Tax Day: The Nostalgia DragFest 2000
By Bill Ott ©2000
April the 15th again, is it? The day your
average prognosticator longs for... the infamous put up or shut up day
...another chance to "volunteer" your fair share. But wait... had
the taxes done YESTERDAY, and am even "getting a little" back this
year. So, armed with this knowledge
I'll rise with a smile this morning, pour a cup, move to
the front porch, grab the morning paper (‘gotta keep up with the latest
from the Gonzales clan and catch up on how much my stocks lost yesterday)
and gaze at the poor souls lined up in front of the Tax preparer's office
across the street.
Seems like a crappy way to start off the weekend, but we
all choose the paths we follow. I think I'll follow the path that leads to
Dauphin (Pa.) this morning. Yep, it's time once again for the annual
get-together of some of the East Coast's most hard core Drag Race
Nostalgia fans... followers... nuts.... whatever. I'm damned proud to
count myself among the group that makes this yearly Pilgrimage to Bruce
Larson's Stony Creek Barn. Yes sir, a little bit of Drag Racing Nirvana
right here in central Pa., that's long overdue. Hell, I ain't even
sniffed any NITRO since back in October!!!
But first I ‘gotta go meet the G-Man, he's not
familiar with this area and this ‘ol truck driver assured him we won't
get lost...after all, Dauphin consists of a bar/restaurant, a Laundromat, a
gas station, and a Hardee's, who could get lost in a place like this I ask
you? Who? Why a truck driver, that's who!
Seems there's been some construction going on since my
last visit and the old road into town doesn't exist any more. No problem,
we'll just take that back road that runs right by the bar/restaurant and
get us some breakfast. Wrong! ... the back road is closed for construction
approximately 25 feet from the parking lot of the bar/restaurant. Hey, no
problem, we'll just make a U turn, drive all the way across town, make
another U turn, Drive the OTHER way across town, make ANOTHER U turn get on
the back road and come out on the right side of the bar/restaurant this
The bartender told us they weren't serving breakfast
today, but he'd be glad to pour us a beer and heat up a couple of wieners,
and besides, there's plenty of popcorn left over from last night. Used to
be a time that would have sounded like damn good breakfast cuisine, but not
any more. Another trip across town to Hardee's. Seems like it's hard to
find good help these days….
Actually found someone in a fast food place that refused
to sell me a carton of milk! Told me there was plenty of creamers for my
coffee at the fixins' bar….couldn't make him understand I just wanted
a glass of milk!
Hey, did I mention Trout season? Yep, starts April the 15th
in these parts. Bruce calls his place "The Stony Creek Barn"
because (oddly enough) it's on Stony Creek Road, a narrow two lane that
happens to run right along (you guessed it) Stony Creek… and you can stand
on the edge of the road and cast right into the middle of the creek. Made
for an interesting drive, what with the crowd of fishermen along one side of
the road and all the pickups and 4x4's parked along the other.
Ah! There it is, a couple of hundred feet North of the
creek, at the top of a rolling green hill. The old white barn where the
former World Champion Funny Car driver maintains a business and a small auto
museum that would make ‘ol P.T. Barnum proud. Only no two-headed calves or
other freaks of nature here, just a cool collection of old and new funny
cars all driven by Mr. Larson himself.
How about the Sentry Tachs and Gauges '89 World Champ
Olds in one corner. Across from that you'll find a magenta metal flake '66
Cobra Dragonfly. Next to that, one of the baddest looking ‘Vette Funny
Cars ever, flanked on it's left by the beautiful USA 1 Camaro, a burned
out body and another cool ‘Vette both mounted side by side on a wall.
Surround all of this with an assortment of NITRO parts (some intact, some
broken), books, magazines, models, and other memorabilia, some of it in
display cases and some of it just sitting piled in the corners. And on this
particular day, three VCRs downstairs and a slide show upstairs in the loft.
Glad to be here!
After parking the car, it's time to get started! Heading
for the door, I see my old pal Mike
(Mashie) Mihalko wandering around. Mashie's a freelance
photographer from the central Pa. area, who used to wander around SoCal in
the sixties, now he teaches science at a middle school. We decided we'll
both be attending a few more of these things this year.
The main entrance into the barn takes you through the
offices where Bruce conducts his daily business, (the design and
installation of lightning arrestors for buildings). Hanging around to get
registered we ran into Brian Kuhlman, who brought along some cool videos but
left the Mr. Norm car at home. Too bad, might have been fun to make a pass
out front and wake up the trout…and some of the fishermen.
Once inside, the first of order of business, like always…check
out the cars. Hey, isn't that Bill Pratt and his brother Tim checking out
the USA 1 Camaro? Bill seems to keep pretty busy between family, work,
running draglist.com, and a weekend gig at M.I.R. behind a mike. Tim
mentioned that Draglist.com has links to over 5,300 sites! Way to go Bill
and crew, and thanks for the bumper sticker.
While checking out Glenn Gualtieri's extensive Jungle
Jim memorabilia collection, I got in a conversation with two younger guys,
who really seemed to be into this stuff. Turns out one of them is our own
(1320 Standard Group) Randy Moyer, son of the beloved " Jungle Jim
Struck up a conversation with Jim Corrigan who recently
purchased an old Dragmaster Chassis (the later style, without the
parallelogram type front, maybe called a Dart?) and is getting started
researching the history of it. Quite a few names were tossed around as
possible original owners…Jack Kulp and Gaines & Maurino among them.
‘Gotta keep up with this project. Still remember the first time I saw Kulp's
Dragmaster… real lo-o-o-ng! An impressive site in those days of 90"
wheelbase dragsters. It was a beauty, too! Joe Nocentino may have been a
partner with Jack on this one. Any car Joe was involved with was nice. Both
of these gentlemen are gone now.
Passing by one of the VCRs, couldn't help but notice
what appeared to be an extremely professionally produced movie featuring two
Funny Cars from the "correct" era, match racing. The movie was
called Fast Company and John Saxon was one of the stars. Never saw or heard
of this one before, but what I saw of it wasn't too bad, considering the
bad rap Drag Racing usually got from Hollywood.
While on a Hollywood kick, Bikini Beach will be on AMC
tonight at 10:00 EST. Great Drag Racing footage rolled into an absolutely
horrible movie. I even felt sorry for Don Rickles while watching this
Hey look!…walking in the door…is it a bird?…is it a
plane?…No!! It's Jim Amole, former tin man at S & W Racecars and
perhaps (in my opinion) the Right coast's foremost authority on Drag
Racing days past. Jim ran an unblown fueler back in the sixties and is
sitting on the finest collection of old books, magazines, handouts,
catalogs, etc. this side of the Mississippi, and once again Jim brought a
small part of his incredible collection with him, and was kind enough to
share it with the G-Man and myself.
After lunch, we all assembled in the back room for the
door prize drawings and announcements. One sad note, though, was the passing
earlier this year of Ray English – historian, photographer, and video
producer extraordinaire. He was one of the organizers of the first Barnfest,
and was instrumental in getting yours truly, for one, interested in dusting
off the old photos, and getting out and sharing them with others. Up until
then, I thought I was the only one interested in this stuff. Thanks again
Ray – Ray.
After a moment of silence came the door prizes…. I was
lucky enough to win a Hill & Zartman T-shirt… anyone remember the
"Filthy Forty"? Still waiting for that Cobra to be among the door
prizes...maybe next year? How about it, Bruce?
Sat down and had a nice visit with George Weiler…
remember watching George run his old Competition Coupe "Smarty
Pants" at Atco while I was still in High School! Remember watching him
set a B/D National record at York, too. But still, my fondest recollection
of George is of watching him trade flirts with Linda Vaughn at the Midwest
HRR. George campaigns a Pro Stocker today.
Missing in action were Bob Plumer and Joel Naprstek. Was
looking forward to hearing Joel talk about things over on thoity thoid and
thoid streets. Maybe next year. Hey, Elvis dropped
by again (actually Ronnie Allen) and someone parked a cool
'49 Merc Sled by the front door.
Made it down to "The Basement" and checked out
the progress on Bruce's Olds powered ‘32 Ford that he used to own about
thirty years ago and just recently recovered. It's got a long way to go,
but any project that Bruce is involved with will be done right.
Bruce is a class act and I would like to thank him once
again for opening up his barn for all of us. Also a
big thanks to both Dave Heisey and Dick Gerwer for doing all of the legwork
on this thing, it was another success! A lot more fun than filling out tax
forms. More old B.S. later.