Photography For Fun ...
and to get into the pits!
Text and photos by Ron
I started taking pictures of
racecars at dirt 1/2-mile circle tracks when I was about 14 years
old. I was able to be in the infield because a neighbor was a
racer and took me along with him to the track and I was part
of his" crew". His name was Harry Lund and he had driven
sprints before the war, but in 1946, the local scene was track
roadsters, a race car type imported from California.
Here's Harry in the cap walking
with his crew guy, as the tow truck pulled his roadster back
up the hill after he went asshole over teakettle off the end
at Rex Speedway in about 1948. Obviously he wasn't injured, except
I kept taking photos, but since
there was no Drag Racing in Minnesota then, my pictures were
all track roadsters or sprint cars.
The start of a Track Roadster
race at Twin City Speedway, probably in 1950 or 51.
The car in the foreground was
driven by Gerry Arendt and owned by "Farmer" Trenton,
powered by a 41 Buick Roadmaster motor with twin carbs. They
were from Willmar, Minnesota and were regular competitors.
D1 was a very
nicely finished Desoto powered car, sponsored by Koppy Motors
in St. Paul, a Desoto Dealer. I can't remember who drove. I sold
some of the contact prints to the drivers at the next race, thereby
establishing myself as a professional photographer! Moving to
In 1956 on the weekend after
Memorial Day I, along with a carload of other young guys, went
to Union Grove for my first out-of-town race. I had a cheapy
box camera of some sort and took pictures of the dragsters for
the first time.
Here's Bill's Speed Shop
Martincic Brothers vs
the Knapp/Perry Cadillac powered entry.
The Blue Angels Car Club
from Massilon, Ohio
The Martincic Brothers,
The Sebastyen "Gold
Crown Special", which was a local car from around Racine.
Tanka & Butze entry
from the Milwaukee area.
Here's Jim Russell in the unblown
fuel Packard engined, "Bubble Buster" making a promotional
lap around the famed Milwaukee Mile where USAC is running their
"Week after Indy" Champ car race. I weaseled my way
in and was in the infield for the Champ Car race taking pictures.
One last car, unknown
to me. If anyone recognizes it, please let me know.
In 1957, I was a member of a
car club that was a part of the Gopher State Timing Association
(GSTA). About 20 Twin Cites car clubs had banded together a few
years earlier to create Gopher State Timing Association, (GSTA)
to try to manage somehow to get a drag strip built.
As a part of the ongoing community PR effort, it had been decided
that having a publication would add an element of stature to
GSTA. GSTA started a monthly newsletter and it would be called
"the Timer". The mimeographed publication was produced
a few times, but for whatever reason, it's production stopped.
I and Ed Hess, also a member of our club, the Bumper Buddies,
volunteered to kick start the publication. We split duties and
both wrote articles, took photo's, sold ads, did layout and solicited
other "car" people to act in one capacity or another
for "the Timer". All GSTA members were charged a modest
sum as subscribers and we had to try to make this work with ad
sales to bolster income from subscriptions. Our first issue was
in the spring of 1957. It was fun and Ed and I worked pretty
well together. I had my first taste of a "byline" and
of seeing my photos published.
Our version of The "Timer"
was kind of unusual for it's type of publication. My best friend
Leo Hopf's father and uncle ran a print shop and they agreed
to produce "the Timer". It was offset printed, on glossy
enameled paper and was slightly larger than 8 1/2 x 11. Because
of the printing and paper quality, photo's reproduced well and
it was actually a pretty well done effort. Maybe it helped GSTA's
efforts because within the year, the Optomists Club decided to
build a drag strip for us. Minnesota Dragways opened in the Spring
of 1959. A copy of a few pages of issue 7 follows.
GSTA, headed by John Foster,
had joined forces with ATAA, run by a Midwesterner named Jim
Lamona. Lamona (with Foster on the sideline) was directly challenging
NHRA and Wally Parks for members and events. Foster had a falling
out with Parks, which I guess was pretty easy to do back then,
so Foster took us to ATAA. The main event in ATAA's quiver was
the World Series of Drag Racing, held in Cordova Illinois, the
weekend before Labor Day. I went to the 1957 event as a reporter
and may well have even had press credentials, if they had such
things then. I know I had access to everything, starting line
Cook and Bedwells closest challenger
for top speed was the Lords Club Speed Sport roadster which had
run over 163. On the far left is Don Mattison, a member of the
Schlitzers Car Club from Chicago who ran the starting line. Don
went on to be a part owner in the famous Guzler series of cars.
Next are all of the owners of the Speed Sport car, from left
to right, Red Greth in the background over Don Maynard's right
shoulder, Lyle Fisher and Joe Bush checking out the Cook and
Bedwell action. Emery Cook is just right of center with the sunglasses
on and Cliff Bedwell is bent over the motor. I don't know who
the guy in the white cap is.
Here's the Cook and Bedwell
car on track at "lift off".
Lyle Fisher stands behind
the awesome "Old Noisy"
Cook and Bedwells closest challenger
for top speed was the Lords Club Speed Sport roadster who had
run over 163. Here are three of the owners, from left to right
Don Maynard, Lyle Fisher and Joe Bush checking out Cook and Bedwell.
The guy with the crew cut could be Red Greth.
Here's John "Mr. Flathead"
Bradley in the Worlds Fastest and Quickest Flathead powered dragster.
He ran 157 at Cordova and was always a serious threat to the
erratic Chrysler powered cars.
Don and Pat Garlits had brought
their Chrysler powered dragster. This is Pat in their push car,
in front of the Arfons team of three, or maybe 4, cars. The Garlits
car had a full width rear end, two-speed transmission, 8 carbs
He was running in the 135 range. Cook and Bedwell set his motor
up and got him up to 155 mph and he beat them in eliminations.
He went home, narrowed the rear end, switched to direct drive
like Cook and Bedwell, dropped the motor down in front, lowered
the driving position, added a nose piece and in November ran
176 mph and Drag Racing has never been the same.
Here, I got my first look at
some the guys who would go on to be early hero's of Drag Racing
and many are friends today. The Speed Sport Roadster from the
Lords car Club in Tucson, owned by Lyle Fisher, Joe Bush, Don
Maynard and Red Greth. Setto Postoian who I got to know very
well in 1960. John "Mr. Flathead" Bradley, who with
his partner Max Romero are still actively racing today. Cook
and Bedwell, who had the fastest drag race car in the land at
the time. Don Garlits, his wife Pat and brother Ed. Art and Walt
Arfons with three cars. And a couple of members of the Chicago
based Schlitzers Car Club working the starting line, Don Mattison
and Bud Roche of Guzler fame. Setto won the race and the $1000.00
Savings Bond. There was also former circle-track driver there
racing a 36 Ford Phaeton with a 461 olds motor. He gained some
fame with a dragster called the Chizler and he's still racing
today. Call him Greek, Chris or just plain Karamesines.
Red Greth and John Bradley and
Max Romero are all Standard 1320 members who I see regularly
and who have become friends over the years. I see Garlits and
Karamesines at various race events and/or the Drag Racing Hall
of Fame ceremony each spring in Gainesville, Fl. and "the
Timer" had a fairly heavy impact on Drag Racing in a way
that was entirely unexpected. A part of event was to be a Queen
Contest. Many the clubs comprising ATAA had chosen a gal to be
their Race Queen and these ladies were to compete for and be
crowned Miss ATAA. It was a big deal for us. Our chosen Queen,
Lee Younkin, was selected at the big GSTA Car Show in March and
was on our float in the Minneapolis Aquatennial Parades. She
was a knockout in an All American way.
ATAA had a major sponsor, Maremont Mufflers. Maremont sent a
representative to Cordova, a VP named Robert Wolfson. There was
also a celebrity Beauty Contest Judge in the form of Count Lukawiecki,
a big money winner on the $64,000 Question on TeeVee. Wolfson,
The Count and Lamona had spotted a waitress in a café
in neighboring Byron Illinois who would make you think of Jayne
Mansfield except she was prettier. Her name was Sally Rocker.
The trio decided to enter her in the Queen contest and Lo and
Behold, on the second ballot Sally won.
Sally Rocker.posing just for
me! Look at the guy behind her, he missed his nose completely!
In the "Timer" issue that we published the race report
from The World Series of Drag Racing, I had a back page story
about the rigged contest. Lamona called Foster and said we had
to retract the story or there would be hell to pay. Foster and
I talked about it, and decided the story was true, let it stand.
Cars and Clubs
Over the winter of 1957-58 I heard about a local hot rodder named
John Hall, who was starting a "little pages" magazine
which he named Cars and Clubs. He intended it to be regional,
covering Hot Rod, Custom Car and Drag Racing activities in from
Indiana to Kansas to the Dakotas, of course, with Minnesota as
I met John and volunteered my services, with my vast experience
of "the Timer" behind me. I ended up being co-editor
and did much the same thing that I had done with "the Timer"
which Ed Hess continued to publish for a brief period, on his
Cars and Clubs debuted on the
newstands early in 1958 and was very well received in our part
of the Midwest. I covered a few Car Shows as far away as St.
Louis, where I met a just discharged Tex Smith in one of his
first outings for Hot Rod Magazine, and Chicago, where I met
Ron Pelligrini showing his "Tabor Olds" sponsored dragster.
Pelligrini went on to drive Tommy Ivo's twin Buick dragster and
also the quad Buick powered dragster that debuted in 1961.
The next page included here,
contains an article which I wrote about the ultimate disposition
of the membership of ATAA after it folded up. Maremont pulled
its money, without which Lamona couldnt survive.
He folded the tent and arranged for all the members to be given
an interim membership with NHRA, thusly eliminating the one real
competitor Parks and NHRA had at that critical time I dont
know whether Im sorry about the whole deal or not. We were
pretty steamed at the time and it doesnt matter now, I
I asked Wally about this one
day in about 2000 and he remembered NHRA getting a box
of mimeo labels for all the ATAA members but didnt
remember, or never knew the whole story. I sent Wally a copy
of "the Timer" for his own amusement. Without my article,
ATAA could have been a Midwest competitor to NHRA for years,
maybe changing the way racing would have developed.
In late Spring, I learned of
a new dragster being built by a locally owned car parts store,
the Big Wheel Auto Store. John and I felt an article about it
would be good and I was more the Drag Racing guy, while John
was the Car Show fan. I went to the Big Wheel Auto Store and
introduced myself to Arvy Mack, son of the owner, who welcomed
me and I did an article about the car. This meeting changed my
life in a way that I hadn't expected. More about this in the
Through the summer I continued
to work with John and participated in perhaps 6 or 7 total issues
of Cars and Clubs. Money had gotten short for John and he could
no longer even reimburse me for my expenses and I made a decision
to stop spending my limited money on magazine business, so I
quit. But, one thing always leads to another
Yohns Photo/Writing History - Part 2