage productions.
From the Past to the Present
The original governing documents provided for officers and a board of directors. The first President was John Kahaian and the first Chairman of the Board was Marvin Baxter. As founders, they are now Members Emeritus.
The Club became inactive in the 1960s. It was reactivated in 2016 at the urging of Charles Ferreira, the current President. Many early members of the Club in the 1950s and 1960s are now members of the reactivated Club. Bylaws were adopted and membership meetings and club activities have taken place.