Saturday, April 16, 2016

More Legendary CLE Racing Stories from our hometowns of Fort William and Port Arthur.....

This post starts with a Then and Now picture so as to imagine where the 1/2 mile dirt track named the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition race track (Lakehead Stock Car Club) was actually located.  The golf dome was built just inside of what we used to call turn 2 of the track, and Silver City movie theatre is located smack dab where the grandstand used to be.  Many of the perimeter out buildings still exist today, however the major change was the re-routing of the river to incorporate the newer floodway.  We lost the walking bridge to where the CLE midway used to be, as well as much of the property on the north side of the river which was eventually sold to the intercity mall area.  #1 - Dorothy Dove building.  #2 - CLE Auditorium building.  #3 - CLE Coliseum building.  #4 - Judges Stand.  #5 - Grandstand.  #6 - The Original CLE Midway area.  #7 - The Original Walking Bridge to the midway.  #8 - Fort William and Port Arthur Transit turn around terminal.
Top photo thanks to Richard Huston.  Click once or twice on all photos to enlarge.

Once you get the idea then we can proceed with a great story remembered by my friend and proof reader Alan Yahn...but first, a little more history thanks to Tom Dow.  If this superb picture below of a very young Tom Dow on the left and Barry Kettering on the right could speak...they would likely be discussing plans to race their "bug's" as Tom Dow would call them at the Murillo track back in the early 1950's, and maybe make some plans to make some cash as well.  Tom told the story about bringing their bugs to Murillo to race....and...they would pay participants cash money to come and race their cars...some actually driven daily on the street.  They would charge spectators one buck (which was high for the day) to watch.  Tom said they couldn't believe that at the end of a race day they would have collected many cardboard boxes full of dollar bills.  They did have their first meet at Murillo in the 50's but soon headed to a much larger and better track at the CLE.  It wasn't the first time that cars raced at the CLE.  The famed King's Special being one...

Barry and Tom became great friends, as Tom initially worked with his brother at Dow's Auto Electric on May St. before starting his own electroplating business on Vicker's street near the Fort William Gardens, and Barry initially worked for Thornes-Sargent (shown here on Violet Street), an Automotive Service Centre just across the laneway behind Dows.  The property is a present day parking lot since a fire in the 1950's destroyed Thornes-Sargent.  This recent extremely rare photo find (Thanks to Russ Wanzuk's photo album collection) although a double exposure, nicely shows where Thornes Sargent was on Violet Street.  The long building at the end of Violet Street was Northern Engineering.  It's now a parking lot too.  This is the first and only photo I have ever seen of Thornes-Sargent Motor Service.

This is how the Thornes Sargent property looks today.....from May St. you can now look all the way over to the old James Murphy Coal Company building on Simpson St.

The story continues and gets a little better.....Alan Yahn remembers that Bud Heidrick of Bud's One Stop Service, sponsor of the famed silver #47 car and future employer of Barry Kettering had stated to Barry that he had to stop rolling his '37 Ford over.  To assist Barry in accomplishing this, Bud had a pair of roller skates welded to the top of his race car and promised to remove them when Barry completed the feat to stay on all four tires...No more rollovers.  History has proven that he did that and much much more.

closeup of the photo above

Below is the front and back photo of the original Dow's Auto Electric (still there today at 112 N. May St.) which was across from the old Times Journal building.  Dow's Auto Electric moved to 785 Memorial Ave by the late 1950's, and Tom Dow had started his Chrome (Electroplating) business at 327 N. Vicker's St.
Barry and his brother Glen would work for Bud's then have their own Husky Service Station across from the CPR station on Syndicate Ave.  Sometimes it is extremely difficult to put certain people in certain service stations during the booming automotive service days of the 1950's and 1960's, as mechanics and service station owners moved around quite a bit.
Front at 112 N. May St.
Rear of 112 N' May St

If you look at the rear of 112 N. May St above, you can see a blocked in entrance where vehicles would enter and be attended to.  The two photos below are of Tom Dow and his brother working on their #2 car nicknamed "Nipper"...from the comic strip of the day in the shop shown above.

This last Then and Now was originally posted to my facebook page, and shows another photo of Barry Kettering's many race cars (thanks Al) parked at Bud's Service in the 1950's.  The actual service station building still exists today As Dave Knight Optical on the corner of McKellar St. and Victoria Ave.  McKellar St. was originally called John St. before amalgamation of the twin cities of Fort William and Port Arthur into Thunder Bay in 1970.  
We hope you enjoyed another episode from the Hot Rod and Jalopy days in our home town.

As you all know Barry Kettering passed away many years ago from an unfortunate racing accident, however Tom Dow is still with us to help us all remember those wonderful days at the old CLE race track....and Barry's legacy lives on......