If we haven’t met yet, know that I love stories, stories that I have to reach to imagine myself in while being completely in awe of skill and style, the ones you have to consciously follow because if you don’t, it might just go over your head. And I was not at all disappointed when I found my way to the Old Timers BBQ out on Blue Lake in Fairfield, OR.
Walking up to the picnic, I immediately spot Jack Corley, part photographer, part racer, part maverick who walked into the Archive Room just a month ago to name faces and cars in photos part of our Open Archive Days. I literally took a step to the right and see the name of someone I knew only by reputation (his Collins Champ Car is on display at World of Speed) but had yet to meet face-to-face: Del McClure. As we flipped through pages of his Blue Crown car, I listen to a story filled with twists and turns, speckled with names, ingenuity, and triumphs.
There’s always a moment when I know that I should have hit the record button but it’s usually when I’m too enthralled to make someone stop. I listened as Jack Gillis recounted his early day with the detail you can’t help but be impressed with (my response, "wait, you were high school when you did all that?!), Bob Coutts pointing out the many indy roadster he built over the years (including the Kuzma-Meyer at World of Speed), and Norm Zaayer who I introduced myself with the line “There’s a picture of you in the museum.” Luckily, that got a smile. And if you want to hearing a lively history of Portland Speedway’s final days, Fast Freddy Miles gave me the best rendition I’ve heard so far.
I might have forgotten to hit record last Sunday (there were so many more than just ones shared here) but with the help of Mark Brislawn and Don Barber, and plenty of others, World of Speed hopes to bring these “old timers” together for a group storytelling session to record their amazing stories to be available in the Archive Room as part of our oral histories collection.