"Sanatoga Memories"

...from the Visitors of the "Vault"

c07.25.06_SAN_MEM_HOM_0051_1.jpg (152917 bytes)
Many of the visitors of the Vault have expressed an interest in posting some of their favorite memories of Sanatoga Speedway, so please send yours in and we'll see to it that they are posted!   We are hoping that one of the regulars out there will send us a few paragraphs about the speedway so that we can use it as an introduction for those of us who never got to see the place...

Here's a few pictures provided by Rick Brinckman:  
Comment from Rick:  I own the items pictured from racer "Jimmy Ryan." (Jimmy's real name is Kenny Christman.)

"Jimmy Ryan" (real name Kenny Christman) with the Battle Wagon in the upper left.  Trophy and miniture car (upper right).  Jim's championship jacket from 1951.

Pictures from 2008
Photos provided below by Larry Dascenzo)

Near the 4th turn

... more from the 4th turn

...overgrown frontstretch

A Fan, An Employee. A Friend
Marshman_1955_ALC_MEM_sm.jpg (68817 bytes)
A View of Auto Racing in the 40's, 50's and 60's from the Inside.

By Merit O'Neal

Overview by Merit O'Neal

Sanatoga Speedway was built in 1937.  In 1951, George Marshman took over the promotion of events. I worked for Marshman Enterprises for several years, living at Sanatoga Speedway and later at Hatfield Speedway.

At Sanatoga the Pottstown Stock Car Racing Club was the sanctioning body, and ran at other tracks. Sanatoga was a one-fifth mile flat asphalt surface. Grandstands circled the track with the exception of the backstretch. The Pit gate entry to the track was at the third turn. Judges stand and starting gate were in the middle of the front straightaway. Most stock car races were run on Saturday nights, except early and late in the season. We also ran TQ midgets, held a model airplane show, wrestling match, and numerous Destruction Derbies. George originated the Destruction Derby.

George Boone, Jocko Rutter, and Gerald Foley were part of the track crew. Young Bobby Marshman worked at the track during the summer and had a sno-cone and novelty stand at Sanatoga. Bobby later owned the former Weidner #99 sprint car powered by a Ford six cylinder engine and with this car he finished ninth in U.R.C. point standings in his first year of racing.

Bobby ran four times in the Indy 500. He died of injuries on 3 December 1964 as a result of a crash in the # 51 Lotus Ford Indy car during tire tests. He was 28 years old. George Marshman built and drove race cars for many years. In 1949 he won the Eastern AAA midget championship driving Art Gottiers Offy. He retired after the 1950 season to promote events at Sanatoga, later including Philadelphia Municipal Stadium Speedway and Hatfield.

A Sanatoga Speedway reunion is held annually in Pottstown and is attended by former drivers and some of the old cars are there. Elaine Heist (Georges daughter) and Bill Blatt (mechanic on Bobby's #99 during the 1955 season) both have photos and items about Sanatoga from the 1950s. Sadly Sanatoga faded from the racing scene as did many of the older tracks of the times. George Marshman passed away on 1 November 1989. He and Bobby are both in the Garden of Memories cemetery at Limerick, Pennsylvania.

Memories are forever.
Merit O'Neal - mojo38@verizon.net

Here's a photo provided to Merit O'Neal from Pete Sovia.  Pete's father Ed Sovia (pictured above in the light colored jacket) was the scorer at all Sanatoga Races.  Next to him is Leonard Kemp and Jane Burdan.  These three individuals made up the scoring team. 

According to Merit, others in the photo include the man standing in the rear of the photo named Richard Heist who owns a clock shop in Collegeville, PA.  The lady sitting in the rear is Elaine Marshman and George Marshman is in the white jacket with his back to the camera was also the announcer.
(Above info provided by Merit O'Neal and Pete Sovia)

To Add your SANATOGA MEMORIES Click Here Or Email us at:   3wide@optonline.net

(Most recent memories received can be found at the bottom of this page)

Timothy Foster  05.31.21

My uncle Roy used to take my brother and I to the races in the early 1950ís. Always a wonderful and exciting time. One of the best parts was you could go right down in the pits when the drivers pulled in etc, I remember as a 10 years old boy how hot the the cars were from racing and how sometimes the drivers would holler at each other.

John Finnin    02.12.17

I remember my brother and I going to The races and at the end my Father would buy my brother and I a model car.  I remember you had to put the tires on and light a match to bun the ends to keep the wheels on.

What a race track and great memories.
John Finnin  Bridgeport, Pa

Rick Brinckman    02.06.17

Any old timer would remember Monk Keller and Dick Rodenberger.  Monk was from Pottstown and Dick was from Trumbarsville.  Both were top drivers. Monk in the 69x and Dick in the 7x. 

Rick Brinckman

Paul   02.28.16

Does anybody remember Monk Keller and Dick Rodenberger (not sure of first name)?

Ronald Kendig   01.29.15

My memories of Sanatoga speedway go back to 1956 when I was first introduced to auto racing by my friends mom and dad as they took me and my buddy to the races every sat. Note. They were friends of Norman Capt Kidd and remember drivers like  warren Mutter, Jackie Mc Laughlin, the fabled Moore bros Mose and Harry they were known to stir the pot.  Also attended races at Hatfield speedway.  I was involved with pit crew at Wall Stadium in NJ from 1973 to 1992.  Where won the Sportsman championship in 1976.

Thanks to Dot &Charlie Gramlich and son Mike for introducing me to the great sport of auto racing.

Carl E. Rubrecht    01.03.15

I'm 73 years of age and my memories go back to a young squirt (me) under the bleachers collecting ice cream lids with movie stars - cowboys etc. on them.  Yes, Bobby Marshman was one of my heros.  He patted my head many a time. 

My father - Guenter Rubrecht  (GUNNER) worked on the cars in the pits.  I would appreciate - if anyone could remember which cars he worked on.  It was a family thing - My mother (MICKEY) and her sister Pauline did a couple powder puffs.  Mom being only 5' 4" had blocks to reach the pedals.  Dad worked at Wolk Olds in Boyertown - and I remember Don Wolk having an XK120 Jaguar - I wonder if this was the car they were talking about.

One neat story dad told me was of a group of guys came down from New York and virtually cleaned house.  The one guy took a liking to dad and explained to him about tire pressure and staggering.  Dad said it knocked a couple seconds off their time.

I remember one night after the races - heading towards Sanatoga on Ridge Pike - I believe that was 422 in the old days and Mose Moore and Harry passed us on each side of our family car heading towards Pottstown.  Racing didn't stop at the track especially for those two guys. 

Of course names I took with me every day were Jimmy Ryan - Red Lesher - Blackie Ryder - Mose and Harry Moore

I had a short stint in stock Car in the late 50s at Hallandale Speedway outside of Miami Fla.  I had a '37 Ford Sedan with a "48 Mercury Flathead -  Never bought a new part - all junkyard Mondays and Tuesdays and Welding Wednesday and Thursdays.  I never won - I never put enough money into the car - however - I had some reasonable finishes.

I also drag raced at Hatfield when I came home from Florida.

O.K. who remembers the boat Mose Moore built in the living room of his home - They had to cut the wall out of the front of the house to get the boat out.  My dad and Howard Cates Jr. (Cate's Ford) Pottstown raced it at Ocean City for a couple years - It had a Cadillac with 6 two's - always catching fire.  How many nights I watched dad rebuild carburetors on the kitchen table.

Well, now I was Drag Race photographer at Maple Grove Drag-O-Way in the mid-sixties to early 70s - Thousands of photographs - Tim Hain who has the Hot Rod Shop in Pottstown spent 3 years trying to convince me to bring these photos back into circulation.  In 2009 I made my first photo in Tim's basement where I set up a lab and printed there 'til I had a heart attack.  I have since converted all to digital  -  Well, in doing this project I have encountered Sanatoga photos and had some flyers and programs -  Most are in the hands of Fred Spezio, who has a wonderful collection of Sanatoga memorabilia. 

Let me tell you of the night - after watching Art Arfons run the Green Monster Jet Car at York US30 - Fred yelling I'm getting me one of those.  We came back from York to Bucktown in 45 minutes  - Don't ask - I was in the car - I had the watch.  We came through Morgantown - the needle was buried - The car died on the hill at 100 - just up from where the Sunoco Station is.  The girl I was dating that night never spoke to me again as I virtually never saw her again. By the way Fred had a Jet Car - still has it. Now uncertified - still a beautiful piece.

Well, back to Sanatoga.  The sights - the sound - the smell of burning oil - smoking tires and those wonderful crowds - You knew you were part of something. 

Dad worked in the auto industry all his life - Harold Buick - Cate's Ford - Wolk Olds - Bolton Olds - Conshohocken Ford - West Chester Lincoln Mercury - with Ace Hartman and others.  Use what you wish from this brain jargon I have presented here.  I sure miss my mother and father - my peers. 

Thanks for bearing with me.         Carl E. Rubrecht

Reg Leister    04/26/14

I recall attending the Sanatoga track as a Cub Scout ca. 1954 or so. I still can recall the smell of burning rubber and the exhaust and oil.

And I believe there was a popular racer there called "Machibe Gun Kelly." (Forgive me, I am relying on almost 60 yrs of memory here.)

When I was a little older I worked at Sunset Pharmacy located at 12-14 Mpser Road, Pottstown. Bobby Marshman's wife was a regular customer there--weekly as I recall. We would special order for her alum. I still remember the  product's manufacturer--PurPac. There were 36 packs to a case. One day I asked her what she used this product for.  She said that she washed and soaked Bobby's racing overalls in it as a fire retard and I learned something that day.  Never knew that alum was a fire retard.

Later after Bobby's crash, his funeral was held in Trappe at the Holcombe Funeral Home. I lived behind Charlie Mussleman's Trappe Tavern just west of West 7th Avenue. Charlie's business sign had a rendering of a midget racer on it. After the viewing many racers of national and regional prominence stopped in at Charlie's tavern.  I and a few of my friends got to see Parnelli Jones, Mario Andretti and several other well-known racers there.

It was exciting as it was sad. Bobby was still a young man and that family dedicated everything to racing. I never stop to reflect every time I pass the former entrance. I can still see the big sign.

Reg Leister-Pottstown

Tim Allen   07.08.13

Sitting here with my dad (He's 80 years old), talking about the old Sanatoga Speedway. He had a 39 Chrysler Black with yellow wheels, that his friend Charlie Marshall drove for him. Dad's name is Dave Allen, and this would have been in about 1952-1957. Dad had a gas station/garage (Allen's Gulf) that he advertised on the stock car.

Thanks for the memories.

Edward Engle    04.11.12

When we lived in Pottstown my father used to take me to the Sanatoga Speedway Races on Saturday evenings. I was probably 11 or 12. We called the races Stock Car Races. I really enjoyed the races and can even remember some of the drivers. One of the favorites was Red Lesher. He drove a bright colored coup (red yellow and green). His car always stood out. His nemesis was Mose Moore. He always drove a primered black flat top coup. Then there was Bobby Ryan and Bobby(?) Allison. They were always near the front of the pack at the end of the final race.

We used to walk through the pit area during intermission. I was in awe of the drivers, but was always too shy to actually talk to them. As a boy, I would build a race track out of anything I had, and use my toy cars to run my own mock races. Red Lesher won most of my races. They were fond memories.

Lou Salamone    12.11.11

My dad and I went there many, many times. Short, tight track with a lot of bumping, pushing and shoving to pass. The epitome of "rubbins racing". At Sanatoga if you did not rub you did not pass.

My dad's good friend, Larry Bloomer, who was at one time an outstanding midget driver was winding down his career in something safer and drove modifieds there. Other than Larry, my favorite driver at Sanatoga was Jimmy Ryan in the black # 44. In fact my son and I do amateur racing today and we both wear Jimmy's # 44 (although I do not think I ever told him that was why it became my favorite #). I also remember a car that must have been sponsored by a diary as the How Now Brown Cow car. As I recall it was the best looking and best kept of all of the modifieds. My memory is a bit clouded but I think Mose Moore, another great but rough and tumble modified driver, may have driven that car.

We were also good friends with the Marshman's in fact my Dad's company paved Hatfield Speedway. Bobby was my idol (as nice and down to earth person as there ever was!).

Great memories! - Lou Salamone

Paul Mulford    03.08.11

I'm 63 now, but can remember going to the races when I was 8 and 9 years old. One thing has always stuck in my mind and that was the music that played while the crowd came in for the races. It was called a Swedish rhapsody.

You can type the title into you tube and hear it once again and bring back some real old memories.


Paul Mulford - King of Prussia (now Arkansas)

SK    10/18/06

Is this track still visible?  Where would it have been located?

Merit  10/20/06

Track is demolished and only part of racing surface remains per my last visit there several years ago.  Was located at end of Sanatoga Road south off Rt. 422 East of Pottstown.

Bob Joos    02/04/07

To see the remains of the Sanatoga Speedway - Ridge Pike [ 422 Business ] in Sanatoga - turn onto Park Drive. Follow Park Drive till it ends. You will see a playground, and to the left of the playground is a wooded area. Walk along the edge of the woods [ left of the playground ] and you will see a small path going up into the woods. About 15 - 20 yards up you will walk right onto the fourth turn. The frontstretch is still there but alot of it is covered with over growth, the 4th turn can stll be seen very well and a little bit of the 3rd turn is visible but most of it is covered with dirt piles.

A good number of fence posts still stand. It is sad that the grounds has become a dump site for people's trash. If you have any questions about the track, feel free to email me at  watching29@aol.com .  I have been researching the track for abour 6 years now so I should be able to give anyone some info on the history of the track.

SK    02/06/07

I think I found it...
Is this the aerial view of the area? (CLICK HERE) 

Merit    02/11/07

We used to refer to the road to the track as Sanatoga Road, but may have been changed later to Park Road per Bobby Joos note reference location of the race track. Aerial photo per SK also shows Park Road. Much has changed over past 50 years. My aerial photo and the newer one are hardly recognizeable as the same. The area sure has grown. I see the Linderman house is still there.

Bob Joos   02/11/07

I was walking around the track grounds the other day [ 2-10-07 ] and this time of the year is really the best to see whats left. If you walk back behind the 3rd turn / backstretch area, you can still where the drag strip was going to be. There are plenty of posts in the ground on both outer areas of the strip. And if you walk beyond the strip area, you will find a good amount of fence posts laying around on the ground. I would guess that they were going to be used for the drag strip area or they are the posts that were taken out of the backstretch area. It's a shame Marshman never finished the strip. What could have been....

Responder500  02/28/07


Merit    03/06/07

Am interested in hearing from anyone who attended races, worked at the track, drove at the track, or lived in the area of Sanatoga Speedway. Merit O'Neal (813) 689-2422 My address is 205 E. Jersey Ave. Brandon,Fla. 33510. Contact me by e-mail also.  mojo38@verizon.net

Back to Speedway Memories

Back to Main Vault Index

Back to Homepage