WEEKLY COLUMN/BLOG PAGE
BILL’S BACK IN TIME
By Bill Ladabouche
THE WHITING RACING COMMUNITY:
A SMALL REGION OF VERMONT WITH A HUGE IMPACT ON STOCK CAR RACING
It is very arguable that there may have been no more closely – knit racing community anywhere than the Rutland and Addison County, Vermont area around Devil’s Bowl – from the late 1950’s through the end of the Twentieth Century. I don’t believe that racing in most of the state would have survived [given the hostility of state policy, as driven by Act 250] if the only remaining race track in the southern half of Vermont had not had the strength of this community to sustain it.
Ancestry.Com Site Map
The two adjoining townships of Brandon and Whiting form the core of the
closely – knit racing community that supported CVRA tracks.
This “community” had, at its center, the townships of Whiting and Brandon, which – although small in size, produced an impressive number of racing drivers, owners, and mechanics – proportionally – huge for their size and populations. This community of individuals, while beginning to form before, largely was born in the creation of the Otter Creek Speedway, near Vergennes, and the re – opening of the old Fairmont Speedway, in Fair Haven.
Courtesy of Mark LeFrancois
Kids check out the Al Danish 61Jr. at the Fairmont Park Motor Speedway. It was up to mostly Rutland County Vermonters to defend the honor of the start against invaders like Danish.
Records and accounts of racing in the early 1950’s, particularly around Rutland County, do not bear out many names from these towns. The city of Rutland and the towns of Fair Haven and Castleton supplied more of the participants in those days; but, as Otter Creek was opening late in the 1961 season, there begins to appear a number of Addison County teams in its hobby division, running against the remnants of once – huge Colchester, Vermont racing scene. Names like Vic Love, George Rogers, and Jerry King – all Rutland County guys – are the ones heard the most.
In 1961, with the Champlain Valley Racing Association and its Fairmont track still only in the mind of C.J. Richards, the Otter Creek track was seeing the likes of Ed Foley, of Leicester, and Chet Streeter, from Whiting. The track would also be the first place where future Hall of fame – caliber driver Vince Quenneville, Sr. would drive regularly. The Whiting driver had tried the Colchester – Bayview Speedway, in Malletts Bay [Colchester], but that was only a cameo appearance [and he had Streeter’s car].
Courtesy of the Dick Nephew Family
This official NASCAR point standings list shows the presence of several local drivers in the track’s support class, which ran in with the more powerful NASCAR sportsman cars. Dragon and Quenneville would go on to Hall of Fame recognition; Foley and Brown should have received it , too.
Others appearing at Otter Creek with some regularity in that first bumpy, dusty season were Middlebury’s Herby Swan, with his purple 8 Ball, and Phil Russell, of Sudbury, who shared his yellow and black Hudson called “Checkmate” with Whiting driver John Quenneville [no relation to Vince]. Ansel Quintin, coming from just north of Vergennes in Charlotte, and Vergennes’ own Homer Hamel were other locals who seemed to be never heard from again after that year at Otter Creek.
Courtesy of Norm Vadnais
Vince Quenneville, with the first Norm Scarborough won not only at Otter Creek, but also at Fairmont Speedway.
The next year, while Otter Creek [ a NASCAR – sanction track] struggled along with small crowds and small fields, C.J. Richards opened up his first CVRA track, Fairmont Speedway. The half – mile tracks, located at the long – closed Fair Haven fairgrounds, had run races as Fairmont Park Motor Speedway ten years before. Although his headlining teams were mostly from New Hampshire, with several from New York, Richards did draw several teams from that are immediately surrounding Fair Haven.
The Castleton, Rutland, and Fair Haven communities always supported Fairmont with several racing teams, but their sheer quantity advantage did not outweigh the closeness and cohesiveness of the group that would form out of the Whiting / Brandon neighborhood, as time went on. As was mentioned before, Fairmont was dominated by New Hampshire and New York racing teams, most of whom had many years’ head start over the Vermont teams.
Bob Mackey Photo Courtesy of John Rock
Leicester’s Ed “Peanut” Foley leads a field of hobby cars and snarling NASCAR sportsman coupes at Otter Creek Speedway. Foley would go on to star with this car and much better ones for years to come.
Along with Castleton’s George Rogers and Manchester Depot’s Gene Tetrault, the honor of Vermont was held up by the Whiting team of Vince Quenneville and owner / builder Norman Scarborough. Ed Foley and Phil Russell also made the trip down to Fairmont, splitting time with Otter Creek. When Fairmont was getting ready to close down in 1966, all of these names [with the exception of Russell] were still very prominent at the track. As a matter of fact, the final two years’ track titles were won by the Vermont teams of Al Ryan [with NY driver Roger Gauthier] and Quenneville – then driving for another Whiting owner, Gael Dundon.
Gater Racing News Photo from the Fonda Speedway History Book
Austin Dickerman [right] talks to equally – flamboyant New York car owner, Joe Leto, at Fonda Speedway. Below – This photo captured a number of the “Community”: Ray Richards, Steady Eddie Allen, Mal Brown, Norm Scarborough [behind], Al Ryan, and Austin Dickerman.
Mike Richards Photo
As Richards began his signature track, Devil’s Bowl Speedway, Otter Creek had long since fallen by the wayside, even though he had tried to keep it afloat for two seasons. As Devil’s Bowl developed, so did the rapidly – growing Whiting / Brandon racing community. The center of this community [a racing town hall of sorts] was a small used car business south of Brandon. Dickerman’s Motor City [Money Talks and Nobody Walks] was run by flamboyant Austin Dickerman. The Dickerman office was almost always the site of an informal confab with any number of local racing figures, ranging from famous drivers, to owners, to nobodies – in – particular.
Laduc Family Photo
Old Reliable, Charlie Laduc, was one of the most loyal supporters of the CVRA tracks. Although he did not start out at Otter Creek Speedway, his first sportsman car did – with Dick Hawkins.
By the end of the 1960’s, Quenneville was back with Scarborough; Dundon, while out of the sport, remained in touch; Orwell’s racing farmer, Charlie Laduc was a consistent figure at the Bowl; Al and Clayton Ryan both fielded cars with a variety of drivers; Foley had developed into a headliner at the Bowl and at Lebanon Valley; Shoreham’s Harry Duffany, Jr. and his connection, the Elithorpe Family were rising, as was Whiting’s Charbonneau bunch. All up and down Route 22A, in towns from Fair Haven up to Bridport, new talent was popping up to take the places of retirees like West Haven’s own Ray Richards and Fair Haven’s Jim Spaulding.
Dickerman, himself, began to own cars and had become almost more famous than his drivers, his blue and yellow #357’s appearing not only at Devil’s Bowl but at the big venues of Fonda and Lebanon Valley – with a number of high – profile drivers at the controls. Dickerman did have big – name chauffeurs like Butch Jelley and Eddie Delmolino; but he also put drivers from “the community” such as Quenneville and Foley behind the wheel.
Cavalcade of Auto Racing Photo
Core community members Rudy Charbonneau, Ed Foley, and Allen Pidgeon pose with an early Charbonneau car at Fairmont. We recently lost Charbonneau.
Eventually, a large number of the Whiting / Brandon community began to drop out and retire. It was positively chilling how this played out. Somewhere along the way, some of the folks who had stuck with Richards for many of his almost thirty years of promotion were dropping by the wayside. Charlie LaDuc, nicknamed “Old Reliable” partly because he never failed to support the CVRA, died of a heart attack at his Orwell farm in August of 1985. Brandon used car dealer and flamboyant car owner, Austin Dickerman, died a few days later. The huge, curmudgeonly Whiting car builder Norm Scarborough died on the exact same days as his friend, Dickerman – one year later.
Vince Quenneville [leaning against car] and Gael Dundon [kneeling] formed one of the most formidable teams from the Whiting / Brandon area. Below – Harry Duffany bought the first Quenneveille / Dundon car and ran it as a sportsman in 1965 - #71. Here, in 1966, it sits next to the recently – lowered Dundon sportsman coupe at Fairmont.
Vince Quenneville arguably the greatest star the area ever produced was killed [again, in August] while doing his truck driving job along Interstate 87. Tom Perry – Richards friend and Bowl announcer, nearly got himself killed in 1984, when he and Roger Scarborough had a horrible crash in the middle of the night, coming home from a program at Albany – Saratoga.. Tom would die of more natural causes in October of 1990. Gael Dundon, who served as a three – year car owner for Quenneville in the 1960’s, passed away in March of 1992 while still building up a very successful business that ran not far up Route 22A from Devil’s Bowl.
Courtesy of Norm Vadnais
Phil Russell and his Checkmate Hudsons were a strong force from 1961 to around 1964 at Otter Creek and Fairmont Speedways. Here, he wins a heat and gets the flag from Danny Rumpf at Fairmont.
The CVRA and Devil’s Bowl subsequently soldiered on – having periods of feast and famine, until the Richards family sold the Bowl in 2011. C.J. Richards, having been in poor health for years, passed away around the same time as the sale of the track. Today, with new ownership, a paved surface at the Bowl, and very different conditions in the economy, the biggest evidence of the once – thriving racing community to the northeast of the track is to be found in conversations among small groups of older men who hang out in the pits and watch the action.
The Whiting / Brandon racing community produced Hall of Famer Vince Quenneville, whose son, Vince , Jr. runs at Devil’s Bowl today. His irascible car owner, Norm Scarborough while deserving to be in a hall of fame somewhere, is best remembered through his nephew, Don, and his two sons – all of whom are racing. Various members of the Charbonneau, Munger, Lussier, Laduc, and Ryan families served as drivers, mechanics, crew chiefs, and owners – primarily before the Bowl was repaved in 2010. Austin Dickerman is long gone, and the Motor City became a Hulbert Supply store.
Courtesy of the LaFond Family
Benson’s Gene Munger is a community member of long standing.
It is almost a complete certainly that Devil’s Bowl will never again be a dirt track, although new owner Mike Bruno has dreams of putting a dirt track in a pasture beyond the original track. If that unlikely thing ever happens, the surviving members of the community and their descendents will probably come out of the woodwork.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org . For those who still don’t like computers - my regular address is: Bill Ladabouche, 23 York Street, Swanton, Vermont 05488.
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