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Richard Parks

Gone Racin’

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Gone Racin’…11th Annual Gas-Up Party

September 27, 2003, was the date of the 11th Annual Gas-Up Party and Dry Lakes Hall of Fame, sponsored by the Gold Coast Roadster and Racing Club, and held at Jack Mendenhall’s amazing Gas Pump Museum, in Buellton, California. This event honors the land speed racers, officials and their vehicles. Land speed racing is technically recognized as motorized time trials, and the categories have broadened to include all types of land driven vehicles, motorcycles, and even zealous go-kart aficionados. The power plants can be internal combustion, turbine and jet engines, though my brother’s rubber band driven car has been disallowed. This sport is as old, or older than just about any other automotive racing sport known. Two European nobles, one Belgian, and one Frenchman, challenged each other in 1898, and the recorded mile run has seen speeds increase ever since. The GCRR club is a member of the prestigious SCTA (Southern California Timing Association), which was formed in 1937, by car clubs throughout the West Coast area, to carry on time trials in a safe and sanctioned manner. Each year the clubs are given a ballot to vote on the most deserving members and vehicles, and to honor those who have given so much to the sport that they love so deeply.

The following were chosen as the honorees for this year: Don Clark, Clem TeBow, Chauvin Emmons, Ted Frye, Ermie Immerso, Joe Law, Ed and Cris Shearer, Gray Baskerville, Keith Black, Noel Black, Pete Dean, Ed Donovan, Bob McGrath, Bert Peterson, Kent Enderle, and Glenn Freudenberger. Vehicles chosen for special recognition were: the Redhead Streamliner, the Sundowner Corvette, and Eric Vaughn’s Indian motorcycle. The Gas-Up Party began around 9am as race cars and hot rods began to arrive. Mark Mendenhall and his skilled volunteers began to feed the hungry crowd of some 700 people around 1pm, with the delicious Santa Maria style Tri-Tip steak barbecue and beans that he is famous for. Vicki Mendenhall was the straw boss, seeing that the lines were kept moving and that everyone was fed and ready for the Awards presentations. Misty Mendenhall was in charge of the bar in the Chapel, and served the drinks from a real, antique wooden long bar from an old saloon. Jack Mendenhall’s Gas Pump Museum is a treasure house of old antiques, lovingly collected over the last 50 years as Jack traveled the highways and byways of America, on his trips to and from the various racetracks that he loved. His son, Mark, would build a garage, and Jack and Will Scott would fill it up with signs, gas pumps, electrified gas pump globe faces, old license plates, and memorabilia from the early age of the automotive culture. As soon as one garage was filled up, Mark would build another building, and then another, until the Museum now has twelve garages, crammed full of treasures.

At 2:30pm, Tim Rochlitzer and Matt Williams of the GCRR Club began the Hall of Fame Awards ceremonies, and the crowd gathered around to listen to these respected honorees regale us with their stories of their time spent at the Dry Lakes, Bonneville, and at other land speed racing locales. Don Edwards and I had the privilege of presenting the award for Keith Black to his son, Ken. This is the second award given in Keith’s honor this year. Back in June, we awarded a special recognition plaque to Ken in honor of his father’s efforts in promoting boat racing. The “Camfather,” Ed Iskenderien, presented Ted Frye’s award, and recalled Ted’s achievements at the lakes and at Bonneville. Jack Mendenhall introduced a special guest, John Ackroyd, from England. Ackroyd was the designer for both Richard Noble’s first two cars, and then Craig Breedlove’s last landspeed car. Ed and Cris Shearer told us stories about what it is like to be the safety crew down at the end of the course at Bonneville. A lot of drivers owe their health to the fine work that they do. Ermie Immerso crewed at Indy, raced or worked on cars in oval track, went to work for Carroll Shelby, then got the “salt bug” at Bonneville. Chauvin Emmons has consistently been around the 300mph mark at Bonneville for the last 30 years, setting and resetting records. Don Clark spoke about his friend and longtime partner, Clem TeBow, and their days at Bonneville. Joe Law recounted his days racing at the lakes, and helping the sport to grow. Kent Enderle was presented with the Manufacturer of the year award. Glenn Freudenberger was honored with the Historian of the Year award. Glenn has spent a lifetime photographing and recording the history of the Dry Lakes and Bonneville. The ceremonies ended, and the men and women held up their plaques and rings with pride, but the party was far from over, as the crowds filtered into the “Chapel” for more bench racing, that went on far into the evening.

You can contact Richard Parks Gone Racin’ at RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM or visit their website at www.oilstick.com

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