C. J. Richards' 1962 Vermont State Fair Show


Courtesy of Marty Kelly, Jr.

C. J. Richards loved to talk about his controversial stock car program at the Vermont State Fairgrounds, in Rutland, Vermont late in the 1962 season. He asserted [correctly] that it set a record for the size of a crowd at a sporting event In Vermont that stood for a very long time. He estimated, between paid admission and people sneaking a look at different spots on the grounds, that around 10,000 people witnessed the program.
    Richards always told me that the show was plagued by two big problems: 1.)  the lowering September sun that was hoitting drivers dsorectly in the facew as they entered turn one; and 2.) the terrible dust. He had wanted to bring in his Fairmont water truck, but the fair officials insisted that he use their ancient, inadequately small 1930's water truck that could not keep up with the effect the hot sun was having on the track.
    These two factors, plus the problem that many of the drivers in the field were not familiar with one another, caused there to be two massive pileups: the first, right at the entracne to turn one; and the other coming out of turn two. So ewxtensive were these pileups, that the Vermont State Police were fixing to cancell the show. Richards' protestations, plus the specter of the huge crowd becomming incensed, kept that from happening, and the feature finally ended with Brattleboro's Sonny Rabideau riding Frank Smith's #311 cutdown to win [much to Richards' relief].
    The two massive pileups were not the only accidents that day. Belolows Falls' Bruce Willey, during a #107 car usually run at Claremont [NH] Speedway, had a wreck on the backstretch in which he was significanly injured. Fair Haven's Vic Love ended up embedded under the turn one barriers, scant feet from the propane tanks of Roxie's French Fry stand. Glens Falls' Art Rivers was dumped over the picket fencing right in front of the judges' stand, as well. The police were right about one thing - it was not a good track for racing large cars.
    C.J. had attracted many of his Fairmont Speedway regulars, as well as some teams from his newly - acquired promotion at Otter Creek Speedway near Vergennes. In addition, there were some Claremont cars that did not suslly join the NH cars who raced regularly at Fairmont. And, finally, there were a few cars whose regular tracks I am not even certain. At any rate, a number of the entrants did not know each other and did not know enough about their opponents to anticipate actions on the track.
    Two good regular Fairmont regular entries were destroyed that day - the F4 of Gansevoort, NY's Beryl Fitzgerald and the Ray Richards - owned RR, driven by Castleton's George Pritchard, a veteran of local racing from the 1950's. The Willey car, while badly damaged, would end up at Fairmont two seasons later, having been purchased by Whiting's Norm Scarborough. It turned out to be one of the best cars that season.
    The Otter Creek Speedway hobby champion, Keith Ballard was there, with a red and white #71; he had also brought along Otter Creek regulars Bob Russell [115], Jack Cutter [95], Ed Magoon [49], Phil Russell [Checkmate], and an Otter Creek area car I had not seen - the huge Hudson Terraplane #586 of Malletts Bay regular Bob Bushey [holder of the all - time feature wins / season record at Airborne Park Speedway].
    I have no results for the fair race, other than Rabideau winning. Rabideau is thought to have been a regular at Fairmont that year; but the fact is, he didn't begin racing there until the end of the 1962 season. Ironically ,he had appeared at a fair race the year before and had ended up in the fence almost exactly where Love did. That 1961 exhibition was put on by the management of the Lebanon Valley Speedway, and those drivers resented the lightweight, undersized Claremont car of Rabideau as not only on interloper, but an interloper with a height and weight advantage over them. So, off he went .
    I have acquired photos primarily from three sources: a few of my own, taken with a Kodak Brownie box camera; similar shots taken by a distant cousin of mine, Norm Vadnais, and some professional shots [likely bob Frazier] supplied by Vadnais and the LaFond brothers. I have one or two from Wes Moody, Ed Fabian, and from Barbara Laduc, as well. This event has become one of my favorite things to cover, for a number of reasons. I hope you enjoy all the photos.


Courtesy of Marty Kelly, Jr.
The article was partially accurate. All of the referenced NH drivers attended except Mike Cody, as did Rogers. Flach, I don't believe came nor did Fairmont regular Joe Spellburg. Richards did pull in a few teams i still can't identify, all these 54 years later.

BEFORE THE RACES


Ladabouche Photo
Vern Baker works around his Hudson coupe, the 6 PACK before Ed Baker [no relation] would drive it. The Bakers would have no problems this day, but a wheel off the car would seriously injure an onlooker out on US Rte 4 a year later.

Ladabouche Photo
Like Baker, Buddy Bardwell was was a multi - time winner at Fairmont that year. But his was
not the car he had been running. This was his more familiar trademark Hudson, arriving in the pits that day.

Ladabouche Photo
Six year - old Connie Stevens helps her dad, WIld Bill Stevens, set up the pits before the race.

Ladabouche Photo
Bob Hoffer backs his
Argyle Racing Team
X9 into its pit area at
the fairgrounds. Sadly,
he would be killed in a car
accident, and the car would go through three other owners.

Ladabouche Photo
Bruce Willey's car
sits in the pits before being in involved in a backstretch crash that would injure
Bruce.

Ladabouche Photo
The first of several cars
built for Fairmont by
the Loomis family of
Granville, NY. This car
was badly rearended in the first big pileup


Courtesy of Norm Vadnais
The Castleton gang, with George Rogers, before the program started. Johnny Spafford [dark T -Shirt] was pitted next, to the left. The car on the left of Spaffordis one of my mystery cars. It was a car 13, and definitely not Buddy Bardwell, who had his Hudson ther that day. From left - Ken Boutwell, George Rogers,Don Ballantine, John Spafford, Eli Vadnais, and Roger Hall.


Courtesy of Norm Vadnais
Nearly the same pit location as above. Clearly, from the grandstands behind, it is well before the actual races began.


Courtesy of Norm Vadnais
The pits, from across the track in the spectator area. Identifiable, from right are: Ray Richards' RR, Chet Cashman's 37, Art Cody's 33,
that mystery car 13, Spafford's 77, Roger's white UP2, Keith Ballard's 71 [next to UP2], Jack Cutter's 95, - I can't make out the others.


Courtesy of The LaFond Family
The view of the pits from the judges' stand. Also a good look at South Main St. in those days. I can make out
The S29 of Bill Stevens, Bardwell's 13 with the bullhorns, Baker's 6 PACK [far right] and the
RR of Ray Richards [to be driven by George Pritchard].

DURING THE RACES
Many of these photos are from the camera of Norm Vadnais if not otherwise labeled.


Rutland Herald Photo by Courcelle via Marty Kelly, Jr.
This is the only Herald photo from that most important of sporting events in Vermont.


Rutland Herald Photo by Courcelle via Marty Kelly, Jr.
This was probably an OK photo before the newsprint process ruined it. Seen here are the mystery Ford 30, Art Rivers' About 5 [which would not survive the day], The RR of Ray Richards with George Pritchard driving [also would not survive the day], and the 5 of Vic Lovewhich survived a close call by Roxie's French Fries propane tanks in turn one. Kind of a jinxed heat, no ?


Bob Frazier Photo Courtesy of Norm Vadnais
Starter Danny Rumpf flags off the big feature. Beryl Fitzgerald [F4] and a very young Lennie Woods [A11] pace the field.
Eventual winnerSonny Rabideau is in the car in the seventh row back on the inside.


Courtesy of Neal Davis
Popular Cecil Bosworth of Athol, MA did not his usual car and took the 37 NH of Chet Cashman [left] for a ride at the fair race.

Norm Vadnais Photo
George Pritchard picks up a heat win with Ray Richards' RR. The car
would be mortally wounded early in the main event.
 
Norm Vadnais Photo
The wrecker is picking up someone out of turn 2, as the cars of Art Rivers[5], the mystery Ford [30], Phil Russell, and Joe D'Avignon are pulling up. Little did Rivers know he would be ass over teakettle in about thwo more laps.

Norm Vadnais Photo
Phil Russell's Checkmate
is stopped at the start/
finish line as crews clean
up the wreckage of Art Rivers' About 5. [See larger wreck photo below].

Norm Vadnais Photo
The dust is evident in the sun field that is turns 1 and 2 as Phil Russell's
Hudson chases George Pritchard's Chevy.

Bob Frazier Photo
Courtesy of CJ Richards
Heat winner George
Pritchard enjoys the moment. He wouldn't enjoy the  feature as much.


Norm Vadnais Photo
Bruno's wrecker backs
up to extricate the 5 of
Vic Love from the turn one fence - precariously close to Roxie's propane tanks.

Norm Vadnais Photo
Lining up a heat race: from right - Vince Quenneville, Sr. [00]; George Rogers [UP2]; the mysterious car 13; Otter Creek car Bob Russell [115], and another unknown car X.

Norm Vadnais Photo
George Rogers pulls
away after returning checkers for his heat
win. This car had not been
in action long that season
at this point. It is being restored now.

Norm Vadnais Photo
Jim Spaulding's sharp maroon 11 cruises by the
stands during an apparent caution. Geo. Pritchard, who lost his ride to a crash this day would buy the car for the next season.

Bob Frazier Photo
Courtesy of LaFonds
Johnny Spafford pulls
the 77 up, ahead of
the Curt Dragon 31
of Leo Howland.

Bob Frazier Photo
Courtesy of Wes Moody
The popular Car 54
apparently taking heat checkers from Danny Rumpf
.

Bob Frazier Photo
Courtesy of Wes Moody
Closeup of the popular
Car 54 Where Are You?
which referenced a TV
comedy of that day.

Bob Frazier Photo
Courtesy of LaFonds
The Car 54 Where are You ? car out of Whitehall, NY performed well at
the fair race until the driver rear-ended Loomis' P61 in the feature. It could have been Ken Delong, Cliff Batease, or Sonny Greenwood.
 
Norm Vadnais Photo
Lining up the inside lane for the feature: Ed Magoon, ahead of Jack Cutter. An unknown #30, Johnny Spafford, Harry Hale [white flat top car], Ed Foley, and the Loomis P61.

Norm Vadnais Photo
The lineup for the feature under way. From right, I can make out Beryl Fitzgerald's F4, Lennie Woods' A11, John Ballantine's 61, Dick Gerard;'s 737,  E Magoon's 49, Jack Cutter's 95, and Ed Foley's 30. [See larger photo above of the start].
  
Norm Vadnais Photo
Cleanup on the track from the first pileup. The men don't seem to know where to start. The blinding sun,which lent to the crash is evident. Note 2 ambulances are on the scene. One must have been called in off the fairgrounds.

 
Norm Vadnais Photo
Cleanup on the track from the first pileup. The damage to Loomis' P61 is evident; Jack Cutter [right] prepares
to continue; eventual winner Sonny Rabideau's 311 is visible; and there is a car 62 -which might be Sonny Hayes.
  
Norm Vadnais Photo
Cleanup on the track from the first pileup. The 95 of Jack Cutter sits crosswise in front of a damaged Loomis P61, which has Car 54 embedded in its trunk.The car RR, now to be out of the race, is the white car sideways at the far right.

Norm Vadnais Photo
Jack Cutter, one of
the Otter Creek Speedway
invaders, gives a crewman a ride around the track -
perhaps to re - line up for an interrupted heat race.
 
Norm Vadnais Photo
The dust is still settling in the turn two sun field from the 2nd pileup. The cars which can still move are under a red flag. If you look carefully, Rabideau's 311, having made it to the front, is pulling away from the mess on the outside. [A bigger shot of this is available below, from another angle].

Norm Vadnais Photo
We either had a sudden fog - in or Norm had exposure problems here.
But it shows some of
the spectators.
   

 
Bob Frazier Photo Courtesy of Norm Vadnais
Art Rivers takes a real spill into decorative picket fencing as Phil Russell goes by. I don't know if Russell assisted Rivers off
the track or not. It is a wonder Srt wasn't hurt more, as some of that fence must have come into his window.


Bob Frazier Photo Courtesy of the LaFond Family
The
first big pileup. At left, Beryl Fitzgerald stands, hand on hips and helmet in hand in disbelief as his F4 crew looks at the frame - twisted
car. Fitzgerlad never fielded another car at Fairmont after this. Ray Richards' RR is the white car next to the right [frame ruined]. Driver George Pritchard [dirty white T - shirt] and Bill Stevens [black  pants with red stroipe] check it out. Ed Foley's 30  is being pushed toward us by Rudy Charbonneau [white golf hat] and others. Spafford's 77 is to the right, unharmed. You can see the 9 on Jack Cutter's 95. Above the Cutter car you see the white roof of Loomis' P61, rammed in the rear. You can see the windshield of Joe D'Avignon's 8 Ball
behind the Spafford 77. The 8 Ball was apparently undamaged.


Bob Frazier Photo Courtesy of the LaFond Family
The
first big pileup. A slightly stunned Joe D'Avignon flexes his right arm as he walks over to investigate the chaos up front, where
the Pritchard and Fitzgerald cars blocked the track. The rear end damage to Loomis' P61 is evident. Loomis is checking
on the driver of Car  54 [which could have been Ken Delong, Sonny Greenwood, or Cliff Batease]. The 54 driver seems to
be bent over in his seat. A young Lennie Woods [still three years away from being the Unbeatable Lennie Woods] sits
in Ralph Morse's A11 out of Sunderland, VT , which - until this day - had not been seen at any C.J. Richards races in 1962. C. J. always thought "itwas
some Glens Falls car". We still don't know who the guy is in the 1949 Ford #30 is.


Bob Frazier Photo Courtesy of the LaFond Family
A man that someone claimed was C.J. Richards' father looks on as crews tend to the wreck of Bruce Willey [circled on the backstretch. Willey was injured inthis mishap. The 62 of Sonny Hayes pulls away, at left. Check out the ride set up in front of the 4H building. The World of Mirth rides were so numerousthey could not fit them on the midway alone. Some difference from the 2015 fair, eh ? Below - a closer, cropped view of that wreck. Best I could do.


Bob Frazier Photo Courtesy of Ed Fabian
The second big pileup, which caused the State Police to want to cancel the show happened at the of Turn 2, but was still likely
caused by the lowering sun. Biggest problem ? Guys not familiar with one another: Fairmont regular and mutli feature winner Art Cody [33];
novice driver Harry Hale with newly - purchased Henry Abbott's old car now #10]; the massive Hudson Terraplane 586 of
northern Vermont's Bob Bushey [who drove some years back at Airborne and Malletts Bay]; and Vince Quenneville Sr [between Hale and the 586].
There wasn't so much damage as it was the fact that the track was blocked for a period. It took contenders like Cody and sent
them to the back of the field, making it easier for Sonny Rabideau to run away with the race after that.


Bob Frazier Photo Courtesy of C. J. Richards
A tired Sonny Rabideau and a relieved C. J. Richards briefly enjoy Victory Lane with starter Danny Rumpf
before many of the 10,000+ fans get to them after the wreck - plagued program was finally done
[thankfully before dark or before the State Troopers called a halt to the whole thing].

 

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