Monday, July 02, 2007


Remember my story about breaking into the fairgrounds, well it turns out that was not the last time I ignored a barrier!

Barry’s brother Dale was about the coolest dude I knew in high school. Well, Dale had already graduated, but hanging with him and Barry was at the top of my list of great cool things to do back then.

Dale had a baby-blue ’55 Ford with a huge 390 cubic inch engine nestled under its sleek customized hood. The hood ornament had long since been removed; the holes filled in, sanded, and painted over.

Damn, I wish I had a photo of that car, because I cannot, for the life of me, remember if it had baby-moon hubcaps or spinners, and that is such an important thing to remember, but sorry guys, I cannot see it in my mind.

I do remember it had a 3-speed stick shift and Dale kept either the original 4-barrel manifold, a Holley and manifold, and a 3-duce and manifold in the trunk. He normally ran around town with the Holley.

Just behind each front tire, and just after the section where the exhaust manifold connected to the exhaust pipe, were 2 inch “cut-out” or “knock-off” pipes. In the back floorboard you could always find a pair of leather gloves for turning the caps off these pipes when they were hot. Once off, the engine breathed added life and often exhaled fire as the large block contorted in response to Dale’s heavy foot!

God! Can’t you just hear that now? Only a true child of the 60’s can still hear and appreciate such a sound. The exhaust coupled with the deep-throated sucking sound of a 4-barrel carb is like the soft wet poke of a pretty girl’s tongue in your ear – at first shocking but suddenly and forever addictive!

Bumblebee car exhaust may sound super to today’s young boys, but to us old boomers, they sound so sick, and near death!

Each Saturday Dale went to the Harriman Drag Strip with Barry and me riding along as his makeshift pit crew. However, we rarely rode through the gate. We instead jumped out about a quarter mile from the ticket booth and ran down the corrugated fence line to the river’s edge.

The owners of the strip had built the fence straight out over the water, but time and wave action had eroded a huge hole beneath the fence. So, it was easy enough for us to slip down, under, and around the fence and onto the wooded bank on the inside of the drag strip.

By the time Barry and I came out of the woods, zipping our pants as if we had just taken a leak, Dale would have made it to the pit area, parked, and begun his perusal of the competition. Depending on who attended that day and what they were running on top of their engine, determined what class Dale would sign up to run against.

The classes were determined by several factors, but the major one to Dale was the carburetion package. So, when he returned to his pit-crew he would yell out which manifold package to get him out of the trunk.

Barry ran to the trunk and picked up the system Dale wanted and helped by handing him tools, while I busied myself taking off the hubcaps, the “knock-offs”, and emptying the trunk of all excess weight. This is not much by today’s pit-crew standards, but to 17-year-old boys, it was the big time!

Next, we all jumped into putting the larger “slicks” on the rear – setting up and pumping the jack, rolling tires back and forth, tracking the lug nuts, and then standing back proudly and breathing hard. We were on top of the world!

Dale won more than he lost, but the wins were great fun and some of my best moments. For Barry, he was so proud he almost exploded each time he worked and played next to his brother Dale. Dale had become father as well to him since the divorce. That relationship was the one thing I envied of Barry.

Dale’s life seemed a sort of fairytale existence, or at least it seemed that way to a daydreaming young man looking at him from far off. He had what I longed to have at the time, a great drag racing car and a beautiful blonde wife who adored him.

I have not seen Barry in over 40 years, but I did see Dale a couple of times at the plant where he and I worked a few years ago. Both times it was standing in line at the cafeteria and our handshakes and conversations were all too brief. I doubt Dale knew just how much that time years ago meant to me and how much I admired him, but I could tell in his face that it also meant something special to him.

The Dale Henderson’s, Charlie Gouge’s, and Austin Roddy’s of our high school days were knights in shining metal to us admiring younger boys. Hearing them slip effortlessly through three or four gears, tweaking the sound of a 4-barrel carburetor as the speed and RPMs rose, while we stood perfectly still until they were out of hear shot, will be the last sounds of the sixties to fade. They were our heroes, and they gave us courage to face life’s yet unknowns.


Alex said...

I'm not sure about the automobile noise, but the tongue of a beautiful girl in my ear is one concept I am immediately on board with!

alphonsedamoose said...

Mushy: my son-in-law drives a dragster. Used to race top-cop and super-comp. This year he is racing classic funny car. Has lots of Wally's

BRUNO said...

Now THIS is the kinda post that makes ME breathe hard!!! Almost turned one of my grey hairs back into a once-youthful light-brown!

Those were the days of a literal-translation of the word, "heavy-metal"! When the boys were MEN(just ask one!), and the girls were GONNA BE damned glad of it!

A shame it's not as simple to have "real-fun" today, as it was then...!

Miss Trashahassee said...

I hope those Dales, Charlies and Austins get a chance to read your posts sometime, Mushy. If they didn't feel special before, they sure would after.

Miss T

Jose said...

I guess life was different from the smaller towns to the big cities. Although I can relate with your story for me the setting was slightly different. But no matter how different everytime I read one of your stories it will spark memories of days gone by.

Fathairybastard said...

Wow, that was great to read. You really make it come alive. I had a buddy in high school, very worldly guy. He had an old station wagon with a 350 in it, and headers that made the wildest, most god-awful noise. Loved the hell out of it. Used to love riding around in that thing. I wonder where he is now? And yea, those stupid things people put on the tail pipe of their rice rockets; sound stupid as hell. They have no clue. Yep, your time was the best, and mine was the last good time. Sad commentary.

Shrink Wrapped Scream said...

OMG! What a handsome lad, something of the pin-up there..

Every yarn you tell is sprinkled with magic, you have a gift, Mushy. I was right there, watching you and your friends between each line written. More please, give us more..

Mushy said...

Here's a little update...met Barry recently for the first time since graduation. We picked up where we left off...talking about Dale!

TEL E-Photo said...

I raced at Harriman while I was at the University of Tennessee..rode my Triuymph Bonneville. that wasa pretty race facility..nicer than Maryville. Is the track still use or not?
Tom Loughlin Jr
Utica NY