neulogo-200.gif

Member Profile: Gus Sbrogna

by Earl & Elaine Duesel
.
Gus.jpgAlthough just a young child at the time, Gus was greatly influenced by the “Roaring Twenties.” The men wore sweaters and knickers with two tone shoes and the ladies wore short hair and even shorter skirts. One can just imagine growing up in a household with nine boys and three girls as Gus did, and the many other influences Gus was exposed to. Life was grand.
.
Then one day Gus met a young lady named Vera. Head over heels he was. Gus knew, right from the start, that she was the one, and he set out to impress her. It didn’t hurt that one of his brothers was in the used car business. Off he drove one day in a slightly used Cadillac. But that alone wouldn’t do. Influenced by the jazz music of his childhood, he taught himself to play the harmonica and would serenade Vera for hours on end. You guessed it: that did the trick. Gus and Vera were married in 1956 and until Vera’s passing in January 2012, they were constantly together.
.
Gus and Vera cherished long drives in that Cadillac, both being the adventurous type. Their honeymoon took them to Florida where they read that for $10.00 they could fly to Cuba from Key West. “What do you say, Vera?” And so it was. They traveled over the Seven Mile Bridge, which was scarier than the plane ride to Cuba. While on their tour of Cuba, Gus purchased twelve small bottles of liquor, probably rum, and for the next twelve years he opened and drank one on their anniversary.
.
After returning home to Worcester they continued taking long drives in the Cadillac on Sundays. They would pack a snack and picnic on the road. One day Gus decided to purchase a small trailer to extend their drives and adventures. On one of their drives they happened upon a trailer dealer whose sign read: “We take anything in trade.” What a coincidence. Gus, with Vera’s approval, traded that Cadillac for a 13 foot teardrop trailer and thus they began a life of true adventure. Of course they had to get another automobile from Gus’s brother. This trailer would be short lived, however. On their travels they passed a couple of Airstream trailers and the seed was planted.
.
Airstream trailers were being advertised and Gus got the bug! We all know what that is like, don’t we? They made a trip to the Airstream dealer in Ohio where they picked up their new trailer. The dealer treated them extremely well and gave them all the training that they would need in the workings and handling of the trailer.
.
Gus and Vera joined the Northeast Unit of the WBCCI (now known as the New England Unit) in 1966. When the Cape Cod and Charter Oak Units broke away from the Northeast Unit, Gus and Vera became charter affiliate members of those units but stayed with NE for their regular membership.
.
It was common in those days for Buicks, Oldsmobiles and Cadillacs to be used as tow vehicles. Gus recalls that at one rally a prominent doctor traveled with an orderly. (You’ve come a long way Paul, Dick and Geret.) One WBCCI rally in Bloomsburg, PA even had a Ferris wheel. Gus and Vera enjoyed the full meals served by the club.
.
1966 would turn out to be a very special year for the Sprognas. Gus was employed by AO, American Optical in Sturbridge, MA, and Vera worked in Worcester as a bookkeeper. Everyone was surprised when they quit their jobs and announced their intent to travel for the year. The year prior they made the decision to save money and travel. I wish that I could have been at their bon voyage party. The sight of Gus and Vera pulling away with their new 24 foot Airstream travel trailer pulled by a slightly used Chrysler Imperial (it pays to have a brother in the used car business) must have been quite a sight. They covered 27,000 miles that year, joining the Mexican caravan where they met up with a group from Arizona. Gus has fond memories of the Judge Bean site in Texas and also Mexico City. In those days the cars had great difficulty towing up some of the hills.
.
Next up was the Canadian caravan. At the time, Edmonton had one of the largest malls, and the caravan spent a night or two in the parking lot. The return trip brought them through California where Vera’s brother lived. Acting as their personal tour guide, he took them to see all the sights in the area. Gus and Vera always tried to visit the national parks using their Gold Eagle Pass, as that is an economical way to travel. Big Bend and Yellowstone are two of their favorites. Gus says, “You are always going to meet someone interesting no matter where you travel.”
.
Gus was the New England Unit president and Vera was the first lady in 1986. The Knights and the Lowells were instrumental in nominating them. Gus fondly recalls the help the membership gave him during his year as president. Rallies were held at places that offered the lowest cost; many were hosted on large parcels of land where gopher holes were a necessity. Undoubtedly, many of these were dug by our own Carol Luther.
.
In preparation for visiting Alaska, Gus purchased an Airstream B Van in 1995. The official Airstream Company Caravan was full so Gus and Vera headed off alone after purchasing a book on Alaska. This would turn out to be one of their most memorable trips. After the WBCCI International Rally they headed for the Top of the World Highway, taking pictures, playing music and enjoying one another’s company. Some of their favorite artists are: Nat King Cole, Perry Como and Frank Sinatra. Their motorhome climbed the mountains with ease and the entire trip was, in Gus’s words, “WOW.”
.
After the year-long trip, Gus purchased a building and opened a fish and chips shop in Worcester. He also was a substitute teacher. Gus had many daring ideas, “crazy ideas” as Vera used to say. Neither Vera nor Gus liked the idea of traveling overseas because there is so much to see in this country. Gus eventually traded in the B Van for a full-sized Airstream motorhome.
.
In Gus’s photography he always was sure to include his beloved wife in the shot. Their winter home in Florida is on a golf course between holes 1 and 2.
.
Gus sometimes thinks that maybe he and Vera did it the hard way, as all Airstreamers do, by not taking planes and trains to see the country…..but he’s so glad that he did.
.
This story is dedicated to the memory of Vera Sbrogna whom we lost on January 26, 2012. Vera and Gus have always been an inspiration to us.