A Wild Ride- chapter two
A work of fiction by “Anonymous”
As I drove west on Highway 23 into the setting sun that Saturday night in my two-tone grey Oldsmobile, I looked forward to finally see some racing. About five miles out of town, just as Eddie as said, there were a few cars that turned south onto a narrow road - Union Road.
I followed a dusty 1934 Ford sedan for half a mile until turned it left into a small dirt lot already halfway filled with cars. In the distance I could see the top rows of open grandstands and I heard the roar of racing engines being tuned in the distance so I knew I had arrived at Union Speedway.
As I approached the tiny ticket booth, I heard the pretty blonde inside exclaim “Hi Yankee boy! I see you found us!” I realized that it was Louise, the cashier at Hubin’s Rexall Drugstore whom I had unsuccessfully asked out earlier in the week. Now I understood that she had been truthful when she told me she was busy on Saturday night.
After I greeted her and paid the $2.00 admission, she said “if you’ve have asked I’d have given you a free pass. My Daddy runs the spectator side of things here, while my Uncle Dub runs the track operation for the owner your boss Mr. Johnson” I mumbled my thanks and as I walked away, she called out “Enjoy the races, and ask me out for some other night sometime.”
Once inside the gate, I walked past the restrooms and concession stand then clambered up a rickety grandstand to the right of the flag stand, which hung out over the track just above the low block retaining wall. I found a seat and surveyed the facility, which was pretty primitive even for 1955.
The ¼-mile track built in an open field had little banking in the turns and the only retaining wall was on the front stretch to protect the spectators. There were a row of lights strung along each of the straightaways from poles, with one big light mounted on poles in the infield at the center of each of the turns.
I counted two dozen jalopy race cars and ten more sleeker-looking hot rods and roadsters in the infield as their respectively crews clad in t-shirts and white pants toiled over them.
After a few minutes the public address speakers crackled to life and the announcer said “Welcome folks this is your announcer Fats Harrison. I’ll be here all night to call the exciting race action.” After a pause, he said “Okay boys let’s get this program started- line them cars up to go work the track before we start racing.”
As the cars slowly tooled around the track, Eddie the postman walked up the grandstand. “Hey, glad to see you! If you want you can come and set with me and my family we're just a couple rows behind you.” Under his breath, Eddie added, “I got a flask with some hard stuff.” I gladly accepted Eddie’s offer not so I could drink but so I could get the “inside scoop” on the night’s races.
The night was a whirlwind of racing; as I had observed there were two classes which Eddie described as ”stock” and “modified.” The stock class cars looked to my eye to be escapees from a junkyard, while some of the better modified cars were similar to the Mutual Roadsters I’d seen a few times back home in Indiana. Eddie’s wife Martha told me that ‘Fats’ was a radio announcer down at the state capitol and not fat at all, “in fact” she giggled “he’s very handsome,” which earned her a dirty look from her husband.
As darkness fell, my eyes adjusted to the dim track lighting, but I had to wonder how much the drivers saw on the track. The ‘stock car’ heat races and feature were mostly of the “slam bang” variety with a lot of spins and crashes which brought the crowd of 500 fans to their feet.
By comparison the ‘modified’ cars were faster and they raced clean for the most part. I say for the most part, because the driver of one car, the number #5 a white cut-down flathead-powered 1940 Ford coupe treated his fellow racers pretty roughly and ‘Fats’ pointed out each bump to murmuring crowd.
Even though he clearly had a superior car, at the start of the 15-lap feature he bulled his way towards the front. A few laps later the number #5 ran second to the pale blue #34 1930 Ford roadster driven by Eddie’s brother. As the pair entered turn three, the #5 car locked onto the bumper of the leading roadster and spun him into the dusty infield.
After he got the lead, the #5 car led the rest of the way and lapped about half of the remaining cars. After the checkered flag fell and the #5 car pulled to a stop in front of the grandstands, the crowd heartily booed as the driver climbed out.
As he removed his Cromwell helmet, I recognized the scowl and long greasy black hair of “Sims” the attendant at the Pure Oil station in town. As the flagman scampered down from the flag stand onto the track to hand the winner the checkered flag, the booing continued, and after he was handed the flag, “Sims” snapped it in half, threw it on the ground and stamped on it.
I thought there would be a riot as “Sims” climbed back in his car, fired it up and drove it back to his pit. Once there he began to attach it to the tow bar behind his pickup truck as the catcalls rained down. Eddie drunkenly yelled in my ear “That Sims! What a bum! They ought to have kicked that cracker out of the race for how he done my brother.”
I was curious to learn more about the local racing scene, but as excited (and drunk) as everyone was, I knew I wouldn’t get straight answers to my questions tonight, I could ask around town next week, so I climbed into my Olds and headed for home.
The author is anxious to judge the racing history community's reaction to his fictional work. If there is enough interest, he's promised to continue his story.............