BUENA PARK, California - The 14th annual California Roadster Association Reunion/Luncheon took place Saturday from noon to 3:00 p.m in the Knott Room of the Knott's Berry Farm Resort/Hotel. Organizers Walt and Dottie James said 167 persons attended the prime rib or chicken luncheon. Walt, 84-year old president of CRA from 1950-70 and the vintage-racing club Western Racing Assn. (WRA) from 1982-85, served as master of ceremonies. He introduced attendees present, including Indianapolis 500 drivers Parnelli Jones and Chuck Hulse, and the 2008 honoree-Bob Hogle, the two-time (1963 and '68) California Racing Association champion. CRA became an all-sprint car club in 1957 and replaced Roadster with Racing in its name.
When introduced by emcee James, Hogle said, "It's nice to be remembered.
That's all I'm going to say." He did thank officials and reunion organizers for all their work. A photo of Hogle seated in the cockpit of the famous Morales Bros Offenhauser sprint car in the early 1960s graced every "pit pass" admission ticket to the luncheon. Hila Sweet's informative biographical sheet, placed on each table, detailed Hogle's life and racing exploits. He let those two-pages tell his story.
each table, detailed Hogle's life and racing exploits.
Highlights of his biographical data follows:
ˇ Entered the world in 1933 and was a rebel early through his teen years in Fullerton.
ˇ Built "cruising" cars (including an airplane engine powered 40s Willys sedan with the drivers' seat in back) when other teens had bicycles or Cushman motor scooters.
ˇ Was blunt, intense, outspoken and free with his colorful opinions. He was known as one of the funniest guys around and kept everyone entertained.
ˇ Received the nickname "Lover Boy" from Ascot promoter Harry Schooler for having a clinging pack of "dollies" as Hogle called them around him.
ˇ Picked up a hitch-hiking kid named Bob Sweet one day and Sweet became a life-long friend, as did Stan Betz and Dick Kraft. Sweet was present at the luncheon.
ˇ Convinced a jalopy owner that he was a race driver although he had never raced, and then raced for the first time at the old track in Huntington Beach.
ˇ Rose through the ranks of jalopy racing to sportsman modifieds, driving the Ummie Paulson-built car for California Jalopy Assn. president Mel Allen.
ˇ Became one of the best and most popular drivers at San Diego's Balboa Stadium. He drove the Peat Bros. modified, which gave him his shot at CRA sprint cars. Lloyd Woolever gave him his first CRA sprint car-ride and be soon became "a guy to beat".
ˇ Tabbed by the Morales Brothers to drive their famous "Tamale Wagon" Offy. He won two CRA driving championships for them and enjoyed a long, lasting friendship with them on and off the track.
ˇ Was sponsored by businessman Tony Oskie who asked Hogle to take his young son Jimmy under his wing and develop his racing talent. Today his young protégé Oskie is a retired, five-time CRA driving champion (1969, '74, '76, '77 and '79) and still a close friend of "his hero" Hogle.
The biographical sheet concluded by saying, "Hogle has amassed a huge circle of friends and grateful budding racers he has helped in their early careers, nurturing them with advice, encouragement, friendship and, most important of all, rides."
As is his custom, emcee James began his remarks by reading the names of racers who died during 2007. They included:
DRIVERS: Rosie Roussel, Willie Swift, Danny Oakes, and Indy 500 veteran Don Freeland;
CAR OWNERS: Walker Edminson (WRA) and Sammy Morales (one of "Tamale Wagon" owners);
MECHANICS: Bill Pittman in Arizona, and Tad Kitano;
BUSINESSMEN: Robert Peterson, of Hot Rod Magazine and auto museum fame, auto dealer Joe McPherson, and Dick McClung;
OFFICIALS: Dave Ward (CRA Board), Glenn Howard (SCRA president and So CAL Race Products owner), Johnny Soares, Sr. (driver/track promoter); Paul Clapper, LA Times motor-sports journalist Shav Glick, and Wally Parks, 94, (founder/President/CEO of NHRA);
WOMEN IN RACING: Dorothy Wickham, (Dottie James' mother, Walt's mother-in-law), Julie (Mrs. Paul) Larsen, Patti Noffsinger (mother of three former CRA sprint car drivers), and Dixie (Mrs. Howard) Kaeding, mother of many-time NARC sprint car champion Brent Kaeding, and grandmother of current drivers Bud and Tim Kaeding.
AWARD PRESENTATION: James then made the third annual presentation of the Walt and Dottie James Perpetual Trophy. This year long-time CRA officials Ed Hudson and Rusty Espinoza were the recipients. Their names will be inscribed on the trophy, which is kept on permanent display at the Justice Brothers Car Care Products headquarters and 150-race car museum at 2734 E. Huntington Drive, Duarte, CA. Prior recipients honored with plaques on the James Perpetual Trophy are Ed Justice, Wilda Kindoll and Evelyn Pratt in 2006, plus Louie Senter, Hila Sweet and Don Weaver in 2007.
As the 14th CRA Reunion honoree, Hogle joins the following past honorees: Dick Vineyard (1995), Troy Ruttman ('96), Jim Rathmann ('97), Chuck Leighton ('98), Don Freeland ('99), Ken Stansberry ('00), Rosie Roussel ('01), Dick McClung ('02), Dick Hughes ('03), Howard & Jack Gardner ('04), Gene Ellis ('05), Chuck Hulse ('06) and Jack Brunner ('07). Ruttman, Rathmann, Freeland and Hulse are Indianapolis 500 veterans. Ruttman (1952) and Rathmann (1960) are Indianapolis 500 winners. Past CRA Reunion honorees Stansberry, Hughes, Gardner, Ellis and Hulse attended the 2008 CRA Reunion/Luncheon.
Emcee James named most of the reunion attendees and spouses alphabetically prior to proceeding with the Hogle ceremonies as follows:
DRIVERS: Bob Behrens, Chuck Conrad, Bob Coulter, Dale Crossno, Jay East, Gene Ellis, Allen Ervine, Mike Frith-Smith, Jack Gardner, Bill Gerard (oldest WRA driver at 84), Skip Hedrich, Gary and Steve Howard, Jerry Hudson, Dick Hughes, Chuck Hulse, Dee Jones, '63 Indy 500 winner Parnelli Jones, Russ Long, from Arizona, Don Melton, Ray Miscevich, Jim Murphy, Jimmy Oskie, Buzz Rose, Scott Sloane, Hila Sweet, '66 CRA champion Don Thomas, Brandon, Fred and Jim Thomson, Ed Van Eyk and "67 and '70 CRA champion Billy Wilkerson.
OWNERS: Ray Alcarez, Frank + Hank Becker, Greg Cunningham, Loran Estes, George Glover, Tony Gonzales, Milt Green, Marshall Hansen, Ken Hillberg, Jim Ruth, Louie Senter, Ken & Ray Stansberry and Don Zabel.
OFFICIALS: Rusty Espinoza, Ed Hudson, Tim Kennedy, John Lee, Art Loya, Evelyn Pratt, Don Read, Neil Sachs, Ron Schwarze, Dr. Sid Senter, MD (track doctor) and Ray Vodden.
MANUFACTURERS: Nick Arias, Jr., Andy Casale and Bob Falcon.
MEDIA: Norm Bogan, Jim Bruce, Jim Chini, Joe Henning, Chet Knox, Richard Marcella, Richard Parks (son of NHRA's Wally), and Jeff Sharpe.
WIDOWS: Joyce (Tony) Farr, Jan (Don) Freeland and daughter Deana,, Sally (Max Sweeney) now Mrs. Bob Hogle, Dottie (Walt) Kennedy, Ginny (Johnny) Moorhouse, and Manon (Dempsey) Wilson.
Many of the above attendees could be listed in more than one category. Jim Van Natta and Don Young attended, as did Michelle Minyard, daughter of 1964-65 CRA champion Hal Minyard, a 2007 inductee into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Indiana resident. Walt and Dottie James' daughters, Vicki and Wendy, assisted their mother in coordinating the reunion details. Former driver Tony Simon, the 1972 USAC Turkey Night Midget Grand Prix winner and a long-time CRA sprint car driver, was unable to attend after sending his reservation as usual. Prior to and following the ceremonies, attendees browsed racing books, artwork, CRA scrapbooks, racing magazines, programs and newspapers, racing photos and memorabilia on tables at the back of the room. Photos from many long-gone speedways were on display only. T-shirts, listing names of past CRA Reunion honorees, were for sale at a table. Bench racing conversations continued about an hour following the conclusion of ceremonies.