The inherent shortcoming of the gift of life is its inescapable relationship with death. The upside is what we do with the opportunity in between. And so was the rich and full life of Joe Mayall.
For starters, Joe was well known to rodders who read car books of the early-to-mid '70s as a contributing author to a number of these titles. During this same period he served as the National Street Rod Association's Idaho State Representative and shortly thereafter became a Division Director. He moved to SoCal (with family and lifelong friend and wife, Lois) at the behest of Tex Smith to serve on the staff of Rod Action ('75-78). In the world of street rodding Joe was best known for his tenure (which began in '78) as editor, then editorial director of StreetScene magazine (a NSRA publication) that spanned 30-plus years. Joe's love for cars also lead to his desire to help others to enjoy their mutual passion. He was the founder of the Yellowstone Rod Run and organized it for years. He was later part of a team, along with Tex Smith and me, that organized the modern version of the Kern River Rod Run established in the mid '70s. That is a brief outline of Joe's professional accomplishments, information that can be found anywhere. The key to knowing Joe was having shared friendship and camaraderie. Loyalty can be tricky to experience and bestow but Joe brought this trait out in so many people and, in return, he enjoyed its benefits.
I had the incredibly good fortune to share staff duties with Joe on Rod Action magazine. But our friendship started several years before. I knew Joe's voice before I knew Joe's stoic facial expressions which belied the humor that lay beneath. It was the '72 Street Rod Nationals in Detroit when I picked Joe up at the airport and gave him a ride back to our hotel. At the time, both Joe and I were much younger and going out to eat dinner was, well, an experience. Joe was one of the few who shared my love of a good meal, or at the very least where quality was lacking it was made up with quantity. Joe and I had a great time in Detroit and, for the next few years, I would talk to and see him often as he became a more frequent contributor.
Once relocated in SoCal he and I would have lunch with Richard "Magoo" Megugorac as often as five days a week at the same Mexican restaurant. We even had a table held for us. This tradition went on for years. Some days there could be three of us and other days there could be a dozen. Oftentimes, rodders from out of state or Magoo's customers would stop by and join us for chips and salsa. During these luncheons you could see Joe's thoroughly enjoyable personality come through. His sense of humor always made it to the forefront and by the end of lunch everyone was laughing, having enjoyed both the meal and the friendship. It was at one of these luncheons that the first organized, publicized, cross-country rod run was hatched. It was the drive to the Oklahoma Nats. It came before any Road Tour, Power Tour, or Americruise. Joe publicized the summer's drive in StreetScene while I published it in Rod Action. It was Joe who organized those who drove with us, arranged for the stops, spoke with local car clubs so we had evening entertainment with other rodders, and in general made it happen. I on the other hand benefited from Joe's efforts.
Another time Joe and I were at the NSRA Nationals in Oklahoma and, if memory serves me correctly, it was the first time he drove his street rod to the Nats. One evening we went to eat (again!) at a Mexican restaurant (a repeating theme) when the owner noticed a for sale sign on Joe's car. While I was two-fisting flour tortillas, coming up only occasionally to catch my breath, Joe found himself in the restaurant owner's office counting out $3,500. The next day Joe bought a Ford sedan from another rodder and drove it home. Joe and Lois had this street rod until the end.
Another time Joe and I would seek a little relief from the grind of monthly deadlines. Yes, contrary to popular myth, working on a car magazine, no matter how rewarding, is still work. While on Rod Action there was a sister publication in-house that dealt with dirt bikes. There was always a warehouse full of dirt bikes; new, unused, and waiting to be ridden. From time to time Joe and I would round up a couple of dirt bikes and head for the hills near the magazine. Turns out Joe was an accomplished rider, having spent many hours hitting the trails in Idaho. It also turns out I wasn't worth a crap on motorized two wheels. Joe was consistently helping me out of trouble. One time I got myself into a predicament and managed to get my ride wedged between two boulders and couldn't extricate the bike. Joe found himself laughing so hard, he too went OTB (over the bars) and was lying flat on the ground, no better off than I. We got a good laugh that day and many more days to come.
Upon Joe's move to SoCal, his first stop, literally, was my house. I remember when he arrived with his Suburban pulling a trailer loaded with all sorts of goodies, but onboard was a '29 Ford roadster pickup body he had dragged from the hills of Idaho. He brought me my first piece of vintage tin and I was thankful for his efforts, but in time I realized I was thankful for a lifelong friendship and for his laying the groundwork to make me a better street rodder and friend.
Joe was the consummate professional journalist as well as consummate street rodder. In either role Joe was willing and able to teach. He could teach with a typewriter and a roll of film or he could grab a wrench, welder, or paint gun and show how it should be done. He never asked for anything in return. Well maybe one thing-he always was a good friend and in return you couldn't help but treat Joe with respect and a deep sense of appreciation for having known someone with his breadth and content of character.