We're racing through history!
Those years from 1951, when Stan Sayers brought the Gold Cup to Lake Washington, to 1962 when Seattle lit up with the World’s Fair, brought so much excitement to me as a teenager. Where else could one see unlimited hydroplanes skimming the water at amazing speeds, with the sound of their internal combustion World War II airplane engines heard miles away, and with their rooster tails seen reaching high into the sky.
But the excitement goes through the roof when you and your brother are the only teenagers allowed into the pits where the drivers are preparing to race and the owners are cajoling each other. Then it gets even better watching boats qualify from the barge, where they fly past at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour and you can feel the spray from their 100-foot rooster tails on your brow. But it also gets scary when you see Slo-Mo-Shun V flip over in the north turn and watch the coast guard bring Lou Fageol, who had just given you his autograph, through the pits to an ambulance. I remember waiting for hours before hearing he would be OK.
How does this happen? Your father is director of marine sales for Mobil Oil and is responsible for supplying the jet fuel to the boat owners. And as such, he has become friends with Stan Sayers. On one occasion, Dad took me out to Sayers’ home on Sand Point where Sayers moored Slo-Mo IV. He was a very warm and engaging person who knew how excited I was to be there. He took me down to the water to see the boat. It had two seats, so he put me in the cockpit while he sat next to me and explained how it worked. Somewhere I have a picture of the two of us- who knows where - this on will have to do.
I do have the 1953 victory flag sporting the flying red horse with autographs from all of the participants, including the winner, Joe Taggart (Slo-Mo-Shun IV) and the other owners and drivers: Joe and Lee Schoenith (Gale II), Al Fallon and Danny Foster (Miss Great Lakes II), George Simon and Dan Arena (Miss U.S.), Jack Schafer and Chuck Thompson (Such Crust III) and Wild Bill Cantrell (Such Crust V). Foster and Cantrell have since been inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame. Each one of these autographs was obtained in the pits, some with lengthy conversations, and all with considerable admiration from a 14-year-old awe-struck kid.