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Say Goodbye to Bill Bagnall
March 27, 1926 - November 22, 2006
Story by Richard Parks and Photographs by Roger Rohrdanz

William M. Bagnall passed away last November 22, 2006, and a memorial was held for him at Joe’s Garage in Tustin, California. The Garage is actually a museum owned by Joe MacPherson, who created it as a testimony to his love of cars and the motorsports fans and racers that he knew. We hold a lot of memorials at Joe’s Garage. It’s our way of saying goodbye to our friends who love motorsports as much as we do. We called him Bill, and his brothers were Art and Jack, and if there was ever a more animated 


and fun loving family we have yet to meet them. Bill’s father, Arthur Jack Bagnall, came from Boston, Massachusetts. Jack served in the Army in France during World War I, and stayed over after the war to study art. He traveled to California to visit an old Army buddy and met his future wife. Bill’s mother was Mae and she was the first woman elevator operator in Oakland, California, and yes that’s where they met. The Bagnall’s moved to Taft, California where Arthur worked for Standard Oil of California. The Bagnall’s had three sons; Jack was born in 1924, Bill followed on March 27, 1926, and Art in 1928. Jack and his brother Bill were both born in Taft.

  The family moved to Santa Ana, California, where Art was born. Then around 1931 they moved again to Huntington Park, California and Bill attended Huntington Park High School. That’s where they met the Parks boys, Wally and Kenny, and formed a lifetime friendship. Art Bagnall told us that “when Bill was a teenager he would do funny stunts.” Bill arranged to have his friend put on dark glasses and stand in line at the Oscars. “Then Bill put an MGM Movie Studio decal on his car, drove up in the Limousine line and picked up his friend as the fans cheered,” said Art. “Bill was sponsored by Danny Oakes, the great midget racer, in 1940 at the Soap Box Derby,” Art recalled. Bill never joined any of the local car clubs, and after graduating from high school he went into the Army and served in the Philippines. On discharge from the service, Bill worked for Acme Brewery, then went to work for a magazine, and eventually started his own magazine. Bill’s wife and lifetime partner was Shirlee Alzina, the daughter of Hap Alzina. Hap was the West Coast distributor for the Indian Motorcycle, and according to Allen Girdler, saved the financially struggling motorcycle manufacturer on several occasions. Bill first met Hap when he was at Motorcyclist Magazine and they attended the same races and Hap introduced Shirlee to Bill. Shirlee supported Bill in everything that he did and was constantly working on the magazines as well as taking care of their family. 


Sammy Tanner, a pro motorcycle racer since 1956.

  Sammy Tanner, a pro motorcycle racer since 1956, recalled that Bill was without a car, when a motorcycle fan picked him up one day and took him to a motorcycle racing field meet. This happened before WWII, and Bill was hooked on motorcycle racing from that time on. After the war Bill went to work at a camera store and combined his love of photography with his love for motorcycle racing. Variations on field racing vary, but Tanner said that the racers would take one of their boots and put it in a pile, then return to the starting line. The object was to race your motorcycle down to the pile, find your boot, put it back on and race back to the finish line, with the winner obviously shod and there first. Bill was now a motorcyclist at heart, and a photographer of merit, who would combine these two loves so that they would define his life. Tanner would race professionally from 1956 to 1973 at Ascot and other tracks. Bill would go into the media and marketing profession and promote motorcycle racing. Sammy explained some of the types of racing. There was Speedway Bike racing, which were light bikes with no brakes that raced on short oval courses and were called Class A racing. Class C is the AMA (American Motorcycle Association) division for flat track racing on larger oval racing courses. TT racing was a form of road course racing with right and left turns that eventually evolved into Motocross racing. 

  Bill had endless energy, charm and determination. He was the editor of Motorcyclist Magazine, which he purchased from his boss, Chuck Baskerville in 1965 and which was later sold to Petersen Publishing, according to Don Emde. Bill and Larry Hester started Motorcycle Dealer News in 1965, which was a motorcycle industry trade magazine. Bill was at the center of American motorcycle racing with his contacts in the business and his media talents and photography made him popular and respected. He stood for positive growth and recognition for American motorcycling, whether recreational or for sport. Bill was elected the President of the AMA and served three one year terms from 1968 to 1970. His ability to mediate and get people to work together brought growth to the organization and he traveled to international conventions to promote American interests in motorcycle racing. Bill was a member of the Trailblazers Club, founded in 1940, and a past president from 1994-97. He was inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame. Shirlee passed away first and left a deep sorrow. But Bill continued to do what he loved to do, take pictures, support motorcycle activities and continue to run his photography swap meets with his daughter Tracy. 

  Those attending the memorial spoke lovingly of their time with Bill Bagnall. Don Emde recalled that his father, Floyd Emde had known Bill. Don and Floyd had the distinction of being a father and son who both won the Daytona 200 Motorcycle race. Floyd won it in 1948 on an Indian Scout and Don won in 1972. Allen Hardy, whom we call ‘or is it Hardy Allen,’ is a genial man who has worked on racing teams for as long as we can remember. Dale Koch recalled the time he met Bill at the Hottentot in 1955, and Bill rode off on Mouse Mulholland’s big Gold Star. Bob Anderson reminded us that Bill was also a Board member of the Corvair Club. Allen Girdler told us that Bill had given him tremendous help on Girdler’s book The Harley/Davidson Indian Wars. Bruce Flanders said that Bill gave him his first chance at writing for the Motorcycle Dealer News. Bruce wrote on motorcycle racing at Bonneville while only a junior in high school, and had a cover shot in the magazine. Bruce is the announcer at Irwindale Speedway and Speedway Bike Racing at the Grand in the City of Industry. He also mentioned that he will be the announcer at the Grand Prix of Long Beach for the 30th straight year. 


 Allen Hardy (l) worked on racing teams for as long as we can remember. Don Emde (r)  recalled that his father, Floyd Emde had known Bill. Don and Floyd had the distinction of being a father and son who both won the Daytona 200 Motorcycle race.

Bruce Flanders is the announcer at Irwindale Speedway and Speedway Bike at the Grand, and is in his 30th year at the Grand Prix of Long Beach, Ca


  Shane Bagnall, Bill’s great nephew, told us, “they were all characters. We grew up in Orange County and Huntington Park, California. Jack was the quiet type, loved motorcycles and passed away in the 1980’s. Art is a real character and very funny. Art is an Indy 500 old-timer and everyone likes to be around him. Bill had boundless energy and was always taking pictures. We always met at Jack’s house for holidays and especially on Christmas Eve. Bill always let me help him at his camera shows which were held at the Sequoia Club in Buena Park,” said Shane. Bob Airheart and Don Rackemann knew Bill through his brother Art. Billie Parks, Kenny’s widow, and her son Bob and daughter-in-law Laura traveled down to the memorial from .


Bob Airheart (l) with Bill’s brother Art Bagnall.

Templeton, California. Art and Kenny made an art form out of pestering each other in fun. Diane Bagnall, Art’s wife, said “Bill was a fine and generous man. I’ve known him since 1959, and Bill can be very proud of his accomplishments. Art and Bill also owned and edited Van, Pick-up and Off Road Industry News.” Danny Macias knew Bill from the 1950’s. “I worked at Johnson motors at the time,” said Danny, who was also a motorcycle racer. Danny did all kinds of motorcycle racing and was in the Trail Blazers with Bill. Bill was bald and always kidded Macias about his hair, “Danny and I have known each other for years, but the only thing different about us is our barbers,” joked Bill. Macias raced from 1939 to 1967 at Ascot, Tulare, San Diego, Catalina Grand Prix, Big Bear Run, Hare and Hound and other events

  Ken Clark knew Bill from the early days and he was an active racer from 1952 through 1969. Bob Johnson told us that Bill handled the advertising for the Corvair Club that he belonged to. The club has about 35 members. “Bill was a great guy,” said Bob, “we went to Catalina by seaplanes in the 1950’s to see the big bands play at the Casino. The museum there had photos of motorcycles, which Bill had taken. The Catalina race started in Avalon and went through the island. Bill didn’t race but he wrote stories and took photos,” said Johnson. Thomas Ritter had known Bill since 1986 and rented a booth from Bill. Terye Bagnall is Steve’s wife. Jim Kalke is Shane Bagnall’s stepfather. Mike Parti was a sidecar racer for TT and flat track racing. Ernie Aragon knew Bill as a member of the Trailblazer’s Hall of Fame committee. Ernie used to race and do stunt work in TV and movies. Harry Ringer knew Bill from his Huntington Park days. Nick Nicolaides raced cycles from 1948 through 1952. Howie Zechner is a well-known videographer in motorcycle racing. Bud Wright was an enduro racer who knew Bill in high school. Other friends included Gene Pegenkopp, Hobo John, Harry Suture, Cindy Rutherford, Bren Baillie, Dana Shapir, Max Brubeck, Pat Owens, Tom Shedden, Terry Pratt, Lynn and Adina Wineland, Bob and Barbara Maller. 

  Cindy Rutherford said, “I knew Bill through the Motorcycle Dealer News, which was a motorcycle Industry trade magazine. Bill was going to do an article on my shop, Century Motorcycles, in San Pedro, California. My dad, ‘Wild Bill’ Cottom founded Century in 1933.” Walt Fulton III and his father also knew Bill when his father was involved in racing. Bryon Farnsworth recalled Hap Alzina and his influence on motorcycle racing in the early days. They called Bryon ‘Clutch Cargo,’ after a cartoon character. Bryon raced in the early 1960’s worked briefly for Motorcyclist magazine. Tracy Bagnall-Lloyd and her family and friends worked very hard to create this special memorial service so that Bill’s friends could give their last farewell gestures to a man who meant so much to American motorcycling.


Writer Richard Parks (l) with Byron Farnsworth, recalled Hap Alzina and his influence on  motorcycle racing in the early days.


Allan Girdler, former Editor of Cycle World Magazine and now a writer with a number of motorcycle books to his credit.


Tom Shedden, oval track car owner.


Pat Owens, a tireless worker for the Community College Coalition.


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