Saturday, May 3, 2014

Murray Simmons and The Lakehead Stock Car Club in the 1950's.......

With spring finally here, thoughts of the old 1950's CLE race days come flooding back.  As you know if you read into this blog on a regular basis, Stock Car Racing here in Fort William and Port Arthur was one of the largest attended events in the history of our city (now of course...Thunder Bay), especially at the CLE fairgrounds bringing fans by the thousands to view the best entertainment around.  Names that you remember were Merv Dove, Barry Kettering, Louis Tocheri, the Massaro brothers, Pappy Fowler and Lyn McIntosh to name a few.  Sadly one doesn't always remember the unsung hero's who came out week after week to entertain and put their lives on the line for a few dollars of prize money.
One of these unsung hero's was Murray Simmons.  Although I never knew Murray personally, his family donated some photos to Russ Wanzuk's collection and I thank Russ for loaning them to me a few years back.  As usual be sure to click on all the photos and posters to enlarge them.

A 1950's CLE racing poster.
The 1950's Lakehead Stock Car Club logo.

A nice younger picture of Murray in his racing helmet .

Here is another photo of Murray all buckled up and ready to race.

Here is Murray's first race car.  It's a 1934 Dodge 4-door sedan which had a 6 cylinder T120 truck engine installed.  Murray drove it exclulsively and the sponsor was Western Tire, the Port Arthur store.
Here is Murray again standing on the track with his helmet on, pretty upset at his car sitting in an infield ditch in about a foot of water.  Also check out all that board fence that was ripped out by many a race car back then.

The above photos...circa 1956, still of the Dodge 4-door without an engine at the end of a season of racing.  Murray was likely planning on a new and better car for the following year.

Murray's next car was a 1935 Dodge Business Coupe.  He still used the Dodge T120 6-cylinder engine, but added dual carburetors to it.  The car was co-owned by Murray and Russ Vester, and was driven exclusively by Murray....still with Western Tire Port Arthur as sponsor.

The final car Murray raced in the 1950's was a much faster car.  It was a 1938 Dodge Business Coupe.  It started out using a 292 CID 6 cylinder 1953 DeSoto engine that was bored, stroked, ported and relieved with larger valves.  Later in the year Murray and the boys took the 6 cylinder out and added a new 270 CID 1956 Dodge V8 engine...also bored, stroked, ported and relieved.  It ran a 3/4 Isky Cam and had 2 4bbl carburetors.....WOW, what a difference from the 6.  Murray and Jean Simmons owned the car and Western Tire from both Fort William and Port Arthur sponsored the car.
Murray and his crew travelled to Wisconsin and Minnesota racing this car, as well as a number of cities in Canada as far away as Edmonton, Alberta, and North Battleford Saskatchewan.

This picture is one of my all time favourite ones actually showing Murray's tire high in
the air with the centre totally removed from it.  This picture also shows the North end
of the CLE Coliseum building, giving you an idea where the track was located today.

A nice picture of Pop Simmons, Roy Gardiner and Murray.  The
photo on the right is the car with Roy.

Here is Murray mixing it up with the boys around turn

two and along the backstretch.  The houses you see are along

Northern Avenue and are still there today.  The photo on the
right is Murray and the boys taking a rest

A more recent picture of Murray holding his #79 racing helmet shown in many of the photos above. Sadly Murray passed away almost 2 years ago on May 15, 2012.  We want to remember these unsung hero's who gave us their all.
 click on...
This photo taken in about 1953 was the heyday of the early racing days here in Fort William and Port Arthur Ontario.  Even though I did some racing during the beginning of the Riverview Raceway years, I hold the fondest memories of Stock Car Racing from the CLE track in the 1950's.  HR&J hope you enjoyed this post.  D.


Dave Cano said...

George in Winnipeg wanted to add this comment but blogger wouldn't let him.
Here it is:
An interesting post about one of the many unsung "also rans" of the era who helped make the sport so entertaining. However, I just can't help wondering why, in the '50's, someone would chose to build up a Desoto six rather than drop in an OHV V8.

Dave Cano said...

My answer to George was as follows:
Thanks and good question George….The Desoto wasn’t in too long apparently and Western Tire did all his engine work…maybe they just wanted to experiment using Murray as a Guinea Pig…LOL…who knows. Also George, I don’t know why there is always a problem with Blogger adding comments.

Ed Paulusma said...

I'm curious as to where the Port Arthur Western Tire was located.

Ed. (a former Western Tire FW employee)

Ed Paulusma said...

I'm curious as to where the Port Arthur Western Tire was.

Ed. (a former Western Tire FW employee)

Dave Cano said...

Hello Ed and thanks for your question. As per a 1957/58 local phone book, The Port Arthur Western Tire and Auto Supply Ltd was located at 161 S. Court Street and it also said in the phone book (next to the A&P Super Mart). I'm not exactly sure what is at that address now, but in a 1974 Henderson directory, the same address became Mid-West Auto Supply. D.

Ed Paulusma said...

Thanks Dave, I remember Mid-West Auto Supply. It was where Donato's bakery is now, next to Renco Foods.

Brenda said...

I'm not sure why but I tried to leave a comment but it didn't seem to work. Anyway...I was looking through the post here and lo and behold a photo caught my eye. My dad...Roy Gardiner! He was a friend of Murrays' for many years and had copies of these photos. I'm sure he would have been surprised and pleased to see them here.

Dave Cano said...

Hi Brenda and thanks for the comment....much appreciated. D.