Jack Corley is a local figure in auto racing. He raced in the Portland area from 1952 to 1973 after a stint with the Marines. With copious amounts of bravery, Jack piloted a midget dirt track car for the majority of his racing career. He recalls a special event held in the Memorial Coliseum that is hard to believe.
Local promoter, Paul Ail, who also managed Portland Speedway, decided hosting an indoor race in the winter would help keep race fans interested year round. A pair of events were put on the schedule in December, of what Jack remembers as being 1967, one in Spokane and one in Portland. “It was so cold in Spokane that my injection froze up!” Jack chuckled. “It was another chance to race in the winter close to home.” He recalls that the indoor course in Spokane was a repurposed ice arena. “Man, it was sure tight.” He said.
Given the opportunity to lay down some laps and earn some money, ten local drivers took the challenge in Portland. A local publication of the time, Racing Wheels, published the results of the first Memorial Coliseum race in an article entitled ‘Seattleite Takes Home Trophy’ and recounts the fast time being set by Bill Mehner and the main event won by Ken Peterson. Jack, who finished 8th according to this article, recalls “Mehner and Peterson had already had experience racing inside! For the rest of us it was a learning curve, and I didn’t learn fast enough!” Because the course was inside, the arena was only big enough to map out a 1/10th mile circuit on the concrete. “They put down Coca-Cola on the floor to keep us from sliding. It was still full contact.” laughed Jack.
Of many racing escapades in Jack Corley’s career, this one seemed like just another event to him. However, racing indoors in a historical Portland landmark is something not to be forgotten. Opened in 1960, the Memorial Coliseum has hosted a variety of events but few would believe 1,500 people packed themselves in the facility to see auto racing in the dead of winter. The event was discontinued after two tries without a definitive reason. Jack speculated, “They started televising races around that time. It eliminated the captive audience.” Reading the recount in Racing Wheels it sounds like it was quite the show. It even details a side attraction of local disc jockeys putting on a karting race and a particularly dazzling trophy girl. Though an event like this would likely not take place in the Portland Memorial Coliseum today, it is an interesting bit of history that is too wild to let slip away in the forgotten past.
Today Jack tells stories of his racing career and runs a specialty parts store in Gresham, Oregon. To hear a tale, see his extensive collection of racing memorabilia, or look for any vintage car part under the moon call or stop by:
Jack’s Specialty Parts
360 NE 20TH DR