BILL'S BACK IN TIME COLUMN PAGE
Copies of my column in Mark Thomas' "Racin' Paper"
Column #17 from Column 29
BILL’S BACK IN TIME
By Bill Ladabouche
A COLD DAY AT THE BEACH
Most normal people get a mid-winter vacation and go somewhere warm. Then there are nut cases like me. I ended up, on one day of vacation, dragging my poor wife on a ride outside of snowy Saratoga, New York – to Whites Beach Road near Ballston Lake – to look for any vestiges of the old Whites Beach, one of the many minor race tracks that populated the east side of New York state in the 1950’s. We didn’t get to see much, as the entire grounds have been pretty much grown over [and they are also on private property, naturally]. Thank God for satellite photos, or I would have assumed there was nothing left at all.
We had gone to Saratoga to do a little casino gaming, and I wanted to re-visit the Saratoga Automobile Museum. I was a little disappointed to see that most of the New York stock display I had seen the previous year had been removed; but, what was there now seemed to be primarily devoted to the old Whites Beach track. I had heard of the place only thank to the Fonda history book, which is puzzling seeing as my local Fairmont Speedway track probably received a lot of Whites Beach competitors [and we just didn’t know their home tracks].
Photo Source USGS
This mid – 1990’s satellite photo shows that the track still had a clear
outline in the terrain then.
It is less distinct on more current Google maps now. [Terraserver Satellite Photo]
A good example of this is Clifton Park, NY’s Orlando Pappa. I had a photo or two of cars he occasionally brought to Fairmont, but he didn’t make much of a splash there and competed only rarely. I had all but forgotten Orlando when his name popped up in the Fonda book, in reference to the George Welch benefit races they held there around 1959. Orlando had borrowed the #420 of fellow Whites Beach driver and wadded it up at Fonda. Actually Whites Beach seemed to feature two Dwyers, Chuck and Paul. One of them might be father to the Dwyer who raced at Fonda in more recent years.
Dwyer Family Photo from Fonda Book
Chuck Dwyer and his #420. [Dwyer Family Photo]
From what little I have been able to determine, Whites Beach had been operating ,in one way or another, for several years. One photo I have acquired shows extremely early jalopies running there. At that time, I doubt if there were even bleachers [or much safety fencing] there. The “cars” appear to be merely a thirties chassis of some sort, maybe with some hastily – erected rollover bars of some sort that looked more look pipe shelving from the local discount store. I suppose these, and similar other jalopy groups eventually began to copy what they were seeing down South, and they put more emphasis on semblance of stock appearance [and maybe even safety] as they staged more organized meets.
Photo Source Unknown
In this very early Whites Beach shot, they are preparing jalopies for whatever type of competition they held in those days. [Photographer Unknown]
From what I determine, Whites Beach was a track that guys with less money, less experience, and little desire to put up with the monarchy of Bill France, Sr. attended. They could race there, among others of their kind, and not have to finish a lap down to Steve Danish, Kenny Shoemaker, and the others at tracks like Fonda. Apparently, Whites Beach had a sort of informal relationship with Ashland Park, north up Route 9 in Warrensburg. Some of the scorers and other officials seemed to work both places, and at least one promoter ran both places at some point in their histories. Similar to Warrensburg, Mettowee, Stateline, Empire, and so many other little independent operations, Whites Beach did not survive long into the 1960’s.
Fairmont Speedway was the beneficiary of many displaced drivers from these places. Knowing the savvy of C.J. Richards, he may have even factored this into his resurrection of the old Fair Haven, Vermont track. Displaced drivers at Fairmont I can readily bring to mind include Orlando Pappa, Ken Delong, Earl Spellburg, Skip Wilcox, Ed Baker, Dick Pennock, and Bob Ridgeway – to name a few. Of these, Baker and Pennock were the most consistent Fairmont competitors, maybe considering some – like Delong – were getting along in age by the early 1960’s.
Whites Beach has received considerable attention in the past few years – at least in the Capital District area. Besides the Saratoga Automobile Museum featuring it in their current display, an Albany television station did some sort of a feature on the track in the past year. Some of the Whites Beach drivers became at least semi – regulars at Fonda and Victoria in the 1960’s. George Baumgardner, whose Saratoga address put him closer to Whites Beach than Fonda, did run both tracks successfully. Dale Horton, aka “Rebel Ross”, from Broadalbin, ran mostly at the Beach; but he did make Fonda appearances. The same could be said for Delong, Doc Blanchard, and Ron Quakenbush.
Photo Courtesy of Steve Judd
Fultonville’s Ron Quackenbush frequently ran Fonda, seeing as it was next door to his hometown.
I intend to get permission from the property owners some day and try to get out to the Whites Beach site. If anyone has info or photos from there, I would sure love to add them to my archives. I will be doing a Whites Beach page on the website. By the way, the Saratoga Automobile Museum is doing a “lost race tracks” day there on March 31. I would love to see a good attendance there so they might do more with the stock cars in the future. Apparently, Capital District journalist Ron Hedger has a lot to do with the racing stuff at the museum.
Cho Lee was telling me about a remarkable car at Thunder Road, back in the days before NASCAR came in and eliminated the beloved flat head coupes from the Barre, Vermont quarter mile. Bud Messier’s #50 operation was based in Waterbury, Vermont, which also just happened to be the base of operations for future Hall of Fame racing announcer Ken Squier. According to Lee, this helped Messier immeasurably in landing perhaps the single most distinguished slate of hired drivers of any car at T Road [possible short of George Barber’s 46].
Cavalcade of Racing Photo
Midget immortal King Carpenter took a turn as the driver of Messier’s coupe.
The 50 was driven, at one point or another, by such starts as Ernie Gahan [chasing NASCAR national points], King Carpenter, Jean – Paul Cabana, and Claremont star Mike Cody. There were probably others, but those are them names I can recall. T Road had a number of interlopers chasing points in 1965. Cabana, Rene Charland, and Gahan were three of these….. and Bud Messier sure did his part to help with that. The little coupe enjoyed a second life when George Barber opened Bear Ridge Speedway as a place where all the displaced flat head coupes could run. Fred Kidder ran the car there.
Courtesy of Cho Lee
The last ride of the 50 coupe. Fred Kidder was its last driver.
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