Land Speed Racing Newsletter #379

Land Speed Racing Newsletter #379
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THE SOCIETY OF LAND SPEED RACING HISTORIANS Newsletter.  Issue #379. 
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Mary Ann Lawford, www.landspeedracing.com   
PRESIDENT OF THE SOCIETY: Jim Miller, 1-818-846-5139
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Richard Parks, [email protected]  
PHOTOGRAPHIC Editor of the Society: Roger Rohrdanz, [email protected]
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA REPORTER: Spencer Simon, [email protected]
FIELD REPORTER/HISTORIAN: Bob Falcon, [email protected]
HISTORIANS: Anna Marco, Dick Martin, Burly Burlile, Jerry Cornelison, Robin Millar, Ora Mae Millar
IN MEMORIAM: Wally Parks, Tex Smith, Tom Medley, Lee Blaisdell, Eric ‘Rick’ Rickman (editors and photographers)
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GUEST EDITORIAL, by Bob Small.
     I couldn't even begin to tell you why, but this one occurred to me today when I was out chasing parts, and it might be good for a laugh. It's 1971, and I decided at kind of the last minute to run the Bakersfield March Meet, only problem, my race car is apart, and I've got the suspension and the engine out of it, and I'm changing a number of things, and there's no way, time-wise, I can get it back together in time to go to the Bakersfield race. Enter my good friend, Dave Kempton, who had a '64 Plymouth Stage lll car that ran the same class as I did at the time, and he was going to go to Bakersfield as well. He also had his last year's race car, which was a G/SA '62 Plymouth, and it was just sitting in his shop, and he very generously said that I could take his '62 Plymouth to the March Meet, and race it if I wanted to. So, since Dave had been kind enough to let me use his race car, I figured that it would only be right if I towed both the cars up there, so we hooked Dave's trailer onto the back of my ramp truck, and I hauled both the cars to the race.
     Once we get there, we take up quite a bit of pit space, but Bakersfield has pretty good size pits, so it really isn't a problem. We're pretty well spread out, and George Striegel, who owns Clay Smith Cams, used to go to the races with us, and helped with the cars, plus, he also sponsored both Dave and I at the time. You need to understand that George is quite a practical joker, and one of the things that anyone that knows George well, knows about the "Mongoose".
     George has a box, a pretty good sized one, actually, and it is lettered up with "DANGER!  LIVE MONGOOSE!" all over it and George has set the box on top of an empty 55 gallon drum, right next to our pit area. Needless to say, it isn't long before someone walks up and asks if that is really a live mongoose in the box, to which George replies "of course it is, and it's meaner than s**t, too."  The guy that asked about it was a Bakersfield motorcycle police officer, and was accompanied by another bike officer, and they're looking in the box, and half of the box is made up to look like the mongoose's feeding area, has a wire mesh top on it, so you can see inside, complete with a dry dog food dish, and a water dish, and there's some straw in it, and it looks pretty real. The other half of the box has a lid on it, with a real big padlock, and the lid is spring loaded, with a huge spring, and inside it is a coon tail, and it hangs on a hook, so that when the lid bangs open, it "throws" the coon tail in whatever direction the box is aimed.
     So George gives the cop the whole buildup story, and the cop doesn't notice that George has maneuvered the box around until it's pointed right at him, he then makes a big show out of getting out his key ring, unlocks the padlock, all of a sudden, the lid flies open with a loud bang, and George yells; "He's Out!!"  The coon tail hits the cop in the chest, he throws his five cell flashlight about thirty feet in the air, grabs his helmet with both hands, and runs backwards as fast as he can go.  Needless to say, we all had a good laugh over that one, because now there was quite a crowd around.  The cop is pissed, and he says to George, "You wouldn't think it was so damn funny if I would have put six rounds in that f******g box!" To which George replies, "Then it would be the first time I ever saw a helmet shoot anything," which brought another round of laughter, and even applause.  Just one of the things that goes on in pit areas. Bob Small
     EDITOR: I fell for the “mongoose” joke once.  I think they pulled it on me at Famoso about two decades ago.  Mean and nasty little critters; I’ve seen real mongooses in Hawaii.
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     Jim ("Parky") Parkinson's son, Joe, has just informed us that Jim passed away after suffering heart failure on August 22, 2015 and that there will be a memorial service on Saturday, September 12, 2015 from 11 AM to 2 PM in Tustin, California.  Art Evans is putting together a newsletter with a tribute to Parky and anyone who wishes to add thoughts and remembrances can submit them. 
     Dick Guldstrand also passed away and obituaries will be sent as soon as possible.  Ginny Dixon
     EDITOR: I am working on a story on Guldstrand and will include it in the next issue of the SLSRH.
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Impound Insights, by Dan Warner.   August 8-9, 2015 (Mojave Mile Edition)
     I don't normally write an Impound Insights in the month of August, but this is a special case.  The cancellation of the 2015 Speed Week event put the SCTA in a tough position.  Give credit to the SCTA Board and volunteers for creating the first SCTA Mojave Mile to relieve the racers of the stress caused by the cancellation.  This was a rapid, fast moving idea that went from the first suggestion to reality in just 10 days. There were several teams from outside the USA that were stuck with race vehicles and no place to run.
     All that said, the turnout was disappointing to say the least.  The SCTA determined that an entry of 130 would be needed to break even with expenses.  When just 84 stated they would attend if the event went on the SCTA said 'let's do this!"  A total of 50 teams actually went through; 17 cars and 33 motorcycles.  The setup was new to everyone and a bit confusing at first but, being resourceful racers we rolled on.  The 50 entries had 16 from outside the USA, goal accomplished.
     This chart shows the fastest speed of each entry in a SCTA class, of the 17 registered cars 14 made complete runs.  The 33 motorcycles had 32 make complete runs.  Top Speed of the meet was R. J. Gottlieb driving the famous Big Red Camaro at 232.9 MPH, and the fastest motorcycle was the Foory Racing 1350-MPS-BG entry at 218.0 MPH.  Apparently the MKM Events timing system was used and can only go to one decimal place.  The chart shows the entry, class, number of runs and fastest speed for the weekend.  There are some question marks in the class column because the entry form was not completely filled out.  There were no records at this meet all class speeds are based on the honor system as used by the other mile events held around the country.
     ENTRY CLASS RUNS SPEED
Marino Batto XO/BFR 8 143.2
Ron Hope/H & H Motorsports B/BGMR 1 67.0
Sloan Zimmerman G/GMR 6 190.8
Isley Racing A/GRMR 2 154.4
R. J. Gottlieb/Big Red Camaro AA/CBFALT 6 232.9
Langlo Racing A/BGALT 6 196.5
H & H Motorsports G/BGC 4 179.4
Brent Josephson B/GC 11 154.7
The California Special C/GC 7 176.2
Hakan Karlen C/CGALT 12 174.8
Valkyrie Motorsports C/GT 8 187.8
David Gomer C/Prod 6 187.0
LilBit O Racing D/PP 2 153.4
H & H Motorsports Time Only 3 123.4
Thomason & Leon Time Only 3 87.7
     MOTORCYCLES
Bucket 372 100-A-G 8 78.8
Retro Racing Special 100-A-(?) 6 94.9
Jean-Paul Afflick 100-APS-BF 6 102.6
Lingua Bros & Sons 125-APS-(?) 2 66.5
Jahn Brothers Racing 125-P-P 11 100.9
The Baron 350-APS-PBG 5 115.8
Anders Jonsson 350-APS-PF 5 113.5
Fyie Rac-zing 350-M-G 6 129.7
Ivan Rasmussen 350-MPS-PBG 5 79.0
Bonny Fine Custom Mechanics 500-APS-VG 5 92.8
Mike Griffiths 500-SC-(?) 11 109.4
Alp Racing & Design 650-A-PF 4 169.1
Richard Krczal 650-A-PF 8 124.2
Diamond Mob 650-A-PBG 6 115.0
Flying Marshall 650-A-(?) 8 121.7
Wildcat Pncd 750-A-VG 4 115.4
Richard Krczal 750-SC-PF 3 96.3
Evelyne Scholz 1000-A-BG 7 198.8
Ninja H2R Team 38 1000--MPS-BF 12 216.4
MKM Racing 1000-MPS-(?) 5 203.5
Indian Chief 1936 Lucian Hood 1000-P-PP 3 84.6
Gilbert Bailey 1350-A-BG 2 110.4
Terry Prince 1350-A-G 4 145.4
Mad Reaper 1350-APS-G 17 170.8
Destination Huff 1350-APS-PF 7 195.0
Foory Racing 1350-MPS-BG 17 218.0
Viper for Dad 1350-P-P 9 189.8
Salimbeni Racing 1350-P-P 11 131.9
Tom Krause 1650-MPS-(?) 22 209.8
Shooting Star 1650-P-P 12 194.3
Chris Rivas 3000-APS-PBG 5 206.9
Lightning Motors Omega-APS 6 209.1
     Now that this is written I can climb on my soap box.  I have advocated for a National Paved Mile record database.  The thought is that if the speeds in the SCTA class structure could be compared it may spur increased competition.  While the event was going the impound team, Matt Shuss, Tom Evans, Mike Kahney and myself were trying to figure a way to do this.  We want the records to be real records in that the vehicle is certified in the same manner we do at Bonneville and El Mirage.  This includes body/chassis and engine measurement certification.  We decided that the SCTA could put these certified records in the rules and records book only if the other organizations comply with a certification process.  It would be up to the teams whether they want a real record or not.  More details to follow if/when the SCTA holds any more paved mile events.  I and the SCTA members and the racers at the event wish to thank Mike Borders and his MKM Events team for the use of their facility and equipment to hold this event.
     In the mean time let’s hold onto our hopes that there will be some timed runs on the salt in 2015.
Dan Warner
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     Richard, I loved your tale of Tex's life and being included in the story, but you have given me credit for way too much. I only traveled with Tex once or twice, but I followed in his footsteps (tire tracks) for decades as he was my idol and later my mentor and lat4er, friend. We spent brief periods of time together at Bonneville, Driggs, a Glenn Miller concert near my home in Utah, on a cruise in 89 and at his place in Australia. I think the fellow who spent time with Tex on the road the most, especially over the past two decades, was Ron Ceridono. He was Tex's traveling companion.
     I thought I should offer those concerns so you have a more accurate story of Tex (and me). Below are some photos I have of Tex which you may feel free to use if they are suitable. A few I gave to Tex a couple of years ago for his book but I am not sure if any found their way to publication as I have not received my copy yet. 
     For many days as I tried to figure out how Tex Smith and I could have traveled together. Today it came to me so I put it in words.  Briefly, I have traveled greatly with Tex, first in the pages of automotive magazines, then following his unintentional guidance from these stories and finally together hither and yon as acquaintances and then friends. Below is the chronology of those travels:
     TRAVELIN' WITH TEX, by Burly Burlile.
1956-1970     Through the pages of Hot Rod and Rod & Custom magazines, Tex becomes my idol, his stories taking me to Bonneville and into the automotive world.
1963             Tex finishes the XR6 street roadster and wins the title, Americas Most Beautiful Roadster, utilizing a highly modified Ford Model T body, a slant six Chrysler engine and a Volkswagen front axle beam. I'm enthralled with the modern "T" design.
1967             Tex begins a series of "Vintage Tin" articles about old cars wasting away in fields around the country. The stories inspire street rodding dreams in this and many other young men, me included.
1970             In the October issue of Rod & Custom. Tex pens a story called "Tex's Lost Tin Mine," about a treasure trove of vintage tin, he does not tell where the "mine" is, and sharing only clues to help protect its treasures. Setting out from southern California, I travel together with two childhood friends, Tom Medlock and Gary Edmon, and following Tex's vague clues, we go in search of Tex's "mine", eventually discovering it in Eureka, Nevada. We take photos duplicating those in the article and send one to Rod & Custom. In the January 1973 issue, Tex post's our story and photo, and R& C pays us $25. This is my first direct contact with Tex, although not in the flesh.
1973             Gary Edmon, Tom Medlock and I again visit Eureka, Nevada, returning again with more vintage tin, old bottles and an old cast iron stove from Tex's Lost Tin Mine.
1975             My wife and I attend a country western jam session at a private home in La Habra, California, with a neighbor who owns a chrome shop. A short time after arriving, one Tex Smith arrives in Walter P, his 49 Chrysler to be part of the session. He plays the "spoons"! I introduce myself to him as one of the three young men who followed his clues to Tex's Lost Tin Mine. It is our first meeting.
1978             Tex is now living in Frazier Park, California, and publishing the Rod & Machine Gazette. In one issue, he includes a press release promoting my Volks Rod 32 Ford style hood kits for Volkswagens, beginning a long relationship of mentoring and support of my design and journalistic efforts.
1979             I travel to Colorado to the National Hot Rod Association Street Division nationals to meet Tex, who is promoting the event for the NHRA. It is our second personal meeting.
1981             I travel again to Eureka, Nevada, in search of more tin from Tex's lost mine. More nuggets are panned!
1981             Tex, under the pseudonym John Ridenour, writes an article covering my initial Bonneville Cruise In for Rod Action magazine, even though Speedweek has been cancelled due to rain. At the Cruise In, we cement a friendship.
1983             Following in Tex's footsteps (and vintage tin articles), I visit Downey, Idaho, to scrounge through another of Tex's vintage tin mine locations.
1985             Tex, who has now moved back to Idaho, joins with Carl Brunson and myself to assist the widow of our recently passed mutual friend, Steve Lowry, to dispose of his cars and equipment at a sale in Bancroft, Idaho.
1986             Tex, along with Tom Medley, Chris Boggess, Carl Brunson and myself travel around the Teton Valley in southeastern Idaho collecting railroad track date nails from the twenties and thirties and visiting various vintage tin locations.
1987             Tex and Pegge travel from Idaho and stay with us in Mendon, Utah, where we attend a Glenn Miller tribute show, dance and dinner at Utah State University.
1987             Returning from southern California after delivering a rare Volkswagen "Barndoor" bus to a customer, Carl Brunson and I revisit Eureka, Nevada, seeking out the few remaining pieces of vintage tin. From this journey, a story about the history of the "tin mine" is scribed and published by Tex in one of his ‘How To Build’ Hot Rod books.
1989             During this period, Tex is promoting the Teton Kruise, and I arrange a "Highway 89 Cruise to the Kruise" bringing street rodders from Logan’s Run, in Logan, Utah, to Jackson Hole for Tex's event.
1991             Joining Tex's cruise this year we travel from Billings, Montana, over the magnificent Bear Tooth Pass and through Yellowstone National Park to Driggs, Idaho. 2012             While in Australia for the Australian F1 Gran Prix, Tex and Patty take me to Bendigo, an old Australian mining town northwest of Melbourne, during my visit with him down under in his second home.
2013             Before returning to Mendon from a around the U.S. three month dream road trip, my wife and I stop in Driggs to visit Tex, who is now beginning to show evidence of the cancer that is attacking his body. We enjoy lunch at his favorite Driggs digs, the Warbird's Café at the Teton Airport
2013             As always, on our trips to the west coast, my wife Pat and I always take the path less traveled and detour south to Highway 50, the "Loneliest Road", which by chance happens to pass directly through Eureka, Nevada. During this journey I discover one last piece of vintage tin at "the tin mine" while revisiting the junipers where we first found Tex's tin.
2013             Tex and I do a "walkabout" at the Nugget Casino in Wendover, Utah, during Bonneville Speedweek, enjoying the street rods, rat rods and customs. This would be my last one on one visit with Tex, the last time I enjoyed his company in person.
2015             I make one last trip to Eureka, Nevada, to "save" the last piece of tin from Tex's Lost Tin Mine, a five window cab from an early twenties truck of unknown origin and pen a story about this trip to the mine which is published on-line by Street Rodder Magazine. This is the final chapter in the Tex's Lost Tin Mine saga.
2015 June     Tex's passes at his adopted home in Castlemaine, Australia.
2015             Today, just over a month after Tex's passing, I receive my copy of Inside Hot Rodding, the autobiography Tex rushed to get together with his waning strength. Photos I have taken of Tex and his dear friend Larry O'Toole at our last Bonneville meeting in 2013 are included. Even here, Tex has included me as he traveled on his final journey.
2015             I will travel one last time to remember Tex at his Celebration of Life, held at the NHRA Museum in Pomona, California.
God Speed Tex, my friend.
     I have just received my copy of his autobiography, "Inside Hot Rodding" and am honored in the fact he selected many of my photos from visits with him in Australia and at Bonneville in 2013 to fill out chapters 45 and 46, "Better Times" and "Oz". They will be some of the last photos taken of Tex to be shared with the world.
     As a side note, you knew Tex far better and longer than I and are familiar with his ways of jabbing fun at you, always with the best of intentions. My fondness for VW's in the hot rod world was a regular target of Tex's arrows and I found it interesting that he stuck a series of VW 40's Ford "Woodie" style photos I sent him thirty years ago in the book (page 236) along with a personal observation. They do not tie into anything in the associated chapter or anything else in the book for that matter as far as I can see, and even if this was not his intention, I will always look at that page as a final and personal jab from my friend.  Burly Burlile
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Gone Racin' ... Joel Gruzen.  Story and photographs by Joel Gruzen, edited by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.  26 November 2012. 

     My paternal Gruzen grandparents, Edward and Bessie Gruzen, both came to the United States from Latvia around 1900 thru Ellis Island.  Edward had a horse and cart; bought and sold cloth items, rags, etc.  Bessie worked in a bakery in the kosher section of Worcester, Massachusetts.  Both were typical Eastern European; they had close family ties and were hard workers.  Edward died when his horse stepped on his foot, which became infected and he eventually died from gangrene poisoning.  He was in his mid-60's at the time; around the 1950's.  Bessie lived to 92 years of age.

     My father, Harry Gruzen, was born in July 1913 in Massachusetts.  He was a very conservative man and did a variety of retail sales to the general public.  Harry managed to get a private pilot’s license, and had an old dual wing (Bi-Plane) single engine airplane that he took pleasure in flying.  He entered the Army Air Corps in 1941 and was on one of the crews that had been selected to do the Hiroshima atomic bomb run; however that crew was pulled off of any runs at the last minute.  Harry was a radio gunner in B-29's, B-17's and B-24's during WWII.  He was offered a commission to become a pilot, but at the direction of my mother, declined it.  My Mother wanted no part in him staying in the service.  My dad was discharged from the service in 1944 while stationed at March Field in Riverside, California.  My mother threatened him with a divorce if he stayed in the military.  He went back to retail sales and remained there until the late 1960's when he helped my Mom with the opening of her clothing stores.  He passed away in October, 2006, five months after my mother did.  He had cancer, but still lived to the age of 93.

     My maternal grandparents, Hyman and Sadie Sherman, both came from a small town right outside of St Petersburg, Russia.  They entered the United States in 1917 thru Ellis Island.  Sadie was a homemaker and Hyman worked in a clothing manufacturer’s sweat-shop in Massachusetts as a tailor.  Both were devoted to family and very hard workers.  They moved to California after he retired.  Sadie passed away at 91 years of age and Hyman lived until the age of 94.  They were married for 73 years.

     My mother, Sylvia Sherman, was born in St Petersburg, Russia, in 1915 and immigrated to the United States with her parents in 1917.  She was an excellent mother to me and was very well read in a variety of specialties.   She worked in retail sales; women's ready to wear clothes.  Sylvia was a concert violinist and played for the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra.  She also played the piano and accordion.  Mom was a clothes buyer for some formerly well known "Women’s Ready to Wear" clothing outlets during the 1940's through the '60's; Wonder Shops, Dotty Deans, etc. 

     Mom went on to open her own business in women's ready to wear clothing.  The stores were Kandy Kanes in Belmont Shores, and Sylvia's in Bellflower, California.  Then she opened up two "Sylvia’s on the Strip" stores.  One store was located on the Sunset Strip in Beverly Hills, and the other store was on the "strip" in Las Vegas, located in the Algiers right across the street from the Circus Circus.  She closed the Vegas store in the mid 1970's and then sold the Beverly Hills store to the management company for the "Supremes" singing group.   That store only lasted about another year before it became a victim of mismanagement.  My parents retired to Laguna Hills California, and my mother spent much of her time traveling and playing Tournament Bridge and also Tournament Scrabble.  She had appeared on several TV shows with a group called the "Dancing Grannies," which I believe was in the late 1980's.  Mom also taught old European type dances to students.  She was a veracious reader and probably one of the 'sharpest tacks in the box' when it came to a number of subjects.  She developed Alzheimer’s in early 2000 and eventually passed away in June, 2006 at the age of 91.  Both my father and mother were childhood sweethearts who had met in Junior High and dated all thru High School; they were married in June, 1934.

     I was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on a very cold and snowy day, Feb 28th 1938.  At least, that's what I'd always been told by my Dad, Aunts and Uncles; "A very, very, cold, cold day." (Not to be misconstrued as a 'cold day in hell.')  I attended Granite Street elementary school until coming out to California in 1946 to join my parents and sister who had been here for a little over a year.  We lived in what is now Commerce, California, which is in East Los Angeles.  I went to Eastmont Jr High, then on to Montebello High School.  We moved to Long Beach, California in 1950, where I attended High school, (several of them but you don't want to hear about that part).  I was at Long Beach Poly High School and Tom McEwen was there at that time too.  Although we knew each other, we didn't 'socialize', but did have several mutual friends. 
     I left school midway through my senior year and had already met my 'girlfriend' at the time.  I raced on the streets of Long Beach or wherever I could find someone to run against.  I started out racing at the old Santa Ana Airport Drags.  I worked at the Don Buckman Chevron station at the foot of the Belmont Pier in Belmont Shores.  I got married to Darla Ann (Braden) Gruzen, my present wife, (now that's an oddity), in April of 1955, then joined the US Air Force in October of 1955.  My wife was expecting our first child, and I had trouble paying the $2 Doctor visits.  Can you believe how little it cost back then?  So, I decided to join up and let Uncle Sam take care of it.  That was one of the best decisions that I'd ever made (going into the Service).  I finished my High School Ed (GED), and then went thru several years of College (Community College of the Air Force) which equated to a Bachelors of Science (BS) in Communications Management and Personnel Management.  I eventually promoted to a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer; and wrote a variety of operational/communications type plans as Chief, Plans and Programs for Communications.  I held that position until I retired in October of 1975.  That same 'position' that I held is now a hi-ranking civil service job (GS-13). 

     I started going out to the old Santa Ana Airport drag strip back in the early 1950's, while attending High School in the Long Beach Area.  One of my school friends at the time, Gary 'Red' Falanes, had an older brother, Joe Falanes, who had a 1940 Ford coupe.  The three of us piled into Joe's car and headed out to Santa Ana.  Joe had an 'eye' focus problem, and twice he mowed down the timing equipment that C. J. Hart had at the drag strip.  Hart finally told Joe, "No more, you can't drive your car on my track, period."  However, Hart did allow me to drive Joe's coupe and I was never even asked if I had a license; which I didn't, because I was around 15 at the time.  I can't recall exactly why Red didn't drive; probably because I could 'speed shift' better than he could.  That was my first race and my introduction to dragracing, though that doesn't include racing on Cherry Avenue in Long Beach.  On several other outings to Santa Ana I saw Art Chrisman's old flathead and again, my first introduction to Nitro.  I can still remember the 'gag' reflex when I inhaled those nitro fumes by standing too close to the car.

     A few months later Joe was apprehended for one thing or another and went to prison for something, I don't remember why, but he had been in and out of a variety of lockups thru his early and late teen years.  I needed another way to get to the drag strip and ran across a local friend, Bernie, whose last name escapes me.  He was building a 1936 or '37 Chevrolet coupe, with twin carbs, cam, but no air cleaner or muffler.  Bernie and I teamed up and I became the driver and ran at Santa Ana a few times.  That car had a 6 cylinder motor in it and ran somewhere in the upper 70 MPH category, which for us, was 'big time.'  Shortly thereafter, Bernie went into the Navy and I continued to make an occasional trek to the drag strip.  Another school friend, Joe Groom and I had a '37 Ford Phaeton which we fixed up; drove the wheels off of it, both on the street and at the Santa Ana Drag Strip.  Was it fast?  No, but it was noisy, and that was good enough for us.

     Joe and I got into our share of trouble as we both found it with very little effort, even after I joined the Air Force.  We were still in contact, though I settled down quite a bit, or I would have ended up in the stockade.  Joe still found a way to get into some major hot water and he would visit me in the 1960’s and relate some wild stories.  We sort of drifted apart as the service was having a positive effect on me.  He took all his possessions out of my place and I didn’t see him for some time after that.  Then thirty years later he contacted me and came over to visit and we started up our friendship again.  He had changed, like most of us and the youthful indiscretions were in the past.  We lost track of each other again after 1992 and for about sixteen years there wasn’t any contact.  In 2008 I was talking to Don Cook, who was a member of the Damn Yankee funny car team and he had met Joe recently.  I got Joe’s phone number from Don and called him.  Joe was now retired and enjoying his time with his family and grandchildren.  We keep in contact through Facebook and emails, as he lives in a very remote area of Northern California.  I can’t believe that the wild kid that I knew as a youth would turn out to be a pastor of a congregation and a member of the Long Beach Police Department.

     During my youth, another neighbor (I can't recall his name or how we met) and I decided to team up and go racing.  He was a lot older than me, probably in his 20's, and I thought I'd be the driver.  He bought the old Bean Bandits Crosley-bodied dry lakes car.  I recall going to the San Diego area to help him tow it back to Long Beach and that's before trailers were used.  I helped him install, along with a multitude of other forgotten guys, a Flathead in the Crosley, and we were off to Santa Ana, towing it with a tow bar on the street; which is how we did it back then.  Every time when we raced the car at the drag strip, the axle keys would always shear off during the car's first pass.  The car had an early Ford rear end.  We'd have to pull the wheels, hubs, etc and install a new axle key.  We did our best to get thru the day, tow the car back home, work on it and then the next outing at the drag strip, the same thing would happen to us.  I suggested that he remove the axle keys before towing it to the drag strip and maybe the axle key wouldn't break during the first pass; and that proved to be right.
     During my tenure at Long Beach Poly High School, I also had a 1940 Ford Tudor, which I thought was the 'cats meow.'  It was the fastest car on the block, (Just ask me) as just about every corner in Long Beach had my tire marks on the pavement as I made the turn.  That car also made a few treks to the Santa Ana drag strip and ran in the high 80 mph.

     Early in 1954 I met this girl and fell in love.  Several months later we took off to Las Vegas and got married; I'm still married to her.  Then I joined the United States Air Force (USAF) and was sent overseas to Guam shortly after completing Basic Training.  I had the family there too.  I returned to March Air Force Base (AFB) in early 1959, and during a visit to the base Auto Hobby Shop I ran into Mike McCabe, Ralph Knight, 'Red' Cowan and a host of other guys that comprised the initial founding of the Strat-O-Rods car club, from March AFB, in Riverside, California.  This was, to my knowledge, the only club of its kind to be recognized by the USAF.  Ralph Knight was building the club's first Chevy powered Modified Roadster.  All the work on the car was done in the auto hobby shop at the base.  I also had a Flathead powered roadster that I had taken out to the Colton drag strip and also to the drag strip in Riverside.  I lived across the street and down a block from the main gate of the Riverside drag strip.  I ran my roadster at Riverside and also made some of the first passes in the Strat-O-Rods car right after it was completed.  The club car was carbureted at the time until Ralph went to a 4.71 Blower.  The club car made a few Hot Rod magazine articles and photo spread, but many of the photographs didn't show up until late in 1962 and '63.  All the people involved with the car were USAF personnel.

     The Colton drag strip was located on an old airport in the town.  I know that in order to land a plane while the drags were in operation, the pilot would have to "Buzz" the airfield twice.   We'd stop the races and move as much as we could out of the way to allow the plane to land.  This didn't happen very often, but it did happen several times during my tenure there.  Colton, if I can recall, came into being right after the old Santa Ana Drag Strip.  I'm thinking somewhere in the early 1950's.  Until it closed it was probably one of the oldest drag strips in California, and probably in the United States.  The track was never a 'main stay' for the big named racers of the day.  It never had any 'national' attention, even after NHRA was organized.  The track was basically a 'home town' thing, with a sprinkling of the era's faster cars making an occasional appearance, just to iron out some bugs in their cars. 
     Colton had the usual safety features; one ambulance equipped with band-aids, mercurochrome, and aspirin (joke). But it was there for us in the event of an emergency.  The 'control tower' consisted of an elevated structure, approximately 10 feet in height.  The tower provided 360 degree visibility and was constructed of either angle iron/square tubing and topped off with some corrugated sheet metal surrounding the work bench (for the clocks) and the roof.  There was a rickety iron ladder which was welded or bolted onto the frame structure from the ground to the tower work area. It was probably as close to a 'state of the art' facility as was available for that time frame.  The tower usually had an 'announcer, and a person to work the clocks (timing device), who also wrote out the 'time slips' and one or two 'spotters.'  It was basically a short mini-crowd.  Time slips were handed out from the bottom of the tower, as the return road went right in front of the tower.  I was there as the announcer for just a little over a year, then was shipped overseas again (I was in the Air Force at the time). 1960 was the last time I was at the track.  I can't recall exactly when the track was closed down.  It never did have the 'spectator' draw like places such as Riverside, Lions, Fontana and other drag strips had.  But we did have some spectator action on the weekends when it was in operation.
     Right after joining up with the club I wound up in the timing stand.  I can't recall who the announcer was at the time, but I worked the public address (PA) system.  John Bradley was playing havoc with most of the cars that came there to run.  He was usually the Middle or Top Eliminator on just about every weekend.  Some of the race cars were sponsored or ran under the following; Merrill’s Speed Shop, Gene's Brake Shop, Phil's Muffler (which later became J&M Speed Center owned by Phil Braybrook), Fontana Scaffolding and Equipment Company, Stone/Woods/Cook, and Sidebotham Brothers.  I think Mike Snively ran his Top Fuel (T/F) dragster out past the back end of the track into the rough as the shut off area at the Colton drag strip was not adequate for the faster cars.

     Phil Braybrook approached me one day and wanted to buy my flathead that I had in my roadster.  He was impressed with the way it ran.  I traded the engine for a load of 'bolt on' Oldsmobile speed equipment, which was my initial introduction to an overhead valve engine.  I teamed up with a couple of guys (I don't recall their names) who had a dragster 'chassis' and I had the engine and tranny.  I was the driver of this team and after several months the team broke up.  I took my engine and equipment and formed a team with Ed Oueihle, from Fontana Scaffolding and Equipment Company.  Ed had bought Dean Lowry's old bullet-nosed dry lakes car, which had a Desoto Hemi in it when it was raced.  I brought the car over to my house and did the modifications to install my Olds engine, and we went racing.  My old flathead roadster was parked and stored at the Fontana Scaffolding Company equipment yard and I lost track of it.  The old roadster may still be there.  Over the years I lost contact with Ed Oueihle, but my wife and I are still in contact and friends with his ex-wife, Esther (Donna) Oueihle.   Esther was a hell of a good driver too.  She did some passes at Colton in their CMSP, Chevy powered Devin SS.  The car ran in the "C" Modified sports class; I think that they held the Drag News CMSP record for a time.  One item that to my knowledge was never revealed was that Esther was the driver, not Ed, so I don't think that ever came out in public or that she got credit for the records.  Mickey Thompson may have been aware of it, as he did approach Esther to run the car at Lions.

     I continued to work the PA system at Colton until late in 1959 or early in '60.  Then I worked for a few months at Riverside on the PA.  When Tony, the owner at Colton found out that I was also working at Riverside, he fired me.  But it didn't matter as shortly thereafter I was shipped overseas again and was gone for over four years. I returned to the States in 1967.  I never had the opportunity to run at any National Events.  Being a 'two' striper in the service, with a family, didn't leave much spendable income to race with.  I patched up one car after another, just to have something to race, and went on from there.

     Upon another return to the States in mid-1961, I was stationed in Sacramento, but this was before the Sacramento drag strip was operating.  Vaca Valley drag strip was our closest track and I eventually became the announcer there for Bill Taggart, until I left again for overseas duty in 1963.  During this time I had several partners in several different cars.  I was teamed up with Chuck Tanko; helped in forming the short-lived 'Century Speed Center' in Sacramento, California.  Chuck had designed and partially constructed a twin Hemi dragster, which after the shop closed, moved it to my house and we finished the car there.  The car made its initial runs at Lodi.  The car had major handling problems which never did get corrected.  I lost some races to famous drag racers, such as Don Garlits and Art Malone.  Our car just would not go straight, although, after figuring out why, Chuck and I split up and the car never raced again.  My next partner was Greg Maher in a Noel Black (B&N Auto) chassis.  We ran an injected Olds (one of my engines) as a C Fuel Dragster, before Jr/Fuel was created as a racing class.  Before we had a chance to work all the bugs out, I was shipped overseas again and had to terminate our partnership.  Greg went on to install a blown Olds and went into the Top Fuel class.  He eventually partnered up with Dave Smith (Sacramento Raceway) and George Wulf. 

     When I was shipped overseas again in 1963 that sort of put my racing adventures in hiatus again.  Only this time I was absent for over thirty years.  I remember when I was notified of my impending overseas assignment I was announcing at the Vaca Valley dragstrip in northern California and was more worried about leaving that place.  I had gone to the track on that Saturday afternoon and told Bill Taggart, the track manager, about my leaving.  I told Bill that it was a ‘short notice’ assignment and there was nothing that could be done about it.  Taggart told me not to say anything to anyone at the track as he would let them know at the appropriate time.  He asked me who I thought might work out well on the Public Address system.  The one guy that used to give me a break in the tower also did the Tech inspections and he hated it when he had to come relieve me.  I worked for several more weeks and then it was time for my deployment.  The staff held a little gathering for me and presented me with a really nice ‘Vaca Valley Dragstrip’ jacket.  The person who replaced me was the guy that hated being on the microphone and coming to relieve me; his name was Jim McComb and he turned out to be one of the great announcers.  He is still working, this time at Sears Point as the announcer, even though he is having some severe health problems. 

     I was gone for over thirty years, and when I finally returned to drag racing again in 1993 I was racing at Sears Point and found out that Bill Taggart was working there.  I unloaded my car in the pits and went looking for him.  I wanted to tell him that he never did pay me for my last weekend at Vaca Valley and owed me the huge sum of $20.  One of the track guys pointed Bill out to me on his golf cart and his little dog riding around in the pits.  Bill came over to me and said, “I understand that you’re looking for me.”  I said, “I sure am, you owe me twenty dollars.”  He took a second look and his face lit up and he said, “I’ll be! @#$%^&*... Joel Gruzen and we had a great talk.  Then he told me that Jim McComb was the announcer at Sears Point and we drove over to the tower.  I had on my ‘Vaca Valley Dragstrip’ jacket on and we went upstairs.  Jim was on the PA system and I went over and stared at him to get his attention and he acknowledged me for a second without recognizing who I was.  I turned around so that he could see the back of my jacket and you should have heard what he said as he blurted it out over the PA system.  That was one huge laugher between the three of us.  Did I get the twenty dollars from Bill?  Nope, I never did, but we had a great laugh about it.  I still email and talk to Jim from time to time.

     I got back into drag racing towards the end of 1993 when my son, Dave, came by the house.  He said, “Hey, Dad, they’re having a reunion at Bakersfield this weekend.  Let’s drive up and see what’s going on.”  My first thought was that my son doesn’t know anyone that my wife and I went to school with; and why would Long Beach Poly High School have a reunion in Bakersfield?  Dave went on to tell me that it was the California Hot Rod Reunion (CHRR), but I wasn’t interested.  My son brow beat me for a few more days and a good friend of mine thought that we might get a kick out of seeing some old friends as neither of us had been on a drag strip in years.  Dave had been racing VW’s for a few years, so I finally relented and we went.  The trip and the reunion were pretty enlightening.  I couldn’t believe how many people that I ran into and which I hadn’t seen in those three decades were there.  It turned out to be a great reunion for me and this inspired me to get back into drag racing.  I’ve been broke ever since, but it’s a happy kind of broke.  I rekindled my old friendship with John ‘Mr Flathead’ Bradley and with so many more of my friends and racing associates.  John has since passed away.

     My old buddy and I built my current car; a replica of an old modified roadster.  We completed it in 1994 and it became a display car at the CHRR for Art Carr’s Transmission vendor spot.  We started into real competition in early 1995 and the car’s aerodynamic design was vintage 1960.  We won our class at the 1997 March Meet. In 1998 we did even better as we were the Nostalgia Eliminator class winner at the 1998 March Meet and won the Good Guys National Points Championship.  In 1999 we were the runner up in points for the Good Guys championship and over the years up through 2012 we won a few more races with the car.  I’m still active in nostalgia drag racing and a few years back several of my crew-people coined the ‘House of Mouse’ phrase as I ran three NE1 cars, all SBC’s (Mouse Motors) and assisted in tuning a fourth car for a close family friend.  In 2011 I debuted a tribute ‘cackle car’ at the CHRR for the old ‘Newhouse/Cagle’ fuel roadster that was a dominant car during the early to mid-1960’s.  This car ran throughout the Southern California and West Coast area. I hope to continue until I get tired of picking up the tools that I keep dropping while working on the race cars.

     After I retired from the military I took a few weeks off to water ski and then got into the automotive retail sales in mid-1979.  Yes, all I did was water ski for a few years. I worked my way up to Automotive Management; and managed several auto dealerships through 1990.  I then changed careers and became the Director of Operations for Respiratory Therapy Home Care in Paramount, California, which was owned by a friend and neighbor.  I retired again from there in 2000 and started working at a friend's Conveyor Company, again as an Operations Manager.  I called it quits in 2003.  I got back into Drag Racing in 1993 after attending the 2nd California Hot Rod Reunion and I've been broke ever since (almost).  My wife and I have been married for, approaching 57 years and we have three children; a son Dave Gruzen, and two daughters, Karen Ann Gruzen Norman and Zeena Lynn Gruzen Thomas.  They have given us ten grandchildren, five great-grandchildren with 3 more enroute.

Gone Racin' is at [email protected].

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Gone Racin'...Paul Hamilton biography.  Text and photographs by Paul Hamilton, edited by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.  28 March 2012.

     I was born on March 24, 1934 in Washington, D.C. to Zebulon Thomas Hamilton and Rowena Layne Hamilton.  My father was born in 1890 in Grapevine, Texas on a farm.  He was the next to last of six children.  He went on to Texas A&M and majored in architecture.  Zebulon went into the Army in 1917, but spent his time in the military in the United States and never was sent overseas.  My mother was born in Odessa, Texas in 1891 and she was the second of six children in her family.  She grew up in Comanche, Texas and her father was the head of the school system.  She went to North Texas State Teachers College.  Zebulon married Rowena in late 1918 and my brother was born in late 1920.  My sister came along next and she was born on April 5, 1928.  Later that same year my father got a job with the government in Washington, D.C.   He also worked at a part-time job working on the plans for part of the National Cathedral.  From 1938 through 1941 my father was the director of the Soap Box Derby in Washington, D.C. until World War II broke out.  When the war broke out my father went back into the Army Engineer Corps and was sent to England.  My brother went into the Army Air Corp and ended up in the Fifth Air Force in the South Pacific where his job was to examine photographs of targets taken by the pilots.  My mother went back to teaching at the same school that I was attending.  
     I attended Woodridge Elementary School through the sixth grade and then transferred to Taft Junior High School for grades seven through ninth.  After the ninth grade I went to McKinley Technical High School in Washington, D.C., which was a three year high school, grades ten through twelve.  In high school I took all of the shop classes that I could as it was a technical school and had an auto and machine shop.  While in high school I went to a special night school to learn to be an aircraft mechanic.  I worked part time at Queens Chapel Airport, in Queens Chapel, Maryland.  Then I went to College Park Airport, in College Park, Maryland for flying time.  I worked at a Sunoco gas station for extra money.  After the war ended my parents separated and my sister got married in 1946. 
     I raced in the soap box derby from 1946 through 1949 and almost won it twice.  The soap box derby cars they have today are all kits and they all look alike except for the paint and they have two or three classes of cars.  The type of soap box derby cars that we had back in the 1940's were all hand made by the driver and each one was different. The wheels for the cars were bought at a Chevy dealer and they were all alike; 12 inches in diameter.  Those old soap box derby cars could get up to 40 mph or faster.  We ran in two classes back then; ages 10 to 12 and 13 thru 15 years old.  In 1946 I finished 2nd in my class.  In 1947 I was 2nd over-all, and in 1948 I went out in the semi-finals.  The car and the driver combined could not weigh more than 250 pounds.  By 1949 I had to build a car as light as I could get it as my car, plus my weight came to exactly 250 pounds.  The wheels that I was using were old and it was a very hot day. I lost the rubber on two of the wheels at mid track and finished third.  That was in the 2nd round and ended my Soap Box Derby career.  But by that time I was fifteen years old and had already been flying for over a year.  Funny thing is that I couldn't get a license to legally drive, but I could fly an airplane at that age.
     During the summer of 1951 and 1952 I drove a 1937 Ford coupe in the stock car races at Lanham, Maryland.  There weren’t very many rules in early stock car racing; my roll bar was made out of 2 inch water pipe with a floor flange welded to the frame and a hook was bolted to the dash board to hold the gear shift in 2nd gear.  The right side of my car was really banged up because I hit the wall a lot.  My car was owned by the owner of the Sunoco gas station that I worked at.  In the summer of 1952 I got to drive his midget race car that was spooky, since it had no roll bar.  I left the gas station to work at Eastern airlines and that finished my racing career.  After high school I went to work for Eastern Airlines as a junior mechanic.  I worked nights doing whatever needed to be done in the maintenance department.  I loved to fly and still do; it's very peaceful to be up there all by yourself.  I also earned extra money doing crop dusting until a bad crash almost ended my life. 
     On my vacations I would go to Mississippi and do some crop dusting while I was there.  But one time in 1954 I had an engine failure in my plane and crashed.  I was in and out of consciousness and badly injured and the doctors didn't know whether I would live or die.  I was laid up for two years and I lost my job at Eastern Airlines.  My future wife came to see a friend of mine in the hospital and heard about my accident and came to see me and cheer me up and that meant so much to me and helped me to regain my health.  Her name is Jean McNalley and we got married in 1958 and we celebrated our fifty-third anniversary in 2011.  Jean was born in 1938 and is a graduate of the University of Maryland.  Her father, Edmund McNalley was a research scientist with the Department of Agriculture at Beltsville, Maryland.  Jean's mother was an editor at the National Geographic magazine.  I have always admired my in-laws for the desire to gain knowledge and to always improve themselves. 
     I was drafted into the service on February 24, 1958 and sent to Fort Jackson, South Carolina.  I was 24 years old and the oldest trainee in the unit, with the next oldest who was 20.  I had a hard time keeping up with the other recruits as I was still healing from my plane crash.  The NCO's thought I was goldbricking it.  While in training I tried to get into helicopters, so I took a quick discharge and enlisted for helicopter school at Fort Rucker and was accepted.  When I arrived there they told me, "You already know how to fly and you have an A&P (aircraft mechanic) so we can't use you."  They sent me to Fort Knox, Kentucky to join the 6th cavalry and I was now in the Tank corp.  On my time off I went to the airstrip where they kept the L19s.  The mechanics there were right out of the Army school and needed help.  That was fun helping them work on the planes.  One Sunday afternoon I made a big mistake and test flew one of the L-19's.  The Warrant Officer in charge caught me and started a court marshal.  I got busted down one grade.  That WO got mad when he found out I had a lot more flying time then he did. 
     I put in for a transfer to Fort Meade, Maryland and got it, and now I was in the 3rd cavalry, but they weren't much better.  In the summer of 1958 Jean and I were married, and I was stationed only 15 miles from our home in Maryland. I got out of the Army on February 26, 1961 with the rank of sergeant E-5.  Most of my time in the Army was very boring with nothing to do.  The 3rd cavalry was a very disorganized group because they had just gotten back from Europe and they didn't even know I was there for three months.  Our son Glenn was born in July 1960 at Walter Reed Army Hospital.  Our second son, Gordon was born in January, 1962. 
     In 1963 I was offered a job as a pilot with the U.S. Forest Service in California and we left Maryland, but when we got to California they had given the job to someone else.  I found a job in maintenance at Flabob Airport in Riverside County and Jean got a job with the Children's Services Department for the County of Los Angeles.  Flabob Airport got its name from the first three initials of the first names of the two men that built the airport; Flavio Madreaga and Bob Bollen.  I left Flabob and went to work for Rohr Industries in Riverside.  After that I went to work for Lockheed in Ontario and in 1969 I opened my own shop at Flabob Airport. 
     My shop's name was Hamilton Aircraft, Incorporated.  I started out doing maintenance and engine overhaul.  I moved my shop to Chino, California and acquired more equipment as time went by.  When I moved into Chino I was starting to do engines with maintenance and annual inspections.  Within two years we were doing mostly engines and annual inspections.  If we did a complete engine overhaul we also offered an annual inspection.  I stayed open until 1986.  Anyone in the aircraft repair business can tell you, "It's not if you get sued it's when you get sued."  Airplane owners are great at suing the last one that worked on an airplane even though they were the ones who screwed up.  Over the years I was named in 27 lawsuits and never lost a single one.  Most accidents were due to pilot error or the installer not installing the equipment right. 
     I continued to fly until the 1990's and then I met some car guys who knew Jack Underwood in Fountain Valley, California.  I would go over to Jack's Garage, a local hangout for car guys and I became more interested in hot rods and street rods.  Jack encouraged me to go to the Donut Derelicts car show which is held in a parking lot every Saturday at the corner of Magnolia and Adams in Huntington Beach, California.  This show is spontaneous with no organization or leadership, simply hundreds of car guys and their cars show up, bench-race and show off their cars every week.  With Jack's encouragement I joined the Gear Grinders car club, which is a member club of the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA).  This organization goes way back to the 1930's and includes many well-known land speed racers.  I have only been in the Gear Grinders for three or four years. 
     I helped in the registration trailer to get my 20 hours in and I pulled patrol duty once (a piece of cake).  I can't go out there when it gets really hot because I suffer badly from heat exhaustion.  I don't go to the dry lakes from June to October; I don't mind pulling AM patrol.  I read about El Mirage and Muroc as a youngster and now I can say that I've been there. One thing I like about going to Jack's Garage is that I get to listen to the guys with all the knowledge.  J.D. Tone told me once, "You're awfully quiet."  I told him I like to listen.  I hear about the places all these guys grew up at and I only read about them when I was young.  Then to go and see some of these places is thrilling.  I took my son Glenn there once he told me, "Now I see why you like to go to Jack's."  Glenn has done a lot of drag racing at Orange County before that drag strip was closed.  Glenn was in the final race on the final day of that drag strip before it closed and he let his car creep on him and tripped the red light.  All of my drag racing was done on the streets. 
     Glenn and I built my roadster and we are working on a 1939 Ford coupe; both are for street use only.  My son and I may build up something to run at the dry lakes.  Glenn has two sons and his oldest boy is married and has two girls, so Jean and I have two sons, two grandsons and two great granddaughters. Jean was an only child and is the last one left in her family.  Gordon achieved the rank of a 6th degree black belt in the martial arts and married one of his students.  I'm the last one left in my family as my siblings have all passed away.  My brother had two sons and my sister had two sons and a daughter.  Glenn married a second time to a lady named Beth who loves the car culture and enjoys riding in my roadster. I hope to get to Bonneville before I leave this earth.  I was almost there once; at 400 mph after 200 feet off the deck in a P51.
Gone Racin' is at [email protected]. **************************************************************************************