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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Charlestown Reunion V

The Day Before

2002 Bill Ott

Charlestown Reunion Co-conspirators, L to R. Don Roberts, Kenny Youngblood, Bill Ott, Jeff Howe, Sy Sidebotham, Jack Brady. Photo by Tom Steed
Charlestown Reunion Co-conspirators, L to R. Don Roberts,
Kenny Youngblood, Bill Ott, Jeff Howe, Sy Sidebotham, Jack Brady.
Photo by Tom Steed

Saturday June 8, 2002
N. Smithfield, Rhode Island

World turns black and white
Pictures in an empty room*

Man, is that Suisse Chalet Motel driveway a welcome sight. Couldn't wait to leave Harrisburg about seven and a half hours ago, now, can't wait to get this rented P/T Cruiser stopped and put my feet up. The Cruiser was fun to drive... maybe a little low on power... but once again I find myself starting a week's vacation from my job driving a truck... with a four hundred mile (one way) drive.

One thing I did like about the P/T Cruiser? The sound system... lot's of power and six speakers that you absolutely couldn't overdrive! When I left Harrisburg, Steely Dan was gently flowing out of the speakers.  By the time I arrived in N. Smithfield (RI), Van Halen was screaming out of all six of 'em! Great road music on a Saturday morning! A big thank you to my daughter for lending me her Van Halen CDs.

Checking into my room, I'm ready for a little quiet time. I brought along the laptop computer hoping by some chance to maybe get a little of the weekend's activities jotted down during these quiet periods. WRONG! This is as quiet as it's going to get all weekend. But hell... what's wrong with that?

But... this IS nice. Lights out, feet up, pop open a cold one, and start checking out the hundreds of mostly black and white photos I've saved on CD-ROM.  Most of these old photos have been passed along by my brothers (and sisters) in the Standard 1320 group and some old friends from my school days. Now tell me... how cool is this... checking out B&W photos from the '50's and '60's on a laptop computer. Ain't modern technology great? But you know what... that's probably what the folks captured in those old photos are thinking about their racecars, too. Always changing - Never changing.

The trip back to those early days is shattered by the sound of my cell phone ringing (more modern technology). It's Jack Brady on the other end wanting to know when I'm coming over to his place. Damn good idea! Besides, I'm getting way too comfortable anyway. Time to turn on the lights and return to the 21st century. But I'll be back.

We celebrate when the gangs all here
Hot summer nights, that's my time of year**

Arriving at the Brady homestead... hey, it's real easy to find... the only house on the block with a red Fiat Topolino in the driveway. And get this... no frantic last minute thrash like last year. Yep, the whole thing is together, no parts or pieces sitting on the garage floor this time. But still, Jack made sure I was kept busy polishing frame rails. Got to visit with Jack's lovely wife Sue again and meet his daughter Colleen.

Colleen made her own dress for this year's Junior Prom out of... you guessed it... duct tape! Yep, red and black duct tape (and I thought it only came in basic silver), gown, flowers, shoes, handbag, and all. Of course her necklace was your more traditional electrical tape. This young lady has a real future in the fashion world or on a pit crew... or as a mechanic for a trucking company! :-) Actually, she's participating in a nationwide scholarship contest sponsored by a tape manufacturer. Check it out at www.ducktapeclub.com. Good luck, Colleen.

After pushing the Topolino back in the garage, it's time to jump into the Cruiser and head over to brother Ray Curtis' place and check out the progress on his current project... building a clone of the C & O Hydro '48 Austin pickup gasser. Ray's been working on the car about two years now, and it's starting to look like the end may be in sight.

We arrived just in time to catch Ray and helper Ritchie Chevalier (sp?) sanding the one piece front end just one more time before spraying on a coat of primer. Larry Stauff was there... still grinning from ear to ear after his "Obsession" Anglia's great showing at the Gasser Reunion at Thompson (Ohio) Dragway last weekend (more on that later). Tony Braz was hanging out at here too and kept us all entertained. Tony showed up in a cool mid '60's Mopar and left after a while, only to return with an even cooler Chevy 4 banger powered T bucket. Larry and Ritchie hung the doors on the Austin while Ray was applying the final coat to the front end. Nothing like a late afternoon bench race with some old friends under a bunch of shade trees, no?

Time to hop back in the Cruiser and head over to Seekonk. Bear George and his gang should have the grille fired up and running 'hammer down' by now. This annual Saturday RSVP get together is getting to be as much fun as the Sunday Reunion. We arrived at the Speedway to the smell of the barbecue grille and the sight of some old Standard 1320 group friends... Don Roberts (former King & Marshall and Jade grenade pilot), Jeff Howe (engine Builder 'par excellence'), Kenny Youngblood (he draws things), Bob "Bear" George (he organizes things), and 'Sy' Sidebotham (he races things).

Sy also brought along the whole King and Marshall crew and the recently restored K & M Don Long built digger. Man, what a beauty... Hanna body, Nancy upholstery, great reproduction of the late George Cerney paint, early Hemi motor... it don't get no sweeter than this one. The gang plans on firing it up on juice tomorrow... and again later this year during the Cacklefest at the California Hot Rod Reunion. Cool! Be there!!!

Parked next to the K&M trailer, Bruce Larson and crew, who came all the way up from Dauphin, Pa. (and beat me out of the long distance driving award by about 12 miles!) with the USA 1 Camaro in tow. Another one that's going to lite 'em up' tomorrow. Yes sir, I won't be leaving here tomorrow without having had an opportunity to sniff some NITRO.

Sitting down to eat I mentioned to Kenny that he had signed my "Family Bible" (Bob Post's "High Performance") a few years ago at the CHRR and I showed him the page. Damned if he didn't find a blank page in the thing and draw a likeness of the K&M car smokin' em off the line at the New England Dragway... thanks Ken. Also in attendance were former fuel racer Dave Vermilya and his partner former (Engle) cam grinder Garry Winslow, the legendary 'Smiley' Smullen, and a few others I'm not familiar with... but I'm sure THEY knew who they were.

During all of these festivities there was a shift in the direction of the wind as well as an increase in velocity (it got downright windy!) next thing we know, it feels like the temperature dropped about 20 degrees. But do you think something as insignificant as THAT was going to break up a bench race session? No way. After grabbing sweatshirts and jackets everyone picked up right where they left off. BTW - Kenny Youngblood told some great tales about running a Jr. Fuel car out west in the sixties and partners named Smith.

Well as someone once said "All good things must end", it's getting dark... Jack wants to get back home and load up the Topolino for the morning tow... and I'm beat. Besides I have to be at Jack's house at 6:00 AM (ouch!), and I'd like to put some thoughts down while they're still fresh (CRS?).

Run, run, run away
Like a train runnin' off the tracks
Let the truth be left behind,
Fall between the cracks***

10:00 PM - After dropping Jack off at his place, it's about a ten minute drive back to the motel.  Got the laptop all set up, and opened up another cold one... time to get down to some serious writing. That is, until I realize I left all of my notes down in the Cruiser. To hell with it... there's always South Park on a Saturday night. More old B.S. later.


* & *** Dreams
1986 Yessup Music Co. ASCAP
Written by E. Van Halen/ S. Hagar/
M. Anthony/ A. Van Halen

** Summer Nights
1986 Yessup Music Co. ASCAP
Written by E. Van Halen/ S. Hagar/
M. Anthony/ A. Van Halen


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