by John Dearmore
I enjoy having some time to myself in order to think back on my life. Particularly from when I was old enough to drive, which was all of 14 years of age then. Yep, I know that is young, but that was part of growing up in those days. If you had a job you could only drive to and from work (but anytime if you had an adult with you). One of my first jobs was clean-up boy at a speed shop on Broadway in Wichita, Kansas. Those had to be the best days, as the speed shop sold speed equipment - both new and used – and had an auto machine shop in the back that could do anything, including installing what you had bought. I have said this before, but I really believe growing up back then was the best of times. All the boys wanted to do was get out in the garage or driveway and work on their cars. There were no distractions such as cell phones, lap tops, internet, 50” flatscreen TVs with 250 channels. No… in that era if you had a car and a small assortment of Craftsman tools from the local Sears store, chances are you were having fun tinkering with your ride! Most kids then were driving affordable, used cars that were easy to work on; not many teenagers could afford new ones and, of course, this was back before all the foreign cars began creeping onto our shores.
One day I was cleaning the front area, swiping before mopping, and the owner asked me why I was leaning on the broom. Well, I was looking out the front window at the parking lot across the street, which belonged to a guy named Al Williams, and since there was a race that weekend in Wichita it was becoming full of dragsters on trailers. The event was to be held at the U.S. Air Force base, where the airman had talked their commander into letting them hold a race on the base to help them with some funds for different projects. My boss came out from behind the counter, took a look see and said it appeared they were going to have a party. Sure enough that was it, and sensing my real interest in it, asked if I wanted to go look at the cars. Well…let’s put it this way - he did not have to ask twice! By then, there were about 8 cars from all around Texas, Missouri and Kansas, but by the time I got off work more dragsters had shown up.
I went over to look at the new ones and one of the guys invited me inside of Al’s place of business, where I got to meet all the drivers, owners and some of the girlfriends and wives. I quickly lost track of time and, of course, it was now after dark – a no-no for fourteen-year-olds to drive. I called my Mom to explain what had happened and, naturally she was worried. I had gotten beer and cigarettes for the racers so, as I was leaving, some of the guys told me there would be a pass for me at the gate if I could come out the next day. Thrilled, but I had to hope my dad would take me as I could not at 14 drive on the weekend without an adult. Fortunately I was able to talk him into taking me out to the air base; however, if there was not a ticket, it was agreed that I had to come back home.
I prayed real hard that the guys did not forget their promise, and when we got to the base – there was my ticket! Besides getting in I also got to help some of the guys push their cars to start them. It not only made my day but changed my life all together, as I have been doing this thing we call drag racing ever since. God bless! Looking back and considering all the racing experiences I’ve had and the great friends I’ve made over these past 58 years, I could not have asked for a better life!
Thanks again for reading and I’ll talk to you later…..
President, DRE Racing
Nostalgia Drag World - by John Dearmore; photo by Connell R. Miller
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