Saturday, March 7, 2020

“Lots” of Fun

by Jeff Caldwell
Prior to the building of the “Expressway” in the mid 1960’s, Hwy 61B would run down main local arteries. One of these was Kingsway, which I had the good fortune of growing up just off of, on Murray Ave. Looking out our living room window, I could see the parking lot of the Two Cities Motel. Through that window, in the fall of 1966, I saw an orange Super Modified parked, with several holes cut out on the rear of the roof. Attending those final races at the CLE that weekend, across the track I could see that orange #89. That memory was forever implanted in my head! Shown b/w photos of it 30 years later, I immediately stated, “it was orange”!

           Along Kingsway, from Empire Ave to Arthur St., the lots of the Blue Swan Inn, Fort Motel, Two Cities, Holiday Inn, and the Kingsway Motel, filled with race cars from the upper USA, in town to compete in the fall Invitational Championships. These lots would be overrun with wide eyed young kids (and older race fans), filled with anticipation of seeing them in full flight on the track! We’d tag along with older brothers, then with our friends when we were a bit older. All five of the hotels were explored. Curiously we’d examine the racing machines, though we really had no clue what we were looking for. Perhaps the lingering smell of gear oil  addicted us somehow, our anticipation of the visitors grew as race weekend got closer!
        If we got real lucky, we’d get to meet a driver! And we did meet some! I met the driver of an orange Late Model in the lot at the Kingsway Motel, who told me, I’m sure in jest, I could buy his #4 for $10. Lenny Pistilli travelled from the Iron Range for the races. Another driver told us of Russ Laursen’s tragic crash, he was in the same race! Where the cars stayed, remained implanted forever, Dave Morgan’s “Stingray 500” parked at the south end of the Fort Motel lot, Dean Harrington’s yellow Ford #U2 in the same lot, where apartments now stand. The ramps on the trailers of the Super Modifieds, folded up over the rear wheels left an impression too!
            Of all the drivers I met in those lots, Tim Lorenz of Ladysmith WI, gave my best friend Jamie Kelner and I our best memories from those lots. Tim raced #9, a light blue 59-60 Corvette Late Model, on a ramp truck similar to Tom Nesbitt’s GMC. As kids were in those days, we were resourceful, if we wanted to do something. We’d usually have to find a way there, and a way to get in as well. We were too young to drive, so what’s the best idea, ask one of the drivers if you could catch a ride! From 1970 through 1972, Jamie & I rode to Riverview atop that truck in that Corvette, then in 1972 a Chevy Nova. Be there for around this time, up into the car for the ride! Hop out at the Riverview gate, over to the pits after the races, for the ride home! Each fall we’d be looking for our visiting hero, and friend. 1972 was the last time, but Tim Lorenz kindness to these kids has lasted a lifetime! Thank you Tim!
            Travelling to Los Angeles in 1990, for the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars at Ascot, we found ourselves again in need of a ride to the track. Staying at the Holiday Inn, in Torrence CA, the lot was filled with race cars. The friend with me asked, how we getting to the races. I answered, we have a ride in the parking lot, “They’re all going to the same place we are”, one was sure to have room! It only took a couple inquiries, to find a ride!
            Travelling to dirt races today, the parking lots are full of cars, where the crews prepare them for that night’s races. It takes me back to the days in those “Lots, of fun” along Kingsway so long ago!
© JMC 2017

*note: Though I grew up just off Kingsway, I never knew that stretch of hotels was referred to as "Motel Row". While in Superior for the races, I was chatting with Rick Cox and Jim Eliason. Rick referred to it as "Motel Row", the first time I'd ever heard it called such.

#4 Lenny Pistilli from the Iron Range, offered my his car for $10

My best friend & I used to ride to Riverview with Tim Lorenz of Ladysmith WI

Russ Laursen of Cumberland WI at the Two Cities Motel

This Super Modified of Steve Schweitzberger, from St Paul MN forever implanted in my memory!

Kids all over a car at the Blue Swan Inn

Don Mack from E. Grand Forks MN at the Holiday Inn