These photos were taken on my 9th birthday, Sep 4, 1960. The first photo is my Dad, my sister Jacque, and me. The second photo is with my Mom.
The third photo is my sister and my neighborhood friend Mike Shive. I had the fastest tractor in the neighborhood. I learned about engineering at an early age. I discovered that by removing the tractor's sheet metal cover, I could pull the steering column down into my lap while we were racing. That allowed me to use the steering wheel to hold me tightly on the tractor. This freed up my legs to pedal my butt off!! Note the model cars that Jacque and Mike are holding.
Ironically, the house in the photo, that was built by my Dad and a contractor friend, in 1954, was just sold by Jacque and me Sep 09. Mom passed in Aug 2006, Dad, Dec 2008. Also, and ironically as well, Mike's brother, Rusty, just passed last month. Rusty and Jacque are the same age.
While cleaning out Mom and Dad's house, the "crash helmet" I wore when racing my pedal tractor showed up. It cleaned up quite well. It is now over 50 years old . . . wonder if it has much value other than sentimental?
As a kid, I grew up spending many summer Saturday nights at Lincoln Speedway and Sunday nights at Susquehanna Speedway. At one time, I had quite an extensive photo collection from that era. The following is what remains. Most of the photos below are taken by either Russ Stine or King's Photos
This picture is Johnny Nusom. In the years since, I learned that many drivers of the era used a pseudonym. I think Nusom was not this driver's real last name. I used to think this accident was at Lincoln, but I saw something at York County Racing Club that now leads me to believe it might have been Reading.
This photo is Russ Ruppert. Russ had a rather brief driving career prior to his military service but quickly was a winner. Upon return, Russ gave up the driving in favor of a long tenure as a car owner, car builder and engine builder. He experienced great success with URC and particularly USAC. Some of his best years were when he teamed with the great Dick "Toby" Tobias. USAC competitors feared when this team showed up. I knew of Russ' reputation and he didn't live far from my childhood home. When I started racing, I decided I needed to meet Russ Ruppert. I found his address, walked up, knocked on the door and introduced myself. That was the beginning of an enduring friendship that remains very close even now. Up until recently, every motor I ever raced in my car was a Ruppert built motor. Russ mentored me, taught me many skills I needed to know, and kept me on the track many times when I otherwise would have been sitting out. I rarely had the funds to pay what everything really cost, but, Russ allowed me to barter for services.
I painted many things he owned - cars, trucks, vintage tractors and airplanes. One of the greatest experiences of my career was when Russ called together all his "students" to build a new Mauri Amerling USAC Dirt Champ Car just five weeks prior to the first race - at the beginning of 1984 I believe. The last three days were virtually all-nighters. Nazareth was first on the schedule; it was still dirt, then. I believe Jack Hewitt was driving for Russ and Mauri at that time. On the car's maiden voyage - without even firing the motor before we trailered to Nazareth, and virtually no shakedown laps, Jack moved into second on lap 84 and was closing on the leader, Jimmy Horton in the 3-n-1. On lap 86, while making a move for the lead, the crankshaft broke. What a run!
This photo is Neil Height. I never met Neil, but did become acquainted with this son, Dave.
Johnny Mackison was one of my two favorite drivers.
Gene Goodling drove this #3 car. Gene's brother, Bobby, had many great seasons in the Eater-Starz #61 late model. Gene sustained serious injuries later in his career driving the Appler #77.
I've been privileged to meet, and get to know, many of the drivers that were my childhood heros, some through membership in the York County Racing Club (YCRC). Johnny Mackison, Bobby Abel, Bobby Hersh, Gene Goodling, Paul Miller, Frankie Thompson, Milford Wales and many more!
Johnny Mackison was a top feature winner everywhere he raced. The potent Yorkshire Garage #1080 was wrenched by the famous Davey Brown who still turns winning wrenches today. The checkered flags on the door represented feature wins for a season. This car would make quite a classic vintage car. If it still exists, nobody is talking . . . .
Johnny Mackison winners circle
My other favorite was Bobby Abel. If you were a Mackison/Abel fan, you couldn't be a fan of Bobby Hersh. When Johnny Mackison got called to the Army, Bobby Abel was tapped to drive the 1080 car. It kept winning just like before. When Mackison returned from the Army and to the 1080, Abel returned to his 2 car. Bobby built his own cars with his chief mechanic. One of his last cars, if not the last, was known as "The Four Bar Car". It was a bug modified with torsion bar suspension. It was light and won many races in its brief career. When I had my body shop business fulltime, I was privileged to have done a little bit of work on this car's restoration at the request of Ray Heller and Ron Ruth. The Four Bar Car can be seen at the Eastern Museum of Motorsports Racing at the Latimore Fairgrounds complex. It is my understanding that Ray and Ron were allowed to acquire and restore the car with the agreement that the car would never be started or be on a racetrack ever again.
This is a rare occurrence, a Studebaker in Victory Lane! I didn't make a note of the driver's name.
This is Sam Krout. He and his brother, Gene, competed as a team for many years. Both are my Dad's cousins on my Grandmother's side.
I have this driver as Buzzy Richardson. I believe Jerry Burkett is the car owner.
The 47 of Bobby Hersh spins and collects Rich Christine.
Frankie Thompson picks up a win, now in the #88.
Joe Davis takes a checkered flag in the #999.
I have the driver of the 64 as Goon Crowl. My memory tells me he was a relation of the neighbors that lived across the street.
Paul Miller always had cool looking cars. Here is one of his coach #133s. Paul was one of the original founders of the York County Racing Club and is the ONLY President the organization has ever had!
Pee Wee Pobletts in the #46. Later, Pee Wee had a dynamite cut-down with a 421 c.i. Pontiac. You can see this restored car regularly at shows.
I'm not sure how I got this photo, because the #79 is Johnny Dubendorf, a Port Royal Regular. I believe we did make an infrequent trip there; maybe I just got it from the photographer.
This is recorded as Clair Stough. I recall Clair as a hard-luck driver. I believe he ran almost exclusively at Susquehanna. I remember a time, and I'm pretty sure it was him, that a car caught fire on the back stretch at Susky. It burnt to a crisp - the driver escaped - it was Clair's #7.
For the longest time I never had a clue who this driver was, or at what Speedway. Which makes me wonder why I had the photo. But, I saw something, again at YCRC, that leads me to believe it may have been Ray Tilley, and likely at Silver Springs.
This is Kemp Beaumont - not sure of the spelling at all. In the years since, I've learned that he started out at Bowling Green Speedway, which operated only in the early Fifties, in Southern York County. Check out the Bowling Green Speedway Preservation Society. I believe he was from nearby Parkton, MD. I remember seeing this car at Susquehanna regularly, and recall that he frequently had a problem with something breaking that made the car sag.
The 60's represented a transition in local racing. Up to this point, the cars were almost the same wherever you went. But change was coming as represented by this #79, being run as Pete Swarmer's #89 at Port Royal. First came the Cut-Downs. Basically they took the stock cars they were running and literally cut them down - narrower, shorter, lower - often using the same frame as before, but also modified. Yankee ingenuity was hard at work! It was a creative, golden era. The one picture of Bobby Abel's #2, earlier, was a Cut-Down.
Now this one I do have as Ray Tilley
After the Cut-Downs, we had the Bug Modifieds. I think this photo of Roger Sower's car on display at the Harrisburg Farm Show Arena was somewhere in between. I don't recall Roger having a long career, but I do recall he tried a rear-engine car at one point. I think that one may have been just prior to this car. The Abel car, on which I did a small amount of the restoration work, was a Bug Modified. The bodies looked similar to the Stock Cars, but were fully fabricated . . . as were the frames. During this period, tracks had to declare if they were going to stick with the Stock Cars, or follow the evolution. You could no longer take your car to any track and be legal to race. Reading stayed with the Stock Cars - that later evolved into the current day Modifieds - led by the evolution started by Kenny Weld. Bug Modifieds eventually had to compete against outright Sprint Cars brought in from the Mid-West. Abel's Four Bar car was an attempt to keep the Bug Modifieds competitive with the Sprint Cars. The Sprint Cars won out, ultimately.
If someone were to ask me, "do you have any artistic talent?", I'd say, "no, not much". However, these sketches from 5th, maybe 6th grade, indicate that I had at least a little artistic talent at one point.
My good friend, Denny Sowers, and I, would sit in class and draw cars and gas stations when we got bored. The G/S is, naturally, Gross/Sowers. I remember we talked about having a gas station together someday . . . . . may still happen . . . we're still in touch regularly.
At this point, Denny Sowers is the owner and President of SGS Architects in Carlisle. His firm is responsible for many of the Giant and Rite Aid stores in the region. If you need an architect, look him up.
I found these sketches cleaning out boxes from my Mom and Dad's house. At one time, there were a lot more sketches. Others may still turn up as I continue to go through items.
The above photos are representative of what remains of my rather extensive childhood model and toy collection. They spent several decades in Mom and Dad's attic which took a heavy toll on their condition. These models were my pride and joy. I used to race the 1/32 scale cars down a shoe box ramp in my bedroom. The metal and plastic cars were raced on dirt tracks I built in Mom's flower beds - which didn't always please her. The collection is being restored by Investment Toys for Big Boys in Mount Wolf, PA. Eventually, photos of the entire collection, which consists of over 50 pieces, will be posted here.
As a kid, Denny built some model cars to look like cars that he saw regularly at
Lincoln and Susquehanna Speedways. On Saturday, August 1, 2015, Denny was happy to
present his model of Gary Wolford's #199, to his friend at Gary's shop in Brogue, PA.