BILL'S SOMEWHAT WEEKLY BLOG
Since I seem to have lost my forum, Mark Thomas' "Racin' Paper", I will apparently enter the 21st Century and start doing my column as a
blog. In certain times of the year, this may not be weekly; but I promise to keep it regular. Many of the site regulars have only been able to
get my columns via this site, anyway, and representing the very newspaper that was given out at Thunder Road gave me no press courtesies.
So, I might as well do it this way and reach some different readers. Let me know what you think. -Bill
Week of September 2, 2012
BILL'S BACK IN TIME
THREE GUYS WHO LOST CONSIDERABLE INK TO STEVE
In those early days of stock car racing in my neck of the woods, there were particular drivers whose notoriety and accomplishments elevated them above not only the numerous local favorites, but also over some of the more proficient local stars at any track at which they appeared. My neck of the woods, in the 1950’s, was not very large. I got see a few races at Pico Raceway, in Rutland, VT; I was brought to races at the Mettawee Speedway in North Granville for one race program; and we did get to a race at Stateline Speedway outside of Bennington, VT [which was rained out].
DeWolfe Aerial Shot Courtesy of Ray Wilson
Mettawee Speedway was one of the haunts for all four eminent drivers.
The rest of my early experience was limited to listening to the “olders” who were lucky enough [or bachelor enough] to go to as many races outside the area as they could manage. My father’s friends, Jim Haley and Rube Olson, were the best sources of stories. My Uncle would sometimes have a few other stories that he would hear in his travels as our town’s only policeman.
There were a number of big stars appearing at nearby race tracks, in the early 1950’s; but only a few attended often enough to be well recognized. The legendary Roy “Pappy” Forsyth raced at Pico for at least two different teams, but his name never became familiar to the average local fan. Another such star of high stature but low recognition status was South Burlington’s Jackie “Speed” Peterson. A third example was Keene’s Buddy Bardwell.
Courtesy of Mark LeFrancois
An unidentified track official walks by Steve Danish’s backup car, the
61Jr, at what I am quite sure is Mettawee Speedway.
I would limit the list of highly – esteemed outsiders who had attained legendary status among us to four men: Steve Danish, the Cropseyville, NY racing pioneer; Dave Brooks, a speed demon from Manchester, VT; Brooks’ neighbor, Gene Tetrault, of Manchester Depot; and Saratoga Springs’ Spence Parkhurst. To make a long explanation short, Danish – having gone on later to achieve huge notoriety at the Fonda Speedway, ended up with about 85% of the media attention these four men received.
From the Fonda History Book - Ed Bittiig Collection
Danish and Parkhurst [61 and 36] were honored to pose in the first Fonda
Speedway promo shot in 1953 for Ed Feuz and Jim Gage.
It is possible to google Tetrault, Brooks, and Parkhurst, and the only results you will run across are from my website. Danish, on the other hand, will have more hits from my site than the other three together and you will actually get other hits from other sources, as well. Given the tremendous accomplishments and contributions that the four men made to the development of the excellent stock car racing that was to come in the Northeast, this is disappointing.
Spencer Parkhurst ran some sort of automotive service in the town of Saratoga Springs. Early on, he made it very clear that [like Danish] the appearance of his equipment was to be professional and consistent. His red and black #36’s became a familiar sight in our region, and his invitation to be one of the four drivers [along with Danish, Walt Roberts, and the former roadster driver Herb Root] to appear in the initial Fonda Speedway promotional photo was a great honor at the time. As it turns out, I had apparently seen Roberts at Pico, as well as Parkhurst; Danish was a consistent star there, and I am not sure Root ever showed up at Pico.
McDowell Photo Courtesy of C.J. Richards
Spence Parkhurst, in familiar territory – Victory Lane. [Below] Leading the way at the old
Fairmont Park Motor Speedway, ahead of George Pritchard.
Courtesy of Mark LeFrancois
The Parkhurst sphere of racing encompassed Pico, Fonda, Stateline, Mettawee, Fairmont Park Motor Speedway, and probably stints at the numerous smaller Capital District bullrings. By 1960, he was starting to disappear from the racing scene. His car was seen in some old 8MM footage at Victoria Speedway [unless he had sold it by then]. The Fonda book has a photo with a primered car with a hand – lettered 36 on the side; I doubt their claim of this being Parkhurst. He would have been too fussy to field a car that looked like that.
Dave Brooks, with the earlier version of his 33 1/3, at speed somewhere in Vermont of New York. [Below] Another Brooks car, as snapped by a young, future Grand National driver named Paul Connors at Stateline.
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Courtesy of Paul Connors
Brooks usually drove distinctive cars numbered 33. He often insisted on fully – enclosed motor compartments long after most of the competition had taken the sides off the hoods [ if they used a hood at all]. I have seen two versions of the Brooks 33, both with the full engine cover and both with a characteristic stripe - trimming of the outlining lines of the body. It was always said of Dave Brooks that his cars were unbelievably powerful and fast. People stopped short of reflecting on the legality of those cars.
From Dan Ody’s 8MM DVD
Brooks and unidentified woman pose with his trophy at Stateline. While poor quality, this is the best shot of Brooks, himself I have. [Below] Brooks in the same Fairmont program as the above Parkhurst shot.
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Brooks was a regular at many of the same venues as Parkhurst, although he was not a known regular at Fonda. Like Spence, he began to disappear at the end of the 1950’s. When CJ Richards ressurected the old Fairmont track in 1962, one of Brooks old haunts, a few Manchester drivers became prominent there. When a young Dexter Dorr began running a well – built 1955 Chevy in the hobby class in 1964, one of his guest drivers turned out to be none other than Dave Brooks, who managed to win the feature for the absent Dorr. This is the last time we heard about Dave.
The Gene Tetrault coupe he had used in the late 1950’s was brought back to run Fairmont for the remainder of the 1962 while he built the sedan. [Below] This poor 8MM movie frame shows the old coupe at speed in Fairmont’s turn two. Tetrault seldom let a car get this beat up.
From Dan Ody 8MM DVD
Gene Tetrault, like Brooks, probably got his initial inspirations both from being in an automobile – related line of work and from the brief time that a man named Fucci promoted stock car racing at the oddly – configured track at the Manchester fairgrounds. Referred to by many of his surviving contemporaries as a man who was often complaining about something going on at a particular race program, Tetrault was a highly – regarded welder who also apparently had a towing business..
Courtesy of Norm Vadnais
Although the Fairmont program said this was Kenny “The Kid” Martin, chances are it is his star guest driver, Gene Tetrault. [Below] The trademark sedan, with Gene off to the side.
Tetrault raced at pretty much the same tracks as did Brooks. After my local tracks of Pico and Fairmont bit the dust, Gene likely restricted his racing to places like Mettawee and Stateline. When C.J. Richards re-opened the long – dormant Fairmont track in 1962, Tetrault re-appeared almost immediately, driving a locally – built car for Kenny “The Kid” Martin. Tetrault stayed in Martin’s Julius Mestyan – wrenched ’40 Ford coupe until he demolished it in an end – for – end wreck around August.
Soon after the wreck, Tetrault returned with the 1936 Chevrolet coupe #91 that he had been using in the late 1950’s. Tetrault’s familiar Jeep pickup, with the odd front - mounted towing boom had been seen at Fairmont Speedway all year, working as a track service vehicle. Now, the Jeep was arriving with the coupe in tow. This car served him until the end of the 1962; then, he came out in 1963 with a maroon sedan – easily his career trademark car. He ran the sedan very successfully for two seasons, Fairmont and Otter Creek ,until Fairmont announced the 1965 season would be run with overhead V-8 sportsman cars in the lead division.
<![endif]> Courtesy of Barb LaDuc
Tetrault leads an eclectic mix of sportsman and flathead cars at Fairmont in 1965. Soon after this shot, the sedan was lowered and made into a sportsman. That’s Vince Quenneville in second with a sportsman and Sonny Rabideau on the far left in a cutdown flathead. [Below] Starter Jim Frye hurries past Tetrault’s trailer with the converted, lowered sedan in 1966.
Tetrault raced with the upright sedan in ’65; but returned in 1966 with it having been lowered and considerably upgraded for another great run. He also appeared at the Hillside Raceway [the former Otter Creek track]. Fairmont had only one more season at its Fair Haven location. When Richards decided to leave village politics and bickering behind and built his dream track, up Route 22A, Tetrault was not to be a complete regular there. He was often seen hauling up Interstate 89 to the Rebel Speedway, in Granby, Quebec. He very well may have also tried the Saranac Lake Speedway, as did Vince Quenneville, Charlie Laduc, and Graham Trudo.
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<![endif]>Courtesy of Neal Davis
The strange Tetrault wrecker was a familiar sight at Fairmont.
Although the Tetrault career lasted far longer than those of Brooks and Parkhurst, he also seems to be pretty much done by the end of the 1960’s. These three men, given the level of their accomplishments in the earlier years of stock car racing, should have much more written on them and much more coverage than they ever received. Tetrault is still alive and well; but, I am not certain if the other two are still around.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org 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. For those who still don’t like computers - my regular address is: Bill Ladabouche, 23 York Street, Swanton, Vermont 05488.
AS ALWAYS, DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT MY WEBSITE: www.catamountstadium.com
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