LOS ANGELES, California — MEMORIES of the CALIFORNIA JALOPY ASSOCIATION" - (a book review). I had the pleasure of reading the 8 ½ X 11", 289-page soft cover book by Thomas D. Luce recently. Researched, written and published by the author in September 2006, the book is the definitive last word on the subject. It is still available for $39.95 for in-person sales. It is $44.75 by check or money order (includes USPS Priority Mail shipping) to the author at 525 Victoria St. # 33, Costa Mesa, CA 92627 (949) 631-1598. It is also available from "Coastal 181", the Internet mail order business. It also may be purchased at the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in Knoxville, IA, the NHRA Museum in Pomona, Autobooks in Burbank, CA, So-Cal Performance in Downey, CA, and at Pit Stop Books in Perth Australia. Steve Howard has copies for sale at his booth in the pits at Perris Auto Speedway.
The CJA book covers the start of CJA in 1938 to its demise in 1969 in words and an impressive 1,500 photos (many of the photos from private collections). The photos from numerous professional photographers and from private collections make the book worth the cost. It is a "must have" for any racing historian or fan of the jalopies. Additionally, the well-researched narrative by author/historian Luce makes the book a "can't put it down" read. Narrative and photos include many long-gone tracks where jalopy racing entertained fans. The CJA glory days were in the post World War II years, especially during the 1950s. The book has a forward written by Parnelli Jones, the 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner and USAC sprint car and stock car champion. Parnelli, the most successful racing driver who came from CJA, praised the book photos and text for arousing powerful and vivid memories of the glory days of CJA racing where he began his racing career at age 19.
The book spans 20 chapters. Photos of early CJA cars, race tracks, tickets, advertising posters, newspaper clippings, cartoons, CJA membership cards, lists of CJA champions, driver head shots, wrecks, aerial photos of tracks, and current photos of long-gone track sites. The photos make Luce's CJA book a prized keepsake for both jalopy racing fans and persons interested in the history of Southern California motor sports. It might be illuminating to use the chapter title Luce assigned to each chapter. My summaries are only a slice of the information contained in each chapter.
. Chapter 1 – Arrival: Chronicles the years 1938-1942. The first CJA race was held at Southern Ascot Speedway on 8/21/38. Pre-WW II jalopy champions are listed. CJA driver Travis "Spider" Webb went east and raced in AAA and made the 1948 Indianapolis 500. There was no CJA racing during the WWII years 1943-1944.
. Chapter 2 – Wild West: Covers the years 1945-1948 and early CJA racing at tracks in So Cal.
. Chapter 3 - 1st CJA Jalopies: Bob Stanclift was the 1949 CJA champion.
. Chapter 4 – The $5.00 race car: Delves into the sources and costs of early CJA racing cars. Fred Russell, the 1950 CJA champion, won 18 main events.
. Chapter 5 – Russell repeated as CJA champion in 1951.
. Chapter 6 – Hard Times & Hard Tops: Covers the 1952 CJA and PRA/SCJA wars that lasted four years until only CJA survived. This chapter covers in detail associations and tracks that fell by the wayside. Danny Letner, who later became a NASCAR West Coast stock car champion, was the 1952 CJA champion.
. Chapter 7 – Jalopies from Hollywood: The year 1953 saw 19-year old Rufus Parnelli Jones, of Torrance, debut in a 1934 Ford. Early photos of Parnelli are memorable. Promoter Harry Schooler got his start in racing at Culver City Stadium as promotions director. He created the Miss Universe beauty contest, added big band promotions and So Cal ballroom dancing, plus 2 for 1 admissions. Television started bringing CJA races into living rooms with announcer Bill Welsh on the mike. There were 26 half-hour episodes on TV under the name "Jalopies from Hollywood". CJA races were shown nationally via 16 mm silent cameras with sound effects added. There were all girl drivers "Jalopy Derby" races at Huntington Beach. Russell repeated as CJA champion.
. Chapter 8 – Walls Came Tumbling Down: Culver City Stadium and Carrell Speedway in Gardena closed. Gardena Stadium at 139th St. & Western Ave., in Gardena opened. Russell repeated as CJA champion.
. Chapter 9 – Civil War Sundays: In 1955 Russell was the CJA champion and Bill Cantrell the CCRA champion. CJA was the only jalopy association by the end of the year. CJA driver Hila Morgan Paulson is profiled; she was so good other female drivers shunned her participation in their races. The CJA starter was entertaining Jim Sheridan.
. Chapter 10 – It Was a Very Good Year: 1956 was the peak of jalopy racing in So Cal with 140 CJA drivers active. KTTV Channel 11 had an estimated 300,000 TV viewers for CJA races with Bill Welsh serving as TV announcer. Hal Schidler also announced some races. Gardena Stadium was the site The book describes the antics of Roger Bacon who did on air TV commercials for Les Bacon & Sons Ford of Hermosa Beach during televised CJA jalopy races. Orval Allen drove a red and white striped candy cane jalopy and it is shown in action and still photos. Jalopy Alias/Real Name comparisons are given for 15 drivers. The female driver cheesecake division grew to 16 drivers and had Ms Rocky Stoner as champion. Hila Paulson was not allowed to join because she was too good as a jalopy racer. Channel 11 and Channel 5 battled for the rights to televise jalopy races on Sunday afternoons and paid $750 a week for TV rights. Fred Russell became a six-time CJA champion.
. Chapter 11 - "Whoa Nellie"" In 1957 the KTLA Channel 5 TV announcer became Dick Lane of televised wrestling fame. His "Whoa Nellie" catch phrase was picked up by ABC-TV football announcer decades later and is still heard occasionally. John Polich was the long-time jalopy racing TV show director. On 7/4/57 CJA raced for the first time on a half-mile, the new Bill McKay L.A. Raceway in Gardena (later known as Ascot Park) on ten acres at 182nd St. & Vermont Ave.. Harry Schooler was the promoter. RODS became the jalopy sanctioning body at De Anza Park in Riverside. Huntington Beach Stadium ran its last race in 1957. Builder/promoter Tom Talbert converted the site to a bean field and later a trailer park. Ed Van Eyk was CJA's 1957 champion.
. Chapter 12 - "Get Off Your Couch": That was Roger Bacon's TV pitch. Barstow's Banner Racing Assn started in 1958. Gardena Stadium expanded from a quarter mile to a third-mile. CJA and other groups in Arizona and RODS permitted non-stock engine jalopies and the term "Full House Jalopies" came into use. Van Eyk repeated as CJA champion.
. Chapter 13 – Strikes & Fights, Balls & Strikes: In 1959 CJA in Los Angeles and RODS in Riverside merged. There were more fights (us versus them). CJA purses were $750. The Gardena starter was "Jumping" Jack Summers. CJA was locked out at Gardena and destruction derbies were taped as the TV show for Sunday afternoons. CJA progressed to modified sportsman cars as used in the San Diego Racing Assn (SDRA) and claiming jalopies. CJA "Hot Rods" ran every Sunday afternoon at the Gardena Stadium third-mile.
. Chapter 14 - "Keep It On All Fours": That was Roscoe Turner's 1960 advice to all drivers. CJA graduate Bob "Lover Boy" Hogle became a winner in SDRA and in California Racing Assn (CRA) sprint cars. Jim Roessler became the CJA "Hot Rod" champion.
. Chapter 15 – Requiem for a Flathead: Western Speedway became the new name for the former Gardena Stadium in 1961. It marked the start of the modern era for CJA jalopy racing. New bodies and engines made obsolete the old equipment. Future five-time CRA sprint car champion Jimmy Oskie made his CJA debut. CJA ran74 races, including races at Gardena and at Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino, and had a profit of $8,000. Future CRA sprint car owners Bill & Evelyn Pratt owned the No. 23 CJA jalopy. Jim Roessler repeated as the Hot Rod champion.
. Chapter 16 – Storm Clouds: Mel Allen became the CJA president. Competition for fans came from newly arrived major league sports in Los Angeles such as the NBA Lakers (year 2), MLB Angels (year 2) and Dodgers (year 5), plus racing tracks such as Riverside International Raceway and the half-mile Ascot Park dirt track. CJA lost fans during this 1962 season. Hot Rods allowed the use of overhead valve engines. CJA started a stock car division and allowed wings. Harry Schooler started Figure 8 races at Ascot that became popular and attracted new fans. Roessler repeated as CJA super-modified champion. Respected early CJA starter Jim Sheridan died in December after a highway accident weeks earlier. CJA had a $6,000 championship fund. CJA president Mel Allen retired.
. Chapter 17 – Validation: CJA racing received recognition after Parnelli Jones won the 1963 Indy 500. Many CJA members attended the race on board race organizer/car owner J. C. Agajanian's chartered DC-6B flight from L.A to Indianapolis. Mel Allen started WSRC and Clyde Smith became the new CJA president. CJA ran three divisions and amassed $11,000 in debt. KTLA's 39-week TV contract paid $700 a week and a main event victory paid $100. CJA moved from Western Speedway (the 1954-1963 CJA home track) to the Ascot quarter-mile and back with promoter Harry Schooler. CJA graduate Bob Hogle won 14 CRA sprint car features and the CRA driving championship to validate CJA as a training ground. The three CJA champions were: George Durade (super-modifieds), Tink Elenburg (Hot Rods) and Cliff Garner (super stocks).
. Chapter 18- The $3,000 Jalopy: Respected Art Atkinson became the new CJA president and Chuck Murray was the the CJA starter. WSRC headman Mel Allen had Orange Show Speedway paved in March, 1964. Jack Kelly became the fourth CJA veteran killed in a sprint car crash. Bud Sterrett, Don Johns and Bob George were the others. Hi-Banked Drivers Club (HBDC) operated briefly. PRA stock cars raced at ten-year old Western Speedway, which closed for good on 6/26/64 following a HBDC race. CJA returned to Orange Show after a one year absence. A lawsuit filed against prior CJA management was abandoned. In June 1964 the CJA name was changed to California Auto Racing, Inc. (CAR). It ran a four-race open competition series with SDRA with four different winners. A new oval short track at Riverside International Raceway was first used and utilized turn nine of the road course. George Durade won the CAR 1964 championship over Roessler.
. Chapter 19 – Lights Out: After 15 years of televising local weekly auto racing the TV lights went out forever in April or May of 1965. KTLA Channel 5 stopped televising racing from Ascot. Without the $750 a week TV money car counts dwindled. There was an engine size vote on whether to go with unlimited engine displacement like SDRA or a 305 cubic inch limit, which won the vote to lower speed and cost. Super-modifieds and Hot Rods were combined and claimer stock cars were re-dubbed jalopies to include pre-WW II cars. Bucky Stoner won his first CAR super-modified championship. Jim Penney was the the jalopy champ and Don Noel was the CAR stock car champion. President Art Atkinson resigned at the end of 1965 to become promoter at Orange Show Speedway and a NASCAR West Coast official. CAR elected stock car veteran Jim Blomgren as CAR president.
. Chapter 20 – End of the rainbow – 1966-1969: Gone were the flathead engine entry class. CAR super-modifieds went on the road to Santa Maria, Craig Road Speedway in North Las Vegas and Clovis. ARA had Ascot Sunday night racing. PRA ran Saugus Speedway with 1957 Chevrolets and took over super stock car racing in So Cal as CAR dropped super stocks. CAR departed Schooler's Ascot track in May 1966 and raced Friday nights at Whiteman Stadium, a third-mile paved track in Pacoima (near San Fernando), that opened on 5/30/66. Then San Gabriel Valley Speedway, a half-mile paved track in Irwindale, opened on 9/30/66. Benny Phillips was the 1966 CAR CAR super-modified champion. Art Hendricks was the last CAR super-stocks champ. Jim Wood was the 1967 CAR super-modified champion. Ed Ferro became the 1967 PRA Figure 8 champ. Butch Farrell was the 1967 PRA stock car winner, and Charlene Ferro was the Ascot Queens champion. CAR had only 10-12 car main events and ceased operating in 1968. Jim Blomgren left as CAR president and Phil Zito came in as CAR president. Tom Roa, Jr. was the 1968 CAR super-modified champion. There were open-competition races. On 11/23/68 Hogle won an Ascot open with 29 cars present. One final race took place at Ascot on 5.29/69 with 1,940 in attendance according to a clipping from the Los Angeles Times. Hogle was the promoter. He posted $200 for the winner and an additional $300 for anyone who could beat him, so he saved himself money by winning the event. Ascot Racing Club (ARC) followed and ended pre-WW II cars at Ascot. A second drivers strike in four years canceled several Sunday events in November and Ascot liquidated the ARC bank account. Dorsey Steele was the final Figure 8 champion and Larry Peters was the coupe champion. CAR winged cars went north to San Jose Speedway as a NASCAR super-modified division. Coupes continued at SGVS, later known as Rivergrade Speedway and then Speedway 605 in Irwindale to 1972. The track operated from 1966-1977. It was too late to sell their cars and with no racing owners cut up their historic cars and trucked them to landfills. The jalopy history was history.
. Epilogue: This section discussed where past CJA champions/members (now in their golden years) are today. They included: Stanclift, Russell, Van Eyk, Roessler, Durade, Letner, East, Hogle, Oskie and Wilkerson. Pre-eminent female CJA driver Hila Paulson-Sweet still organizes CJA reunion luncheons held annually during early May in Torrance. Parnelli Jones is listed as the ultimate CJA success story in racing and business. Author Luce called Hila and Parnelli CJA's queen and king. Luce reveals the current location of some surviving CJA racing cars. Some are in Nevada. Art Atkinson died in 1980 and early CJA racing star "Termite" Snyder died in 2005. CDCRA (dwarf cars) started in 1992 with six cars that are five-eight scale replicas of 1932-35 coupes and sedans powered by 1250-cc motorcycle engines. There are now 60+ dwarf cars that race regularly at Ventura Raceway and ex-CJA tracks in Oildale and San Bernardino (Orange Show). Luce lists the CDCRA champions from 1992-2001. He also related the current status of long-gone tracks such as Culver City Stadium and Ascot Park. He also lists all jalopy tracks from 1948-1969. The book concludes with acknowledgments. For a rewarding look at past racing history in Southern California do yourself a favor and read Luce's book about CJA jalopy racing.
P.S---Following is a list of drivers who raced in CJA and graduated to other forms of racing. OPEN WHEEL: Jack Austin, Dick Barry, Phil Bowers, Billy Cantrell, Chuck Conrad, Dale Crossno, Jay East, Tink Elenburg, Rip Erikson, Cliff Garner, Bob George, Donnie Harrison, Gary Hill, Bob Hogle, Glenn Howard, Chuck Hulse, Walt James, Don Johns, Parnelli Jones, Paul Jones, Jack Kelly, Steve Kennick, Jim Lauri, Stan McElrath, Steve Mesner, Jack O'Donnell, Jimmy Oskie, Duke Parsons, Lowell Pratt, Tom Roa, Jr., Preacher Rogers, Frank Secrist, Ted Shuster, Al Smith, Louie Stoltz, Paul Turner, Bill Weinkauf and Billy Wilkerson; ... STOCK CARS: Scottie Cain, Eddie Gray, Don Noel and Marvin Porter; ... OTHERS OF NOTE: Art Atkinson, Mel Allen, Jack Clegg, Vallie Engelauf, Audie Madron, Jim Roessler, Bob Simmons, Ben "Termite" Snyder, Bucky Stoner, Ed Van Eyk and Ray Vodden.