JOHN JEWELL, WHERE ARE YOU . . .
Within months of my dad’s death, in early April of 1949, my Mother quietly announced that we would be renting out the tiny third bedroom in our home.
“What?? . . . Why?” I asked.
We needed the money, and no, there were no other alternatives. We needed the money . . . Period.
Our home was 1400 square feet! I couldn’t believe we’d be having a stranger living with us. I was shy as it was and the prospect of a “boarder” moving in was beyond my grasp. We only had one bathroom in that tiny house!
Maybe my Mother would come to her senses and realize such an idea was nonsense. I prayed the idea would die on the vine.
A gentleman appeared late one March afternoon at our front door. At age 11, I wasn’t great at sizing people up at first sighting, but it was easy to see I was greeting a man younger than my parents, neat, in a dark suit, well combed black hair, a thin build.
“My name is John Jewell, son; Is Mrs. White here? I’m inquiring about the room for rent”.
(“There’s no room here, Bud . . . You’ve got the wrong house . . . We’re under quarantine. We’ve all got, uh . . . Typhoid fever.”)
“She’ll be home from work soon, sir. Do you want to come in and wait?”
Of course he did.
He sat down carefully in the living room, and remained almost motionless. Shortly, Mother came through the door. I ducked into the basement rather than endure the gruesome details. And, of course he took the room. Life was over yet again for Kirk.
As it turned out though, John Jewell was a prince of a guy. His kindness and boundless indulgence with me would soon take my life in an amazing new direction. Mr. Jewell was rarely in the house itself. He often came home late from his job, spent the evening quietly in his small room, would rise very early, have a cup of coffee, and be on his way. He would frequently be around on the weekends, and he was awfully kind about doing things for Mom that she had never had to deal with when Dad was alive. Often he would include me: “So you can do this the next time, Kirk.”
He never once said: …“now that you’re the man of the house, son.” That “. . . man of the house . . .” statement had scared me to death every time I heard it. At age 11, I hadn’t realized that it was more or less simply an expression.
CLEARING THE COBWEBS . . .
One Friday afternoon in early May, 1949, John Jewell came home early while I was lazing about the house at loose ends.
“Kirk, could you show me your father’s machine shop?” he asked late in the day. Well, it wasn’t off limits, but Dad’s shop behind the house was sacred ground to me. One of Dad’s closest friends, John Stewart and I had been in there only a few times since Dad died. Before his death, Dad and I had reached a point where we were well on our way with the reassembly process of the Jeep engine. And, that spring day with John Jewell was my first visit to the shop without John Stewart, since Dad’s passing.
Mr. Jewel thought the engine project was really neat. He wasn’t kidding, and he wasn’t indulging the Landlady’s son. He knew a great deal about automobile engines, and we spent time talking about, and examining many of the parts and the work that had been done. I asked him to help me understand some of the things I was still confused about, and he went over them with me in a fashion I completely understood.
As we closed up Dad’s shop, I had a good feeling about having been in there. It was springtime and there was a warmth in the shop. There were no ghosts, and no one watching what I was doing in there. Yeah, it really had been OK.
THE ARDC MIDGET AUTO RACES AT HATFIELD SPEEDWAY
The following day was a glorious Saturday, and for a change I wasn’t saddled with a million chores. In the late morning, John Jewell asked me if I would like to go to: . . . “The midget auto races at Hatfield Speedway.”
“The what??” I said.
I’d obviously appeared confused by his query. I had never heard of such a thing. Would that be midget people?? Tiny midget toy autos?? It sounded like a side show at the circus, possibly small enough to be held on a tabletop . . .
I had been to just one auto race, in February of 1948. As a family we had gone to Daytona Beach for a vacation, and we ended up attending the very first 150 mile NASCAR stock car race held on the beach at Daytona.
It had been a wooly race, being run over the original beach track which during any race quickly became a deeply rutted affair in the turns at either end of the track. We had “seats” such as they were, in the middle of the north turn. My ultra conservative mother, of all people, had been completely gaga over the whole thing! She had been absolutely thrilled with the wide open, wild style of beach racing that NASCAR truly was in those early days. She was so excited with every moment of the racing action.
John went on to explain to me to me that the race cars we’d be seeing were small, yet very powerful versions of the type of open wheel race cars that ran on speedways throughout the country, including the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Midgets were somewhat smaller than the sprint and “champ” cars that ran on the big tracks such as Langhorne, Milwaukee, DuQuin, Sacramento, Ascot, and Trenton. Mr. Jewell filled me in somewhat. A great deal of what he was telling me, I really couldn’t picture, but I could understand that they were not only serious racers, but that they should be pretty thrilling to watch.
“The races are in the evening Kirk; we’ll leave here around 5 o’clock”.
Shortly after five that evening, we drove for half an hour, passing on through the small town of Hatfield, and turned down one rural road, then another. Soon we parked with many other cars in an open mowed field that was on the grounds of the Montgomery County Fairgrounds. It was a perfect spring evening, and ahead of us lay what looked like a grandstand and high fencing that you might see at a horse-racing track. I opened the door of John Jewell’s Ford and jumped out.
Virtually as my feet hit the ground, my life changed forever.
(And, for most “Life Member” automobile enthusiasts, there always seems to have been a memorable beginning, often set by simple circumstances; an event, a particular automobile, a ride, a race, or a
combination thereof, that will set the linchpin for a lifetime of boundless enthusiasm for all things automotive.
The following narrative, possibly more than any other in this memoir, will hopefully demonstrate the simple events that magically fueled a brilliant fire of automobile interest within me. All of my life I have chased that flame.
This is a tale gathered through the wide eyes of an 11 year old boy in the spring of 1949.
If you know a good deal about auto racing in America in the late forties, you may wish to skip some of the explanatory bits. If not, try to endure the experience as it unfolded for me… It is a tale I’ve never tired of re-living.):
I shall never forget the glorious, staccato shrieks from the exhausts of the Offys and the Ford V-8 60’s bellowing out over the fences. It is as clear in my mind today, as it was that spring of 1949.
John leaned down and told me that the wonderful noises were the drivers practicing before their “heat” races. We joined a line, paid for our tickets and went through a walkway beneath the grandstands on the straightaway that came out trackside, right on the start/finish line.
As we emerged trackside, a racing car was pouring hard out of turn 4. It was headed straight at us at a tremendous speed. I jumped back! It bellowed past directly in front of me, mere feet away. It was a beautiful Kurtis Kraft Midget, with a thundering 110 Offy. It shot past me and ripped into turn one with the tail swung out wildly, kicking up dirt.
(Dirt!??! What the heck was this? The race track looked like raw farm soil!)
Little did I know that that first exciting moment may well have been the most pivotal point in my “automotive life”. I looked up at Mr. Jewell with an apprehensive smile and a very quizzical look. He smiled down at my excited face which was reflecting a flood of exhilaration and confusion. John led us up to seats in the grandstand. Once settled he gave me the general scheme of things.
The track was a half mile in length forming an oval shape, ringed on the outside by a rickety fence. The “dirt” was “oiled” Pennsylvania clay, he told me. “Dirt” was a very popular racing surface and provided thrilling excitement for the fans. The grandstand and bleachers started midway through turn 4 and extended down the front straightaway past the Start/Finish line and on into turn one.
It was just 6:00 PM and the stands were nearly full. There was activity everywhere.
Midget auto racing had been popular throughout America before World War II and came back even stronger after the war. Chris Economacki publisher of Natural Speed Sport News told me there was a point in time where there were nearly fifty manufacturers building Midget racers!
All the race cars had a work area adjacent to the front straightaway. The area was called the “pits” and each car had its own team of workers.
Some teams had really slick uniforms matching their cars. I counted 32 race cars either along the “pit” row or coming off trailers in the infield.
The cars were pure racers. John told me they were built on a 72-inch wheelbase, and most were powered by a 110 cubic inch Offenhauser 4 cylinder racing engine, or a highly modified Ford V-8 60. The Offys were sophisticated pure racing power plants with double overhead cams, special Winfield carbs and magneto ignition.
They were smaller versions of the big Offys that ran at the Indianapolis 500 and on the “Championship Trail” throughout the country. They were also expensive, costing over $1,500 new. The Ford V-8 60 was a passenger car engine that the “Hot Rod” racers had been able to modify and “hop-up” to produce a very potent powerplant; generally at a cost not exceeding several hundred dollars. By and large though, the more expensive Offys would outperform the Fords.
The very best cars, it seemed, were produced by a company called Kurtis Kraft in southern California. Before Kurtis, such makers as Hillegas, Solar, and Dreyer built other great midgets. The fascinating part about the “other” makers was that their race cars all had unique features reflecting the builder’s engineering ideas.
But, when Frank Kurtis brought out the Kurtis Kraft, it all changed. The Kurtis Kraft midget was a superbly engineered race car. It even had torsion bar suspension. You could, for the first time, purchase a complete turnkey, first class racing car, capable of winning right out of the box with a top driver and a hot Offy!
John explained that most of the top, well-funded drivers coming into this 1949 season were driving Kurtis Kraft Offys. They were racing under the ARDC, (American Racing Drivers Club) banner.
Among the drivers with this combination were Bill Schindler, Len Duncan, Georgie Fonder, “Jiggs” Peters, Ed “Dutch” Schaefer, Ernie McCoy, George Rice, Ted Tappet, Joe Sostillo, Georgie Fonder, Henry Renard, Mike Nazaruk, Johnny Coy, Tony Bonadies, Tony Romit, and a host of others.
I spotted the Kurtis in the pits that had raced right at me when we first came in.
“Who is in that black #2 car?” I asked.
“That’s Bill Schindler, Kirk. He wins a lot of races here. He drives for a man named Mike Caruso. The Caruso cars are among the best anywhere in the country.”
John went on to explain that the race cars would compete in small groups (called “Heats”) for qualifying positions in either of the two Semi-Finals which were 12 laps, each with the top finishers transferring to the main “Feature” race run at the end of the evening. The three heat races were 10 laps, the two “Semi- Finals”, 12 laps and then the final Consolation race, for those that hadn’t had a chance to qualify for one reason or another. And finally the “big” Feature race, which was generally 30 laps in length.
John further explained that the cars had what were known as “dog clutches” with “in-out” gearboxes which meant just one speed, and they all had to be push started which explained the presence in the infield of all the trucks and wreckers with flat “push” surfaces on their front bumpers. What looked like a small fire extinguisher just forward of the cockpit on the left side of the cowl was actually a hand pump to keep the fuel pressure up.
The hand lever, I’d asked about, outside the left side of the cockpit was the handbrake, which was rarely used by the driver, as there were brakes on the rear wheels only! Slowing for the corners was accomplished by the driver literally tossing the car sideways as he entered a corner to scrub off speed and then midway through the turn, powering out as hard and fast as he could. The nerve and skill of a driver in the turns would pretty much determine his ability to finish at, or near, the front of the field.
It appeared to me the driver had a heck of a lot to do.
A bit of my Dad’s analytic thinking crept into my mind. Why not have electric or mechanical fuel pumps, like “my” Jeep engine? John explained that the sanctioning bodies at the time were strongly against any kind of electric fuel pump that might continue to pump fuel immediately after an accident, because of the fire risk. In fact, they didn’t allow electrics of any kind on board! The engines were fired by magnetos.
That explained the lack of on-board starters for the engines. I quickly saw that it was a real time consumer, having to push each car to start it off. It didn’t look too great either, with a slick racecar being chuffed off by a lumpy tow truck or wrecker. Some cars used towropes to “pull” start and then released the rope when the car fired. For a spectator, the worst scenario was watching a competitive race car spin out, stall, and then be unable to restart and rejoin the fray.
(For many years I listened to a series of thoroughly unconvincing explanations concerning the necessity for this somewhat archaic and awkward ritual.
I raised the question with the legendary Chris Economaki and received an entirely sensible answer. Chris merely said that in the very beginnings of midget auto racing, the cars were extremely light, and often powered by a simple two cylinder outboard, or motorcycle engine, and the slightest push by one or two crew members would “bump” the car off to an easy start. As the cars grew more sophisticated (i.e. heavier, more cylinders, higher compression ratios), it became necessary for service vehicles to get them underway.)
My joining John Jewell that evening was just the best possible adventure that could have happened for me at that time. It completely consumed me. I could scarcely take it all in. I couldn’t get over the excitement that the race cars instilled in me. They were so fast, so beautiful, and so exciting to watch as they raced wheel to wheel all the way around the hard packed dirt track. I was completely captivated by the tremendous speed the cars would carry down the straightaways, and then held my breath as the drivers would fearlessly toss their cars into the turns, very nearly sideways, kicking up showers of dirt as they powered their way through the corner.
Since the track was just one half mile around, the action was non-stop. You had to remember to breathe!
Soon they called a group of cars to the track for the first of the heat races. 12 cars would compete. After the engine starting ritual the race cars circulated slowly, occasionally a driver or two would dump in a bunch of throttle to intimidate the other drivers. Once all 12 cars were underway, they lined up loosely and “showboated” their way around the track, with bursts of throttle, exaggerated short slides etc. John explained above the din that they were now under the control of the starter, whose perch was just above the fence on the main straightaway. The starter signaled to the field to take one more lap and to bring themselves into a tight group of six rows, two abreast.
As they came slowly through turns 3 and 4 the crowd was exhorted by the announcer on the loudspeaker to show their appreciation for the drivers, which was done with a huge burst of applause and waving from the stands. The drivers acknowledged the accolades with waves back to the crowd. I was on my feet for the #2 “Caruso Offy” with Bill Schindler.
After that bit of show business the drivers settled into the serious business of bringing the field around for the starters green flag and the start of the “Heat” race. In all of auto racing there is nothing quite as exciting as a group of open wheel, front engined, wingless midget or sprint cars tightly bunched and gathering speed through turns 3 and 4, anticipating a green flag from the starter.
As it was dusk on that perfect spring evening in 1949, and the track had just switched on the lights for the evenings racing, the moment became pure magic. And, if you were an 11 year old kid from Oreland, Pennsylvania, those magical components would simply add fuel to the fire that would change your life forever.
Coming out of turn 3 into 4 the drivers began to really pour it on, just pushing the edges of being waved off for a “jumped” start and having to go around again. The starter though, liked the look of the field, and waved the green flag for the start of the 10 lap qualifying “heat”.
Though I had seen that wild NASCAR Stock Car race on the beach in Daytona in 1948, nothing could have prepared me for this incredible excitement. The ARDC race cars roared past us at an enormous speed and somehow, amidst the violent mayhem, threaded themselves through turn one. The pace, noise, and excitement was infinitely fiercer than anything I’d seen in practice. Two cars banged wheels hard, snaked around some, but stayed under control.
As the field launched out of turn 2, my guy Schindler opened up a 3 car length lead over a very fast driver named Len Duncan, also in a Kurtis Kraft Offy, owned and prepared by a man named Ken Brenn. They ripped down the backstretch with an insane roar, at a tremendous speed and flew into turn 3 with a barely controlled violence. Duncan closed up hard on Schindler, but the #2 Schindler car seemed to have a real command of his lead, and as he rocketed past us, I was sure I could see a slightly cockeyed grin on Schindler’s face. Schindler won the heat going away.
I had not drawn a breath since the drop of the green flag.
It was all just too neat; not only did I have a new hero; he seemed capable of destroying the competition, almost at will. I sat back, squared up my shoulders, and looked around the stands to see if anyone else had been clever enough to pick up on my new ace driver.
I wished I was old enough to spit.
John Jewell smiled down at me. He’d surely been able to see that something special was happening with this young man. I smiled hugely, and he gave me a squeeze on the shoulder.
While they were calling the next group of cars for the number two Heat race, a young man came through the grandstands hawking newspapers. The paper was called “National Speed Sport News”. Holy cow, there was a newspaper about this stuff? I couldn’t believe it. (Even if you know just a little bit about auto racing, you’ll know that the young man
may well have been none other than Chris Economaki, earnestly hawking his “National Speed Sport News” . . .)
I screwed on my most earnest, “can I have one??” face, and John bought a copy.
What a great treasure that newspaper was. Incredible photos of all types of race cars running all over the country! Extensive stories about the drivers and their racing adventures. I folded the paper carefully and sat on it so I wouldn’t lose it. John glanced over and asked if he might have a look at it. Reluctantly, I surrendered it to him. I kept a sharp eye to make sure he didn’t damage it. As they were getting the second heat field tightened up he refolded the newspaper carefully and gave it back to me with a smile.
The second heat was actually even more exciting, as the lead was exchanged at least a half dozen times and two cars tangled big time, and spun out. One ended up in the infield just missing a photographer, and the other car stopped in the middle of turn 2, it was narrowly dodged by a bunch of other racers.
John explained the function of the yellow flag, slowing the entire field down. Order was restored, the two stalled cars restarted, and the heat ended with an exciting finish.
There was another heat race with more spins and a big time accident at the end of the back straightaway. A driver in an older car got into the fence, dug in hard, and flipped, chewing up some of the old fencing. A chill came over me. That was a serious wreck. I looked up at John anxiously. He, along with everyone in the stands, was watching intently with an anxious expression. Then a smile relaxed his face as we both saw the driver scramble out and wave heartily toward the grandstands. Geez, I’d never seen anything like that. How the heck had that guy survived that wreck without getting really hurt? After a long “yellow” the heat finished in a flurry of 4 race cars swapping the lead back and forth.
Later came a race I needed to be educated about. It was called “The Consy”, which stood for “Consolation Heat”. This field was made up of a diverse group of racers. The consolation race was a “last chance” heat for those who, for one reason or another, had not qualified for the feature race. Often a “Consy” field would be a somewhat “rag tag” group of both cars and drivers. It could also have some very fast drivers and cars that dropped out of their earlier heat race for a mechanical failure, spin out, etc.
Poor John was ever so patient, carefully answering each of my endless questions. He made the whole evening unfold in a wonderful fashion.
Consolation races tended to be large, erratic, and hard for a starter to bring to order. Often, the starter would settle for a facsimile of an organized field and just “cut ‘em loose”. It was a big field that night, and they were all over the track. John pointed out three of the cars that had very rapid drivers, and good equipment. Those drivers would be cutting and thrusting their way through that dicey bunch trying to grab one of the first four places. Those first four would be the only ones going on to the Feature; albeit, at the rear of the field. This “Consy” wasn’t total mayhem, but it was close to it. Only one of the “hot dog” drivers made it to the feature: Jiggs Peters out of Long Island aced himself into the field.
Consolation races could also be a headache for the promoters, as they tended to be fraught with wrecks, spins, mechanical breakdowns, etc. Also, the racing itself was often more than a little bit rag tag. With the “Consy” being the last event before the semi-final Feature, there was a need to keep things moving along. In the late forties and early fifties eastern midget racing fans were a vast, enthusiastic bunch, but they wanted their Feature race over by 10 pm!
As they pulled together the larger 16-car field for the “Semi”, the announcer on the loudspeaker exhorted the crowd for cheers and accolades for all manner of things, including quick mentions for the local Lions Club, Joe’s Hardware, Hatfield Meat Packing for the hot dogs, Acme Drugs, etc. all of whom brought you tonight’s racing program. The announcer got it all in during one parade lap. It was wonderfully simple.
Profiles were given for the drivers, team owners, and their base of operations. It was all so straightforward back then; the driver, owner and his hometown were hailed, and that was pretty much it.
(In the late forties we hadn’t reached the point where drivers and owners were incidental to the heaps of sponsors, secondary sponsors, associate sponsors, minor sponsors, trivial sponsors, ad infinitum, that clutter up the cars and the airways of today.
The race tracks were called “Langhorne”, “Yellow jacket”, “Ascot”, “Flemington”, etc. There were no venues known as “Pink Bottom Diaper Speedway”, “Acme Squeaky Clean Detergent Raceway”, ad nauseam . . .
And, they certainly did not have primary car sponsors blatantly offering pharmaceutically enhanced erections! If a driver today was asked to tell the crowd: “What happened out there in turn 3??” . . . His response might well be: “Hell, my ‘Baby Pamper Talcum Powder’ Offy, just kinda’ swung a rod, goin’ into three” . . .)
"This is about as fancy as a racing team got. Pretty neat isn't it"
Ok, ok . . . I’m over it.
During the intermission, John and I had wandered down beneath the grandstands and found a concession stand. We had hot dogs and cokes and listened to everyone’s ideas as to which driver they thought might sweep the Feature.
Around a corner, under the grandstand, I found an amazing souvenir stand just loaded with all kinds of racing trivia. T-shirts, magazines, race car models, decals, license toppers, pins, tie tacks, key chains, jackets just about any auto racing item you could think of was available. I quickly scanned all the prices and found the only thing I could afford was a 4”x 6” decal at 25 cents. Well, I had the 25 cents, so I carefully picked out a brilliant red midget, with yellow scallops. It looked a lot like my hero Bill Schindler’s #2 Kurtis Kraft.
We carried a box of “Crackerjacks” back to our seats for the night’s Feature race. 22 cars would start the feature and race furiously for 30 laps. Just getting all 22 cars underway, was a show in itself.
The feature was everything my thrilled and overwhelmed 11 year old mind could possibly absorb. The racing was fantastic. The lead changed constantly, what with the entire field being made up of the top drivers, and all of them spread out through the field. All of this wild action was spiced by frequent spins, and the occasional wreck.
I have no recollection of who actually won that feature, but I do remember Bill Schindler was leading until near the end, and then as he came hard out of turn 4 his car slowed and he cut over to the inside of the track and coasted to a stop in the pits. He took off his helmet gave a wave to the crowd, along with his easy smile.
One of his pit crew approached the car carrying a pair of crutches, and I watched incredulously, as Schindler lifted himself by his arms out of the cockpit, swung his leg over the side, grabbed the crutches and drew himself up tall.
He had only one leg! I was thunderstruck. My hero could kick everyone’s fanny with just one leg! I couldn’t believe what I saw!
Throughout that evening a very fat, noisy, character sitting nearby us in the stands had been loudly blathering to all those within earshot, everything he “knew” about auto racing.
As Schindler had drawn into the pits Mr. “Loudmouth” bellowed out to any and all, that Schindler’s “stump” had killed his magneto switch coming out of turn 4, and that was what had caused his failure on the track.
“Yes sir, that’s what stopped him; happens to him all the time”!
As an 11 year old I absorbed what he was saying, and took it as gospel. For years that astonishing “revelation” stayed with, and haunted me. Never mind that Bill Schindler won twice as many races as he lost; that fat man’s blustery statement troubled me for a long time. Each time I watched Schindler in action, I did so with baited breath, always worried about the “stump” wildly swinging about in the cockpit, and killing that switch.
Finally, at some future point, common sense prevailed over nonsense, and I realized the physics of such an occurrence were nearly impossible, … and even if they were, Mike Caruso, as a very smart and successful car owner, just might have moved the magneto switch, yes??
The racing was over for the evening and an all-enveloping silence fell over the track. You could hear people’s voices, footsteps on the bleachers, and the crackle from the powerful electric lighting. John leaned down toward me and in a voice that seemed overly loud, said; “would you like to go down into the pits and look over the cars?”
Would I ever!! A section of the front straightaway fencing was opened up, and we were allowed to cross the track to gain access to the pit area. Actually stepping out onto the thick Pennsylvania clay racing surface brought an entirely new respect for a driver’s ability to race smoothly and swiftly over this chunky, rutted, sticky surface. Standing in the middle of the straightaway on that dirt ½ mile oval and peering down into turn one presented an awesomely, daunting sight.
We crossed on over to the pit area, where a number of the cars were being prepared for uploading to their next event, probably in another state, often the very next day. The cars up close were just amazing. I had never been exposed to a single purpose racing car before and was struck by the raw beauty they possessed. Their front ends were asymmetrical, with the suspension being loaded on the right side, as the cars turned left only. The
outside handbrake and fuel pumps were pieces of mechanical art. The hand hammered aluminum bodies were so beautiful, particularly the tailpieces.
All the remaining crew members and drivers were, of course larger than life, right there before me. John said, “You can ask any of the drivers for an autograph, if you like”. That was far too bold for me to even consider!
We left the track, walked back through the tall grass to where we were parked, listening to the locusts and the crickets getting their chance to be heard that fine spring evening. We were both filled with the excitement of the evening’s racing. We drove down Route 309, the old Bethlehem Pike toward home. When we came into the town of Ambler, I, boldly, asked Mr. Jewell if he’d like to stop at the Howard Johnson’s for an ice cream cone! He thought that was a splendid idea, and we enjoyed our ice cream cones in the evening air. By the time I climbed into bed that night, my head was filled with the excitement of the evening, the thrills and the amazing happiness, that John Jewell had brought me.
It was the first really good thing that had happened to me since Dad died. I was really excited and committed to learning about and pursuing every aspect of auto racing. That night I happily drifted off to sleep, my thoughts looking forward, for a change, and not lamenting the past few months.
I would actively pursue every scrap of information I could gather about automobile racing. At the age of 11, many of our dreams and aspirations are quickly discarded for new ones. Once in a great while though, something bites into you so firmly, that it may well soon set the course of your life. Reflection today, over these many years has clearly demonstrated to me that my first exposure to automobile racing that evening in 1949 at Hatfield Speedway set the linchpin.
Luckily for me John Jewell loved the midgets, and bless his heart, he had the patience and goodness to drag me along to almost every racing event he went to that summer. In the process, we visited several other tracks as well. He was a very special man, who entered my life at a most crucial time, under remarkable circumstances. I was virtually adrift following my father’s death when this quiet, unassuming, but oh so giving, man came into my life.
In the late fall of 1949, John Jewell moved on in his life, and I never saw him again.
Many years later, in the early 1970’s, I penned my Kirk F. White Motorcars Newsletter, which at that point in time was reaching well over twenty thousand people each month. In one of those issues, I put together a very brief synopsis of the above odyssey. I was taking a very long shot that I’d be able to find John Jewell. My last line said: “. . . John Jewell, where are you?”
I’ve never been able to find him . . .
I’ve always wanted to simply say: “Thank you so very much, John. Thanks for being such an extraordinary person, and such a super friend to a young man you scarcely knew at all.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Coming Next . . . “A Circuitous Route to a World Championship”
Chapter 3 - March 1, 2016
Bill Schindler, Polo Grounds, 1948
Al Herman, 1950, Lowther Offy