Wednesday, May 16, 2012

TOM DOW - his contribution to local racing, history and lore...PART 1

Roger Rickards and I were very privileged to have had the opportunity to visit Tom last year and talk about his racing years, as well as some of his flying years.  Tom also let us use some of his photos, most of which I had never seen before.  Please enjoy these but please do not copy them to another web site without permission from HR&J.  Be sure to click once or twice on each of the photos for larger versions.  This will be published in two or possibly three posts due to its large photo and story content.
Tom Dow as he looked in the early 1950's with his crash helmet on.
They were used for much more than just football!!

An ad from an early
1950's CLE program!
The King's Special taken from a film clip in 1933.

The Following is a portion of an article by Jeff Caldwell on the famed “King’s Special”.
QUOTE - “The car was last known to be owned by local racing legend Barry Kettering in a different form, powered by a regular T Ford motor, in 1950 he would informally race it against another 1920’s race car, “The Hudson“, then owned by Tom Dow.”

In Tom Dow’s own words, the race noted above was the new beginning of Jalopy racing here in Fort William and Port Arthur in the early 1950’s.  Tom was working at the family shop “Dow’s Auto Electric” at the time.  It was located directly across from the Times Journal Building on May Street in Fort William at 112 N May Street(The old yellow building still exists to this day).
Tom would call them “Bugs” and said that he and Barry would legally drive these cars on the street as well as on the track.
At the same time Barry Kettering was working for Thornes-Sargent just around the corner from Dow’s on Violet Street(presently a parking lot).  The businesses were back to back and Barry and Tom would naturally have become good friends due to their mutual interest in car racing.

Tom would say that after racing their “Bugs”  around at the Murillo track for fun, they thought they could make some cash by convincing some fellows to bring their cars to the Murillo track.  They would be paid a small fee just for bringing their cars to race and would charge $1.00 for the public to watch.  In Tom’s own words, “We just couldn’t believe it, we were bringing home cardboard boxes full of dollar bills”.
This WAS the true beginning of stock car (jalopy) racing here at the Lakehead cities of Fort William and Port Arthur.
After doing this for two years  the Lakehead Stock Car Racing Association was  formed out at Uncle Franks on the Scott Highway on August 21st, 1952.  See the attached article from an old CLE program.  They would race initially at Murillo but would soon move to the CLE racetrack at the fairgrounds close to the border between the then Fort William and Port Arthur, to be closer to the fans and a much larger grandstand and much better track for car racing.
The following is an advertisement from Thornes-Sargent, taken from a Fort William Collegiate yearbook from the same era.

Present day location of Thornes-Sargent

This is how the back of the present day Dow's Auto Electric
building looks today.  You can see where the automotive door
has been filled in over time. The far right is the old Times Journal
building on May Street.

The article on the left is pretty much the story on how the Lakehead Stock Car Racing Association was formed.  This was taken from a late 1950's Championship racing program.  Click on this and all other photos for a better look!

This is how Uncle Franks looked at the time the Lakehead
Stock Car Racing Association was formed.
This is a ticket for the first club sanctioned
race in 1952.

This photo of Glen Kettering's car and the following photos
were taken at the Murillo Race Track about 10 miles north of
Fort William and Port Arthur during the 1952 racing season.

Jalopies racing the back stretch at
 Murillo Speedway.

Lining up in front of the Murillo Grandstand.

Jalopy jockeys doing the Murillo back stretch.

Here, Barry Kettering's "Snitch Special" is lining up with
what looks like a car that someone drove from town to the track.

Every one's talking about the great
entertainment at the Murillo track!!

A great shot of the Murillo Grandstand.

#33 on his lid!

A great panorama shot of the Murillo backstretch!!

Another backstretch shot!

More action!

An early spring or late fall shot in the snow at Murillo....'s #00, Barry Kettering!

See??  ...It's Barry's car!

A shot of Tom Dow in Murillo.

This and the rest of the photos are of Tom's famed '32
Ford 3-window coupe(look how perfect it was)
most rodders would die for a 3-window in this
shape today!

Tom's Deuce 3-window coupe!

A bit blurry but showing the cut off fenders.

A very cool #2 - Remember "Nipper" from the 1950's

Here's Tom doing a pre race tuneup!


Check out that sophisticated Tune-up Equipment!

Tom's Deuce hauler - Not too shabby itself.
Thanks to Tom Dow for the photos and great interview.  There are more to come but not necessarily in perfect chronological order.

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