Book Review by Richard Parks, Photographic Consultant Roger Rohrdanz
Veda Orr's Lakes Pictorial 1946 Season, by Veda Orr is not a book, but a pamphlet. It has long been out of print and actually was never published. Veda Orr made up the pictorial pamphlet herself and used a mimeograph machine to copy the captions. As the title indicates, she produced this pamphlet in 1946, but she may not have published it until sometime later in 1947. She hand stapled the 24 pages and the two covers, which made the pamphlet 48 pages in all. I can't even be sure if I have an original or a copy of the original. I don't have the count for the total that Veda Orr made or how many were lost over the years. The pamphlet is rather simple in make, design and style and ordinarily such home-made works of art, history or literature are unappreciated and thrown away and thus lost to us. The textual material is almost completely made up of captions. There is a brief introductory page mentioning the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) members who are still in the military and have not been released from active duty in World War II, and Veda and Karl Orr are mentioned as the creators of the pamphlet. There is a short notation that Veda Orr owns the rights to the pamphlet, but I doubt that she took any legal action to register those rights. At the time it was simply a labor of love for Veda and there was little thought of economic gain or that this raw pamphlet would ever have more than a short lifespan. All the photographs are in black and white on common, non-waxed, non-photographic paper and at their best could only be called average in quality. Quite a few pages are blank on one side, meaning that not all 48 pages have material represented on them. There are 12 black and white drawings by Richard (or Dick) Teague and 83 black and white photographs. The drawings by Teague were taken from the SCTA programs.
If this pamphlet isn't quite up to some of the more professionally published books on the early dry lakes of Southern California, then why even do a book review, especially when the supply of these pamphlets is next to impossible to find. The answer lies in the unique position that Veda Orr held in the hearts and minds of nearly every dry lakes racer from the 1940's. She was the first woman to be allowed to race in the SCTA. As World War II began and young men were drafted or enlisted and sent overseas, Veda wrote to them with the news of the local racing scene. So great was her correspondence list that she created a newsletter format, mimeographed it at her expense and sent this newsletter off to whoever wrote to her. She expanded her enterprise by finding the addresses of every land speed racer that she could find and kept this up for years, until the war was over and the boys came home. We shouldn't forget Karl Orr, for every step that Veda took, her husband stood firmly behind her with financial support and encouragement. The Lakes Pictorial was one of her last endeavors and it did very well, but within a few more years she and Karl would be involved in oval track racing. Veda and Karl had no children; racing was the thread that bound them together. I think so highly of this pamphlet in the way that a Christian would think of an early Bible found in an archaeological dig site. It isn't much to look at, but it represents the very beginnings of our sport of land speed racing and thus, by and in itself, this is a historical part of our heritage. Every once in a while a Lakes Pictorial shows up on Ebay, but not very often. When they become available they are snapped right up.
As a historical aid it is very important. They list some of the racers who made important contributions to land speed racing, including Art Tilton, Ernie McAfee, Jack McGrath, Manuel Ayulo, Bruce Blair and others. Bruce of course was killed in an airplane crash over the desert, and Nellie Taylor was recovering from severe war injuries that would shorten his life. Danny Sakai was killed in an auto accident. The first photograph shows Veda Orr in the 7C Karl Orr Speed Shop Special, recording a speed of 121.62 in the Class C roadsters, in May, 1947. The title says Veda Orr's Lakes Pictorial 1946 Season, but here we have a photo from 1947. Sometimes the captions get a bit sloppy. She follows that photograph with three more of her, one at Kearney-Mesa in San Diego in 1938. A rather famous photo shows the SCTA officials meeting with Rex Mays, Louie Meyer, Addie Leonard and DeRalph Frizzell at a MacMillan Petroleum meeting in 1946. The SCTA representatives included Wally Parks, Mel Leighton and Randy Shinn. The drawings by Richard (Dick) Teague can be found in SCTA Programs and in the SCTA Racing News, but here is another opportunity to own some of Teague's drawings. There were quite a few talented artists and drawers during the early days and often when a camera wasn't available, a free hand sketch recorded the run. A photograph of the SCTA awards presented at the banquet in 1946 includes a caption remark that the trophies were designed by Gus Maanum, another very talented artist and sketcher. Veda then shows all but 15 of the 58 cars that won the right to carry their numbers into the next season. They read like a who's who of dry lakes racers; the very Holy Grail of the sport. The first is Randy Shinn who was leading the points championship until seriously injured in an accident that left a huge scar from scalp to chin. Shinn was out of the running and that left Tony Capanna with a chance to get the points necessary to win the season's individual points championship. Tony turned his car over to another driver rather than win in an uneven race. Don Blair earned enough points to send Tony down to 3rd place, but the members of the SCTA were so impressed that they voted Capanna the first recipient of the Art Tilton Sportsmanship trophy.
Kenny Lindley took fourth, followed by Stuart Hilborn, then Doug Carruthers, Howard Wilson, Karl Orr, Lou Baney and the Schiefer/Theodorelus car. In eleventh place was Charles Scott, then Jack Calori, Bob Smithson, Chuck Potvin, Palm Brothers/Doug Hartelt, Bill Burke, Charles Gregory, Dick Kraft, Phil Remington and Harold Anderson. Kraft would make a name for himself in early drag racing and Remington in road racing. Veda Orr would place number 21 in points that season, followed by Kenneth Jones, Jack McGrath, Bert Letner, Frank Coon, Dick Neville, Arnold Birner, Lowell Lewis, Jim Harrell and Yam Oka. Weiand/Van Maanen placed 31st in the points race, followed by Palm Brothers, Manuel (Manny) Ayulo, Steve Genardini, Archie Tipton, R.L. Shinn (in his second car), John Cannon and Richard Allen. The 39th place was not assigned and there is no reason given. John McCoy took the 40th place in the standings, followed by Bruno Salazar, Marvin Lee, Al Deverich, Bill Brown, Chauncey Crist, Harry Oka, Bob Speik, Thun Brothers, Porrazzo Brothers, and Terry Smith. In spot number 51 was Bob Riese and then came Gilbert Ayala, A. W. Barrett, Bob Hill, Gold/Lee, Bruce Blair, Bub Marcia and George Barber. All but fifteen of these men and one woman have their cars shown in Lakes Pictorial. The last six pages show other well-known dry lakes racers who finished out of the points chase or who didn't participate in racing that year. Danny Sakai had passed away and Bob Rufi gave up racing after his near fatal accident. Rufi set the dry lakes racing community on its head with a pre-war run that broke 140 miles per hour. A great many racers reached for that record, but Rufi was the first in his little hand-built streamliner. Also mentioned are Sandy Belond, Spalding Brothers, Ralph Schenck, Vern Houle, Roscoe Turner, Ed Iskenderian, John Athans and Jim Nairn. The last photograph in the Lakes Pictorial is Veda and Karl Orr. Why not, they financed and created this little gem and they deserve to have the front and back pages all to themselves. Karl is seated in his 1942 record holding modified which won the points championship that year. Veda is standing beside her husband. Karl has a rare smile and a ruggedly handsome face partly hidden by his helmet. Veda has a radiant smile in her helmet and cover-alls. For that brief moment there was no one quite as beautiful as Veda Orr and it is easy to see why the land speed guys fell in love with her. She was at the top of her world. I rate this book a perfect 8 out of 8 spark plugs for its originality and relevance to land speed racing history.
Gone Racin' is at RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM
I rate this book a 8 out of 8 sparkplugs.