BILL'S BACK IN TIME COLUMN PAGE
Copies of my column in Mark Thomas' "Racin' Paper"
Column #7 from Column 20
This column originally covered three teams. Now Iam concentrating on one.
BILLíS BACK IN TIME
By Bill Ladabouche
HOT CARS, HOT MOMENTS; BUT NOT ALWAYS
SUCH A HOT TIME
The best memories I have of racing probably still come from the old Fairmont Speedway in Fair Haven, Vermont Ė C.J. Richardsí first CVRA promotion. Right from the first show, on Memorial Day, in 1962, there was an unimpressive Ė looking little old yellow Hudson coupe with very plain, homemade numbers on it. The driver was Ed Baker, from Warrensburg, New York. The car didnít look like much; the car didnít sound like much; the driver was not loud or flamboyant; but, man! could that thing motor !
Bakerís coming from Warrensburg was big thing in terms of racing heritage, as Fairmontís first announcer, Bill Barsalow, Sr. would explain. We now know that at least one race track in the Warrensburg area was called Ashland Park. It may have been the old fairgrounds [just like Fairmont], and Ė according to race programs from various tracks I attended Ė there were a ton of Bakers racing out of there: Ed, Stu, Dick, Vern, and Lennie were all Bakers named on one race card or another. But, except for one visit from Stu and a few from Lennie, Eddie Baker was the main attraction of the family.
The 6 PACK at the Rutland
fairgrounds with a new paint job. The guy I call the loyal crewman is at work in
He might be Vern Baker [no relation according to Ed]. Below - A local kid checks out the 6 PACK at Fairmont.
A big, pleasant man who always wore a red and white golf shirt, Ed Baker was a traveling salesman whose route took him right through the same territory that supported Fairmont Speedway. I just thought he was the greatest thing since sliced bread; and so, when he would arrive in Castleton to service the mom and pop stores there, this Castleton State College student was thrilled to see him and actually have him remember my face. Edís best year at Fairmont was 1962, in which he won a number of times. In 1963 Richardsí tech people got the bright idea that the cars had to have a hood and fenders; so Ed and Vern installed them on the Hudson. They looked ridiculous but they didnít slow down the yellow #6 PACK much. I suppose the number might have come from Edís sales involvement with alcoholic beverages. Who really knows ?
Baker was cooperative with almost anything the track asked him to do. When Richards decided to hold a race at the Vermont State Fairgrounds in Rutland, Bakerís was one of the teams that attended Ė and they even spruced the drab little Hudson up with a new paint job that week. The car had an odd device for clearing mud from Edís view. Instead of the flip-up plastic squares that so many drivers were bringing into play then, Baker had a sliding device Ė almost like the service window at a snack bar. When that piece became too caked to see, heíd slide it aside. I donít think he had another windshield underneath it, however. [The days of real men, etc.]. Other than that and the very unique almost Ė air-blasting sound the Hudson engine made, the little yellow coupe he stiff-hitched in every week was not very remarkable. [It was just good].
Bob Frazier Photo, Ladabouche Collection
The crossfire model in 1964.
You can really see Bakerís unique sliding windshield. Below - This shot, in the fading light
of a fall
afternoon, shows Ed Baker with who I would imagine are his wife and maybe his mother. He is wearing ďthe shirtĒ.
In 1964, when the old coupe had apparently run its course, Baker came out with a new Hudson. I would say it was a Terraplane body and the track management promoted the hell out of the fact that it had ďthe Hudson crossfire engineĒ in it. Well, Ed did run it, but never with the success of the older car. He didnít really finish out the year and I have never seen him again. These men and these cars were what made racing so much more interesting back in the day. None of those guys used crate engines and you didnít need decals to tell one car from the next. If anyone in Edís day had seen the kind of hauler the racers have today, he would have figured someone was hauling race horses somewhere. I wish I knew if Ed was still around. Anyone out there know ?
Since the original portion of this column was written, I have learned a ton more about the subject. I received an unexpected and wonderful phone call from my hero, Ed Baker. I also got to hear from more people and I have seen 8 MM footage of races at the old Whites Beach Speedway in town of Ballston Lake, near Saratoga. Whether Vern was involved from the beginning or not, that same Hudson coupe goes back to at least the early '50's - but it was then called "SUPER 6". This was, in fact, the second car from the Warrensburgh area with "super" in its number [the other being the Super 38]. Warrensbuirgh native Ben Gurney insists that the inspiration for this came from a big clock in the service area of Maltbie Chevrolet in Warrensburgh. The clock said "Super Service".
Courtesy of Warrensburgh Historical Society
The SUPER 6 at headquarters in Athol. The man on the right could be Vern Baker. Wally LaBelle wore glass, so
I suppose the other guy could be him. Below - The SUPER 6 in action at Whites Beach Speedway around the
From Dan Ody's 8MM Old Speedways DVD's
At any rate, the car is seen in old 8MM action at both Whites Beach and the highly competitive Stateline Speedway in North Bennington, VT. This track was not far at all from Whites Beach, which [for a while] served as a sister track to the one in Warrensburgh. The coupe, in both decades, was yellow with similar red numerals and it started out with the fenders and hood on. By the time it re - emerged for Ed to drive in 1962 it didn't have them any more, which eventually prompted The Fairmont Racing Association of C.J. Richards to mandate their return. Vern's replacements were not very original.
In our phone conversation, Ed told me he was becoming more and more frustrated with Vern's cars because the latter would nickel and dime everything to death; and, at the worst times, the cars would break down. For instncne in what was liley the last appearance of the old pre - 1936 Hudson car, Ed was racing quite successfully at the Rutland Fair show around 1963 when the 6 PACK threw a wheel, which landed out, onto the sidewalk bordering US Route 7 [or South Main Street] and struck a pedestrian just passing by. The person was gravely injured. I don't know if it was the same accident or not, but Ed also spoke of ending up in the Rutland Hospital with broken ribs, and of the somewahty primitive way the injury was treated.
From Dan Ody's 8MM Old Speedways DVD's
I believe this could be Wally LaBelle at Stateline, although the fenders are missing on this car. Below -
Vern prepares the stiff hitch to take the Hudson home after another Fairmont program in 1963.
So, after a while, all those wonderful Hudson stopped racing. One of the last true Hudson nuts was an old college friend of mine, Steve Ladd, who ran some of them at Bear Ridge Speedway in northeastern Vermont. The last Hudson race car anyone knows of was the bullhorn - decorated 13 NH of Buddy Bardwell. Since he has passed, his son, Gary, has the car on the shelf somewhere in the Keene, NH area. Ed Baker still ives in Athol [A- thul], NY, a hamlet of Thurman which is all part of the Warrensburgh area. It's a good thing we have pictures; they're all that's left.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any photos to lend me or information and corrections I could benefit from. Please do not submit anything you are not willing to allow me to use on my website - and thanks. For those who still donít like computers - my regular address is: Bill Ladabouche, 23 York Street, Swanton, Vermont 05488.
AS ALWAYS, DONíT FORGET TO CHECK OUT MY WEBSITE: www.catamountstadium.com
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