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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Charleston R.I. Reunion, Day One

©2000 Bill Ott

Saturday June 10, 2000. Heading east on I-78 this sunny Saturday morning, top off and windows down, Stevie Ray on the tape deck shouting about " floodin' down in Texas, and all the telephone lines are down"… but what to hell… Texas is a long way from here, and besides, I've got the trusty ‘ol cell phone buried somewhere in the suitcase. At this rate I'll be north of New York City around 8:00 AM, before most of the crazies are out of bed.

Once I'm north of NYC, I'll pick up I-95 and then it's a straight shot across Connecticut and on to Cumberland, R.I. Glad to get checked in at the Super 8, put my feet up and get out of this heat. Damn, it's hot! Record highs as a matter of fact, and not a cloud in the sky. Great weather for a good old-fashioned Clamboil… whatever the hell THAT is!! Hey, hope they'll be serving cold beer.

As soon as I check in with my old pal Jack Brady, we'll be on our way. Jack tells me he just got the Fiat back from the paint shop and can't wait for it's "coming out" party tomorrow. Sounds cool! It looked nice in primer, too. Always had a thing for fenderless Topolinos.

Back out into the heat and we're southbound for Warren, R.I. Jack and I haven't seen each other for quite a while, so it was fun to get caught up while dodging the Providence R.I. traffic. The Warren Gun Club is situated out of town, surrounded by trees, and totally inaccessible except by one small road… a great place to "get away from it all", with a fairly large covered pavilion. Nice place for a Hot Rod show.

Park the car and head for the pavilion when out of the corner of my eye I spot this guy heading our way, smiling from ear to ear, and hand extended for a friendly handshake… it's none other than our own Bob George, the organizer of this Reunion, AND one Hell of a friendly guy. And yes, he saw to it the beer was ice cold!

Sitting by the pavilion was the as yet unrestored King and Marshall Don Long digger. Had to get closer for a better look and got a chance to chat with Eldon "Sy" Sidethbotom (sp). Sy sponsored a few dragsters in the past and if I got my facts straight his family was instrumental in constructing the Connecticut Dragway and maybe a few others. Heard that Sy's mom loved the drags too, and the roller starter at Conn. Dragway was powered by a 392 Chrysler that was pulled out of a car she crashed while racing!

Jimmy King and Don Marshall were also in attendance. Had fun-watching Jim try to Squeeze into the car. Our own Don Roberts was also there. Don also drove the King & Marshall car on occasion and told me that's him driving the car on page 132 of Mr. Post's High Performance. Don also drove the car that won Top Gas Eliminator at the '68 AHRA Nats. at Center Moriches, L.I. New York (Don Cook won Top Fuel), and he's looking for stories, photos, etc. about that win. I couldn't find anything in my own "library" maybe some of this illustrious group could help Don.

Hey, there's Steve Gibbs… looking dapper in a Hawaiian shirt! You don't see many of them in Rhode Island , but, with today's tropical weather conditions… he was dressed appropriately! It's always a pleasure to visit with Steve. Enough can't be said about his contributions to our beloved sport.

Time to eat!! As I mentioned earlier this was my first Clamboil. Hope it ain't my last. Check this out… potatoes, sweet potatoes, sausage , wieners, fish (wrapped in wax paper) and half an onion wrapped up in a mesh container, and boiled ‘til done and served up with a bucket of boiled clams. Don't forget your pocketknife to cut open the mesh container, and… oh yeah, the cold beer.

After dinner got to talking with Jeff Howe and Don Roberts again who pointed out Dave Vermilya to me. Now there's a name from the past that I always associated with the West Coast. Dave lives in Mass. now and runs a machine shop with his partner Garry Winslow. Garry used to grind cams out west and claims to know a lot of the old farts from this bunch. He said to tell everyone hello.

It's getting dark and I'm ready to head back to the motel, but first Jack and I decide to cruise along Route 6 and check out the Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway… where the King and Marshall "Tug of War" between a AA/FD and F/C was staged. There was a roundy round race going on… Yech!! The never completed 1/8th mile drag strip is located behind the Oval track.

BTW- Wheels had a rough day… storms in Dallas caused his flight to be delayed coming in to Albuquerque and because of this, the flight crew ran out of flying hours (they need to run TWO logbooks, like the truckers do) which made him miss his flight out of Chicago which compounded things at the car rental agency and motel, blah, blah, blah!! He finally got in touch after 11:00 PM to say he made it safely and was looking forward to tomorrow. More old B.S. later.



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