Hardluck Hanaford : A
Second Wave of Stories
This was done considerably later than the first Hanaford column. Although
there is some overlap, I think this has quite a bit of fresh info, as well. ]
Around 2008, when I had one of my many
enjoyable conversations with Plymouth, New Hampshire’s Harold Hanaford, he
patiently explained how he had only one “n” in his name – not two, as I had
been using in some of my columns. At that time, when I thought of that name,
my mind would first refer to the large supermarket chain called “Hannaford”:
Now, with all I know about the man Ken Squier
nicknamed “Hardluck”, my first thought process goes to him, with his one “n”;
in fact, I often misspelled my grocery checks, since then, as a result.
Harold beats out
national champion Rene Charland, who was using a local car at Thunder Road to
pick up national points. [Courtesy of Ken Paulsen]
For most of the racing people I encounter
around Thunder Road, if they are even old enough to know Harold, he is a
winner of big races in the flathead coupes at the Barre, Vermont oval, a man
who is honored yearly at the Milk Bowl, and a man a few of them see driving
his old coupe around when the New England Antique Racers club visits the track
late in June, annually.
There is, however, a lot more to the Harold
Hanaford legacy – perhaps more away from Thunder Road that at it. Just as in
every other Northeast state, stock car racing was burgeoning in the very early
1950’s in New Hampshire. Tracks were springing up all over the state, in
places like West Lebanon, Franklin, Lancaster, and more. Harold watched for a
brief while before buying an already – proven car that ran the Franklin
His first racing was done at his hometown
track, the Plymouth Fairgrounds, in the winter – on ice – in 1947. In those
days, the track ran races all year around, and young Harold not only did his
first racing there; but, he met his wife Florence at the races when she
actually rode on of her family’s cows over the hill, to the races, from the
farm. Florence is quick to point out she was also Miss County Fair there.
Fairgrounds, as they might have looked when Harold was competing there.
[Courtesy of Scott Haskell]
Obviously, being a native of Plymouth, Harold
was going to run the stock car at the Plymouth Fairgrounds when races were
held. At this time, Hanford was still using his first car, a car which he used
to barnstorm all over New England. The car, a 1932 Ford flathead with an
external roll cage, looked like an ineffective, crude jalopy until one
considers that the bracing to the front, now standard in cars, happened more
in the early days with the external cage car than with the limited internal
bracing in the others.
bought this car from Franklin Motordrome competitor George Hodgdon and won
numerous races all over the Northeast. [Courtesy of Scott Haskell]
Hanaford, who – for the life of him – has
never been able to explain Squier’s nickname - actually considers himself
somewhat blessed in his career. The many, many victories notwithstanding, he
cites an incident at Plymouth to illustrate his being blessed with pretty good
The large Plymouth fair track was, of course,
meant for horses and had many structures related to horses in the immediate
vicinity. Hanaford recalls today how the fairgrounds track was “too dusty”,
which caused an unsafe racing condition, many afternoons. Drivers had little,
such as caution lights or in – car radios, to help them know what was
This may be Pico
Raceway, not Plymouth, but the conditions are the same| and so is the general
racing era. Harold thinks he may have actually appeared at Pico in his
traveling days. [Courtesy of Lew Boyd]
There was a young driver named Langdon
Ambrose who raced at Plymouth. Being a welder by trade, he had the best car of
anyone at the races.His name made him sound like he should have been competing
on the Formula One circuit, over in Europe; but young Langdon was piloting a
jalopy on a dusty horse track. Actually, Ambrose once had to admit to Hanaford
that – in the dust so thick judges could not see the action – he would cut
through the infield to gain an advantage. Trouble, was, once he ran square
into the Hanaford car, when he was doing that.
Harold recalls that a fairly serious pileup
had caused the red flag to be thrown as he, Ambrose, and several others were
just coming past the flagger. Hanaford saw the flag through the dust and
started to slow down. He had had enough experience to not just lock up the
brakes and stop suddenly under those poor visibility conditions. Ambrose did
not see the flag as he followed Harold closely towards the first turn.
When early stock cars
were wrecked, they usually stayed wrecked. Maybe this is what Ambrose was
thinking as he made his fateful decision. This particular car was a Vermont
competitor. [Courtesy of Mark LeFrancois]
Suddenly, there was the nearly – motionless
Hanaford #77, immediately in front of the startled Ambrose. He had to make a
split – second decision, and he chose not to plow into his friend, Hanaford.
Langdon thought he could squeeze through, between Hanford and the old wooden
fencing. Sadly, there was nowhere near enough room for Ambrose, who flew
through the fencing and into what amounted to a horse ring, used for training
competitions during the fair week.
One of the ring’s sturdy posts went right
into the Ambrose driver’s car, going up through the floorboards, shearing off
his arm, and continuing up through the roof. Jimmy Mayhew, another driver who
happened to be flagging that day, had reached the wreck on the run, even
before the wreckage had stopped settling. Horrified at what he saw inside the
car, he recoiled and then sprang into action. Fortunately for the stricken
Ambrose. Whipping off his white racing shirt, Mayhew stuffed it into the
cavity left by where the arm used to be. It is all that allowed ,Ambrose to
live and to – somewhat later – attend various benefit activities held to help
him and his family.
Hanaford also figures some of his other
adventures show some pretty favorable luck – just to have survived something
he might have said or done off the track. He tells of the time down South,
when he, his infamous crewmen, the Havelocks, and a few other Plymouth guys
were at Daytona. Using an old school bus to haul a 1959 Pontiac, the same car
Cabana and DuBrul had already used down there, the boys found driveshaft
starting to chatter something terrible.
Getting the Permatex
Pontiac painted and lettered, and then posing with it was unquestionably the
easiest part of dealing with the whole Permatex experience. [Courtesy of
Here they were, recalcitrant New Englanders
stranded in the heart of a deep South that still was not entirely pleased to
have them there. They pulled in to some sleepy old gas station and diner with
the usual sleeping hound out front and a number of derelict vehicles parked
out back. As it turns out, the diner had a bus just like theirs. While someone
went into the diner and kept the school bus driver busy, the others were
filching the drive shaft out of the southern bus. They were soon off, again,
all set to haul, and lucky there wasn’t a posse of moonshine cars chasing them
down with shotguns.
Hanaford was used to having challenging
haulers. Once, when they were using a hay truck to get all the way to Barre,
VT from Plymouth and back, the old truck broke down. Nonplussed by the
setback, the crew hauled the truck home with the stock car.
Harold feels he is more than lucky he
survived that trip down South at all. Between the school bus, the
uncomfortable speeds on the superspeedway, and the spindle incident, he feels
“Good Luck” Hanaford might be a better name to explain away his coming home
When the Cavalcade of
Auto Racing featured Thunder Road, around 1964, Hanaford was one of only three
drivers whose portraits appeared in the piece. [Cavalcade of Auto Racing
The crew had the #03 Pontiac running in the
Permatex practice sessions and realized they had to have a spindle turned. The
went to “this rebel machine shop” somewhere near the speedway. Seeing who the
customers were, the guy drawled it would take two days. An exasperated
Hanaford, in his best flat Granite State accent, pointed out that they
obviously had a race to run before then.
“Two days”, repeated the snotty machinist,
who obviously would have gone way out of his way for a southern team.
“No wonder you guys lost the war!” yelled a
furious Harold, “You were still waitin’ for the ammunition !” As he left, a
large pipe barley cleared his head and crashed against the wall. It is not
clear if they were followed or if they ever got it fixed. One thing is for
sure – it would have taken a goodly portion of the Confederate army to deal
with the unruly Havelock brothers.
Brian Hanford Photo Collection
Hana, with son, Brian,
showing off winnings. One of the men in the middle is likely Richard “The
Human Jack” Havelock.
Richard Havelock was not Hanaford’s jack man – he WAS
Hanaford’s jack. He could back up to the rear of the car, lift it up, and wait
until the necessary work was done, He would do this any number of times on a
given program. The previous Hanaford column had described two incidents, in
which Harold was not paid for feature wins after having defeated the local
track owner’s kin.
Hardluck recently added detail to the story
of the Goodwin race track near West Lebanon, NH, at which the track would not
pay him after he beat one of the Goodwin boys. Hana points out that “some old
gentleman” they had with them that day decided to take Hanaford’s wire wheels
and form cement around them – perhaps for strength, aerodynamics, or who knows
why. The Goodwins saw this before Harold could get the cement chipped off, and
used that as the excuse why he was illegal. Lucky the Havelocks hadn’t started
Back in the day, Harold
checks out a Thunder Road trophy presented to him by Big John Untied and
T Road co – owner Spade Cooley. [Courtesy of Cho Lee]
Before there were the Havelocks, Harold
Hanaford enjoyed the services of Robert and Anberg Hennett, another unruly
brother act. At the very rustic Ge-Jo-Clin Speedway in Boltonville, he was the
visiting guest star, and his car kept stalling, One of the local drivers,
“Dirty Dick” Little came forward and began handing Hana a raft of crap.
Incensed and already irritated, the Hennetts proceeded to take the Dirty Dick
mobile and roll it off the track, down an embankment, and into impenetrable
brush. Surprisingly, the boys were invited back to race again. [Many nobody
else liked Little, either].
With Milk Bowl titles, the southern survival,
an earned reputation as one of the premier touring superstars of early New
Hampshire racing, the Ambrose incident, and many other such stories, Harold
Hanaford is indeed “Good Luck” Hanaford to be – at his age, healthy and active
enough to be about the only flathead star still able to get into one of those
old cars and drive around the quarter – mile Barre oval. At least, that is how
he feels most of the time. He has had recent surgery but is recovering nicely.I have talked to Harold since this column was done - there
could be a third wave of stories at some point.
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