Bobby Doug – Meet Bobby Dean

Barely over a week ago I received an email from a man I had never met – Bobby Dean Rennick – inquiring about a distant relative of mine I had never met, six-time Indy 500 driver Jimmy Reece.

In 2012 I wrote a blog about Jimmy Reece and his untimely death at a race at the New Jersey State Fairgrounds on September 28, 1958.  Bobby Dean Rennick was at that race with his girlfriend, Maryanne.  The death of Jimmy Reece, whose name Bobby Dean didn’t even know at the time, had always haunted him.  After 60+ years he began to do some internet research on the long ago death of Jimmy Reece.  That led him to my blog and, subsequently, to me.

I’m glad it did.

As we began to exchange emails, I found out quite a bit about Bobby Dean.  He is 86 years old and a Korean war vet.  He resides in Gastonia, N.C.  Last summer my wife and I unknowingly visited his stomping grounds on a drive from Damascus, Va. to Myrtle Beach, N.C.  He was once near our home when he attended a family reunion in Warrensburg, Mo., 78 miles west of our home on Highway 50.  He likes to write and recently had an article published in a magazine named Southern So & So.  He once visited Renick, Mo., pop. 190, fifty-eight miles north of our home.  This past week in the Jefferson City News Tribune, I read the obituary of a man from Jefferson City who was to be buried in Gastonia, N.C., and the obituary of a man from Renick, Mo.  And Jefferson City’s former Fire Chief was named Bob Rennick.

What are the odds?

I also learned what my name would be if I’d been born a little deeper in the south.  Since my actual name is Robert Douglas, I’d probably be known as Bobby Doug.

Bobby Doug, meet Bobby Dean, a remarkably fit 86-year-old who spends an hour in the pool at the Gastonia Y four times a week.  And who is quite an internet sleuth at any age, but especially for an octogenarian.  Assisted by my genealogical genius wife, Val, Bobby Dean even tracked down Jimmy Reece’s widow and talked to her on the phone.

Bob occasionally has short articles published in the Southern So & So magazine, as in “Southern owned and Southern Operated”.  It is a magazine of people reminiscing about fond memories of long ago.  Unfortunately, in the last issue Bobby Dean’s story “Little People in a Box” was edged out by a story about “The Goat Man” for the cover article.

Southern So & So
Southern So & So magazine 

If you are interested in subscribing (like I did), send a check for $22 for 6 issues to:

Southern So & So, Richard Burns, Editor                                                                                           1739 University Ave – #177                                                                                                                   Oxford, MS. 38655

Tell them Bobby Dean sent you!

One last note.  In my last blog, I invited Maryanne, Bobby Dean’s date at the New Jersey State Fair race where Jimmy Reece died, to contact me if by some chance she read the blog.  A picture of her taken in 1958 standing in front of a 1958 Chevrolet convertible and beside a 1957 Ford convertible was in the blog.

I have some sad news.  According to her obituary, (which Bobby Dean tracked down this week) she passed away on January 22, 2016, in Newark, DE.  And I have some more news.  Her name wasn’t Maryanne.  It was Betty Anne (Kiesel) Cox.  She left behind her husband of 56 years, Robert.

Another Bobby!

R.I.P., Betty Anne.

Bobby Dean – you may have found out a bunch of stuff on Jimmy Reece on the internet, but maybe, just maybe, Betty Anne has now gotten to meet him

Betty Anne (aka Maryanne) Kiesel Cox

 

 

It Certainly Doesn’t Look Safer – But It Is!

On February 17, 2019, I flipped on the TV to see the end of the Daytona 500.  The race  was down to the final 10 laps.  The contenders were tightly bunched together at near full speed when driver Paul Menard nudged the right rear bumper of Matt DeBenedetto, the driver just ahead of him.  Suddenly I was watching the worst racing accident I had ever witnessed.  After the metal stopped grinding, the sparks stopped flying and the wheels stopped spinning, 21 of the 40 cars in the race were unable to continue.

” . . . I feel bad about that” said Menard, who started the chaos by bumping DeBenedetto’s bumper.

Amazingly, though  21 cars were so badly damaged they could not continue the race, no one was seriously injured.

Compare that to the 1955 Indy 500.  Of the 33 drivers that started that race, 17 would eventually die in racing accidents.

One of them was my granddad’s cousin, Jimmy Reece.  He raced in six Indy 500’s in the 1950’s, finishing in the Top 10 three times.  In 1958, Jimmy survived a crash that killed Indy 500 race favorite Pat O’Connor.   But on September 28, 1958, Jimmy’s luck ran out.  He was battling for the lead on the last lap of the 1958 Champ Car race at Trenton Speedway at the New Jersey State Fairgrounds when his car suddenly veered out of control and went airborne.  He was thrown from the car and died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.  I had just turned 10 years old when he died and I never had the opportunity to meet him.

But last Monday – out of the blue – I got an email and a call from a stranger who was a spectator in the crowd that witnessed the last race of Jimmy Reece on September 28, 1958.

The eyewitness to the six decade old fatal accident of Jimmy Reece is Bob Rennick of Gastonia, N.C.  Bob is 86 years old and tracked me down based on a blog I wrote almost 7 years ago about Jimmy Reece that is still a couple of pages deep on Google.

Pretty nice job of sleuthing, Bob!  With Bob’s permission, here is his story of the events that led him to the Trenton Speedway on September 28, 1958, the night Jimmy Reece died:

In 1958 when I lived on Tausig street in Bladensburg, Md, I made a late summer trip to Wildwood, NJ, a popular beach destination.  Accompanying me were a couple of guys I was living with and two or three others.  We went as a group and rented a place near the shore.  Next door was a house being rented by a group of girls.  Being neighborly, we introduced ourselves to the girls.  I happened to meet and be struck by a cute girl by the name of Maryanne with whom I spent a lot of time.  She lived in Marcus Hook, PA.  Later on I went up there to spend weekends with her a few times.

On one of those trips we went to the New Jersey state fair in Trenton.  It was the last day of the fair and there was an open wheel car race which we attended.  I don’t think they were called Indy cars in those days.  It was a hundred miler on a track of a mile or maybe less.  We watched from one of those old wooden grandstands and had fun.

On the last lap of the race one of the cars went out of control and shot up the track, busted through a short fence, and then flew through the air like a rocket.  There was no doubt in my mind the driver was not going to survive the landing.  I said to Maryanne “let’s get out of here”.  I felt sick to my stomach and didn’t want to stay for any public address announcements or anything else.

Over the years I thought about that incident and wondered what the driver’s name was and did he really die in the crash?  

Shortly after I got my first computer I tried to find some information about the race through Google but never had any luck.  I tried again recently and must have used the right key words because this time I found an article from the Reading Pa. Eagle newspaper that described the incident exactly as I remembered.  The driver’s name was Jimmy Reece from Oklahoma.  He had raced in the Indy 500 six times but had never won it.  The United States Air Force had furloughed him so he could drive in the 1952 Indy 500 where he finished 7th.

This event has been in and out of my mind for the past 60 years.  As I said, I was sure the driver was killed.  I’m sorry I never knew his name and that it took so long for me to find out his name and find out for certain what happened.

It didn’t work out between Maryanne and I, and I never thought about or wondered about her nearly as much as I did that race car driver.

My first cousin (twice removed) Jimmy Reece and the Indy Car that carried him to the hereafter

IMG_2749

A Picture of Bob’s old girlfriend Maryanne from 1958.  She is beautiful, but at my age that 1958 Chevrolet in the background is what caught my eye first.

 I am grateful to Bob Rennick for tracking me down and sharing his story.  I hope to one day meet him and thank him in person.  As a further testimony to Bob’s sleuthing ability, he and my wife managed to track down Jimmy Reece’s widow.  Like me, she was very interested in speaking to an eyewitness of the accident that claimed Jimmy’s life.  Sadly, both children of her marriage with Jimmy are deceased.

And finally, Maryanne from Marcus Hook,  PA – if you are reading this please contact me.  I’d like to feature you in my next blog.

(Hey, stranger things have happened!)

 

“From Turn Three to Eternity” Revisited

Note:  I originally wrote this blog on May 27, 2012.  It has been floating around in cyberspace since then.  Earlier this week I got an email regarding the original blog with a very interesting development.  Here is the original blog.  I will continue this story with a fascinating update very soon.

First, the original blog:

Jimmy Reece pic
Jimmy Reece

Sunday, May 27, 2012 will be a big day for racing fans.  The Indy 500 kicks off at 11 AM in Indianapolis, followed by the Coca Cola 600 at 6 PM in Charlotte.  Though I have never been a huge racing fan, my wife uncovered some family history tied to the Indy 500.  One of my grandfather’s cousins was a race car driver back in the 1950’s.  Here is what she found:

“Jimmy Reece was a 6 time veteran of the Indianapolis 500, with Top Ten finishes in 1952, 1956 and 1958. While operating a home video camera, Reece captured 1955 Indianapolis 500 winner Bob Sweikert’s fatal accident at the Salem (IN) Speedway on June 17. 1956. During a multi-car accident in turn three on the first lap of the 1958 500-mile classic, Reece was struck by Bob Veith, causing his car to spin in front of popular Pat O’Connor, who catapulted over Reece, flipped and was killed. Jimmy Reece reportedly held himself responsible for O’Connor’s death due to his braking maneuver during the accident. This may have played a role in his death later that year during a championship car race at the Trenton (NJ) Speedway. Reece was dueling Johnny Thomson for second place on the last lap and got into an awkward position in a turn. Some feel that rather than braking and possibly putting Thomson at risk, Reece did not hit his brakes hard enough, if at all.  As a result, he plowed through a barrier and flew through the air to his death, landing over 50 feet from his badly damaged car.”

He was 29.

Based on the picture above, it’s not hard to see how a driver could die in an accident driving 145 mph in an “open wheel” car with virtually no safety devices.  In fact, of the 33 drivers in the 1955 Indy 500, 17 subsequently died behind the wheel of a race car.  Jimmy Reece was among that number.

I found it interesting that Jimmy Reece had a movie camera back in the 50’s.  And that he operated it behind the wheel of his race car.  I can only imagine what his race movies must be like, filming cars traveling 145 miles per hour from behind the wheel of a car going 145 mph.  As proficient as my wife is becoming at genealogical detective work, I expect to be seeing those movies before too long.

I wonder if Dramamine comes in Industrial strength?

TO BE CONTINUED:

Jimmy Reece gravesite
Jimmy Reece gravesite in Oklahoma City

The Ten Million Dollar Quartet

On Friday night my wife and I ventured out in the ice & snow for our “one-day late” Valentine’s Day date.  It wasn’t my intention, but our date turned out to be a threesome:  me, my wife, Val, and Winter Storm Nadia.

Though it’s not for the faint-of-heart, this terrifying video was filmed earlier in the day on I-70 near Oak Grove, Mo. on February 15, 2019 as Nadia was on her way to our date.

Watch it if you dare and feel the stark terror and helplessness:

Though our normal 20 minute drive from our home to the Shikles Center in Jefferson City, Mo. turned into 45 minutes, we arrived safely.  As we walked from our car to the dinner theater entrance, we were joined by a large man.  It was the chef from Argyle Catering.  The food had arrived!  “The singers are here, too” he told us.  That was a relief.  With the slippery roads I had feared that the million dollar quartet might be whittled down to a trio, a duet, or even a solo by the weather.

The musical The Million Dollar Quartet is based on an actual event that took place on December 4, 1956 in Memphis, Tennessee.  Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis all showed up for an impromptu jam session at Sun Records, a recording studio owned by rock icon Sam Phillips.  That prompted an observation by Mr. Phillips that a “Million Dollar Quartet” was in the building.

That was in 1956 dollars.

Adjusted for inflation, that quartet would be worth ten million of today’s dollars.

And that’s the kind of performance the amazing cast treated the audience to after a delicious meal prepared by Argyle Catering (Fried Chicken AND BRISKET!)

The bad news is that the sold out performance was only about half-full due to the weather.  My wife and I tried our best to make enough noise to make up for those poor souls who had tickets couldn’t make it.  I feel their pain.  They are out the price of their tickets and they missed one of the best shows in the history of Capital City Productions.

And that’s saying a lot.

The good news is that I got THREE strawberry shortcake desserts, which is probably scant consolation for those who had planned to be in attendance but feared, not unjustifiably, the slippery roads.

For those who have not yet seen Million Dollar Quartet, there are six more performances Feb. 20-24, 2019.  Here is a link to order tickets (you might have to copy and paste):

https://shop.capitalcityproductions.org/t/ccps-million-dollar-quartet-the-musical?fbclid=IwAR2wPgQnrobQ2ei98DQpB5vMynUqC0sja_Mqwghfki8dWwW5m1z8f6dNZ60

After that, your next best option is Branson, when shows begin August 29 at the Lawrence Welk Theater with a different cast than here in Jefferson City, Mo.  If you like old-time rock and roll, the odds are very good you will love this high energy show.

 

5 More Days of Million Dollar Quartet Performances by Capital City Productions in Jefferson City, Mo from Feb. 20-24, 2019.  Call 573-681-9612 for or go to http://www.ccpjc.org for tickets.

 

 

 

Wanna Get Away?

My wife and I just returned from vacation.  Though we love roadtrips, this time we flew Southwest Airlines from Missouri to Florida.  And I’m glad we did.  Winter Storm Gia would have hindered our drive to Florida and Winter Storm Jayden would have hindered our drive back to Missouri.

Though Southwest is not a “bargain” airline, I like the fact that the initial price is the final price, even if you need to make changes to your itinerary.

When I was younger and needed to book a flight, my decision on which airline to fly was based on two factors:

  1.  Is the plane going where we want to go? and
  2.  Is it the cheapest fare?

Then the airlines started adding fees to the initial cost when you arrived at the airport if you wanted special treatment.  So what started out as the cheapest might end up costing more if you needed what the airlines decided were “frills”.

Like, say, for example you wanted to bring luggage.

The last time I bought cheap tickets there was a disclaimer that the tickets could not, under any conditions, be changed and I was a fool if I expected any money back if something unforeseen came up and I needed to change or cancel my plans.  As it turned out, the tickets COULD be changed at no cost.  Just not by me.  When I went on-line to confirm the tickets the day before our flight, an extra city and 3 additional hours of travel time had been added to the itinerary I had locked in six months earlier.

Then I got “educated” at check-in about extra charges.  That went something like this:

Check-in person:  Good morning!

Me:  (Stifling a yawn while putting two pieces of luggage on the metal table in front of me)  Hello.

Check-in person (with an incredulous look on his face): You want to bring LUGGAGE?

Me:  Yes.

Check-in person:  That’s an extra $25 for the first bag and $40 for the second bag = EACH WAY.

Me; HUH?

Check-in person:  Would you like to upgrade to first class for only $312 more each way?

Me:  No

Check-in person:  Would you like a little extra leg room for only $29 each way?

Me:  No

Check-in person:  Would you like to be able to wiggle your toes for only $5 more each way?

Me:  I guess I’ll be ok for a few hours.

Check-in person:  Would you like restroom access?

Me:  Well, yeah.

Check-in person:  Fluids only are $5.  Solids are $12.  For only $15 we are offering unlimited fluid and solid disposal, plus complimentary toilet paper.  AND – we will waive the normal $2 environmental impact fee.

Me:  OK, I’ll take two unlimited specials.

Chcck-in person:  Would you like a sandwich for only $10?

Me:  My wife and I will split one.

Check-in person:  Condiments for only $3?

Me:  Nah, my wife’s passed that stage.

Check-in person:  Would you like priority seating on a life raft in the unlikely event of a water landing?  Only $10 for one or $17.95 for two.

Me:  I’ll take one.  My wife can float on her back for hours.

(Note: This may not be word for word since my head was starting to spin from making this many decisions prior to 8 am.)

So it was that for only $50 more per person than the non-stop, all-inclusive flight from Southwest, my wife and I were on our way through “SECURITY”.  There, because my wife’s titanium knees kept setting off the metal detector, she was escorted to a small, private room where a female TSA employee “patted her down”.   From what my wife described, this required about the same level of intimacy it took me to the third night of our honeymoon to achieve.

But at least we were cleared to get on the plane!

Which went something like this:

Gate person:  Thank you for flying with Untied Airlines.  We’d like to begin the boarding process by seating our Executive Sky Alliance PLATINUM members.  Please follow this red carpet please.

Ok. Now, would all Executive Sky Alliance Gold members  please board.

And now, all Executive Sky Alliance Silver members.

And finally, (after a few more passenger-grades of increasingly less value), will all Executive Sky Alliance TARPAPER members please hustle onto the plane?

AND PLEASE . . . Be careful not to step on the red carpet!

Though I seriously considered upgrading our passenger status from TARPAPER to VINYL for our next vacation,  I switched airlines instead.  I have found that Southwest rarely starts out cheaper, but the price I book is normally the price I pay.

I also signed up for TSA Pre-Certification.  Now, after undergoing an extensive background check and paying $85 for 5 years, my wife and I get to remain fully clothed while passing through airport security.

It’s a small price to pay.

Even though – at our age –  one might think they’d be willing to pay US to keep our clothes on.

 

SUN NIN FY LOK!!!

 

Lunar New Year 2019

In case you are wondering about the title of this blog, it means “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” in Cantonese.  February 5, 2019 is New Year’s Day on the Chinese calendar.  It is the year of the Pig.

I was born in the year of the Rat, as was my first grandson.  My wife was born in the year of the rabbit.  According to the Chinese, rats and rabbits are not compatible.  That, I’m certain, is why upon learning of my intention to marry her daughter, my future wife’s mother advised her “DO NOT MARRY THAT RAT!”

That’s why I didn’t take it personally.

Today my wife and I had carry-out Chinese food to celebrate the Chinese New Year.  I was instructed by my bride to “Get some long noodles!  They signify long life to the Chinese”.  To the Chinese at Stir Fry 88, they signify a $3.25 additional charge.  A small price to pay for long life, I suppose.

Our meal included fortune cookies.  Opening the fortune cookie is one of my favorite rituals of eating Chinese food.  Fortunes can range from optimistic (and boring) like my wife’s “You will be selected for a promotion because of your accomplishments”, to complimentary, like mine – “You are sociable and entertaining”.  My favorites are the funny and/or honest ones.

Here are a few of my favorites in that category:

If you have a difficult task, give it to a lazy person.  They will find an easy way to do it.

The sooner you fall behind, the more time you will have to catch up.

Whenever anyone says “theoretically”, they mean “not really”.

Anyone who uses the phrase “easy as taking candy from a baby” has never tried taking candy from a baby.

Nothing is impossible as long as you are not the one that has to do it.

Help!  I am being held prisoner in a Chinese bakery!!

Confucius says you suck!

Happiness and success rightly elude you.

Appearances can be deceiving, but you are not fooling anyone.

I cannot help you, for I am just a cookie.

Bite me!

Only a fool would look to a cookie for words of wisdom.  And, finally,

That wasn’t chicken!

In closing, 我希望你有一个快乐和无压力的新年!(translation: I hope you have a happy and stress-free New Year!)

Funny Fortune cookie

Be Nice

IMG_2662
Meeting New People & Making Friends on Vacation

It wasn’t the best 24 hours of our vacation in Fort Lauderdale.

My wife had developed an earache and a sore throat.  We abandoned our tourist agenda and headed for nearby Broward Medical and Urgent Care.   My wife was seen promptly by Dr. Chau Nguyen and she walked out of the office clutching two prescriptions..  One prescription we were able to fill immediately at a nearby Walgreens.  The next would take overnight.

And then some.

When we went to pick up the prescription the next day it wasn’t ready for two reasons:

First, we hadn’t paid (or been asked to pay) in advance.  And,

Second, they didn’t have the ingredients.  Would “after 2 the NEXT day” be ok?  It wasn’t, so they transferred the prescription to another nearby pharmacy in their chain and told us it would be ready in two hours.

I suggested a little sun might be good idea so we headed for a fast food chicken place I remembered to pick up food for an impromptu picnic at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park.  After a longer drive than I remembered it to be, we came to the chicken place.  It was closed for remodeling.  Nevertheless, a person was patiently waiting in the drive-thru lane for someone to take her order.

Next door was a Burger King.  Not our first choice, but it was convenient and didn’t appear to be busy.  Only one car ahead of us in the drive-thru.  Even so, it took awhile before it was our turn.  And then it took quite awhile longer before they took our order.

I ignored my better judgement and waited.Burger King

We placed our order and pulled around the corner to find two cars waiting for their food ahead of us.  By the time we got to the window, there was a pickup truck  and a car waiting behind us.

“Be right with you!” said the lady working the window cheerfully.

And we waited some more.

Then the honking began.

First, I thought it was the guy in the pickup behind us.  The honking continued.  If anyone has any suggestions about how to hurry when waiting for a very simple order at a drive-thru window I would be interested.  The honking continued until a woman two cars behind us had had enough.  She veered out of line, pulled alongside of us, and hollered “What the f*** is taking so long?”

This was a woman in a hurry for a whopper.

The window clerk politely hollered back “We are slammed and doing the best we can!” to which the impatient whopper-craver hollered another rude comment.  Use your imagination.

The drive-thru attendant then hollered “Have a blessed day!”  as the honking woman beside us accelerated out of the parking lot.

Whew!  That’s a big departure from the normal “Would you like fries with that?” drive-thru dialogue.

Thru the window came our bag of food.  I thanked the lady and off we headed to our picnic site.

On the way we encountered a work zone traffic jam.  As we slowed, an SUV suddenly swerved into our lane in front of us causing me to slow much more abruptly.  Prominently displayed on the back window of the SUV was a sticker that said “BE NICE”.

Nearing Birch State Park, my wife got an email.  Her prescription was ready.  Things were looking up.  We found a picnic table alongside the Intracoastal Waterway which borders the park on the west. and had our  hard-earned, not exactly hot by then, lunch.  Soaking up the sun, we watched boats pass, some of which cost more than many people would earn in a lifetime.

IMG_2628
A beautiful spot for a picnic at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in Fort Lauderdale\

Feeling refreshed after a meal, some sunshine, and the absence of any high-volume arguments, we headed to the pharmacy to pick up my wife’s prescription.

“Be ready in 10 minutes!” the attendant said.

“But we got an email saying it was ready” I responded.

“It was wrong” said the attendant.  “Come back in 10 minutes.”

With the wisdom displayed on the back window of a crappy driver I nearly rear-ended running through my mind, I pulled around, parked in the warm sunshine, and cooled my jets.

“Be Nice!”

It sounds a lot easier than it is some times.

Be nice