[Somewhat] WEEKLY COLUMN/BLOG PAGE
BILL’S BACK IN TIME
By Bill Ladabouche
UPON LOOKING AT OLD ADS
IN THE CATAMOUNT PROGRAMS
Not long ago, I was lent a few old programs from Catamount Stadium – circa 1976. These were nice programs, gotten for the price of half a buck in those days. Catamount used to have sort of crappy programs before they hooked up for a couple of seasons with C.J. Richards. His CVRA programs, called Back Fire, were far superior to Catamount's; he was getting them done through Oswego Speedway. So, for pretty much the remainder of the life of Catamount Stadium, it had these nice programs, which many folks still treasure.
Courtesy of Wayne Bettis
This is the cover from a typical program of the era.
Obviously the majority of the program was made up of local advertising, or ads taken out by companies which were, in some way, benefiting from this sponsorship. I tend to usually skip over these pages when someone gives me their programs to copy; but, I happened to pay a little more attention to the ads recently. It brought back vivid recollections of the atmosphere surrounding racing at that time. Much like the old Devil's Bowl program ads harken me back to growing up in that region, these ads are a sort of historic stimulus.
The first ad of note was from the Tower Restaurant chain. With pizza joints in such places as South Burlington, Berlin, and Essex Junction, I believe Tower started an involvement with Northern NASCAR because the Big Ben Pizza sponsorship enjoyed by Hector LeClaire had really put that small chain on the racing map. Big Ben's Burlington location is now that India House Restaurant by the hospital; the Tower restaurants are now Zachary's, an American Legion, and some business' office on the Barre – Montpelier Road.
Courtesy of Wayne Bettis
Tower Restaurants and Malletts Bay Speed Shop no longer exist.
Below – Robbie with one of the first cars he had with Tower.
Courtesy of Andy Boright
It is that Berlin Tower, on the Barre – Montpelier Road, that held the special place in racing peoples' hearts. It was the go – to place after the races at Thunder Road, from the late '60's to well into the '80's. Everyone from grandstand fans to pit crews and officials could be seen in the Tower, ordering those peculiar pizzas or the salads with a tuna fish base. I recall this one particular short order cook, who was always looking out longingly over the aluminum pick – up counter, wishing he could be in on the fun. All the Tower stores closed at once, succumbing to the increasingly crowded local pizza market and all of those national chains.
Then, too, the chain sponsored Robbie Crouch in his L&W era, with was arguably the most dominating run for a racing team ever in the history of Northern NASCAR, NASCAR North, and the ACT. Crouch, by then, had the trademark blue and white graphics scheme and he went through a number of years with the Tower restaurants featured on his cars. Some could argue the Tower was one of the most [if not the most] influential sponsors in the history of racing in the region.
Wayne Chandler's Malletts Bay Speed Shop van is seen in the background behind Danny Bridges. Below – The car Chandler had for Buzzy Lambert.
Courtesy of Brian Manning
On the same page with the Tower was the ad for the Malletts Bay Speed Shop, which was run by former race driver Wayne Chandler. Chandler's Malletts Bay Speed Shop van was – for a while – as much of a fixture in the Catamount pits as was Bob Doyle's Bardahl truck. Wayne blossomed out, in 1975, with a late model sportsman Chevelle for Hurricane champion Roger “Buzzy” Lambert to drive. The pair managed a very creditable third place in the big New England 300 race at the end of that year. Wayne, himself, was best known for driving the 3 Sr. Hudson coupe at places like Malletts Bay Raceway, Otter Creek Speedway, and Airborne Park Speedway. He and Lambert both kind of faded away after a couple years with the Chevelle.
The next two ads did not seem to go together or, in one case, with a stock car racing track at all. Jack Anderson, an off – again, on – again race driver originally from Down South, had a shop on Riverside Avenue, in the Intervale, in Burlington. His transmission shop, the Transmission Exchange of Burlington, was on one side and the motorcycle – oriented Road Chop Shop was in the other half of the structure. Anderson, who had driven a stock car as early as 1951, at Ivanhoe Smith's Colchester Raceway, was running a Chevelle in Northern NASCAR at the time of these programs.
Courtesy of Wayne Bettis
The boys are busy chopping at the shop. Below - Claude Aubin's late model sportsman and Allen Ward's hurricane, at Elmer's Exxon,
right near the Anderson shops.
Catamount Program Photo
In addition to housing his own car, the #11, Anderson often housed Allen Ward's #5 hurricane Ford. He also sometimes provided a place for Laval, Quebec's Claude Aubin's hired crew to work. Here's where the choppers come in. Most of Aubin's crew, namely Ken Bucklin, Terry Osterman, and Phil Bowler, were all members of Burlington's motorcycle club, the Super Hogs – and the Hogs frequented the Road Chop Shop. Anderson raced for a few seasons before moving back down South. Bucklin worked for Aubin for a season or two before moving over to such teams as Hector LeClaire, J P LaRose, and the Remo Pizzagalli group. Aubin's shadowy background soon made it impossible for him to get into the U.S. So, that was that.
One page feature several ads, one of which was E & E Tires, from that same Riverside Avenue as was home to Anderson's tranny business. Manny LeBlanc, E & E's main man, produced retreads – and those tires became the tire of choice for Catamount's burgeoning Hurricane Division. The Hurricanes, which started out as automatic transmission monsters which lurched and screeched around the corners at Catamount, soon evolved into an effective class, with increasingly – skilled regulars, who could run through the corners with less noise than today's Tigers at Barre. Part of that was – no doubt – due in part to Manny's tires.
Courtesy of Wayne Bettis
WKDR and E & E Tire – right at the top of the page. Below – Peter B Guibard
awards a trophy to Wild Bill Branham at Airborne in the early to mid '70s.
Bob Mackey Photo Courtesy of John Rock
Sharing the page with E & E, was an ad for WKDR, Plattsburgh, a classic AM station in a time when FM had not swept the market. The station was owned by the Guibard family, of which the son, Peter, would play some important roles in racing at this time. Peter B. Guibard tried racing a bit, but his main contributions came in other areas. First, as a co – promoter at Airborne, he would handle some of the reporting and microphone interviews there and at Catamount. He, along with men such as Ernie Mason [Mason Dodge] and NASCAR driver Bob Brunell are credited with saving Airborne from what seemed to be a fate such as closure or even destruction during some lean years in the 1970's.
WKDR went through various phases, including country and talk radio, but it always supported the local racing scene. Guibard, who also dabbled with the promotion of local rock bands centered around the Saxony Lounge in Rouses Point, NY, remained on the scene until into the 1980's. It is not clear if the station is still operating now. WKDR and Ken Squier's WDEV were real flagships of racing coverage at a time when the local television stations were not as supportive as they currently are.
Courtesy of Chris Companion
Peter B. Guibard  in Hurricane action with Milo Lockerby and Denny Alderman. Below – John Keefer's Catamount Program payout.
Courtesy of Wayne Bettis
One of my favorite ads at that time took up an entire program page. John Keefer's garage was operating in the Burlington area while John [my next door neighbor for a few years] was the chief brains behind the engines on Bobby Dragon's unbeatable 1964 Chevelle in the 1972 and 73 seasons. Known for complete cleanliness at a time when most garages were grease pits, the Keefer garage put out some beautiful racing engines in a time before those teams were sending out to Hoehns and Eanes for their power plants.
It was every man for himself in racing then. Each teams chose what tire brands they would run, and they were on their own to get a competitive engine into the car. Many guys simply built their own; a few with money to spend would go see John Keefer. Andy Costello was just developing his craft and Ricky Paya was still in my classes at Milton Elementary School. Ironically, now Keefer works for Paya, at least part of the time at Paya's well – known RPM shop in Georgia, VT. Keefer and Dragon, along with the rest of that exceptional crew that taught a young Steve Hibbard the ropes, had quite a run with those red Chevelles and Venturas in that era.
Burlington Free Press Photo Courtesy of Wayne Bettis
Bob Dragon and John Keefer [glasses] look very worried here with that unbelievably succesful 1964 Chevelle, but they seldom had any cause to
be. Below – Paulie “The Other Paul” Robar, with the fast Shattuck – built Ford he had for a while.
Courtesy of Cho Lee
Two small ads were from Paul's Citgo and Ray's Phillips 66. Paulie Robar, Winooski – born son of a local mason, was running his little station on the same Riverside Avenue as Anderson and LeBlanc. Paul would buy a fast Hurricane from 50's racing legend Rex Shattuck and proceed to have a good run in that support class until the car burned. He would leave his gas station and wrecker in the background and buy out the Benway Taxi Company. With that and his own MORF Transit, Robar would be the taxi king of Burlington until his premature death in 2013. He was a really good guy back then. He was sometimes referred to as “the other Paul Robar”, as Beaver Dragon's outspoken car co – owner had the same name [no relation].
Ray Lepage had a prime gas station and towing location right across from the Shelburne Museum, right where that Jiffy Mart is now. Ray started out as a regular tow truck vehicle at Catamount Stadium before his older son, Rick, fielded a Mercury late model sportsman. Rick gave it the old college try, but racing was just not in the cards for the shy, soft – spoken kid. Ray, himself, wheeled the car briefly before the younger Kevin Lepage took over, at age 17 and never looked back. Just as Blake's wrecker is a fixture at Thunder Road since its inception, Ray's wrecker was the same at the relatively shorter – lived Catamount Stadium.
Courtesy of Chris Companion
Here's Ray Lepage's great location – right by Shelburne Museum. Below – Bobby Allison's visiting
Coke late models kept the soft drink in the forefront in the 1970's.
Courtesy of Phil Butler
Even the innocuous Coke ad tells a story. Coca – Cola was the thing back in the earlier late model sportsman days. You did see the occasional Pepsi ad, as was on one of the Moe Dubois Dodge Chargers; but, Coke was reigning supreme at the time. Not only did they have the big ad in the program, but they were sponsoring Ron Barcomb, the 1970 Vermont State Champion and the guy with that attention – grabbing Ford Torino. Then, too, the first big guest star driver was Bobby Allison [driving a Barcomb backup car at Catamount ads early as 1972] and Allison was fully involved with Coke at the time. Later on, of course, Pepsi and Skip Farrell would come into the picture big – time with the splashy #91 Beaver Dragon team. I can't help but wonder if Catamount switched over to Pepsi in the concessions at that time to keep a big sponsor happy. I am not sure. I know, it still has Thunder Road now.
Courtesy of Dave Brunelle
Dave Brunelle and Karl Bushey's Coke Yellow Ford Tiger was a Coca – cola entry before Ron Barcomb's more famous Coke Machines later [below].
The Brunelle car is actually sitting at the Coke bottlers' garage in this photo.
Seeing the Burlington Lincoln – Mercury ads brings back memories of my being hired by Danny Perez to letter some of his cars when he was sponsored by that dealership. [Yup, he ran a Buick for a Lincoln – Mercury dealership]. Perez, whom I talked to in July, recalls my being down in his section of the repair facility to rework some lettering on his late model – which I think was a blue Buick Regal. It started out with a fancy gold contact number 2, which I had been summoned to redo quickly in simpler white paint [along with some of the Burlington Lincoln – Mercury ad].
Denis LaChance Photo
Dan Perez enters Catamount with the Burlington Lincoln – Mercury Buick [figure that out].
Below – The above - mentioned Rick Lepage with an actual Mercury for the sponsor.
Courtesy of Jim Watson
Perez kept that car for a while; my favorite graphic job was when he had it in yellow. But, the point of this story was that garage. Over to one side, in a kind of dark corner sat a Lincoln Town car with windows so dark you could have never seen inside. That was the point, according to Dan, who really wanted me to just come back – away from the car. But I had noticed the bullets holes. Perez, looking around a bit nervously, turned up the country music a bit and explained some details in a low voice.
Apparently the dealership was somehow tied in with some other ones in or near Boston; and these were indirectly tied in with Red Sox star Carl Yazstremski. Apparently, the Burlington dealership would supply these town cars when needed and take in those that needed to be gone from the Boston area. So, Catamount was getting some “interesting” support from organizations both north of the border and now, Boston. I knew enough then to shut up and stop asking questions. We laughed about it a bit at Thunder Road this year [but not too loudly].
Johnny Spafford checks out Dick Pennock's new sportsman at Fairmont Speedway around 1965. Below- the Spafford – backed Quenneville Chevelle.
The last ad of interest was that of Spafford and Sons Water Well Drillers. Coming out of the small Rutland Country town of Castleton Four Corners, this seemed like a sponsor better suited for Devil's Bowl. Rest assured, John Spafford was in that program, too. That group had come on board when C.J. Richards got his programs to be used by Catamount and Thunder Road, as well as his tracks of Devil's Bowl and Airborne. Johnny Spafford, first the son and then the principal owner, had been around C.J.'s tracks since their inception in 1962.
Russ Shaw, one of Spafford's important employees, had done well enough driving cars in his local area [Fairmont and Devil's Bowl] to attract a pavement ride with Poultney's well – to – do car owner Dooger Jones, who had made a fortune after he managed a monopoly on the trucking work for Avon cosmetics out of New Jersey. Shaw drove both Jones' modified cars – the black 8VT [a former Jack Dubrul car] and the 25 VT at Catamount and probably the Albany – Saratoga Speedway [which had been created about the same time as Catamount]. Later on, Spafford helped a consortium of people including Richards to field a late model sportsman Chevelle for Vince Quenneville, Sr.
Courtesy of Norm Vadnais
Johnny Spafford, with Quenneville, at Devil's Bowl. Below – The CVRA's program, which was the foreunner of Northern NASCAR's program.
Courtesy of Wayne Bettis
Quenneville started out with a 1968 Chevelle, and he managed to be arguably the most successful of all the Devil's Bowl drivers who tried their luck on the Northern NASCAR circuit in 1972. After a rough learning season with the '68 Chevelle [numbered 69], Quenneville and group came out with a better car, a 1964 Chevelle. At that time, Spafford stepped back and Rutland's Stowell Chevrolet became the primary sponsor. Quenneville won a feature at Airborne with this car. Spafford was always in the background with both cars.
Spafford and Sons eventually moved a part of their business to the northern part of the state, but the company eventually disappeared from the Catamount programs [probably about when Richards and the CVRA pulled out and went back to dirt]. Some ads seemed out of place in a stock car program. Case in point, Suburban Distributors, a Winnebago dealer. It would seem at the time when no touring was being done by the Northern NASCAR drivers, that anyone buying a Winnebago would likely be pulling out for parts unknown; and – therefore – wouldn't be at the local races. But Suburban pointed out that they had the “largest Bear front end and frame straightening machine in the Northeast”. Racing ? Bent frames ? There ya go !
Courtesy of Wayne Bettis
Frame straightening, anyone ? Below- Bobby Giroux's “Shift to the Howard” was good for a couple of seasons before the bank “turned to the Dragon”.
The last advertising sponsor always seemed to take the back cover and color their ad whatever color the front cover was that week: the Howard Bank. The Howard was a heavy player for a while, through their Bank Americard division. My friend who worked at the Howard warned me this would stop as soon as whomever was President of the bank at the time got replaced. He did.... and the money dried up. But, in the meantime, The Howard first put Bobby Giroux on the map with its “Shift to the Howard” campaign and the very noticeable Bank Americard on the trunk lid with Giroux's signature.
Then, just as quickly, the bank dropped Giroux after two seasons, changed the slogan to “Turn to the Howard” and put Bobby Dragon's signature on his giant Bank Americard on the truck. I recall the fun of redoing this big credit card when Bob's car was rear – ended and needed a whole new trunk lid. The Howard apparetnly changed Presidents after a season or two with Dragon because he ended up moving over to Jack Dubrul's Automaster Motors for a main sponsor.
Bob Mackey Photo Courtesy of Dave Brown
The Bob Dragon team ended up with the Howard sponsor, and even painted up their school bus hauler for the part. Here, they
needed to redo the graphics, and that's when I got to do the giant credit card on the trunk lid.
I think people get as much fun of the old programs for the ads as they do for the driver rosters or those grainy photos the programs contained. Looking at some ad like Vermont Transit or Big Ben Pizza brings back a flood of memories if you lived in that region back then. Pick an old program up at a flea market and enjoy it.
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: email@example.com . For those who still don’t like computers - my regular address is: Bill Ladabouche, 23 York Street, Swanton, Vermont 05488.
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