Friday, July 28, 2017

The Battle with the Fence at the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition Race Track in the 1950's in our home towns of Fort William and Port Arthur, Ontario...

The photos on this post may have been the best of the best when it came to keeping the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition carpenters in gainful employment during the 1950's.  The wooden fence was to keep non paying cheapskate fans from viewing the unprecedented dirt racing excitement for free.  The fence was built without even an eye width crack in between the boards and I had heard that even knot holes were covered with an additional piece of wood.

However, this didn't stop the jalopy jockeys from helping the non paying customers to a free show by continually cleaning out yards and yards of fence.  Initially there was just a wooden fence beside the track.  Along Northern Ave., and just outside the wooden part was a wire fence with a barbed wire top.....The fair folks weren't fooling around when it came to discouraging free viewing.

Obviously that didn't deter the stock car pilots from tearing up most of the fence, so the fairgrounds opted for wooden beams all round the track, just inside the stockade.   Some people thought they were only railroad ties, but closely scrutinizing some of these photos, the wooden "rub rail" as we called it was more like 12" X 12" beams....well, maybe some of it was RR ties.

As you can see in this first photo, Bill Kruse driving the #41 Bolduc Tire car very systematically  took out about 20 feet of wooden fence, around turn #2 along Northern Ave.  Here it doesn't look like there was much of a rub rail, but you will see in some of the following 28 photos that there was a very heavy duty rub rail installed as early as 1953.

Here is a 1953 newspaper clipping on the problem.  The problematic fence destruction at the CLE track never actually ended until the very last race was held here in 1966.  Be sure to click on all the photos once or twice to get a full screen size rendition of all the photos.

In the picture to the right Louis Tocheri #19 did his share of fence destruction while the fans outside the barricade jumped for joy, as there was a huge gap in the fence where they could watch the whole nights events in full colour for FREE.

 On the left you can really see how high the rub rail became early in the 1954 racing season, but it didn't deter #88 Albert Massaro from tearing out a few yards of the track's enclosure.
On a side note here, Rea's Esso Service was located in the exact spot as the large parking lot for the Spence Clinic building (Arthur Square).  That's on the corner of Arthur and Mark's St.

Here, Mike Guzzi's #4 is sitting on top of some very large beams of wood....I can't imagine what it would be like to jump up on those rub rails.  Hitting a tire on the infield of Riverview Raceway was a hard enough hit in the day.

 Here Glen Kettering #37 and Fred Danis #22 mix it up on top of the rub rail as Tony Massaro #87 goes speeding by.  You can also vividly see the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition Coliseum building in the background to put this photo in perspective.

In this photo we have Jerry Whittaker #75 and a very rare photo of Tom Dow's black and white #2 car mixing it up coming out of turn 4 and heading towards the grandstand stretch.....again the beams here are quite large, but sort of protected some of the fence on the west side of the track.

 Tony Massaro had wrecked quite a few vintage cars of the day and this one is no exception....when this car drove out onto the track, it still had its original hubcaps in place and the license plate as you can see here is still intact.....and....oh yes, 40 or 50 feet of fence was gone in this incident.

Barry Kettering is sitting on the side bar of his #47 "Bud's Thing" race car with a member of his pit crew bent over being sure that Barry was OK after removing over 70 feet of fence and sitting on top of the rub rail.  The rest of the boys are wondering how to get it off the high wooden rub rail.  On the back of Barry's car it reads "Bass Ackwards" you remember that saying? .....and on the top above the back window it says "Royal Triton Motor Oil".
Jim Manduca #73 had his share of fence removal as well.  Read this post right to the end to see the best story yet with Jim involved.  As you can see there is quite a bit of fence gone here and also the barbed wire didn't stop anyone from standing on top of the wire fence in the background, and the guys on their truck roof now have a direct view of the whole race track.

In this photo the #21 driver is unknown, the #12 car was the Deluxe Flower Shop deuce coupe driven by Cye Kehoe, and just about to rip through the fence and into what was known as the cattle barns on turn 1 on our half mile CLE track is non other than Ed Cusson's #13 car.  The barns nicely curved along turn 1 and were a target for may jalopy in the day.
This is a great photo of John Stad's #6 car just inches away from being a river rat.  The angle of the track was such that if you left the track between turn 3 and 4, this is where you would end up.  Many jalopies met their demise on this corner.  Interestingly in the background you can see the old CLE walking bridge that would lead to the parking lot and the midway during fair week.  Below is Barry Ketterings cute little '32 Ford 5W coupe "Bud's Thing" with its nose into the river at a night time race meet at about the same spot as John Stad's car above......but Barry had some help from a higher source and had it proudly displayed on the back bumper of his little coupe....It stated "In God We Trust".... It must have helped because his little #47 never did go all the way in....they were able to get it out of the river and into the next race.
Here is #88 Albert Massaro eyeing up the front of his car wondering if they will ever be able to recover it from the outside of the wooden stockade.  This was actually an earlier photo when there was little or no rub rail to keep you inside the track.  It was truly amazing how many people watched from truck boxes and standing atop the barbed wire...If everyone was inside in the grandstand, they could probably have topped the 6000 fan mark.

Another picture showing the CLE Coliseum in the background.  This is #35 car driven by Don Deacon sitting high and dry atop the famed rub rail we talked about so much on this post.  Check out the size of that front bumper protecting the fragile radiator.

Yet another 50 feet of fence down.....truly I would have hated to be the carpenter or even one of a crew of carpenters to have to repair this fence every single week.  This is the #60 car driven by Don Marsh......and as we know, so many of these wonderful little pieces of hot rod material were destroyed.  The '32 Ford coupe was and still is today the most quintessential piece of hot rod material ever made by any manufacturer.  Click twice to enlarge all photos.

Read the story above and then click here on the two photos mentioned on either once or twice to enlarge them for a screen size view.

Now look at this unidentified jalopy literally hopping over the rub rail and wiping out another 50 feet of fence.... "How did I do that?" he said, and "Geez, I parked my vehicle right there before the races too.....Oh Nooo."
Here again and below is Jim Manduca in his #73  Ford coupe after about a 200 foot new gap in the CLE fence.....The ecstatic fans on the other side of the fence can watch the race for free now and they won't even have to stand on the bus turnaround shelter.  The scenery in the background is of course the bus terminal between Fort William and Port Arthur  on Fort William Road....remember transferring buses between the twin cities there?  The fair board is sure missing a ton of revenue here again.
 #79 was Murray Simmons, and the next two photos of Murray's cars were basically taken at the same time but one from track side and one from the other side.  You can see how dangerous the wooden posts would be splintering like this.  One of the most serious accidents that happened at the CLE track was to Wes Inkster in about 1957.  He lost an eye due to wood fragments and had many health issues later due to his accident.

Malcolm Galbraith is seen here on the right in his little #35  '32 Ford 3W coupe.  It almost looks like the little jalopy had a mind of its own and just wanted to jump the rub rail and tear down a long length of fence.  This again is along Northern Ave and a new home is being built there....obviously no complaints about the dirt and noise had yet been heard.

Here is the best photo of the post in my opinion.  It is Jim Manduca again in the ditch as he just entered the #3 turn, and guess what.....yes you did, another 30 feet of fence is down....but scroll down and LOOK at the next photo for the detail to see what or who is in the tree that was narrowly missed by Jim.

Click on the clip to read it better.... Hope you enjoyed this post...and hope you're all having a great summer.  Dave.

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