PHOTOS WITH A TON OF STORY BEHIND THEM
Those of us who really don't have anything much better to do spend our time delving through thousands of old racing photos, looking for the obscure ones. Sometimes the subject matter is what is unique; more often it is the story behind the photo that is what attracts our attention. I was scrolling through my most recent images file [#23 and already too large] when I got to thinking that some of those shots were really just covers to a full book on that particular driver, track, car, or whatever. Here are some of them - with hopes to add more later.
Courtesy of Bill Farress
A young Bill Farress is thrilled here to be allowed to look inside the 38 of Ken Meahl,
who was driving the Jerry Cook - owned sportsman coupe at NASCAR tracks such
as [in this case] the Monroe County Fairgrounds near Rochester, NY. This is cool on many levels. Unlike many kids his age, Bill was not altogether unfamiliar with the
world of stock cars. His father brought him to see them often. But it is likely he was
still reflecting on what it must be like to sit in that spartan interior and operate
a snarling 327 C.I. sportman while fending off dozens more all around him. It was one thing to see these cars at their garages; it was another to be near one while it was still hot
and pinging from a night of action. The other thing to keep in mind was that Cook, the
owner and builder of this car, was really not much more than two or three years
older than Bill Faress here. The story of Cook as a teenager in racing is a
highly remarkable one. Meahl, who started racing in the old roadster cars at
South Seneca Speedway would hel;p out Cook until Jerry was old enough to
drive the cars himself. Meahl went on to Snediker's 28, out of Rochester and to
a number of other rides before retiring.
Midstate Club Photo
This seemingly innocuous shot is Jerry Townley of Catskill, NY making a rare appearance
at the Olive Bridge Speedway in Onteora, NY with Tom Chewins' orange #108
sportsman. At the highly - competitive Fonda Speedway, Townly and Chewins were
largely backmarkers. The first time I ever saw the car race there, it tried very hard
to burn to the ground on the backstretch. But the pair would also travel, and - in so doing
- would achieve successes not possible for them at Fonda. They had more success at Victoria Speedway in Dunnsville, NY racing many of the same teams as at Fonda. They once caught one of C.J. Richards' season - ending races at the Vermont State Fairgrounds in Rutland.
Enjoying the advantage of being an overhead V-8 among flatheads, Townley won one of the
last races ever allowed at that venue. It is not known how he did at Onteora that day. The car apparently later saw a little action at Lebanon Valley with Dick Hansen after Townley
had gone over to Pop Wilcox's better - performing 32.
Midstate Club Photo
Tommy Ellis was a big winner on this day at the Susquehanna Speedway in the
Pennsylvania town of the same name. A Vestal, NY native, Ellis was one of
many Empire Staters who would cross the state line and race at tracks in
the Keystone State. This Tommy Ellis was a helluva shoe; but he never achieved
the fame he may have because of the other Tommy Ellis - Terrible Tommy Ellis
from Richmond, VA. Running in the much - better - publicized NASCAR late
model division, that Tommy Ellis was actually a national champion; but, his
propensity for rough driving and a myriad of fights with everyone from other
drivers to officials to whoever pissed him off earned him the nickname that
stuck despite his best efforts to change the image.
Bob McDowell Photo via Dave Dykes
Phil Walters, aka Ted Tappett looks here like one of the thousands of 1950's
stock car drivers seen all over the Northeast while there were so many short - lived race tracks.
Apparently nicknaming himself after an engine part to throw off suspicious parents,
Tappett was in the mold of such as Wally Dallenbach, Sr, Frankie Schneider, Bentley
Warren, and others who elevated themselves from the stock car bullrings to perform
in bigger leagues of auto racing. In Tappett's case, it was two - fold: he had driven
midgets before WWII and, after some time with the coupe shown above, he was offered
a ride with wealthy sports car developer and owner Briggs Cunnigham. While not
exactly lighting Europe on fire yet, he and Cunningham were very dominant on
this side of the Atlantic. When Tappett was a close witness to the LeVegh crash that killed over
80 people at LeMans, he retired from auto racing for good, then and there.
Dave Fulton Photo
Racing writers covering Massachusetts native Red Foote delight in relating a
story about how some local young fans developed a real interest in him, thinking
[with that name] he was a racing Native American. I suppose he could have also been a driver needing more insulation on the floor of his car. Red became one of the famous
Eastern Bandits, along with Eddie Flemke, Rene Charland, and Dennis Zimmerman.
The bandits invaded Southern modified bastions like SouthSide Speedway. The
Northeastern coupes, while having less horsepower, were lighter and had better
handling due to innvations like the "Flemke front end". While the others cleaned
up and went back north within a year or two, Foote remained in the South and
became a regular at places like Langley Field. He tooled the Junie Donleavy
#90 coupe there before Sonny Hutchins.
C ourtesy of Dan Ody
The fine folks at the beer booth at the Pine Bowl Speedway near Snyders Corners, NY
mug it up with a beer bottle during a break in their busy afternoon. The rest of the
Pine Bowl venue was about as bucolic as this building - maybe worse. It was one
of those no - frills tracks that survived the initial blooming of tracks in the
early 1950's. But, unlike most of them, it survived into the 1960's before closing.
While always the poor cousin in the bunch the Bowl saw many of the same teams
that ran such venues as Riverside Park Speedway, Agawam, MA, Dutchess
County Speedway, Rhinebeck, NY, and the Empire Raceway in Menands, NY.
The PIne Bowl would see the likes of Ed Flemke, Leo Cleary, Doug Garrison,
Tommy Corellis, Buddy Krebs, and more - running against a bunch of lesser - known
drivers who were, in their own right - very accomplished within a smaller region.
The track is still there to find if you can get by the hostile landowner.
One of the great regrets of my life as a racing historian is that I never got to talk
to Ernie Gahan. Laughlingly [but respectfully] referred to as "Ernie from Cow Hampshire"
in the Fonda book, Gahan truly made a living racing in a region that did not offer much of a
chance to do that. Unlike the Schneiders and Cagles of the world, who made a living in
much larger, more - populated area, Gahan was working out of Dover, NH - beginning
his career at such little - known places as Safford Park Speedway, Keene, NH; Brattleboro
Speedway, West Brattleboro, VT, and others. It is said, he'd go off for a week of
racing, leaving every cent he could for his wife to manage the household. He would have to
often sleep in or under his truck and do that delicate juggling act between racing hard to
place high, and keeping his equipment in the best shape possible. He also had to eat
occasionally. When he would drive for well - heeled R.I. owner Sonny Koszella, life
was a little easier; but he still did most of the work and all the driving. An amazing man !
Norwood Arena Website
The year  Ernie Gahan won the NASCAR National Modified Championship [through sheer
bulk of racing schedule as well as skill], Don MacTavish, from Dover, MA won the
sportsman title. MacTavish, an unbelievably talented driver who had the fortune to drive for
a few more good owners than did Gahan, often projected a kind of clean cut image. Here, he is
seen with Cub Scouts and their pinewood derby cars. Don't let the college kid image fool you.
MacTavish was quite a devil, and had a lot of fun while succeeding highly in racing before his
untimely death at Daytona. My favorite MacTavish nonsense was the graphics on
the Circle J cars: with the car number referring to circle jerk, the truck lid bore an ad
called The Symbol of Safety with a Trojan warrior in the middle. Somehow, I don't think
the rubber company was putting much money into the cars; but Don - who got his big
start winning a demo derby on Wide World of Sports, was likely getting a lot of laughs
from the whole affair.
NE Open Wheelers Photo
This #1 midget appeared all over the Northeast with drivers like Jerry Russo [above] and Walter Gale at the wheel. I couldn't help but notice the ad on the hood for Les King Photos.I briefly knew Les before is very poor health did him in a few years ago. Les told me he traveled around in the early '50's with a team of sorts: himself, as photographer; Chet Hames, as the flagger; and Red Wildey as the announcer. Sometimes a fourth man whose name I cannot retrieve also how the group heard of the opening of a new track at the Montgomery County fairgrounds in Fonda, NY. Wildey and Hames lit out quickly to grab those jobs at the new track; King, who apparetnly did not have a car, could not get a ride for quite a while. When he did make it to Fonda, Russ Bergh, From Middleborojugh, had landed the camera job. Disgusted with his "buddies" King drifted from stock car racing into the midgets. I did see his work at my first track, Pico Raceway, in Rutland, VT however. I prize these shots.
Around 1953, a young bespectacled farm boy arrived at the St. Lawrence Valley Speedway in
Canton, NY with a 1937 Ford coupe in which he gone halves with a friend. The pair did not
amount ot much inthat first race, but Bill Wimble did imporve steadily after that. By 1955 he
was track champion at the compeitive Airborne Park Speedway in Plattsburgh. Soon thereafter,
he began racing around the bigger - venued Fonda Speedway where, after a stint with a few
owners, he would take up with Sherburne, NY car dealer Dave McCready wose black and red
#S33's were obviously high quality equipment thanks - in large part - to ace mechanic
Fred DeCarr. Wimble would have a career that included back to back NASCAR National Sportman championships at the beginning of the 1960's. Bill raced for years, finally packing it in after some serious injuries from a wreck at Lebanon Valley.
Earl Vierling Photo for the Burlington Free Press
All hell breaks loose in the Catamount Stadium Flying Tiger division around 1966.
Hometown Milton, VT driver "Sliding Don" Bilodeau is in the process of dumping a
once - beautiful 1957 Chevy on the ARMCO barriers in turn three while eventual winner
Wild Bill Branham gets by in the Plymouth #13. No one familiar with Branham or with racing in that area at that time would recognize him driving Al Mesec's good - looking #13 that day.
Branham, a New York driver with the potential to be a superstar, never had the kind
of financial backing to really take off. He usually drove his trademark black and gold
#55 "Goldfinger" cars. Catamount would get rid of most of that damned ARMCO by
1967 and Branham would drive on and off - with varying degrees of success. His youngest
brother, Brian Bucko" Branham would go on to legendary status at Airborne Park
Speedway in Plattsburgh, NY.
Half Fast Video Photo
In case you may not have noticed, that is the driver coming out the hole in the roof
of this flipping car. The pre - 1936 Fords did not come with a solid roof, and many teams
either left the hole open or patched it with a flimsy, tack - welded sheet of tin. This very fate
claimed the enormously popular and successful Duncan "Rebel" Harris at Onteora and
eventually led NASCAR to ban pre 1936 bodies from its modified and sportsman
cars., thus leading to uproar at Fonda surrounding Bob Mott's #3. The car, with the
old body, was tearing up the track at Fonda with driver Pete Corey. Corey won a ton of races
before NASCAR finally pulled the plug on the car. The tempestuous body man
from Crescent, NY nearly went through the roof without a rollover, but NASCAR did not budge.
At worst, they had a grumpy driver who was frequently already grumpy; at best, they had
a more competitive rest of that season.
Midstate Club Photo
Maple Grove Speedway in Waterloo, NY may not have been Langhorne, Trenton,
or even Fonda - but it had some fantastic racing featuring some great names in the
history of New York state racing. One point standing sheet shows the likes of
Screaming Sammy Reakes, John McArdell, Larry Nye, Cliff Kotary, and Ken Meahl.
But, at least for that time period shown on the standings sheet, the track was being
dominated by a guy named Bobby Cain and his car, the Flying Bathtub. From Auburn, NY,
Cain is well - known in the central part of the state and he made appearances at the
major races like Langhorne and Syracuse. That old sedan, hnowever, had to be one
the least attractive cars I've seen - but it apparently flew.
This photo of a supermodifed tangle involves a who's who of New England Super Modified Association [NESMRA] racing: Eddie West  and the 0 of Dynamite Ollie Silva. The wreck would have happened probably at the Hudson Speedway, Hudson, NH or at The Pines, in Groveland, MA. These supers were basically motors on wheel with a seat, and lightweight, so getting them apart may not have been all that big of a deal. However, take a good look at the rear of Silva's 0. The rear bumper is pushed in and that flimsy - looking fuel tank has been dented. A ruptured tank in one of those babies was no laughing matter. Later in hnis career, when severely limited in movement by terrible arthritis, West would be caught in a newer super when it burst into flames. All the immobile West could do was struggle up onto one of the wings and lie there, on his back, until resuers waded into the flames and extracted him.
Stock Car Racers Reunion Photo
Carl Kiekhaefer and his fleet of huge Chrysler cars were pretty much all the talk in
NASCAR's Grand National Division from 1955 through 1956. They won most of the
races and the manic Kiekhaefer would protest every car that beat them. The photo above shows preparations on the next generation Kiekhaefer Outboard cars - equally huge and lumbering 1957 Chryslers. However, in the off season when NASCAR would not knuckle under
to Kiekhaefer's suggestions for rules and - instead - issued rules that would clip the
wings of the multi - car team a little, Carl left in a huff, disappearing almost fast as
he had burst onto the scene. These behemoths really never were raced.
Justin St. Louis Photo
Brian "Bucko" Branham has accrued a long list of feature wins and track championships in
what is becoming a very long career. Coming from a racing family that saw four brothers drive
successfully, at one point or another since the late 1950's, Bucko is the youngest and the most successful.This success, as you can see, has come from dogged determination and an unwavering focus on the business at hand. Bucko is NEVER distracted from what has to be done to hone his equipment to keep that competitive edge.
Courtesy of Dave Dykes
This is Dick Dixon, of Warehouse Point, Ct. A very successful driver with
good resources behind him, Dixon ran stock cars and the late model
Grand American cars for Harvery Tattersall's United Stock Car Racing
Club. For years, guys around my age have asked the question, what the
hell is rubber welding ? We'd seen it on Dixon cars and on those of Ed Winn
with driver Charlie Morse. I finally stumbled across the answer one day
[on the internet, of course]. Apparently it was what they used to call the
process for recapping tires, Great looking car, Dick ! I saw him run a 1960
Ford Grand American car at the fairgrounds in Rutland, VT once.
Courtesy of Joe Staiger
Future legendary flagger Chet Hames looks bored with it all as he
stands with Frank Staiger at the old McGregor Speedway, just outside
of Saratoga Springs in Wilton, NY. Beside him is co-flagger Frank Staiger,
whose family was heavily involved in the track. In the next race, Frank went
out and was hit by a car, making Hames the flagger by default. He would go one to
make the most of that, flagging colorfully at nearby tracks like Pico Raceway,
Rutland, VT and - later - at Fonda. Harold Kyer [P61] shown behind them was not the
guy who clobbered Frank, who had had enough after that.
Burlington Free Press - Associated Press
Up in our neck of the woods, this was a big sports story a while ago - the death
of Lou Lucier, the oldest living former Boston Red Sox player. His town of
Northbridge, MA was in the northernmost part of the state and quite close
to tracks like Stateline Speedway, North Bennington, VT. One set of final
points standings from that track includes, in the top twenty, one Lou Lucier.
Given that Lucier's bio mentions involvement in the machine and automotive
trades, I really believe he is that same Lou Lucier. If we had any way to
prove it, it would be quite the story for racing and baseball.
Courtesy of Dave Dykes
This shot is from back in the cutdown days. Given that those cars were phased
out for safety reasons quite a long time ago, it must be from around 1952.
The driver is "Moneybags Moe" Gherzi, and the car is one of the
first from the reknowned Garuti brothers stable. I am embarrassed to
say I don't know which Garuti is standing with Gherzi, who went on
to be a promoter later. Between he Garuti car 14 and the 28 [both of
which often ran the Ray's garage sponsorship], they hired so many
top drivers that I don't even dare try yet to do a page on them. It will take forever
to see who else besides Gherzi, Ed Flemke, and Smokey Boutwell are
included in the Garuti driver lineup. I bet it is close to 24.
Bib Frazier Photo Ladabouche Collection
March 14, 2015 - This is one of my favorite photos ever. When a young C.J. Richards decided to reopen the old Fairmont Speedway, one of the guys he talked into participating in the opening show was Clarence "Butch" Jelley, from Pownal. Jelley's car attracted a lot of attention because it would spew flames out the two large openings in the truck. Car owner Ed Winn [who had been at the old track with driver Charlire Morse ] had developed a sort pof Venturi Effect exhaust system that allowed for the fire show. Butch stayed around C.J. for decades -
on and off.
John Grady Photo
March 14, 2015 - A teenaged John Danish amuses his famous father and an unidentified crew member at Fonda. The fussy and particular Danish was probably happy to have his son right where he could keep tabs. John once told me he had become friends with the son of Fonda promoter Ed Fuez. The two kids had commandeered the Fonda pace car during a particularly long intermission and had taken to the track for a few hot laps. According to John, the pair almost managed to put the car into the canal off the backstretch. I wouldn't have wanted to be either one of those kids seeing as Steve was very straight - laced and Fuez hated anything that
cost unnecessary money.
From the Shoemaker Book - Photographer Unknown
March 14, 2015 - A very young Don Wayman, appropriately decked out in the style of the day,poses with an early ride at somewhere like Richfield Springs or maybe
even Fonda. After a spectacular crash involving Jerry Jerome in which he
was left hanging out his driver's window, unconscious, Wayman went on to
become one of the most widely - traveled hired drivers in the history of
New York stock car racing. He drove for Harold Betts, Frank Trinkhaus,
Russ Betz, the Brodericks, and many more car owners. However, I have
always felt his time spent with the Wright / Zautner Toll Gate Ice Cream
cars in the 1960's provided him with his best rides.
Mark 312 Photo
March 14, 2015 - When Francis Affleck first appeared at Catamount Stadium, he had
a Ford in the automatic tranny Hurricane division. This seemed fine, as several
Canadians were trying their hand at the entry class there. But, soon after, he
disappeared only to return with a Ford Torino late model sportsman. We all sort of
looked at one another because he hadn't really demonstrated mastery of the
support class car yet. He is best remembered in the LMS for running Bob Dragon
off the track - mostly because he wasn't ready to drive at that level. Wouldn't you know ? - he then moved down South and began renting cars from Bill Hollar in the Grand Nationals
[Fords, of course]. He was killed on the track within a year or so. Sadly, we could
see that one coming from a mile away.
MORE TO COME LATER
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