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The Oklahoma Story (1952)

This is the second of three parts of "The Oklahoma Story" as published in the September-October 1953 Sports Car. The gimmicks in the rallys would do Leon MacKechnie and Jim Duea proud. The "Tool Trophy Trials" is believed to be the Goldsby Races wherein Carroll Shelby entered and won his first race.

1952

In 1952, fully recovered from our growing pains, we took a look around and started to roll. We had no place to race except from home to church, as the saying goes, and all we knew about a rally was its dictionary definition - but we laid out a program calling for an event a month. Two or three different members were assigned each month to the task of helping the Activities Chairman dream up ideas. The system worked so well we still use it. We’re still using the same RE, too, but don’t know if we can hold on to him for a third term.

Texas gave us a push in February when the Dallas Foreign Auto and Sports Car Association asked us to join them in a Rally to Pottsboro. Texas. (Covered in the March - April 1952 SCCA magazine.)

Nineteen cars turned out for our first local rally on a nice Sunday afternoon in March. The course was comparatively simple, having three legs of 19.6. 18.6 and 13.1 miles, with required average speeds of 40. 48, and 32 MPH for the respective legs. We knew nothing of a proper or short cut scoring method so we figured out a real complicated mess arrived at by converting the required times to seconds. We then had to convert all the entrants’ running time to seconds for each leg and arrive at a total difference between required and running times. It took us much longer to find out who the winner was than it required Paul Wood in an MG to run the course. He won (we found out later) by the simple expedient of holding his speedometer at the required leg speed regardless of stop signs, lights, baby carriages, and the prohibition against right hand passing. This unorthodox but effective method brought him in about 8 minutes off. We thought that was pretty good time.

We had 18 cars at the April affair. It was basically the same as the first one except that we first laid out the course from an airplane, then went out to drive it. We got ourselves lost three times with no difficulty at all. Bob McMullin breezed home the winner. He had only owned his MG two weeks so was quite happy with his navigator.

We did a little missionary work in May. in addition to having another three state, three day affair. Some of the people over in Tulsa were becoming sports car conscious as a result of Tom Gray starting a veddv plush foreign car agency. The ring leaders asked us to come over and give them a little help in getting organized. Well, we had no doubt we were some of the best in the business and besides it smelled like a party. We rounded up six cars and went over on May 23. When we arrived at the Tom Gray Motor Company, we found they were serious.Tom took the whole crowd out to his beautiful place for a backyard barbecue that was one of the finest and then shooed us into his big rumpus room for the organizing. The Oil Capitol Sports Car Club was the result. A contributing factor to the successful organizing was the fact that Tom prevented anyone from becoming organized. if you follow me. He kept the stuff in that beautiful bar locked up tighter than an MG tonneau cover in a rain storm!

May 30, 31 and June 1 was another big one (for us. that is). When the reservations started rolling in we took over the whole of the Rail Fence Motor Lodge. “Oklahoma City’s Fines - Complete with Swimming Pool and Breakfast in Bed.” Recognizing also, that other sports car owners liked a smattering of racing we arranged with the City Fathers for the use of an abandoned Navy landing mat that lent itself admirably to a mile triangular course. Of course, the fact that the mat had quite a bit of loose chat lying about did not concern us a whit as we breezed around the course “trying it out, you know” at what could be referred to as a mild gallop. It didn't take too long, on race day, for that stuff to leave its mark when the cars were running close; headlights, radiator shells, front fender paint, windscreens, and crash helmets took quite a beating. The winners eyed the results somewhat proudly as if battle scars. The losers were a little glum at the prospects of required new paint and stuff.

We called the event the Tool Trophy Trials. Symbolic stuff, you know. Besides, we couldn’t afford fancy trophies and tools we could get wholesale. So the trophies were sets of tools of various kinds. The bigger the win - the more tools to the winner. I can still see Brian Bartindale of Dallas, who won the big car event. He came up during the Victory Dinner to receive a whole tool box full, including the box. “You know, old boy,” he said, “I don’t have the remotest idea of how to use any of these things.” Well, live and learn.

Anyway, it was fun; 60 sports cars. 25 of them entered in the various races. For what our people did in the competition I’ll quote in part. from Doc Harris’ Newsletter for June, 1952:

“We held our own in the competition. Skeet Gifford put his foot way down and tooled his Crosley Super-Sport to an impressive win over the Renaults. Gus Voetelink did a beautiful job of driving to win his heat among the stock MG’s, and Paul Chapman drove his TC to a clear-cut last place despite the efforts of some very hard-boiled Texans. My Mark II, driven by Gus, was running with the leaders in the modified event when one of the tires let go. There wasn't enough left of that stupid tractor tire to make a fan belt, even.”

To escape the firecrackers which are thick in Oklahoma during July, a number of us toured up to the Lands End Hill Climb at Grand Junction. Colorado on July 4. Doe Beavers, who was Colorado’s RE at the time, Vern Meeks, who won the Hill Climb, the CAA’s Johnny Zentner, the Frontier Motor Lodge and a host of others along with the Coors Brewing Company of Golden and the Never-Closed Ice Company of Junction all contributed to our having a real fine time. They even let us bring back a couple of trophies.

You know, a TC in those mountains is a thing of rare charm and damn deceptive performance. Bob and Betty Hecker, in the TC, being basically flat-landers, were the objects of considerable good natured kidding on the way out by some of us in Jags who had driven Colorado’s mountains. After we pulled out of Salida and started up Monarch Pass, which tops 11.000 feet, we pulled around Bob - told him we’d wait at the top to get some pictures of him dragging in - and lit out, full bore. On top, we pulled to a stop (the Jag was boiling gently), grabbed the camera and started for the “finish” curve. All of a sudden we could hear the staccato bark of the TC and it arrived before we had the camera set up. Going down Loveland Pass, on the way home, Bob and the TC gave us and a couple of Coloradoans in an Olds 88 a driving lesson that I won’t forget. He took those hairpins so fast we swore he was cutting across.

So farewell to beautiful, cool, colorful. Colorado, as they say in the travelogs, and back to Oklahoma in time for the Airport races on July 13 at Okmulgee, Oklahoma, sponsored by our protégés, the Oil Capitol Sports Car Club of Tulsa. Those kids had learned fast. They took to racing like Jag took Le Mans. Bob Sutherlin and Dave Graham had back yard mechaniced a couple of the hottest TD’s in captivity and took everything in sight.

This event, unadvertised as it was, drew such a crowd that the City Fathers perked up their cars at the possibility that their great big, expensive, ex-glider base airport might be the source of a little revenue. The Tulsans agreed, and had another one, bigger and better over Labor Day. There were cars from Kansas City, Denver, Little Rock and, of course, from all over Texas and Oklahoma. The city charged admission and took home about three thousand bucks. The race drivers, as usual, collected experience, some trophies, and a big party for all sports car people at the local hostelry.

In the meantime, on August 23, we held our first night rally. It was a little tricky. We used air-plot again then double checked by car. Twenty-six cars boiled off into the night and only seven actually finished the course. Of the remainder, eighteen resorted to their emergency envelopes after becoming hopelessly lost and one hasn't been seen since! Ray Dragoo of Norman and his lady friend navigator in his MG had probably the most nerve shattering experience. He and she proceeded on the best of terms and with the best of timing, carefully following every minute direction for stop, turn, go North, Go South. etc. They never missed a trick, or made one single mistake. Finally after about two hours of this painstaking effort, it led him into the driveway of the Harvey House restaurant at El Reno, Oklahoma, some 30 miles West of Oklahoma City. His first thought was that this was a real nice place to finish the Rally. Then he was suddenly dis-concertedly aware that there was not another sports car in sight or sound. You guessed it - and so did he - he was 30 miles away from the finish line. We never did find out exactly how he got to El Reno. He was so chagrined he promptly took to hard liquor, and by the time he got to the finish line he wouldn't talk about it.

John and Betty Spurgin breezed in first just three minutes off - to be closely followed by Doc and Lenore Harris and Pat and Loretta James, who tied for second. Earl DeLaittre received the trophy for the dubious distinction of getting lost the worst among the finishers.

September came along, as it usually does, and it was the Thoroughbred Car Company’s turn to put on the Rally. It will hereinafter and forever be known as Trosper’s Rally, or as mentioned earlier “The Case of the Added Light.” It caused, created and resulted in more wild dashing hither and yon and back and fourth, even, than anything before or since.

It was no one’s fault, actually. It was a night affair, with 24 cars, fully equipped with navigators, etc., at the starting line. Instructions included a 3 x 5 notebook with all the rally goop carefully writ by hand by Jannice Trosper. There were 23 pages in the book, and something happened on every page. It took us out in the country, onto the open roads where we could “Make hay while the sun shines” as part of the dope read. Then the thing brought us back up thru the South part of Oklahoma City with the timing just right to have us proceeding East along the City’s busiest shopping area in peak night traffic. The overall average was to be 38 mph, and no traffic violations, please!

Then we came to page 20. By that time we had turned onto Broadway and were headed North. The book said “When you come to the 8th signal light go East.” This we did. Page 21 said “Turn left at the first corner.” So far so good. Page 22 said “Follow this road 2 miles to a stop sign.” There it was. One of those temporary stop signs that are rolled out during heavy traffic in the middle of a local shopping area. Page 23 advised us “From here go North for 500 feet. You will see a sign directing you to your destination.” We went North the required amount. Nothing! Must have slipped up somewhere. Bet we should have turned North a mile back. Are you sure that stop sign was two miles? You know how it goes. The poor navigators commence to catch it when the going gets fouled up. Back we went to the point where we had started the two mile run. We passed the Spurgins in the Sunbeam going West toward the Stop sign we had just left. We turned around and checked back. Exactly two miles to the Stop sign. North 500 feet. Still nothing. Not even the Spurgins. Where did they go? We started to check back again just as Homer Smith rolled up in his Jag. He arrived from an opposite direction. “Don’t go out there,” he said, “there’s not a soul around.” “Go where?” we queried. “Why, to the Iron Works, like the sign says.” said Homer. “What sign?” “That one right there on that guys lawn.” We looked. Sure enough, there was a little sign. It had the guys house number on it and on the top were the words “Bell Iron Works, 4025 N. May.”

While we deliberated in came Dave Moore in a Buick, closely followed by Billy Thomas in an MG. Being from Lawton, Oklahoma, they couldn't even find N. May. Then back came the Spurgins. They, too, had gone to the Iron Works. Nobody there. Two more cars arrived. We decided to go back, en caravan, so to speak, and see if we could collectively figure out where we had tripped up. We’d go back to Broadway and start North, recounting the lights. En route we spotted Bob Simmons in a Mark VII setting by the 8th stop light. He works for Trosper and had helped lay out the course. “Hey,” he said, “This damn light wasn't here when we laid out the course. You’re supposed to make that left turn off 23rd Street.” 23rd Street was several blocks further North. So, up we went. Turned East, then left, followed the road to two miles (it went straight North instead of veering West). There was a stop sign and 500 feet North was a big sign advising all and sundry that here was the driveway entrance to Beverly’s Hideaway that Trosper had taken over for the evening’s festivities.

Paul and Janie Chapman were declared the winners of that one, but by default. They had no speedometer and no tach on their TC, so - being well acquainted with the metropolitan area, they had carefully studied the directions and decided that the only place the finish could he was where it was. They were the only finishers. Everyone else tried to go to the iron works.

Well, because of the extra stop light that had gotten everyone so fouled up, it was decided to have a rain check rally two weeks later. This one we loaded with gimmicks. Night again. At the starting line the participants were told to go get a copy of one of that day’s two newspapers and look in the Lost and Found section for the name of the first check point. They were also handed a county map. The Lost and Found item read

LOST

Go to General Store
At Witcher, Okla.
It’s on your map.

Keep this paper.

Witcher is a little crossroads point that even most of the natives have never heard of.

Toni Maguire and Doe Harris had the Witcher check point and as the cars would drive up to be checked in, the driver was handed a fully sealed beer can and advised that instructions as to the next check point were inside. The expressions, both facial and verbal, that this brought about were amazing. Initial reaction was to run into the General Store for a can opener - but the store keeper was with it and they were confronted with a huge sign that said “Can Openers - $44.86, inc. tax.”

People tried everything you can think of to get those cans open. They beat on them with hammers. They ran over them with the cars. They got out pliers and screwdrivers .A few, one of whom was Ed Mitchell, had a beer can opener. Ed gleefully attacked the can in the same manner you would puncture a cold beer and before he realized what he was doing, the instructions, which were on a piece of heavy bond, were firmly sealed behind a series of jagged edgings all around the rim of the can.

Once the elusive paper was in hand, there was still more consternation because the instructions were in the form of a short cross-word puzzle that had to he worked out to obtain the name of the next check point. Arriving at that check point they were told to refer again to their newspaper under the Help Wanted-Female Section. If they still had the paper they found this item:

NAVIGATOR

To assist sports car & driver to Mayfair Shopping Center at 50th & N. May Ave. in Okla. City. Must take route 66 & 66 by-pass from Edmond.

It ended, finally, at the Cattlemen’s Cafe where reservations had been made for 65. We had 80! We had five awards in each of four classes that night. (We try and pass out plenty of trophies - thanks to the combined ingenuity of Bob Hecker and Paul Chapman.) Orvie Myrick in his M-Jag was first in class and first overall.

The Wichita Mountain Sports Car Club of Lawton invited us down for one of their biggest rallies on November 16th. They called it the “Rallye Pour Vengance.” Their literature said “Those of you who were fortunate enough to attend Okla. City’s last rally know why!” They couldn’t have picked a better day. A cold drizzle, interspersed with showers, kept up all afternoon. Starting at five minute intervals they moved us at a lively clip to Craterville Park where we were confronted with a garaging and parking test, then off to the next check point which we were led to believe was on TOP of Mt. Scott. Mt. Scott was completely enveloped in fog and it was most eerie creeping up those steep slopes unable to see more than a few feet. There was a point at the top, but the check point was just a hundred feet beyond where most everyone turned to go up the mountain. We were supposed to hit the check point first and then we’d he told what to bring back from the mountain top.

Anyway, cold and wet from running with the top down, we finally arrived at the gates of Fort Sill where Billy Thomas directed us to the NCO Club they had taken over for the evening. Funny how quick you can warm up around a bar and in a crowd of real fine people! Incidentally, C. S. Trosper copped the No. 1 trophy. In fact, all the trophies were won by Okla. City cars. Fact No. 2, Oklahoma City cars were the only ones running. It took all of the Wichita Mountain people to put it on!

We had our annual election meeting at Doc Harris’ on December 6. Doc was re-elected. Pete Young and Paul Chapman were retired as Activities Chairman and Secretary, respectively: and Bob Hecker and John Spurgin replaced them, also respectively.

December is for Christmas.

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