Sunday, May 29, 2022
My Indy 500 Story
Mike Asher shows off his checkered Indy 500 van (and outfit) along with sister Pattie Cloud and son Brian Asher, circa 1989. | submitted
by MIKE ASHER
My wife, Jan, and I have attended the Indianapolis 500 together since 1967 when we were seniors at Shelbyville High School. (Each of us had attended a previous time.) I worked the old press box in 1966 as a reward for obtaining Eagle Scout, and Jan, in 1963, with her boyfriend, before she came to her senses and started dating me.
We, of course, missed the pandemic year and we also missed Mario’s win in 1969 because Jan had a final exam on race day, and that was enough to kill my desire to attend. Love does crazy things!
I wrote Doug Boles, president of the Speedway, asking if we could “work” the 2020 race to keep our streak alive. We got a very nice personal letter from him declining our request. However, shortly after that he made a public announcement that missing the 2020 race would not count against any attendance streaks.
In the early years we were Infield fans, battling to get a front row parking space for the best viewing possible. This would entail two vehicle battles.
At around 8 a.m. the day before the race, officials would open the North 40 parking lot off 30th Street. This would entail a drag race with a 90-degree turn, with vehicles merging from both directions off 30th onto a freshly oiled stone six-lane road up to the barricades near the tunnel that went under the track. Accidents were common, with no one bothering to exchange insurance information. One year I was driving down the sidewalk when someone pulled out of the shrubbery of a house, catching his wooden front bumper in my back wheel well. I kept popping the clutch until I pulled his bumper off. I was in the right because everyone knows that the sidewalk car has the right of way over the shrubbery car.
At 5 or 6 a.m. a cannon would blast, and the second battle was on. Workers would scurry to remove the barricades and rush to safety. Every vehicle had their agenda. First, the six lanes had to merge into three or four lanes to get under the track. Then, some people in the left lane wanted to go right after the tunnel to get to Turn 4, and vice versa for those wanting to get to Turn 3. We were Turn 3 folks, actually the end of the Backstretch. The 30 to 40 mph turn onto wet grass provided some scary moments. To this day, Jan uses the same line when roads are wet or icy: “Watch out for the wet grass.” Another highlight was at about 8 a.m. when Tom Carnegie would greet us with his drawling, “Goooood Morning, Ladies and Gentleman!” This would soon be followed by Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood.”
For probably 30 years we also attended the first day of qualifications. This was also a special time to get to recognize all of the car color schemes to make race day easier to watch. I remember fairly accurately guessing qualifying speeds by the amount of time the engines were cut down, slowing to get into Turn 3. Now the aerodynamics allow drivers to not lift the accelerator during their entire run. Timing and scoring was so slow that the PA would not be able to announce speeds for the prior lap until after they passed us in Turn 3.
In 1975, we happened onto a well-kept secret - Carburation Day - held on the Thursday before the race. This was a low-key practice day for the race. It was a two-hour event with one-hour green flag guaranteed. Afterward, teams would push their cars into their pits stalls to allow crews to simulate actual pit stops. Fences keeping peons like us out of the pits were low and close. Drivers who were watching the pit stop simulations were close and willing to talk to us common folk. The dynamic changed when Miller offered a pit stop contest and fans arrived in droves and admission price soared.
Still, we would get to the track early to get our choice seats in the top row, just above where the drivers’ meeting was held. Our kids and their selected friends would greet the drivers by name with hoots and yells. They were rewarded with smiles and waves from the drivers. As an aside, our boys, Scott and Brian, always took a grade hit from school. We refused to lie that they had an illness and told them that they were attending an important family event, which meant unexcused absences. Every year some teacher would have a pop quiz that entailed the student signing a blank piece of paper and our boys would get a zero! This injustice was a small price to pay for solidifying a family unit containing teenagers.
The Indy 500 continues to be something that our family can rally around. Jan’s cousin from Fort Worth has been coming since 1986 and stays with us during race week. He is somewhat of a celebrity with us since he gets his tickets from his friend, Johnny Rutherford.
After three days in ’73 of the racing tragedies and total filth in the Infield, we moved to an area on the outside of the track that had parking much like a drive-in theater. Spots were numbered, and our number was 69, which the immature ones of the family found entertaining.
By then we had a checkered van (surprise paint job by my sisters) which, by removing the bench seats and bolting them to a boarded platform top, provided stadium seating for the standard 11 to 12 folks who attended – clip-on seating in the front and standing room and cooler in the back. Since the maximum folks allowed per parking spot was the amount of seating of the vehicle (8), we had to hide folks every year. Informed watching of the race required a coordinated effort: someone periodically logged the driver standings, laps down and out of the race, someone logged pit stops. We had radios tuned to WIBC 1070 and my boys took turns handing me beers. (I always drove in but I was not allowed to drive out!)
Again, commercialization ended our Shangri-La. The new golf course was scheduled to eliminate our parking. For 1993, we were offered six nice tickets in Turn 2 SE Vista. Well, how was I to satisfy the eight regular attendees with six tickets? The short answer was I couldn’t, and Jan, Scott, Brian, two son guests and I took the tickets, and our dear friends got the shaft! These six tickets have now grown to eight Asher tickets and our friends have their own.
We park in a lot my sister, Debbie, manages, which is very close to our seats. We are able to exit the track expeditiously, which is great as we have gotten older. We meet after the race for a cookout to rehash what we saw and speculate on “what ifs” with our race friends and family. The diehards stay to rewatch the race on tape delay.
The Indy 500 formerly was an endurance race of different types of engines, transmissions and chassis designs, many of which were innovative. In our early days the race would last about 10 laps after the checkered flag while those who were laps down continued racing to their 500-mile completion. Every car that finished 500 miles was celebrated. I believe this ended when fans climbed over the fences to celebrate A.J.’s fourth win in ‘77.
Back when innovation was encouraged, the last Friday before the last weekend of qualifications provided my kind of entertainment. Teams were trying out new drivers and bolting on front wings from another manufacture and a back wing from another. Rolla Vollstedt’s pit was an entertaining place to be, watching him change a non-competitive car into one that makes the race. Sometimes a veteran driver would climb into a non-competitive car and drive it faster than the current driver, turn it back over to the original driver, who magically obtained the same speed as the veteran did. Now the cars are essentially the same with no room for creative innovations. This makes the racing side more competitive, but some of the quirky stuff is now gone.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Everyone who has attended the Indy 500 will have some special memory that deserves to be heard. Many Shelbyville people have interesting stories, and I encourage them to share them with all of us.
Memorial Day Weekend, Special Edition
I do hope that everyone enjoys this holiday weekend. The Addison Times does have a limited budget, so I will do my best to supply you with helpful hints, fashion advice, news of the world, etc.
If any of you have friends, relatives, or acquaintances that you can convince to become subscribers, please do so. I was hoping to visit our sister city, Shelbyville, Ken., this summer, but with the current price of gas, it might not be possible.
I would complain to Skeeter, but he will just tell me to get my cardboard sign - “Shelbyville or Bust” - and wait for a ride on old 421. It is an easy hitch-hiking destination since the same sign can be used both directions.
Fashion advice: It is time to get out your white clothes and accessories. White can only be worn between Memorial Day and Labor Day. If you forgot or made the common mistake of thinking that white season begins with Easter, you are not alone. I have noticed several Walmart shoppers committing this fashion faux pas this year.
Monkeypox: Several readers have contacted me concerning the most recent health scare: monkeypox. Just like everyone else, I’m hoping it doesn't result in another order to shelter in place. I am glad it was given such a catchy name. I was never sure what to call the covid. The original name seemed to follow tradition like the Hong Kong flu and Spanish flu. Once the covid started to change, I never understood why the Greeks were picked on to name the variants, Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Omicron. It was probably just someone in the lab who didn’t like fraternities.
The Pillow Guy: Mike Lindell, the pillow guy, has been in the news lately for once again getting kicked off twitter. Before he was a celebrity for his tweeting, he was famous for selling pillows. A loyal reader reminded me that in the good old days a much better pillow was advertised on TV. Thirty years ago, you couldn’t turn on the TV late at night without seeing a commercial for the “Oriental Mount Fuji Buckwheat Pillow.” I once had a buckwheat pillow, and I also have questions. I have passed along the questions to Professor Leonard, as he is our resident expert on all things concerning Mount Fuji.
Amber Heard, Johnny Depp trial: The defamation trial of the millionaire celebrity couple has finally gone to the jury. If you haven’t been watching. Johnny lost the tip of his finger to a well thrown vodka bottle. Amber took a break from the marriage to have a baby with Elon Musk. A who’s who of celebrity names were brought up during the trial, including James Franco, Kate Moss, Winona Ryder, Marilyn Manson, Ellen Barkin and Billy Bob Thornton.
I know that some of you are reading this while waiting in line for the Indy 500. I had planned on writing a longer column today to help you pass the time, but I have a weekend project that I need to get started. I’m building a wooden chair and glider from scraps of wood blown off of my house in the last storm. I printed the instructions from the internet. Supposedly the project can be completed using only kitchen utensils.
Last but not least: Don’t forget to attend the Memorial Day program tomorrow at 10 a.m. on the Courthouse lawn.
The Shelbyville High School softball team defeated Columbus North, 2-1, Friday to win the sectional. Karissa Hamilton hit a home run and Kylee Edwards scored later. Cheyenne Eads pitched all seven innings, allowing three hits while striking out four. The Golden Bears will host Whiteland on Tuesday, 6 p.m., in the regional.
HOOSIER NEWS: For the third consecutive year and fourth time in seven years, Central Indiana race fans will be able to watch the Indianapolis 500 live on TV. This time, though, you’ll have to pay for it. Although the normal local blackout of Sunday’s race is traditional, over the air TV will be in effect because the race won’t be a sellout, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway can’t enforce a blackout of a live airing of the race on NBC’s Peacock streaming service. For a first month’s subscription of $4.99 to Peacock’s “Premium” platform, those who live in the traditional Central Indiana blackout radius will be able to see the race before the delayed airing scheduled on local NBC channels for early Sunday evening. Despite significant efforts to blackout the streaming option, NBC was unable to come up with the technology that would make it possible to block a stream of the Indy 500 from such a small area. The Indy 500 has been blacked out every year except 1949, 1950, 2016, 2020 and 2021. (IndyStar)
IN THE NEWS: Daily subscribers last week read updates on incoming housing additions, a gas station that wants in near the Pleasant View exit, bus driver Dennis Hirschauer’s retirement and a new church coming to town, local government news and much more! Thank you for supporting local journalism. - Kristiaan Rawlings, editor
This Week in Shelby County" works by George L. Stubbs Sr. are owned by the Shelby County Historical Society (Grover Center) and used with permission.
THIS DAY IN SHELBY COUNTY HISTORY
News around Shelbyville and the surrounding area as reported on or about this date in history. Selections are curated from the Shelby County Public Library Genealogy Department.
20 YEARS AGO: 2002
Over 100 people attended the county’s Memorial Day program at the Shelby County Courthouse, conducted by the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. Russell Smith conducted the Shelby County Community Band before the program began.
Concrete work on the new skate park under construction in Morrison Park was completed.
30 YEARS AGO: 1992
A couple was arrested after fighting in the parking lot of the Blue River Inn. The couple told police the argument started over a disagreement about how loud the car radio should be.
40 YEARS AGO: 1982
Mrs. Boling, 1039 Swinford Street, made a 10-foot long banana split for Clearview neighborhood kids to celebrate the last day of school. A newspaper photo showed Brady Bernard, Brad Morrow and Brian Asher savoring the final bites of the treat.
“With all the controversy about abortion, we wondered how many abortions had been done at Major Hospital here,” The Shelbyville News reported. “The answer, so far as we can tell, is none. Doctors hereabout do not want to perform them, apparently.”
50 YEARS AGO: 1972
A remonstrance filed with the county auditor attempted to block the building of two new grade schools at Morristown and Waldron. The remonstrators contended the needs of the northern and southern ends of the district were not identical, and that there was no need for a new school in Waldron. Much of the opposition voiced at a public hearing had been in regards to the abandonment of the Noble School building.
60 YEARS AGO: 1962
A fire caused significant damage to the Carl Vanarsdall Service Station in Waldron. Volunteer firefighter Jack Berauer happened to be passing the building and heard two boys calling attention to the fire.
Ray’s Cigar Store, 231 S. Harrison St., owned by City Councilman Wilbur Ray Jr., was sold to Jack and Betty Worland. Ray had purchased the store, at Harrison and Hendricks Streets, seven years prior from the estate of the late Ervin Gaines. Worland said the cigar store, located in a building owned by Nate Kaufman, would be open daily except Sunday and continue to feature short orders, soda fountain service and snooker. The Worlands, who had a daughter, Robin Ann, 9, and Randy, 6, had previously worked with Plymate Cleaners for 12 years. Mr. Ray also resigned his council seat to move to Boulder, Colo.
70 YEARS AGO: 1952
Richard Esters, 265 Walker Street, landed a 2-1/2 foot, 24-pound Leatherback Carp in Big Blue River near Marietta. Esters said it took half an hour to land the monster, which was caught on a doughball baited book.
Three Shelby County soldiers met up in Heilbroon, Germany, took a picture and sent it to The Shelbyville News. The men were Sft. Raymond Beyer, Pfc. William T. Moore and Pfc. Clifford Runnebohm.
80 YEARS AGO: 1942
David Lee, son of Mr. and Mrs. Onie Sullivan, who lived six miles north of Shelbyville on State Road 9, suffered his third broken within a period of six months. The first had been suffered during a Christmas party at school. Later, he fell off a fence at home. The third break occurred when his foot became entangled in the drive chain of a soybean drill on which he had been riding.
Two sugar rationing books issued to Lulu Dean Crosby and Walter R. Crosby, St. Paul, had been lost. The Republican said that unless someone found and returned them, the family would have to do without sugar for the next two months.
90 YEARS AGO: 1932
The William Porter Memorial Swimming Pool opened despite cool temperatures. “Swimming tomorrow will be free to all children under 12 years of age, if any there be who are sufficient hardy to brave the cold waters.” The water temperature was 65 degrees. Hours were 1 to 10 p.m. daily, except Sundays.
100 YEARS AGO: 1922
A vehicle owned by William J. Karmire, of East Taylor Street, and driven by James Motley was struck by an eastbound interurban car at Broadway and Harrison Street. Motley, described by newspapers as the “colored” driver for the Karmires, had dropped Mrs. Karmire off in Blue Ridge before returning to Shelbyville. “Several colored children were reported to have been in the automobile, but none were injured,” The Republican said.
Warren W. Dorrel, age 86, died Monday, May 23, 2022, in Franklin, Indiana. He was born February 10, 1936, in St. Paul, Indiana, to Scott W. and Maureen Dorrel.
Warren graduated from St. Paul High School in 1954. He served in the United States Army. In 1961, in St. Paul, Warren married Ruth Lathom. Ruth died in 2020. Survivors include daughter, Marti, and son-in-law, Brad Schrock (Franklin, Indiana) and granddaughter Maddie Long (Bloomington, Indiana).
Warren worked for General Electric and was a small business owner. He enjoyed building and flying remote control model airplanes, and he was a Mason. He lived in Franklin since 2004.
Services will be held on Sunday, June 12, at the St. Paul Christian Church, 202 E. Harrison St., St. Paul. The calling will be at 2:00 p.m. with a memorial service at 4:00 p.m. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Paul Christian Church, 202 E. Harrison St., St. Paul, Indiana 47272. Arrangements entrusted to Glenn E. George Funeral Home, St. Paul, IN.
Great story by Mike. Just a note to let you know that there is another Shelbyville citizen who has a longer streak. Steve Krebs (SHS '62) started a streak that began in 1958 and hasn't missed one since then except for the Chinese virus year.