BILL'S BACK IN TIME COLUMN PAGE
Copies of my column in Mark Thomas' "Racin' Paper"
BILL’S BACK IN TIME
By Bill Ladabouche
Site Column #43 from Column 58
SPORTS CARS ? SERIOUSLY !
week was around September 7, 1957. The move of the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los
Angeles, California was still uncertain. The Washington Baseball team was then
in the American League and – while actually being formally named the Senators –
was still informally referred to as “The Nats”, just like their successors of
today. Just as lowly as today’s Washington none, the Nats had managed to beat
the mighty Yankees 4 to 3.
The naming of the members of the Davis Cup team was still a really big deal, and Ted Williams, in the twilight of his career, was out on injured reserve. Cincinnati was called The Redlegs, and ads on the sports page of the Rutland Herald offered mens’ dress hats – like the kind you saw father wear in those horrible Dick and Jane reading primers. A drive-in theater in Bellow Falls featured the Jimmy Piersall story, “Fear Strikes out”.
One of the big stories of that sports page was “Sports Cars Thrill Fans”. That followed a feature from the preceding day that promised “Sports Cars in Spotlight Today at Rutland Fair”. Not seemingly a big deal – and the writer at that time had no idea – but that was the only time a Vermont fair featured sports car on its dirt horse track and it was the only time that sports car club ever attempted a program on dirt.
I recall being brought to that show by my uncle, because both of us were starved for automobile racing of any kind. Pico Raceway had croaked five years before; we didn’t make the drive to Stateline Speedway; Fairmont Speedway had closed before Pico and would not re-open for five more years; and Otter Creek was still four years away. We didn’t know that we would get to see a race at faraway Malletts Bay the next year – so this racing was a must to see.
The sanctioning body was a little – known New York / New Jersey outfit called SCODA, or the Sports Car Owners and Drivers Association. The cars were hybrids, homemade jobs with the design for speed, certainly not looks. The group apparently, for some unknown reason, raced almost exclusively on ovals during that period of their existence. And, somehow, the Rutland Fair Association had attracted them to its half mile horse track in 1957.
The Rutland Fair did its best to hype a race that was most unfamiliar to most of the usual race fans and fairgoers. It seemed to work. [Rutland Herald Ad Courtesy of John Nelson]
I remember very little from those races that day except I enjoyed them a helluva lot and my teacher that following year did not want my artistic renderings of those car to be put on the bulletin board alongside the more politically - correct artwork of my classmates. I came out of the experience with mental images of rough-looking, [some primered] roadster – like rigs that roared around the track in a most menacing manner. The Herald article said they were going anywhere from 80 to 90 MPH on that dangerous little, wooden – fenced, dusty track. So, I can’t remember more, gimme a break I was starting sixth grade.
The only name I could remember was “Jay Jacobs”. Even that wasn’t right – I found out this week it was Jake Jacobs, and he was a past champion of SCODA. For years, I looked at two SCODA entries in The Cavalcade of Auto Racing, an Oilzum Motor Oil promotional photo magazine that was prevalent in the 1960’s; and I never knew I was looking at the same group that ran before me that dusty Fall afternoon at the fair.
Dan Brent, A New Jersey – based college student, was not featured in the Rutland Herald articles, but he raced there that day. [Cavalcade of Auto Racing Photo]
The pre-race hype promised that either Jacobs, of Teaneck, NJ, or a Charles “Elk” Bettman of Tappan, NY would probably be the star of the show. They were right. Jacobs created the biggest stir before parking his car following about to or three spectacular – but – non- lethal accidents. Elf, who probably got the nickname from a motor fluid product popular with the open wheel set, ended up winning the race. Jacobs’ car was described as “constructed on a British MG frame. The radiator is from a Spanish Pegas, and the corvette engine is coupled to a Jaguar gearbox.” Most of the cars were convertible, although a few of the backmarkers seemed to have something like Jaguar coupes with roofs.
SCODA drivers mentioned in the paper included: Bettman, Tappan, NY; Jacobs, Teaneck, NJ, Bob Ellis, Springfield, NJ; Bill Boyd, Westport, CT.; Dan Brent, Millburn, NJ; Stan Becker, Roslyn, NY [SCODA President]; Ernie Lager, Warnarnassa, NJ; Herb Fisher, Short Hills, NJ; and Paul Borodin. The show was considered successful, but not repeated another time. It turns out that only Brent was featured in the 1963 Cavalcade issue, and his name finally caught my eye after my friend and fellow historian, John Nelson’s keen research into the microfilm of Rutland Fair races.
The Scoda group poses with starter Bob Quinn on the front stretch at Catamount in 1965. [Cavalcade of Auto Racing Photo]
As it turns out, the SCODA group also hit the newly – built Catamount Stadium track in Milton, Vermont, in 1965. By then, the group featured future Indy car driver Steve Krisiloff, whose career was, no doubt, helped along by the fact that his father ran SCODA. If you’re wondering why I would put this in a column devoted to vintage stock car racing, I have to tell you this: these were stock cars, albeit it sports car stock cars. These guys put in all on the line and the show was as raucous, loud, and dangerous any stockers could have managed. They deserve the ink.
The club has all but disappeared – I couldn’t dig up anything on the internet, so I am glad we could do this much for them. The Krisiloffs were intermarried with the Hulmans, of Indianapolis Motor Speedway fame, and third generation Kyle Krisiloff is becoming one of the new NASCAR stars. Sometimes, in the world of racing, history proves it is a small world.
Doug with a very early car. [Source Unknown]
Doug Garrison probably never ventured very close to the sports car world. The closest connection may be that his group, from Lebanon Valley Speedway, was about the next motor sports group to race at the Rutland Fairgrounds after SCODA. I used to have an excellent resource for Garrison history, his own memoirs, but my access to that was lost when we lost the Otto Graham website earlier this year. So, this is no attempt to chronicle Doug’s life or career – just random thoughts.
Doug started out with the typical jalopy – type stock cars around the Poughkeepsie, NY and New York Capital District region. He ran innumerable tracks, like Empire Speedway, Poughkeepsie, Rhinebeck, Stateline, and many more. But he will always be the best known as a stalwart star at Lebanon Valley. Garrison drove for some of the most noteworthy owners in the golden age of stock car racing. Some time after running the Barney Tompkins 99, he joined forces with the Tollgate Ice Cream team of Cliff Wright and Ron Zautner.
Doug [right] poses with Cliff Wright, the car builder [far left, Zautner, and the third owner whose name is partially visible on the roof of the car. The car, one of the famous Toll Gate Ice Cream cars, was the first to use 24. That number was made famous in the late 1960’s with Ken Shoemaker. [Joe Connors Photo - Garrison Collection]
After the stint with Toll Gate Ice Cream, he eventually settled in with the Yellow X team of Martin Riiska, out of Rhode Island. The Yellow X was a real lucky break for Doug, as it was one of the premier cars of its day. Garrison won titles at Lebanon Valley with Riiska’s yellow coupes and sedan, with the trademark skunk looking through an X on the side. Later on, Butch Jelley would carry on the winning tradition with Riiska. Garrison moved on to Gordon Ross.
Garrison with the championship – winning Riiska sedan. This is likely the car he
ran at the Rutland Fair in 1960. [Garrison Collection, likely Arnie Ainsworth Photo]
The Gordon Ross car was already well – known in New England before Doug Garrison. It had been chauffeured by the likes of Jocko Maggiacomo and others at places like Riverside before Garrison took it on with which to campaign at the Valley. Garrison drove the full – bodied, upright coupe at the Valley before finally buying the car. He was apparently finding that the smaller, more modified cars of many of his competitors were becoming a problem because he took the gorgeous coupe and chopped the hell out of it, lowering it and talking out a lot of weight. The windows on both sides were gouged out – perhaps, in aprt to make room for the big driver; but I suspect weight was the bigger concern.
A photo of the Gordon Ross car before it became “Garrisonized”. [Arnie Ainsworth Photo]
The 19 [which was soon to become the #5] was now one of the fastest [and ugliest cars] at the Valley. Whatever Doug had done to it – it made him highly successful in the year or two he used the car before winding down his career. There are countless photos of the car with Doug flying the checkers. He certainly had a long and varied career, and he deserves to be in any and all Halls of Fame within the regions in which he drove.
Doug with the greatly –
transformed, former Ross car. You an still see he had
kept much of the Ross paint scheme at that time. [Courtesy of Norm Vadnais]
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