A Teenage Experience by John Chambard

A Teenage Experience by John Chambard
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03-31-08
Book review by Richard Parks and photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz

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Richard’s Review

7 out of 8 sparkplugs

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John Chambard has created a wonderful little booklet called A Teenage Experience. It isn’t a book, nor has it been published, and yet it is worth reviewing. Chambard told me recently that he has made 35 of his booklets for his children, friends and interested parties, though he didn’t quite tell me how. The question needs to be raised as to why I should even bother to review a book that few people will ever see or buy for their libraries.  The reason is simple. John Chambard went about creating this book in a unique way and this is why I want you to read this review and consider adopting his methods. A Teenage Experience measures 5 ½ by 8 ½ inches in size and is made with normal computer bond white paper. The cover is heavier computer bond paper. Chambard simply typed out his story on a normal piece of paper, copied it, used heavier bond paper for the front and back, cut the normal 8 ½ by 11 inch computer paper in half, assembled the pages in sequence and put three heavy duty staples on the left hand margin to hold the book together. Cost to make each book is estimated at two dollars, plus postage. A Teenage Experience has 84 pages and is self-published by the author.  There are 52 black and white photographs, 19 color photos, 1 diagram, 1 letter, 14 chapters, an introduction, an epilogue and a section on new developments. There is no table of contents and no index. You cannot buy this book unless you contact John Chambard and he will most likely give you a copy. The photographs are computer generated on normal bond paper and there is some degradation from the originals. The writing style is straightforward and has a personal charm to it. Chambard tells his story simply and factually as if you were bench racing with him. A Teenage Experience is a story of a young man growing up in California and the car culture and friends that he makes. It is an interesting story that is too short to make up into a book, but is refreshing and quick reading in a booklet format.

Chambard lays the background for his book in Chapter one. His father is an oilman who senses that the Great Depression is coming to an end and that war with Germany and Japan is imminent. He sells his small holdings and invests in machinery in order to take advantage of military orders for parts that are sure to be placed as the government rebuilds the military that has been allowed to age. The chapters are short, barely covering a single topic.  Chambard tells us about the local area that he grew up in and the origins of the Bung Holers club. He tells us about the cars they owned and the experiences that he had at high school. It is sometimes hard to follow the story line as it doesn’t always go in sequence, but each chapter holds the reader’s interest. He tells us little about World War II itself, which had such a great impact on daily life in the early ‘40’s. John’s dad, Lee Chambard had made all the right decisions right up to the end of the war. Lee sold his machine shop in 1944 and tried to build parts for rockets, which fizzled. A Savings and Loan and lumber business in Orange County, California, failed simply because he was ahead of the boom. Lee’s business problems actually brought him closer to his son. The father always wanted to own a Duesenberg. Only 400 of these cars were ever made and the rich and powerful drove them around in opulence. Lee purchased engine number J-157 and he and John built the car around this engine.  John would race this car at the dry lakes, turning a very respectable 125 mph in 1947. John Chambard was a member of the Bung Holers car club and in turn, the club was a charter member of the new Mojave Timing Association. John was a charter member of another car club, the Road Dusters, which divided from the Bung Holers.

John met George Rubio and formed a lasting friendship that was to affect his entire life. George introduced John to Esther Felix, who would become Chambard’s wife. George was also older and influenced John to change his college major from business to engineering.  John was now the president of the Road Dusters and was involved with dry lakes land speed racing and club activities. Rubio would meet Bob Morton and they would team up to set records in land speed racing, and Chambard would help crew for them. Chambard was also a crewman on Doc Boycesmith’s track roadster and they raced at Saugus, Gardena, Huntington Beach and other oval race courses. Boycesmith hired Don Freeland to drive his car and Chambard got to know other famous oval track race drivers of the era, including Manny Ayulo, Jack McGrath, Troy Ruttman and Pat Flaherty. John’s first trip to Bonneville was in 1950, as a crewman on the Rubio/Morton team. A Teenage Experience is filled with wonderful remembrances of friends and events. Chambard recalls PK Vawter and how this young man found school boring and so left classes to spend his time in the public libraries. There are warm stories about the trips into the desert with his father and the deserted cars that they discovered. Lee Chambard moved the family to New Mexico and John finished his college degree at the University of New Mexico. John would go on to earn a pilot’s license, learn to sail a boat, work as an engineer for Dupont for thirty one years and write his memoirs. He gives us a summary of what happened to his high school friends and racing buddies. A Teenage Experience is easy to read and very interesting. Chambard does an excellent job of recording events and making us want to care about the people that he knew. More than just a memoir, A Teenage Experience is a template for you to copy as you write your own life’s story. Every person has something of value to leave behind to their family and friends. Every person has a story to tell. Chambard simply does it in an engaging and interesting way. You may not be able to get a copy of this booklet, but you can copy Chambard’s style and format to create your own work of art and storytelling. This booklet is rated a 7 out of 8 sparkplugs for readability and interesting characterizations.