Book Review by Richard Parks, Photographic Consultant Roger Rohrdanz
Veda Orr was married to Karl Orr, and the two of them left a major impact in land speed dry lakes and other oval track racing. Karl was well known for owning a very early speed shop and for his participation in racing. He was a member of the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) and other racing organizations. Karl was a great deal older than most of the young men who went racing in the 1930’s and ‘40’s; and he was idolized by many. He held stubborn views and could be a fierce adversary, but the respect that he was held in by the racing community overcame his sometimes irascible nature. Veda Orr was much younger than Karl and she looked up to him with a loyal reverence. Veda was more than respected; she was revered by the other male racers. There were a few women automobile racers from the invention of the auto up through the 1960’s, but they were never very numerous. Veda was one of those female drivers and she was hard to beat. Part of the reason was that Karl was her mechanic and sometimes co-driver; but the other factor was her zeal for land speed racing. She drove on the dry lakes even though women were forbidden to join the SCTA prior to World War II. With Karl behind her there were few men willing to tell her to leave the lakebed. During the war she continued to send letters to the men in the service telling them about all the car news back home. When the volume got too large she created a newsletter and mailed it out periodically to those who yearned to see the war end and dry lakes racing resume. The servicemen literally adored her. After the war when the SCTA was reorganized, the clubs and board voted to make an exception to the rules and allow Veda to join the association and officially race.
It was after the war that Veda compiled Veda Orr’s Dry Lakes Pictorial which I reviewed previously. The booklet was self-made and stapled together and sold. It wasn’t very large, the photographs were copied and crude, but it appeared in late 1946 and ’47 to a hot rodding audience hungry for anything to read and to show off their sport. It had no index or text, except for captions, but it predated Hot Rod magazine. There hadn’t been a magazine or paperback like Veda’s since Throttle magazine closed in 1941 and her little self-created booklet, paperback or whatever you want to call it was an immediate success. Floyd Clymer acquired the rights to the booklet and republished it in 1949. The copyright expired over time and Jim Lattin came out with another version of Veda’s booklet about twenty-five years later. Veloce Press, who own the rights to all of the pre 1970 Floyd Clymer titles, re-issued Veda’s work in 2010. I haven’t seen Clymer’s 1949 edition or the Jim Lattin version. This review is based on Veloce’s re-issue of 2010 and they have kept the original content, but spruced it up considerably. The 2010 version is a paperback book measuring 7 by 10 inches and containing 82 pages on uncoated, non-photographic paper. The paper is similar to the original issue and Veloce kept it that way to keep to as original as possible Veda’s style. The content, including captions, photographs and drawings are just as Veda used; the major difference is in the size of the booklet and the very nice laminated cover. Also, Veloce glued the pages to the spine while Veda stapled the pages into her booklet. The ISBN # is 9781588501530, or you can simply ask a book store if they have the book in stock by the name. You might also find this book at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, California. Two other sources are the Petersen Automotive Museum and Autobooks/Aerobooks. Or go to www.velocepress.com.
The 2010 edition has several additions to it. There is an ad showing Floyd Clymer’s #777 Streamliner. A very nice foreword by Joe Babiasz; then a page dedicated to the SCTA and the Society of Land Speed Racing Historians (SLSRH) Newsletter located at www.landspeedracing.com. On pages 1 through 4 there is a historical book review of the 1946 version by Richard Parks; and which applies to this edition as well, since the contents are the same except for the additions. Jim Miller follows the review with a one paragraph statement and though it is short, Miller provides important historical details. Bob Falcon adds a one page statement about his relationship to the Orr’s that is quite interesting. Bob was an oval track racer during that era and his knowledge is vital to our understanding of the times. He is a founding member of the SLSRH. Page six begins the original content from the 1946 edition. The revised edition keeps to the same format that Veda used, with the first part of the book showing land speed and hot rods of the 1940’s, including Karl and Veda’s famous 21C roadster, named one of the 75 best ’32 Model T roadster’s of all time. The famous photograph on page seven shows Wally Parks, Mel Leighton and Randy Shinn of the SCTA kneeling and Addie Leonard, DeRalph Frizzell, Louie Meyer and Rex Mays in a photo reprinted in many publications. The drawings by Dick Teague graced many issues of the SCTA Racing News and I can only say that I wish that I had the original pen and ink drawings. After the drawings by Teague there are more land speed racing cars and finally a section on oval track cars and race tracks. Veda added oval track racing for several reasons; one was that Karl also raced on oval tracks and two, many of the land speed guys also raced on oval tracks and in early drag racing.
On page eight there is a picture of the trophies being awarded in that extraordinary year of 1946. The service men and women were being demobilized from the military as soon as Japan surrendered in August of 1945, but there were 12 and a half million people in the service and it took a while for the dry lakes racers to trickle back to civilian life. My father, Wally Parks, showed up at a meeting of the newly reorganized SCTA in December of 1945 and was elected President of the group. He took the gavel from his good friend, Bozzie Willis and the enthusiasm of the clubs that formed the SCTA was overwhelming. Most of the men thought they would not survive the war and they yearned for the war to end and to return to the dry lakes to race their cars. Veda Orr had done her part to keep up the spirits of the men and now the war was over and they set about to race with a vengeance. The great clubs like the Albata and the Road Runners produced some very fast cars. The top two clubs alternated the season points championship between them. Ernie McAfee won it in 1938 and George Harvey won the championship in 1939, both representing the Road Runners. Bob Rufi with his amazing home built streamliner won the championship in 1940 and was the first to go 140 mph. He was a member of the Albata Club, the chief competitor at the time of the Road Runners. Vic Edelbrock won back the championship for the Road Runners in 1941. Vic would create a well-known speed equipment manufacturing company that his son Vic Edelbrock Jr would expand beyond his father’s wildest dreams. Karl Orr won the championship in 1942 amid the controversy of World War II. Karl was an Albata Club member and he adamantly argued for continuing dry lakes racing even though the membership and the government were calling for a cessation of racing. Even after the SCTA disbanded for the duration of the war, Karl stubbornly continued to race on any dry lake that he could find. Doug Hartelt of the Lancers and Dietrich and Thomas of the Gaters car clubs tied for the championship in 1947. The Chevy powered Spurgin and Giovanine roadster roared to a record at every meet during the 1948 season and won the high points championship representing the Albata car club.
On page nine there is a list of classes and record holders for the four classes. Famous names abound in the following pages; Karl Orr, Bob Rufi, Tony Capanna, Randy Shinn, Don Blair, Kenny Lindley, etal. The 1946 racing season was special; it represented the first year of racing since the fateful 1942 year that was filled with controversy and ill-will. Capanna and Shinn blazed through the monthly meets setting records and gathering points. Just before the last race of the season Shinn was seriously injured in a car accident that almost blinded him and left a huge scar from his scalp to his chin. He was hospitalized and unable to race, holding a slim lead over Tony Capanna. Shinn represented the Road Runners and Capanna was a member of the Albata and although they respected each other, there was such a great desire to beat the other club that all Capanna had to do was get in his car and make a run down the track. But Capanna was never one to win by backing into a championship. In his eyes Shinn had beaten him fairly in face to face competitions throughout the year and Capanna simply could not win by not competing with Shinn. So he asked another club member to drive his car, which deprived Capanna of the points needed to pass up Shinn. Capanna’s sacrifice allowed Shinn to win that year’s points championship in a display of sportsmanship that is still talked about today. A new sportsmanship trophy was named in honor of Arthur Tilton and the members of the SCTA unanimously voted Capanna that honor. The wonderful thing about Veda Orr’s New/Revised Hot Rod Pictorial is that it brings this golden age of land speed racing back and allows everyone to add this delightful book to their library. This is one of those books that ought to be in your collection. I know that you would like to have an original issue of the Dry Lakes Pictorial, and the 1949 Clymer version and Jim Lattin’s as well. But you need to start somewhere and this is a book that you need to have if you are a land speed fan.
Gone Racin’ is at RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM
I rate this book a 7 7/8 out of 8 sparkplugs.
Pick Veda Orr’s New/Revised Pictorial up Today!
You can find this book at most bookstores or through the publishing company