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

 

 

“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

Honestly, It’s Not For Everyone.

Nebraska State Line
Nebraska’s slogan when we visited in 2008.  It has been replaced (the slogan, Not Nebraska) twice since our 2008 visit.

The State of Nebraska recently made the news.  Nebraska Tourism officials paid a Colorado firm $450,000 to come up with a new State slogan.  They were discontented with their old slogan “VISIT NEBRASKA, VISIT NICE” after Nebraska came in dead last on a list of states tourists were interested in visiting.

They came up with . . . DRUM ROLL . . .

“Nebraska: Honestly, it’s not for everyone.”

In these days when everything is over-hyped, I appreciate and admire honesty.

But my wife and I really enjoyed our visit to Nebraska, a great state to visit for people who love American history.

In 2008, my wife and I followed the Oregon Trail from Independence, Mo. to Oregon City, Oregon.  Night three found us in Hastings, Nebraska.  When we travel, I always try to negotiate to get the very best room rate possible when searching for a motel.  After the desk clerk in Hastings quoted me a price, I asked if that was the best she could do.

“Are you here for business or pleasure?” she asked.

“Pleasure” I responded.  “My wife and I are here on vacation.”

“SIR” the clerk responded without hesitation.  “NO ONE comes to Hastings for pleasure.”  I may have lied to an innkeeper a time or two in my life (nope, no pets) but this was not one of them.  She gave us the business rate anyway.

Though we traveled mainly off the beaten path, my wife and I enjoyed visiting the historic sites in southern and western Nebraska.  After leaving Missouri, Oregon Trail emigrants turned right at Gardner, Kansas and headed north to Nebraska.  In Nebraska, they turned left and followed the Platte River most of the way to Wyoming.  Along the way are some amazing historic sites, including (but not limited to) Fort Kearny, Chimney Rock, Ash Hollow, and Scott’s Bluff.   I had no idea western Nebraska was in the Mountain Time Zone before that trip.  (Possible new slogan: Nebraska – There is so much to see, it takes two time zones!)

Our first stop was in northeast Nebraska at Rock Creek Station, famous for being the site of James Butler “Bill” Hickok’s first gunfight.  On July 12, 1861, Rock Creek Station employee “Bill” Hickok took offense when local bully Dave McCanles proposed the nickname “Duck Bill” for Mr. Hickok.  That was a reference to Bill’s rather large nose and protruding lips.  Mr. McCanles also made ill-advised observations about Mr. Hickok’s “girlish build and feminine features.”  This peeved Mr. Hickok a great deal.  Mr. McCanles and two of his companions, James Woods and James Gordon, all died of wounds received in the ensuing gunfight.  There is no record of anyone else ever suggesting a derogatory nickname for Bill after that.

So, there’s that, Nebraska!

How about:

“Nebraska: We put the “Wild” in Wild Bill Hickok.”

Wild Bill Hickok
Wild Bill Hickok – What are you looking at, punk?

On July 21, 1865, Wild Bill had what is thought to be the nation’s first one-on-one quick draw gunfight.  It occurred on the public square in my home town of Springfield, Mo. after Wild Bill had a run of bad luck in poker. Though warned not to, Dave Tutt had the temerity to go out into the public square wearing a pocket watch he had won from Wild Bill in a poker game.  Mr. Tutt became an early resident of Springfield’s Maple Park cemetery as a result of his poor decision-making in that matter.

Seems Wild Bill never got over being a little touchy about being disrespected.

He could take a lesson from Nebraska.