From the Editor’s Desk
by Connell R. Miller
This month I’m dealing with a couple of important topics that are intertwined
and deal with problems affecting the health of our great sport of drag racing…..
| That’s me, your intrepid editor, behind the wheel of my cousin Jimmy Boren’s 1930’s Ford factory Indy race car. This was a 1958 photograph that was actually scanned from the tiny image on a contact sheet. Glad I found it but wish I could locate the actual 35mm negatives. Please remember how important it is to find, scan and preserve these old photos!
It almost seems that every few days we find blogs, websites, Facebook and other social media sites posting the passing or hospitalization of yet another old racer. Just this past week we’re shaking our heads as we hear of the death of “Stormin’” Norm Weekly, a member of the famed, west coast quartet of Weekly, Rivero, Fox and Holding, that ran the hard-charging “Frantic 4” Top Fuel dragster in the ‘60s. A freak accident on the Dallas Tollway last Friday, June 20, claimed the life of my old school chum, Mart Higginbotham, who piloted the ferocious “Drag-On” Vega funny car back in the day. We’re also hearing of the struggles facing Gaspar “Gas” Ronda, the California funny car racer who, now in his eighties, is hospitalized from the effects of a stroke.
Unfortunately, many of us who raced in the “golden age of drag racing” are now getting somewhat “long in the tooth” and, if we’re not currently suffering from one age-related issue or another, at some point down the road we inevitably will. I’m certainly not trying to be a downer here, writing of gloom-and-doom, but let’s face it: this is part of life and eventually all of us will be affected by it. Neither am I here to preach lifestyle changes. Watching blood pressure, quitting smoking, losing weight, eating the right foods and exercising should already be burned into our consciousness and part of our daily regimen; or at least foremost on our “to-do” list.
No, what I’m espousing, or “preaching” here, and tying it into this aging process, is all about history – the history of our sport of drag racing. The need for those who have “been there, done that” to make sure the rest of us know about what they did, before shuffling off this “mortal coil.” I’m pretty sure that if you had a history class somewhere in school, you might have yawned when you heard your teacher recite the ages-old phrase: “You can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been…” or some variation thereof, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “…necessity to grasp the past as a guide to the future.” This is a two-edged sword, as we not only have to preserve our history, but somehow get the younger folks of today to not only study it, but to take an active participation in it as well. Keeping this interest in our sport going, it seems, is becoming more and more of a problem today.
Yes, it’s a fact that the numbers of today’s youth joining us are falling each year. I’m afraid there are few in this so-called ‘millennial generation’ who passionately care enough to study and preserve our history and the events and people who’ve formed, nurtured, and brought it into what it is today. Of course, THEY are exactly the ones who need the exposure to what we do to perpetuate it. It begins with putting down their video game controllers and going to a drag race or a car show. This is how we develop interest and, ultimately, a kid’s possible inclusion into the world of motorsports. You may laugh or bury your head in the sand, but if this doesn’t happen – the transference of drag racing’s energy and interest to the younger generation – in fifteen, twenty or thirty years this sport that we so love today might only be referred to in the past tense! I’ve written about these problems facing us in past columns and articles, as have contributors such as John Dearmore and Ed Miller. Also, see this month’s “Another Road Adventure” article by Eddie Buck, who touches on this subject. Other online and print magazines have expressed their concerns as well.
Let’s steer back to the idea of OUR generation preserving the past. If you’re an old racer, car owner, crewmember, speed shop owner, etc., put down your stories and recollections. Write them, type them, fire up a tape recorder…just record them! It IS important!
We’ve found so many folks who were uncertain at first, but after beginning, found they really enjoyed fleshing out their experiences. In many cases this has led to jumping into a social media site – usually Facebook – where their shared reminisces have garnered appreciation from like-minded gearheads around the world. Take a look at Facebook and you’ll see many great stories from guys who regularly used to entertain us on the quarter-mile: Ben Griffin, Paul Caster, Don Roberts, “Animal Jim” Fuerer, Don Ewald, and many others. Fortunately there are also a number of historians out there, such as Bill “Badco” Ott, Yanna Trance, Bret Kepner, and Bill Pratt, whose connections to the sport have provided them with volumes of information which they regularly share with their readers.
It was a pleasure for me to spend time interviewing two great old racers before they passed away. Nitro icon Bob Creitz was involved in drag racing during eight decades and provided a treasure trove of stories and anecdotes delineating the history of the sport. Bob was an absolute master in building and tuning nitro-fueled Chrysler hemi engines and an innovator in the sport. Texan Karl “Buddy” Anderson garnered his first of over 70 trophies in 1953 at Caddo Mills, was a participant at the first U.S. Nationals at Great Bend in 1955 and won his class there the next year, set NHRA records in B/Altered and won his class four years in a row at the AHRA Nationals. In 1967 he parked his Chev-powered Fiat altered, the “Widdle White Wabbit,” and 40 years later, dusted it off when he decided to go racing again, which he did until illness overtook him in 2011.
It would have been terrible if Creitz and Anderson’s stories had not been documented. They both had been interviewed and written about over time, but I consider myself fortunate to have done this in the waning years of their lives, adding some very interesting chapters that had not been captured.
While I urge you to have your stories, or those of others, recorded for posterity, it’s imperative, whether they’re on paper, tape, film or movie stock, that you have them scanned and saved to digital media. For the scans of written work, photos or negatives, burn them to a CD. Anything on film or videotape save to a DVD. Be sure and make back-up copies and save everything to a thumb drive or, better yet, a good external hard drive. To prevent loss in case of fire or flood, I keep my copies of everything in a separate location.
After you have collected and saved what you have, share them with the world. We love to publish these old stories here at Nostalgia Drag World, and there are other sites such as Bill Pratt’s “Drag List” and Don Ewald’s “We Did It For Love” that are both great repositories of drag race history and lore.
If you’ve stayed with me this far, you’ll know there are only a couple of very important topics I’m concerned about in this month’s column – the saving and preserving of our sport’s stories and photos from the past and the task of passing along this history and, hopefully, to generate interest in a generation that is less concerned about straight-line motorsports. ‘Nuff said how important this is, so…good luck and let’s get to work!
Connell R. Miller
Note: If you have any ideas, thoughts, suggestions or criticism, please drop me a line at email@example.com.
Nostalgia Drag World - by Connell R. Miller, Editor-in-Chief
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