Mel Anthony is an ex midget racer of some note from Washington State in the U.S. who as well as being a great competitor from the 1940s and 50s has some great yarns from the era...the following are just a few.
The first Kurtis car to race in Washington State was a V860 with chassis # 004. It was numbered 44 and was raced by Tom Carsten and Allan Heath. Heath won 3 Championships in this car. It was later bought by Dick Cowan and Dick had Bob Vorbeck drive 44. Before Dick bought the car in 1949 I drove it one night in a sort of small ballpark in downtown Wenatchee, Wa.
The late "Lovely " Logan Harter and I were on the front row of the fast heat. Flagman, the late Adoph Dans, waved off two attempts to start. On the third lap, we were beyond race speed, shot off through and around a group of little trees, both laughing we returned to the track. For this exhibition, we were put to the rear and I can't recall where we finished. But I do recall after the heat, my "boss" that night, car owner Homer Norman had me take a walk with him through the trees. Behind each tree was a 4 x 4 cement post !
During the main event, Joe Janek of Richland, Wa., attempted to gain the lead from the infield grass.
I tee boned his car, sheared our front axle off, went over him, then landed on the water pump down the track. Hit him hard enough to require first aid to the back of my arms when they hit on the windshield while hanging on. Poor Joe was seriously injured and never raced again.
If that wasn't enough, newly arrived friend Paul Pold, was giving me some finer points of dirt driving before the race. He looked great, I studied his style, that is, until he backed it into the men's rest room. The kind local Crosley dealer gave Homer and I the keys to his shop where we straightened and welded the damage.
Spectacular highlight of the night: "Shorty" Templeman. During warm ups "Shorty" put the Bud Walters # 3 up on the wire fence chasing off all the rail birds. When Bud arrived, everyone told him " you should have seen "Shorty" up on the wire fence". Well, he got the chance to see it as "Shorty" ran up there several times on his way to victory.! A story by Mel Anthony.
The Missing Body.
No, this is not a murder mystery !
The late Gordon Reelie of Vancouver, British Columbia, was a successful midget car owner. He fielded many good rail jobs over the years in our Washgington Midget Racing association.
In the late 1940's and early 1950's the trend was to go to the popular Kurtis - Kraft chassis. He purchased a used Kurtis in the U.S.A. Midwest, returned to Canada and proceeded to prepare the car in the professional manner he was noted for.
Along the way, a good intentioned friend suggested a hasty paint removal process, as Gordon wanted to start with a bare metal approach. He handed over the complete aluminium body parts: tail, nose, cowl, hood and side panels for the treatment. It was an overnight deal, so when Gordon arrived the next day he was not prepared for what he found, or should I say, what he did not find !
When the "hot tank" lid was opened. the lifting wires yielded no trace of the race car body ! All that remained were the two brass belt buckles, two leather belts from the hood and two hood hinges !
Gordon was dismayed, but it didn't slow him a bit. He contacted Frank Kurtis, who upon learning of the disaster, shipped him a complete new body. Now some other customer may have had to wait a while for his. When the car was finished, many of us had the privilege of driving one of the finest Kurtis V860 midgets in racing. In fact I drove my last two main events in the car before retiring in 1956.
A Mel Anthony story. ( Thanks Mel )
Mel Anthony in the Dick Cowan V860 # 4 midget
Mel's partner in fun, "Lovely " Logan Harter in # 21.
The Ballard district of North Seattle, planned a new Hospital in 1952. Our midget club was invited to assist in a fund raising parade with our race cars.
( Some of us were already acquainted with the Hospital staff !. )
The route was to cover about 5 miles over city streets with 2 Police escort patrol cars, a sound truck with signage and an auto dealer's pick up to provide help for any cars with problems. At the briefing the two Police officers explained we were to keep it under 40 MPH.. This was fine with us, as it had been raining all morning.
Four of us turned up -
"Shorty' Templeman in the Jack Whalen # 1 Bardahl Kurtis Offy.
Dick Deahl in his own # 22 Kurtis V8 60
Kenny Gardiner in the Don Budwick # 3 rail V8 60.
Mel Anthony in the Homer Norman # 55 Kurtis Offy.
We were push started with difficulty, especially the two Offys. Now moving the 2 miles down the wet street , I was wondering if I had heard the WRONG speed quoted by the Police officer !. Those two officers must have been having a ball !, escorting us with sirens, lights and I swear, a hefty 70 mph or better speed. The turns were gradual up until we approached Freemont Ave. Now we had to make a quick 90 degree left onto a wet brick road. "Shorty" was leading,then Dick, Kenny and myself. I backed off, but not enough as I could see the others pushing and sliding. Half way through the turn I lost it into the kerb, killed the Offy engine, and there I sat while the group went on up the hill to Woodland Park.
This was in front of a Tavern and a guy standing there with a beer in his hand remarked , " you guys are gonna need the new Hospital before it's built !" The escort patrolman made the guy put his beer down and help push the car onto the street so we could re start. The patrol man push started the Offy using the bumper of the Patrol car then raced ahead escorting me up the mile or so hill.
Now if I thought we were going fast before, this next mile was UNREAL !
EVERY BUSINESS AND HOME EMPTIED OUT TO SEE AN OFFY, ( with 1/4 mile gears)
WIDE OPEN ON A MILE STRAIGHT.!
We finally caught the group , what a relief !, as I didn't want to bend the Homer Norman Offy again.
This was the same car I got end over end with in 1950 at the Del Fanning benefit race held at Aurora Speedway. Incidently the car was the former Edlebrock # 27, the sister car to the "Offy Killer" Rodger Ward whipped the Offies with at Gilmore one night.
The car has been immaculately restored by Harry Stryker Snr. and is now owned by Bob Ware of Long Beach, Ca. Bob is the son of Bath-Tub Bob, who raced at Gilmore in the Offy hey days. Bob still keeps the car bright red with "The Norman Offy" title and runs it at Vintage Meets.
Want to read some more from Mel ? Click on his name on right and go to Page 2.
Mel Anthony ( bending ) prepares the Homer Norman # 55 Offy for the North Seattle Fund Raiser Run. Note the slick tyres and Mel tells me the man with the hat was his "personal" x-ray Technician !
"Shorty" Templeman in the Jack Whalen Bardahl Kurtis Offy #1, one of the other "runners" in the Ballard charity street parade. The banner in the background says it all.
The Gordon Reelie # 75 V860 after it's restoration.