In some of the reading I have done lately, I came across a quote from Aristotle that touched a chord in me. Aristotle, as most of you know, was a Greek philosopher, scientist, and mathematician and is a major part of developmental history in the present day world. He was a student of Plato and a teacher to Alexander the Great. Aristotle lived from 384 B.C. to 332 B.C. His very name means, in Greek, "Best Purpose". Yes, believe it or not, your very own Legend gets into some deep reading from time to time in an effort to keep abreast of the Brie Cheese crowd.
The particular quote from Aristotle I wish to reference this evening is "Memory is the scribe of the soul". Before going further, please allow me to offer the simple definition of the title "scribe". A Scribe is a copier of documents or a writer of documents. There is no intention, expressed or implied here, to any person living when using the term "scribe". It is merely a quote from a Greek Philosopher I want to discuss. Aristotle went on to say "The soul never thinks without a picture".
Why these two quotes of the great philosopher struck such a deep part of me this week was the discussion during this show last week when we were discussing the disappearance of dirt tracks and short tracks across the south, Georgia being the apparent exception. Even as we were talking about those days of old, my mind was literally racing back over the pages of my memory and for two nights afterwards I dreamed of the days when I was in the infield of tracks like Columbia Speedway, Savannah Speedway, Newberry Speedway, Greenville-Pickens and several others. Although I didn't realize it at the time, these memories would indeed be the scribes of my soul. Even now, just sitting here in the Lair writing this Legendtorial, I can almost hear the engines firing up as the drivers and crews unload the cars from their open trailers and, with the exception of Ralph Earnhardt, raise the hoods, almost invariably, for those last-minute tune-ups before going out on the track.
I can see the old water truck chugging around the track, always the opposite way of the racers, turning the track into a sea of red/orange mud. Then the track would open for what was called "ironing out the track". Drivers would cautiously venture onto the wet track and would soon be flying around the turns, throwing mud high into the air, as they worked out a racing groove. I can see Lil Bud Moore, Tiny Lund, and even Junior Johnson going through those turns at Columbia completely sideways from the entrance to the turn until coming out on the next straightaway.
I remember the times I would sneak in, even as a 10 and 11-year-old kid, to the drivers' meeting held near the scales at the Columbia Speedway. I would listen to the NASCAR Official go over the same rules week after week before the drivers would draw a metal tag from the cloth sack which would give them their starting position for the heat race which would, in turn, determine where they would start in the feature event.
Amazing as it may sound to those who have never been there, when the track announcer would call for the National Anthem, there was total silence as the fans, sometimes several thousand of them, would await the scratchy recording that would hail the flag of our Country as someone would slowly raise it from the flag pole in the pit area. Even as the last notes of "the home of the brave" echoed off the pine trees around the track, cheers would erupt as the fans prepared to pull for their favorites.
Drivers would mount their cars and fire them up to move them to the line-up. Some would slowly lap the track to come around and be placed in position. As simple as that deed sounds, there were sometimes issues with the drivers lining up either by the draw, or the qualification from the heat races, but the NASCAR folks, either Pete Keller or Dan Scott, would get the job done in short order and it would be race time.
No matter how many races I attended, and believe me that was thousands, when the parade and pace laps started my heart would beat faster. In fact, when I attended my last in person race at the short track in Sumter, South Carolina a couple of years ago, it still does. Even as I stood in the lot at the Drive-in Church in Daytona a few weeks ago and they fired up those cars, the pulse rate increased. There is just something about that will always be my source of accelerated heart beat.
If some of my descriptions paint a word picture for you, then I'm happy because that is my intention. As old Ari said, "The soul never thinks without a picture." I want those of you who have been there to see that picture again. For those of you who have not, then allow yourself to be immersed in a description of what it is like to be so deep into the sport of stock car racing when it was so different from the Hollywoodish venue major stock car racing is today.
As Johnny Mallonee pointed out in a Forum post last week, there are millions of stories, I dare say, from members here on RacersReunion that should be recorded on this site. Even though you may think your story insignificant, there may be a fan who gets a real boost from your memories shared. Perhaps it will be your memories that serve as that special scribe to someone's soul. I have shared many of mine over the years here on the site and in these weekly segments of the show. If we are indeed "Racing Through History", then we need to be more cognizant of the significance of the "history".
I would suppose that, in no small way, my trip to Daytona for the "Back to the Roots" event at the Main Street station, and all that went into that weekend, helped bring these thoughts back to a mind that had never really forgotten what was, but was busy with things requiring daily attention. It was very special to be a part of something that celebrated the early events in Daytona, on the beach, before the days of "Daytona Rising" and the multi-faceted entertainment arena where the racing could almost be considered an optional event.
Sharing so much time with some real pioneers of the sport filled my mind, and heart, with stories and memories that can only be fully justified to hear from the persons involved. Listening to Rex White, Johnny Allen, Dave Dion, Randy Myers, Bill Blair, Jr. and Bob Hissom as they told the stories of the early days is something so special for a race fan that you can't imagine it until you've done it. Hearing, first hand, what it was like to race on the beach itself is something from which legends, the true legends, spring to life before your eyes.
Someday, when you have a chance, ask Bill Blair, Jr. how his father would determine how many laps they could get on a tank of gas on the beach course. I'm not going to give that away because Bill tells it so amazingly entertainingly. I will tell you I made record time driving to and from Daytona thanks to Mr. Blair!
There are many opportunities for fans to be a part of seeing that the "Scribe of the soul" stays alive and well. There are organizations such as The Historic Speedway Group, The Augusta International Raceway Preservation Society, The Living Legends of Auto Racing, and the Back to the Roots group that exist for that purpose. Bill Blair, Jr. and Gary Lewallen head up the "Our Racing Heroes" organization which makes special efforts to recognize the drivers and participants of the early days of the sport who may otherwise be overlooked, or even worse, totally forgotten.
I know Cody Dinsmore, Gordon Perkle and the folks in Dawsonville do a great job to see that racing history from Georgia is preserved for those who may not otherwise have a place to go for the facts. Accolades to Buz McKim for what he does with The NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte. Buz is the official historian for the HOF but he doesn't just sit in an office in Charlotte, he is out and about with the groups and events I've mentioned tonight. Buz works hard to see that history is properly preserved and I, personally, am most grateful for his efforts.
I think we all learned last week that there is yet hope for the future of historical significance when Alex Nickerson contributed to the show and later to the Forum posts. I don't want to beat the Alex Nickerson drum to death, but it is impressive to me that someone who is 21 years old has dedicated so much of his young life to not only learning the history of stock car racing, but continuing to share what he has learned with others.
RacersReunion is very fortunate to have Jerry Smith of S.T.A.R.S. radio, Patrick Reynolds with "Motorweek Live", and the crew of Jeff, Hugh, Bopper and Jack here on Tuesday nights, all of whom eagerly share their memories of what made this sport of stock car racing so special to so many of us.
So, when we think of the "scribe of our souls”, also remember that our Greek friend also said "the soul never thinks without a picture". It is up to all of us to see that the scribe of our soul paints a picture for those who haven't seen what we have. The history of stock car racing as it was actually lived, cannot be matched by any other sport. We have the true heroes of American Sport who lived, and some died, to build something no other sport can approach. Of that fact alone, we race fans can be justifiably proud!