Flemington Reflections From Paul Garzillo
The following was sent to us by longtime Flemington dirt track fan Paul Garzillo. I think Paul's words reflect what many of us feel.....
From Paul Garzillo
I have been putting off writing about my Flemington Memories until now because I have viewed losing this great place as one might mourn the death of a loved one--- avoiding the obvious and at the same time in denial of the facts. I figure 2006 is a good time to exercise my Flemington demons and write some off beat, but yet familar fond memories of the greatest time of my youth-- 1972-1990. Recently, I took the wife and kids to the "Square" one last time, drove around the track, stopped on the frontstretch and stood where my heroes once did and reflected on just what the place meant to me. Here are some of my thoughts that came to me on that day:
* The excitement as a 12yr old being dropped off at the front gate with my brothers and running as hard as we could with blankets to the 1st turn, in hopes of beating everyone to the top row.
* Listening to Johnny Cash songs on the speakers as the water trucks worked in the surface; getting a kick out the the water truck drivers as they powerslided and bravely got up against the wall at speed.
* Visiting the Al and Jean Otto novelty stand and wanting to get the color photos but could only afford the black and white.
* Getting chills when Bill Singer welcomed us all to "Modified Country USA" as the evening started.
* Being amazed that Paul Kuhl could always pace himself around the track[in the pace car] so well during the Star Spangled Banner that he always pulled into the front pit gate just as the song ended.
* Watching with fascination as line-ups and announcements were hoisted from the track up to the 'crow's nest' by a rope.
* Looking towards the grandstand from the 1st turn and seeing that big, yellow star light up the evening sky.
* Getting goosebumps when Bill would say "off the number threeeeeee corner---- through the short chute------ ready to kick the wheel.............. GREEN IS OUT!!!!
*My 1st time sitting in the covered grandstand, and not believing how loud it was in there; Watching my boyhood hero Stan Ploski hold off Fitzcharles and Chamberlain in the Don Morris #111 for what seemed like 100 laps.
* Sitting in the covered grandstand near Paul Kuhl, and noticing how 'hands on' he was------- instructing officials, flaggers, on the walkie-talkie, and even eating the food served at the concession that night.
*The night Georgie Ault's #11-7 came apart in the 1st turn; the bumper boomeranged over our heads and into the parking lot.
* The Mid- Week Modified Shows----
1] The Flemington Regulars would always 'school' the invaders.
2] The top 10 in Sportsman points were invited to the shows, and would 'school' the invaders, too!
[Ray Liss, Les Katona, Newt Hartman, Joe Hall]
* The sound of walking on the thick crushed stones behind the frontstetch enroute to the bathroom.
* The smell of fried chicken, as we stood and looked at the points board to see what the standing were.
* Saying 'Hello' to Bill Singer, who was tall, thin, in white pants, purple shirt, and cowboy hat.
* Holding my breath the entire time in the mens room; being amazed at those troughs!
*Screaming as Frank Klemm's car burst into flames between turn 1 and 2 during a roll over. Being relieved sportsman driver Det. Ed Connor #39C carried a fire extinguisher.
* Stan Ploski breaking his arm twice in the same spot in turn 1.
* Sitting on the warm and sticky Brenn #24 Gremlin right rear tire as "Stan the Man" autographed my sisters cast.
* Being in awe of every car the Brenn's brought to the track.
*Memorizing the Speedway phone # [782-2413] and calling every 5 min on the nights we couldn't go to see who won. I'm sure we drove the office secretary nuts.
* How awful and surreal it was the night Ed McVay left us; How some drivers didn't come out for the feature, some did but drove slow, and how Billy the Kid was fearless in the "L".
* How week after week, George Manchur's orange tow truck and Mannon Paving's red truck were always trusty servants waiting to help a driver in need.
* "Bill Sharp, report to the main grandstand" said Bill Singer whenever an electrical malfunction occurred.
* "Open the back gate, please", Bill said whenever a late arriving car showed up at the track.
* How we joked about the old men on the fence repair crew--- chiseled old guys with boards and sledge hammers. They mostly were seen working between turn 1 and 2 on a weekly basis.
* When a fuel tank ruptured, and the fuel was always 'burned off '. This was very cool at night.
*At 18, taking my bosses car to the track on my lunch hour 3 different times--
1] To see who was testing their car for an upcoming race.[Pauch in the Mataka 3N1]
2] To drive on the dirt surface [to make good on a bet]
3] To get a personal tour of the Speedway by then track PR guy Jack Ekholm who issued me a press pass.
[for the High School radio station]
* On nights that we couldn't go, sitting on the front porch and being able to hear the cars 10 miles away in Readington, N.J.
* Being embarrassed thinking we had gotten great 4th turns seats, only to realize you couldn't see a good portion of the track from the section at the top near the covered grandstand!
The Annual Flemington Fair had it share of memories too:
* The great smell of sausage and peppers coming from the Readington Vol. Fire Co. booth behind turn 1.
* The midway vendor guy that every year brought his ' real alligator' exhibit and told us that if we wanted the alligator to move, to drop quarters and half dollars on him through the cage [boy were we dumb!]
* The Flemington regulars getting into a mini stock, vw sprint, midget etc, and toasting the other drivers during speedweeks at the fair.
*The peace of walking aroung the back straight at night during intermission and hearing the cows, goats and other animals staged in the tents.
* Taking my bride to her first Flemington event.
Just as losing a loved one, we never forget, but the pain does dissipate over time. I hope as the years go by the pain of losing such a great place like Flemington Speedway will lessen for all of us.
Good- bye, old friend, you served us well for 85 years. May you take your rightful place in history among the racing Gods and be remembered forever by the thousands you touched and provided a lifetime of excitement and thrills. My only lingering sadness is for those that never got to experience the weekly event we called "Flemington".
Paul Garzillo, Wind Gap,Pa.
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