By Bill Ladabouche


         When I tend to think of Amsterdam, NY, things come to mind such as I believe it was where Rene Charland spent out his remaining years, having no idea who he was. I also think of the fact [probably no coincidence] that this was headquarters for Maynard Forrette at one point in his life. Amsterdam is the neighborhood, roughly speaking for Fonda Speedway, where I went as a kid every time I could get someone to drive me.

         The town had [and may still have] a local newspaper, The Amsterdam Evening Recorder. When I can get them, 1950's articles from this little paper give me wonderful information in racing in the 1950's in that part of the Empire State. Starting with the occasional article about roadster racing at the tracks around Perth, NY, the paper also covered a fledgling Fonda Speedway, when Ed Feuz and Jim Gage opened it up at the Montgomery County fairgrounds in 1953.

Ed Feuz Collection
Promoters Jim Gage [left] and Ed Feuz clown for the camera during their first year of promotion. Below - The Amsterdam Evening Recorder
 first had to go to Perth Speedway for racing news – mostly on roadsters. Here, future Fonda star Jeep Herbert has his first car [451].

Courtesy of the Starin Family

         I am not from the Amsterdam area, and I struggle to keep myself informed on racing in that corner of the world; but, I find it to be some of the most fascinating stuff that I cover. And, the 1950's – with their multitude of race tracks [often short – lived] and the tons of aspiring race drivers available after surviving the far more scary World War II – just add to the attraction for me. So it was that, when I ran across some Recorder articles from the mid '50's, it was an especially great find.

        The best one is from July 6, 1954 – a year after Steve Danish had held a virtual stranglehold on the race results at Fonda. By now, more drivers had come to the irregular horse track on the banks of the Mohawk River, and the Cropseyville Courier [as Danish was often called] had a lot more competition in 1954. It didn't – by any means – keep him out of Victory Lane; but others had gotten the hang of the oval by then.

Bob McDowell Photo via Phil Miller
Steve Danish poses with the car that most likely was what he would have run around 1953. Below – Jeep Herbert with the Kittler / Wolfe 37 coupe.

Herbert Family Collection

         “Herbert Wins Third at Fonda;Track Hikes Stock Car Purse screamed the headline. The article went on to say that, while Herbert won his third in a row at the track, tied with Danish for the most wins that year, at three. It is hard to know how the race would have gone had Danish not have experienced rare mechanical problems with his immaculately – prepared 61, causing him to drive an unfamiliar Joe Carter #57 coupe that night. It didn't stop him from finishing fourth with the strange car.

         It would be my best guess that Jeep Herbert, at that time, was driving the Sam Kittler / Gibby Wolfe #37 NY at that time, although he switched rides as often as some guys switch their socks. Herbert, who had the opportunity to drive that car, the Henry Caputo 11, the Bob Mott 3, Frank Trinkhaus' 62, and others, was at the height of his career then, as was Danish. He and Danish appeared to be perhaps the most dominant drivers at Fonda in the first few years. They were both a little older than many of the upcoming Fonda legends, and their careers faded into the mid 1960's.

Herbert Family Collection
Jeep races inside of Danish at Stateline Speedway, some time before the opening of Fonda. Below - Walt Roberts [9],
another early Fonda regular, lines up at Pico Raceway in front of Steve Danish. Herbert raced there, too.

Courtesy of Bud Brooks

         The article from 1954 is particularly important to me as I remember Herbert and Danish driving at my local tracks – Fairmont Park Motor Speedway [Fair Haven, VT] and Pico Raceway [Rutland, VT]. Both were also very prominent at North Bennington, Vermont's Stateline Speedway; and – while I didn't get to go there – I would hear all about it from local men who did go.

         This was an era with a lot of familiar names to the Fonda faithful, but it also was a time when some men who were real pioneers of the sport [but not going to be huge Fonda names] were in the mix at Fonda, Stateline, and other tracks in eastern New York. The article luckily listed detailed qualifying race results, and those were always a good source of some of these other names.

Courtesy of Rick Luke
Utica's Jim Luke with the fast Burns and Wilson 100, was a top man
at the early Fonda Speedway. Below – Spence Parkhurst, a racing pioneer
at Fonda, Fairmont, and throughout the region.

Courtesy of C. J. Richards


         Some of the big Fonda names are seen in the artcle besides Herbert and Danish [who would end up again winning the track title in 1954. Arguably the third biggest name in that early Fonda era was that of Jim Luke, from the Utica, NY area. A tall man, Luke would have the chance to drive the potent Hal Kempeny 113 before a young Bill Wimble took it over. Other top rides Luke drove in the early Fonda years included the Clark brothers 45 and the #100 of the Burns and Wilson team. He will always be best known at Fonda as the driver of Floyd “Pop” Wilcox's 32 out of New Berlin; but, he also had a brief go in Godfrey Wntzel's potent Smith and Son Jewelers #00 [after it was vacated by Rene Charland].

         The first was an interesting mixture. Winner Don Wayman of Cobleskill, then very young, would go on to be perhaps Fonda's all – time holder of the Recorder for most cars he was hired to drive. Back then, he was likely driving a #55 that he may have owned himself. In those early days, alone, Wayman drove for Harold Betts, Dick Bennett and more before getting into the Golden Age era of Fonda.

Courtesy of Jo Towns via Otto Graham
Donnie Wayman, with the first car of a long, multi – car career. Below -
Jim Luke, with another hot car – Hal Kempeny's 113.

John Grady Photo via Rick Luke

         Second to Wayman. was a throwback to the roadster era. Jack Barney, who was likely driving a flattop coupe with a big opening in the roof, drove in front of me at Pico in 1951. Barney also drove frequently at Stateline in the early days; but his was not where he started. Around 1950, a group of men in the Saratoga Springs area acquired land in nearby Wilton and built the very rustic McGregor Speedway there, naming it after the nearby mountain. Barney was on the ground floor of the track, built somewhat as a bit of a protest to a perceived slight done to a local racer at the Garnsey's Hudson River Speedway in nearby Schuylerville,

        Barney, as a McGregor pioneer, was joined by the likes of the Staiger brothers, the Woodcock brothers, Spencer Parkhurst, Danny Rumpf, Chet Hames, Ed Harran, and Al Moses. Of these, Parkhurst and Hames would become the biggest names at Fonda – Hames, as the legendary flagger for years; and Parkhurst as one of the driving stars. So important was Parkhurst, that he was one of the four men approached by Feuz and Gage to pose for Fonda's first promotional photo at the track in 1953 before it opened.

Ladabouche Collection
Jack Barney gives Jeep Herbert a run for his money at Stateline around 1951. Below - Chet Hames poses with Frank Staiger at
McGregor Speedway. Moments later Staiger was struck by a car and Hames started what would become a great flagging career.
That's 1950's star Harold Kyer in the background.

Courtesy of Joe Staiger

The second heat would feature journeyman Greenwich, NY driver Johnny Perry as winner; Stan Bellinger [who would make the history book as being involved in one fo Fonda's worst wrecks]; former open wheel driver Hoppy Redner; and Joe Carter [before he gave up his car to Danish that night]. The third heat was won by Herbert, followed by someone named Rocky Rockefeller. The two interesting Romans, Tiger Tom Kotary and Chuck Mahoney came next. Kotary, a troubled WWII vet, was probably driving a famioly car then but would drive for some good teams such as the Romanos, of Johnstown. The irrepressible Mahoney, once a driver in NASCAR's Short Track division, was know as a fast driver but hard on whatever equipment he had.


Courtesy of Williams Collection
Johnny Perry's best ride ever was this Bob Whitbeck sedan. Later, he would leave the team and the next guy was killed in one of the team cars.
Below – Chuck Mahoney would drive anything, anywhere, and punish it to death.

Source Unknown – Likely Midstate Club


         Danish and Luke were in the fourth heat, which Danish won [apparently before his car broke]. Luke was led across the line by Frank Trinkhaus' driver du jour George Gallup of Oneonta [who was sometimes playfully nicknamed “Cinderella Boy”. Tom Wilson, who would be a big name at other tracks near Fonda, was fourth with his trademark car P13. The consi, again a strange mixture, featured some impressive names such as winner, Peter Corey. On his way to legendary status in New York racing, Corey was driving for famed builder Bob Whitbeck of Canajoharie at that time. Corey, too ran for a number of prominent owners; but, he was also a brilliant car builder.

         Corey was followed by another name from the sport's earliest days – Hank Schmidt of Gasnsevoort, NY. Probably driving his own F41, Schmidt joined neighbor Beryl Fitzgerald as a Gansevoort driver using the “F4” numbering on his car. Schmidt would make more of a mark in the 1960's as a race official, although he did drive well then, as well. Fitzgerald's car came to an end in a grinding early race crash at the fairgrounds in Rutland, VT in 1962. I don't know how much he ever ran Fonda.


From Dan Ody's 8MM Old Speedways DVD's
Hank Schmidt leads Al Romano and Spence Parkhurst at Stateline
around 1952. Below – George Gallup with an early Frank Trinkhaus car.

From the Conde and Parry Website

Parkhurst finished third in that consi – which suggests how competitive Fonda was becoming by that time. His black and red #36 coupes were seen and successful in venues like Fairmont, Pico, Stateline, Granville's Mettowee Speedway, as well as McGregor. Following Parkhurst was perhaps the most obscurely interesting name of the whole article: Art Spoar. Spoar came from Albany and had raced in the late 1940's – either in an open wheel car, a roadster, or possibly even on a motorcycle. He was an early car owner for Pete Corey, and his number 95 eventually was made even more famous by car owner Ted Vogel.

Putnam Collection via Fonda Book
Pete Corey with the Whitbeck – built Art Spoar 95. Below - Bob Zimmerman, when he was driving his own cars, at Midstate Speedway
in Morris, NY.

Mel Ogden Photo via Midstate Club

         Accompanying articles from the same era didn't always talk about Fonda; but they do point out what kind of amazing variety of drivers that era. For example, one paragraph about Stateline mentions one Lou Lucier [whom I know as being from northern Massachusetts]. Lucier would become best known – right up into this century, as the longest living Red Sox baseball veteran. While his racing career was somewhat longer than his brief stint as a Sox pitcher, you just don't see this kind of phenomenon much now.

         This was a time of Fonda drivers sometimes visiting other tracks and running against guys like Jack Sweeney, who would end up as a mechanic and crew member for Dee Goodermotte at Lebanon Valley. Another early driver, Dan Tag, would become a recognizable fixture at the Valley with his tow truck for years. Other names include Harold Kyer and Bob Zimmerman. Kyer, another original McGregor Speedway guy, was one of the many post WWII drivers to use a number reminiscent of a WWII fighter plane [in his case, P61]. Zimmerman, brother – in – law to very successful '50's driver Carl Fink, would field a great – looking #72 coach for Fink, who would be involved in one of the top five worst wrecks at Fonda. Were that not bad enough, he would own another 72 which, in 1965, popular Pepper Eastman was killed at Fonda. {It was fluke and had nothing to do with Bob's construction.

Courtesy of Chris Companion
Jack Sweeney [to the right of hatless driver Dee Goodermotte, poses
with the Tanners in a gag photo at Lebanon Valley. Below -
Dan Tag talks with long-time promoter C. J. Richards at Devil's
Bowl in the late 1960's.

Courtesy of the LaFond Family

         Some other names of note were men who didn't spend much time at Fonda, but who made indelible marks on that era of racing at tracks frequented by some of the Fonda drivers. Glens Falls' Earl Maille was a big guy who had been tapped, at one time, to drive a Henry Caputo car. Not everyone was entrusted to do that. While Maille drive the Caputo cars at Fonda and Airborne Speedways, his career was ended by a bad crash at Warrensburgh, NY. Dave Brooks, from Manchester, Vermont, had hellaciously powerful #33 1/3 coupes. Brooks kept his engines covered at every track he went to, adding to the mystique; but he didn't spend much time at Fonda.

         Wally LaBelle another legendary Glens Falls native, was another driver who drove all over – from Warrensburgh, to Whites Beach, to Stateline, to Pico, to Granville, to Fairmont, and more. Often he drove Vern Baker's SUPER 6 Hudson. LaBelle did not appear to spend much time at Fonda. Perhaps, some of these guys did not want to conform to some of the arbitrary NASCAR rules of the day. Being highly traveled, they would have taken a rash of crap for running non – NASCAR tracks.

Courtesy of Bud Brooks
One of the Dave Brooks cars, seen at the short – lived race track in
Manchester, VT around 1950. The engine, as usual, is enclosed. Below -
Wally LaBelle plies the Vern Baker Super 6 around Whites Beach Speedway in the 1950's.

From Dan Ody's 8MM Old Speedways DVD's


         The last name in this bunch of articles from 1954 is a sad one. Schenectady's George Welch was a young family man with a future as bright as the sun. Starting out running Jim Brush's legendary Brush TV and Radio 27 at places like Rhinebeck, Stateline, Empire, and more, he eventually field a NASCAR – legal car, the Reakes – Welch #8 [sometimes numbered 28]. A great admirer of Steve Danish, Welch modeled himself after many of the great Mr. Danish's trademarks – including coordinated clothing with “Welch Chevrolet” on them similar to Steve's “Danish Chevrolet” attire.

         Welch also kept himself in specific physical shape for driving just like Danish and kept his car presentable at all times. Welch, at the time of these articles, was not driving at Fonda yet. He would come along with the #8 later in the 1950's. He was wildly popular and improving all the time. Unfortunately, he was making some extra money on the side, flagging at the paved Empire Raceway in Menands. One night he was truck by a car driven by Lauren Meigs and died soon after. A number of tracks held George Welch benefit race programs, the best known of which was at Fonda. But one of racing's future brightest lights was snuffed out that Friday night at Menands.

Walter Mateer Photo Courtesy of Donna Kreeber Mateer via Joe Grossetti
A younger George Welch with the Brush 27 at Coxsackie Speedway.
Below- Welch, with his NASCAR coupe and the Danish – like tee shirt.

Courtesy of Jo Towns via Otto Graham

I have run across a number of these old articles from the Recorder, as well as the Schenectady Gazette and others. They may not be Pulitzer Prize stuff, but they are solid gold to me.


Please email me if you have any photos to lend me or information and corrections I could benefit from. Please do not submit anything you are not willing to allow me to use on my website - and thanks. Email is: . For those who still don’t like computers - my regular address is: Bill Ladabouche, 23 York Street, Swanton, Vermont 05488.


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