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Richard Parks Gone Racin' column - RIP David Parks

Richard Parks Gone Racin' column - RIP David Parks

It is with profound sadness that I have to inform you that my brother, David Lee Parks, passed away on 8 January 2016 at his home in Corona Del Mar, California. Below is his story that he and I co-wrote together. He loved straight-line racing; drags and land speed. He loved all the people associated with racing and with all his might and spirit tried to make it a better sport for all. David had a rich heritage through his father and friends in the SCTA. Ak Miller, Jack Lufkin, and many others watched as David struggled to make his Camaro go faster. Then when they had watched his torment enough they slapped him on the back and said, “Let’s get started.” That’s the way land speed and drag racers are; they want to see the struggle, but when the time comes they are right there at your shoulder ready to pitch in.
David seemed to be in the prime of life; healthy and eager to go racing or to work on another project. That’s the bane of us all; we have too many projects to do for the life that we have in us. But we have to admire David and those like him because they never stop creating and building. We will all miss him greatly, but I will not only miss him; I will be lost without him. He was my younger brother but his strong will and drive made him far more capable of the two of us. He was my only sibling. I taught him how to ride a bike, and a little about how to drive a car. He far surpassed me, but that’s what you want to see a younger brother do. I was always proud of him. He’s gone now, but I will never forget him. I spoke to Jim Miller just a few days prior to my brother’s passing and he told me that in 2015 we lost 72 land speeders. Let’s hope that it will be awhile before we lose any more. If you haven’t started on your life story now is the time to do it. I nagged David to write his and he finally did though he said, “I’m still young.” The truth is that none of us know when our time is up. Let me know and I will help you write your biography.
Gone Racin’ … David Lee Parks. Story and photographs by David L. Parks, editing by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz. 26 February 2012.
My grandfather, who I don't remember, but my brother Richard knew well, was Henry Clyde Parks, whom everyone called Skant. He was the first of my line born on Beaver Creek, Salina County, Kansas and his date of birth was 1885. I don't know why, but it could have been because he was shorter and skinnier than the other Parks family members. Skant married Bessie Aurella Ravenscroft, who was from southern Kansas and whose father owned a grain mill and store. Skant had two brothers, Winn and Foss, and an older sister, Lillian Parks, who everyone called 'Pink.' She married and stayed in the Midwest, but in the period around the First World War, uncles Winn and Foss moved to California and sent glowing reports back to their brother Skant to sell the farm and move to the 'Golden State.' Henry Clyde and Bessie Parks packed up their belongings on an old Ford touring car and their three oldest children; Wallace Gordon Parks, Clyda Ione Parks and Nelda Rose Parks. They made this trip out west around 1921, over dirt roads and once got lost in Mexico, before they found their way to California. Henry worked in a hardware store owned or managed by his brother. 
Eventually, they made their permanent home in South Gate, California, which at that time was a rural suburb of Los Angeles. In 1928 their last child was born, my uncle Kenny. My father was Wallace 'Wally' Parks and he was born in 1913 in Goltry, Oklahoma on the farm which my grandfather had owned. My father lost his mother, Bessie, whom he adored in 1933 to an infection brought on by a surgery. A year later he met Mary Mant and they were married in December 1935. My brother Richard was the first child, born during the end of the Great Depression and during the worst of the Second World War in January of 1944. Dad served in the war as a sergeant in a tank battalion and saw action in Bougainville and the invasion of the Philippines at Leyte Gulf in 1945. After the war, he went back to work for General Motors test driving cars. A strike at the plant left him unemployed and he ran for and became the president of the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) in 1946 and the first General Manager of the SCTA in 1947. From there he went to work as the first professional editor of Hot Rod magazine in 1948. In 1951, my father founded the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) and a year after that I came along.
I was born on March 17, 1952, at Murphy Memorial Hospital in Whittier, California. I was lucky to be there because I wasn't breathing when I was born, so they put me into the new piece of equipment that they had just got (an "Iron Lung" breathing machine) which saved my new life. I am the second child of Wallace 'Wally' Parks and Mary Mant Parks and spent the first four years of my life growing up in Rivera, California (before they combined it with Pico) with my older brother, Richard. Mom and Dad separated in the 1950's and Mom decided to make a change. Mary had always enjoyed the beach, especially the little town of Corona del Mar, California, which was a suburb of Newport Beach. In the Spring of 1956, she bought a little bungalow cottage on Heliotrope Avenue, just three short blocks from the beach. It had two bedrooms, one bathroom, a living room, and a small kitchen and dining room, which was barely big enough for her family of three, but she had a fierce love and pride in that little house. A few years later her brother, Robert Mant, built an add-on studio apartment onto the garage and that gave everyone their own bedroom. I was four years old when we moved, and the first school that I attended was Corona del Mar Elementary School which was just a few streets away from my home. I was there through fourth grade, but don't look for it now, though, as the school was sold and turned into houses many years ago. Next I attended Harbor View School, on the other side of the highway, for fifth and sixth grades, and then it was off to Junior High! Lincoln Middle School was on a bluff above the town and at that time, they had not built any homes around it so it was out in the middle of nowhere. 
One day the teachers rounded up all the students and rushed us inside and locked the doors. A mountain lion had come down out of the hills and was prowling around the school, and left huge paw prints in the wet mud. The teachers poured Plaster of Paris into the footprints to make a display for the school. My next school was Corona Del Mar High School and this was a brand new facility on the East Bluff of the Back Bay, not far from my home. My brother had attended Costa Mesa High School and Newport Harbor High School because Corona Del Mar High had not been opened when he went to school. He never stopped complaining about the long bus rides and how easy that I had it. There is more to high school than just bus rides. My first job was as a bag boy at the local market. Mom knew the manager there and she threatened to take her shopping elsewhere if he didn't hire me. When Orange County International Raceway opened, I got a job there handing out time slips to the racers. 
 I graduated from high school in 1969 and went on to Cal Poly Pomona where I initially majored in Physics. I wasn't quite ready for the rigors of physics and its prerequisite classes, so I started taking more of my general education courses to see where my interests lay, and eventually ended up in the Philosophy program. I lived with my Uncle Bob and Aunt Olga in Pomona for my first year in college. They had room since their sons, Norman and Walter, were both away in the Navy. When they were discharged and came home, I moved into a 16-foot travel trailer parked at my Uncle Roy and Aunt Carol's house in San Dimas. It was nice having "my own place," but it was a bit cramped, so when two of my friends (Craig and Stefan) moved into a larger place, I joined them. The years at that place were legendary, with many parties and multiple car projects being performed in the car ports. By this time, my first car (a maroon 1964 Chevelle Malibu bought for me by my Dad) had morphed into a blue 1965 Chevelle Malibu (with a little help after a slight accident in Laguna Beach). I continued working at Orange County Raceway to make money for the parts I was breaking on my car. 
Eventually, my two roommates got married and moved out. I downsized the apartment twice and ended up living by myself in La Verne. I finally got a B.A. in 1975 (the 6-year plan...), but not before making many life-long friends through the Cal Poly Sports Car Club. When I got out of school with my degree, I felt ready to take on the world, so I got a job in the local hardware store. After a while, I could see that my potential was much greater, so I became a mechanic at a local foreign car garage. In my spare time, I continued to play Badminton (a sport that I had played in college) at Lincoln School on Tuesday nights. I got to know one of the couples that played mixed doubles there, and the wife told me that she had a couple of daughters at home. They brought a daughter, Barbara Coddington, with them one time, which I proceeded to date for about six years and then propose to at the Royal Hawaiian Restaurant in Laguna Beach. We were married at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church on May 22, 1982. Since that time, Barbara has worked for several dentists as a Dental Hygienist. I went from auto mechanic to model maker and piping designer at Fluor Corporation, thanks to some inside help from my brother-in-law, Dan Nerison. Then I went on to Engineering Science in Newport Beach, but the economy took a dump and I lost my job. I went back to school at Cal Poly Pomona again, but this time for a B.S. in Engineering Technology. Once my degree was completed, I took a position with Jaykim Engineers in Brea, and later worked for MacDonald Stevens Engineers in Lake Forest. 
Barbara and I designed and built our home in the rear of where I grew up in Corona Del Mar. On August 31, 1985, Barbara and I welcomed our first daughter, Mari Amorette Parks, and almost five years later, we welcomed our second daughter Tamara Lee Parks on August 3, 1990. Our daughters grew up at the same home that I did and were able to have their grandmother live in the house on the front of the property. They were also able to attend the same schools and graduated from Corona Del Mar High School. In 1991, I took a position with Levine-Fricke Engineers, and although the company has been bought out and has changed names several times, the most recent name is Arcadis; I have managed to stick it out for over twenty years, with the last couple of years being part-time employment. Barbara’s family, the Coddington’s, have always been avid waterskiers. It has been a family tradition that we travel to Lake Shasta every year to enjoy skiing and boating. We stay at the Ellery Creek Campground and are usually there with the Nerisons, Coddingtons, and a few friends.
During my free time I enjoy traveling to visit my daughters. Tamara is an esthetician and is living in Honolulu, Hawaii. Mari and her husband, Matt Bell, were married in 2007 and live in Provo, Utah. I regularly travel there during the fall to watch the BYU football games. Much of my time is now spent trying to fix up the shop building in Costa Mesa where I store and work on some of my cars. I named the place "The Old Garage" in memory of the party room of the same name that was located beneath my Dad's former house in Sherman Oaks. Hopefully, some of the good feelings will live on. I keep my cars there including Buttercup, my dad's El Camino, “Suddenly,” which was his race car and my newest acquisition, a 1965 Chevy Malibu convertible. The Old Garage also houses historical files, photos, and movies that were lovingly preserved by Wally through the years. Also, there are piles of files from my racing years at El Mirage, Bonneville, and Muroc. I went from driving my Chevelle to El Mirage and Bonneville to race it in the '70s to setting records over 200 miles per hour in a full-race Chevy Camaro in the '90s, all thanks to being sponsored by my Dad's good friend, Ak Miller. I even had a few good spins at 190+ mph! The race car has been sold, but I still like to go out to the dry lakes and watch the races. It's, even more, fun when you don't have to work on the race car, but I can't say that I am done with racing. Once you get hooked the racing bug stays with you.
Gone Racin' is at [email protected].
David Lee Parks passed away on 8 January 2016 at his home in Corona Del Mar, California.