Remembrances > Going To The Races
Going To The Races
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cilla46
135 posts
Jan 06, 2013
3:05 PM
Back in the early to mid fifties on many a summer Sunday afternoon the Dayton Speedway was the destination of the Bryant family.
I remember the exciting stock car races very well.My father's favorite driver was "Briar Johnson"!He also was a fan of Dick Dunlevy who also drove there.
I loved the smell and the sounds of the cars as they raced around the track!I remember seeing a few wrecks that were pretty scary for a young girl!
One of the most outstanding memories I have is of the man who sold beer in the stands.He would sing out his pitch and do a little dance up and down the steps.I loved watching him because he always seemed to be so full of energy and fun.
I can't remember the name of the man who ran the track back then.He was a friend of my father's and the only reason we could afford to go.He knew that my Father loved the races and I'm pretty sure looking back now,that we never had to pay anything to get in the gate.
I wonder how many who read this went to the Dayton Speedway in its heyday.
Syxpack
34 posts
Jan 06, 2013
7:24 PM
Cilla, did you ever go to Forest Park Speedway? We spent almost every weekend there in the late '40's and early '50's. My husband and I belonged to The Dayton Pleasure Car club and it's members raced stock cars there. Dick Dunlevy was a member also. Our friend Don Bierley raced cars at both places. My husband never raced, but helped to build some of the cars. I just gave my son a scrapbook that I kept of races back then. Good memories!
cilla46
136 posts
Jan 07, 2013
2:01 PM
Syxpack~ I don't remember ever going to the races at Forest Park.We did go sometimes to Shadybowl where you could sit right over the track in the turn coming out of the backstretch.That place was a hoot!I can remember the owner running out into the middle of the track and making the race start over because he didn't like the way it was started one Saturday night.My favorite at that track was the spectator races.Those guys would come down over the hill in their cars and all heck would follow.I remember one guy who had a rubber chicken tied to the rear window of his car and it would fly behind as he ran the track....saw a couple of free for all driver fights there too!
Geeze,people just don't know what they missed if they never went to Shadybowl!
rdebross
14 posts
Jan 07, 2013
3:08 PM
Cilla - I was too young to go to the Dayton Speedway in the early '50's, but I remember that local TV, probably WLWD, broadcasted from the speedway. You'd never see that kind of local coverage of auto racing or any other sport event today.
Syxpack
35 posts
Jan 07, 2013
5:13 PM
Cilla, was Shadybowl in DeGraff? At 83, I forget a lot, but I do remember the rubber chicken. We went there many times and there was an ice cream store on the way that we always stopped at. Yum, yum!!
cilla46
138 posts
Jan 08, 2013
6:56 AM
Shadybowl was indeed in DeGraff.Out in the middle of nowhere actually!
We always stopped at the ice cream store too.They made lemon custard ice cream that was to die for!
I was still going to races there up into the 70's.I don't know if the track is still there or not.It was a pretty dangerous place to go looking back.I can remember how sometimes the cars would scrape along the wall right below where we sat in the turn.Several times a car actually hit the wall below and parts would fly right up and hit the fence just several feet in front of us!What were we thinking?
If I remember correctly a driver was killed there coming out of the backstretch.I believe his car hit the guardrail right at the beginning of the drop down to the straightaway.This would have been in the very early 70's.I will have to see if I can find any information about that.
Floridave
3 posts
Aug 21, 2013
9:14 PM
Cilla, Dad used to take my brother and I to the Dayton Speedway often when we were kids in the 50's. Coca-Cola Nite was always a big draw and the stands were packed for those. Admission was cheaper if you had a Coke bottlecap or empty Coke bottle. Due to the covered grandstand, it was always pretty loud and the wooden boards in the stands provided plenty of seating and splinters. Seems like one night, Briar Johnson was standing with his back to the frontstretch when a wheel came off a car, bounced off a few things, then clobbered Briar and knocked him down. He wasn't hurt but I bet he kept his eyes on the track after that.

The flagman was john 'Shorty' Miller and he always wore a striped referee's shirt and a red beret. Years later I ran into him at Williamsburg Speedway in Pennsylvania. He had a trailer exhibition of racing memorabilia that he took around to the tracks.

I can remember going to a big late model race at Dayton and someone (Curtis Turner, Goldsmith, Hurtibise maybe) went out of the track and landed in a tree outside of the 2nd turn.

There was a really bad accident there in 1952 when Gordon Reid's sprint car rode the guardrail coming out of the 4th turn and went into the grandstand causing 4 fatalities including Reid.

It was a high-banked track that was wicked fast but very bumpy.

Too bad it's a landfill/dump now.
joey m
90 posts
Aug 31, 2013
9:26 AM
Floridave,I was 9 years old and was there at that race. If I remember right there was gray paint spilled all over.My next door neighbor, Jimmy Cox was a friend and his dad was one of the ambulance drivers for the speedway. I think his dad took Reid to the hospital but when he got there the found he had been decapitated. When his car flipped it went airborne and if you remember there was a catwalk over the track and they said that was how he was decapitated.
cilla46
179 posts
Sep 02, 2013
12:13 PM
I can remember my father talking about that terrible wreck but I don't think we were there that day.
Didn't one of the drivers,maybe Briar Johnson,run over one of his pit crew there?I seem to have a vague memory of that.
Butchl1977
28 posts
Sep 08, 2013
8:24 PM
My Mom was there that day and never went to another race even though I race for about 16 years.
jzb20
5 posts
Sep 04, 2014
12:04 PM
I was at Dayton for most of the sprint car races in the 50's. My dad was crew on the Engle-Stanko Special that was driven by Gordon Reid in that tragic wreck. Fortunately, that was a day that I did not attend.

Dayton was one of the premier areas for racing in the mid-west. There were several sprint car teams in the area and very robust circuit of tracks very local to this area. Racing was a different level in the 50's. Not even Indy 500 cars had large dedicated teams you see today. Most teams were very small. Local stock cars were often owner-drivers with friends and volunteers. Even the big time sprint car teams were mostly operated by an individual with maybe one or two mechanics and hired driver.

Those drivers were very brave. The tracks were bumpy and dangerous. The untold story with Gordon Reid's tragic wreck was that the guardrail tilted away from the track and when Reid's front tire brushed the wall it climbed over the rail and he couldn't get it back on the track an had no way to avoid hitting the pedestrian bridge.

They didn't have roll bars and helmets were more like metal bowls. The cars had a lot of horsepower and took a great deal of strength to steer . All of the teams ran both dirt and high banked pavement and most if not all AAA sprint car track were about 1/2 mile.

They ran tracks in Terre Haute, IN, Dugoin, IL, Winchester, IN, Salem, IN, Wiliams Grrove, PA, New Breman, OH, Langhorne, PA, Fort Wayne, IN,and many competed in both sprint and champ car (which was the name for the cars that ran in the Indy 500).


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