As young kids and teenagers, we listened to the radio much more than any other form of entertainment. My folks had one of those big radios that sat on the floor. I can remember laying on the floor and listening to my favorite shows - the Lone Ranger and Superman were high on my list. My parents also had a list of shows that were listened to in the evenings. Jack Benny, Burns and Allen, Our Miss Brooks and many others were listened to in our living room. Lots of the best radio shows later were converted to television.
I remember listening to the race while riding in my dad’s milk truck. Those country pick-up milk routes operated seven days a week. We could listen to a good part of the race before we completed the route before arriving home. I would then switch to a radio in the house to finish race. The program was sent all over the world, and I thought it was so cool that all the announcers were local fellows that we could hear every day.
E.Z. Gwynn, Sid Collins, Jim Shelton, Paul Page, Bob Jenkins and many others entertained us over the years. One local Southside radio personality was a member of the track team. Tom Peden worked with one of the local radio stations and was one of the guys we would hear on the race broadcast. His son, Mark, attended Southport High School and was a member of my high school class. I always thought that if I visited the track a time or two during the month of May, I could fully imagine A.J. Foyt and all the others screaming past the start/finish line as the announcers reported it on the network.
I plan to sit in our backyard and listen to the race on Sunday and hope to have a great time. Stuart will probably hang out with me. I’m sure he will hop on my lap a few times and help me enjoy it.
I was excited when a NASCAR race started at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A few years ago, I offered an article about getting to tour Junior Johnson’s NASCAR racing facilities. For years he drove and owned stock cars. During the tour I noticed a real problem with the use of some fasteners on these cars. I explained to the crew about the problem and offered a solution. They crew members summoned Johnson to the garage, and I was asked to explain it to him. He understood and asked us to travel to all the other NASCAR race shops and explain my thoughts to them.
I pointed out that he and his employees would be seeing all those racers that weekend and they could easily make the explanation in a couple of hours. His response was that the owners and teams lied to each other so much that he wouldn’t be believed. So, we needed to send sales agents to each facility to help with the corrections.
One other time, I was working with a salesperson in Houston, Texas, who had several clients at large dealerships where our main contact was the parts manager. At one dealership we visited, I was introduced to the parts manager and told him I was from Indianapolis.
The parts manager paused and was eager to introduce me to the fellow who owned the dealership. I was pretty sure that I knew who it was. At this dealership, there were standing orders to contact the boss if anyone from Indianapolis ever showed up.
A.J. Foyt came out and shook my hand and started asking me questions. We had a blast tossing out names to see if we had connections. The one I remember was Joe Langley. Joe was an Indy 500 chief mechanic and later an outside sales representative for an automotive chemical company. Joe’s shop was behind his house on Madison Avenue.
Visiting with A.J. was a wonderful and totally unexpected. He has been a bit under the weather for several years. I saw that he attended the Daytona Races in February. I hope he is here for the 2019 Indianapolis 500.