Friday, May 30, 2014

Shellbacks and Pollywogs

On this day seventy years ago a converted passenger ship named M. S. Bloemfontein crossed the equator at 153° 35’ west en route to the Admiralty Islands and while doing so, commemorated the occasion with a maritime tradition that dated back to at least the early 1820’s –The Crossing of the Line. The ceremony marks the first crossing of the equator for members of the ship’s crew, referred to as slimy Pollywogs, initiating these relatively untested seafarers into the shared hardships and triumphs that lay ahead. Tried and true Shellbacks who have seen southern hemisphere drag the Pollywogs before the most experienced member of the crew who, for the time being, is designated His Majesty Neptune. What follows is a session of hazing which can include being shaved bald, blasted with a salt water fire hose, getting smeared with axel grease or paint, or being forced to drink a dose of “medicine” concocted from ingredients such as Tabasco sauce, diesel oil, raw eggs, and pepper. All the while the Shellbacks hurl insults at the Pollywogs and the ceremony goes on until Neptune is satisfied the initiates have been properly humbled. Once the ordeal is over the Pollywogs are pronounced honorable Shellbacks, members of the Royal Order of the Deep, and awarded a certificate stating as much.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Indy 500 - Born Out of Blood and Smoke

Here's a 2011 interview with Charles Leerhsen, author of Blood and Smoke: A True Tale of Mystery, Mayhem, and the Birth of the Indy 500.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Detective's Office Phase I - Completed!

Well, it took a lot of effort, but with the help of my darling and understanding wife and a lot of sweat and swearing, phase one of establishing my little noir detective's office has been completed. Here are the last photos, from our Memorial Day weekend push.

We start with Sunday and cutting the chair rails to length. Wonderful day for working with the garage door open, though it did keep Kelly from lounging with a glass of wine on the deck. As a bonus, as we were closing down for the night I gave the old ceiling fan one more try and it had magically healed itself. Nice to have house elves with union electrician's licenses! Extra milk on the doorstep tonight, and maybe a little beer too!

We follow up with installing the chair rails, they went up perfectly, the corner joints I sweated were just right. Didn't even need to do any coping. How's that for catching a break?

De-junkified and starting to look like an office again. We moved the desk back to its proper place, took away all of the drop-cloths, stowed the tools, and in this picture I'm in the process of getting the electronics back in place. The floor lamp went to Kelly's office where it has found useful employment.

Beauty shot time. Here's the finished product (so far). My desk with dear Spriggan's bed on one end, no writer should be without a cat after all. Printer stowed inconspicuously in the corner. Cedar chest in its proper place under the window.

The waiting area is ready for the next fem fatal. She had legs that went all the way from her shoes to her hips, that's how she got into the place...

And finally, the dingus.

The Funnies - To Avoid Delays (1901)

Life Magazine, August 15, 1901

Happy Memorial Day!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Detective's Office Takes Off

The detective's office has languished for a long time, waiting for the convergence of resources and time. Race day weekend, as we Hoosiers call it, proved to be the magic date and the project finally has started rolling. Here's a little before picture to set the stage. I hope you'll pardon my camera's desperate attempt to adjust to the bright desk lamp, but I think you can see that over the months the office has become a depository for all things junk. I've collected disused keyboards, dead cell phones, broken laptops, extra pads of paper, and the tools for actually painting the place in an attempt to recreate an episode of Horders, but that'll be changing soon enough.

Scene two, it's Saturday morning and a good deal of the junk has moved on. Thanks to Kelly's hard work the painter's tape has been applied and my brother helped move all the heavy furniture so we could get to the walls. The night before work began the hall was so crammed with stuff from the office that late night trips to the bathroom became a treacherous affair. First thing in the morning we tuned in some peppy music and got to work.

Drop cloths, or old blankets, in pace and ready to paint when we encountered our first problem. We purchased the paint for this project late in the fall, with the thought that if the weather allowed we'd paint before winter started. Unfortunately, we didn't get to painting and the paint cans spent the winter months in the garage where one can froze. The result, paint that resembled cottage cheese and never was going to mix properly. I was off to the hardware store to buy a replacement can on the Saturday mid-morning before the Indy 500. As you can guess, it was a harrowing trip. After lunch and a Valium to bring me down from dealing with traffic, we got started.

To my surprise, we had the top half of the room painted in no time. The color is hummus, but to me it looks more like butter. You might be asking what kind of noir detective paints his office hummus or butter, well the idea was to replicate the cigarette smoke-stained plaster you might find in a downtown LA office that had another life before the neighborhood went sour and a two-bit gumshoe moved in. I think the color does a pretty good job, and I'm not willing to do painting effects or glazes to make a more accurate imitation. You can also see the beginning of the faux wainscoting in orchard green and it reminded me of the felt on a pool table, perfect for our detective.

Try to ignore the dust on the camera lens, or as the paranormal investigators would call them, orbs. Wainscoting first coat done as the sun started heading for the horizon. We removed the painter's tape before calling the day finished, but I didn't think that warranted photographs. The race day agenda will include touch-up of the walls, correcting paint lines where needed, painting the baseboard and window sill, and cutting the chair rail. Still to come is replacing the ceiling fan and wall switch with something appropriate, installing the chair rail, and generally putting the furniture back in order. More updates and photos soon, in the meantime I'll have an exorcist look at my camera.

Indy 500 - Bob Sweikert

An eerie photograph from a Champion spark plug ad that aired in the March 12 issue of Life Magazine. The driver in the car at the top of the ad is Bob Sweikert. He was born in Los Angeles, California on May 20, 1926. He grew up with automobiles, working at a local Ford dealership in Hayward, CA. He would have been an airman in World War II, but a knee injury suffered during training at Lowry Field, Colorado kept him sidelined until after the end of combat. In 1945 he was honorably discharged from the Air Force.

Sweikert competed in four Indy 500 races, winning the 1955 contest and placing 6th in 1956, the year of the ad. June 17, 1956 of that same year he would be killed in a sprint car race in Salem, Indiana, a wreck that was caught on film.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Indy 500 - Carl E. Rogers Mystery

After having success in unraveling photographic mysteries, I'll admit defeat on this one. This is an image from the archives of the Indiana Historic Society of Carl E. Rogers in the R&B Special car number 20. Supposedly he was a driver in the Indy 500, however I find no evidence of him ever driving in any race. So, if anyone can provide more information, I'd appreciate it!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Indy 500 - The Mystery of #49

On one of my trawls through the internet, searching for Indy 500 imagery to share with you during race season, I came across this little gem. It's a nineteen-teens era car, obviously in sad shape, sitting in the middle of what appears to be a field, but the information that came with the information was (to say the least) sketchy. The image came from the archives of the Indiana Historical Society, usually a very reputable resource with detailed notes on the photographs in their digital archives. In this case, though, the only information available was the title "Car 49, Wrecked" and the date of the photograph listed as 1919.

Undaunted by the challenge, I started digging through the resource for all things factual - Wikipedia - and I made a discovery. There was no car number 49 in the 1919 Indy 500. From 1915 through 1919 starting position was determined by car speed during a single qualifying lap, so it is possible that the driver of number 49 wrecked during this lap, so I made a check.

Details on the 1919 race are spare, but they do exist. I can tell you that Howdy Wilcox won the 1919 race, that it was the last year for single lap qualifying, and that supposedly a band played Back Home Again in Indiana as Wilcox (a Hoosier) made his final lap thus cementing the song's association with the 500, but there is no record of there being a wreck during qualification. It seems unlikely that something as dramatic as a car wiping out would be left out of the historical record, so I'm doubting the Car 49 wrecks before qualifying scenario.

Next I decided I'd go back through history to find the first instance of a car with the number 49 participating in the 500. We know that there was no Indy 500 in 1917 and 1918 due to World War I. In 1915 and 1916 there was no number 49 in the race. In fact you have to go all the way back to 1914 to find a car number 49 involved with the Indy 500.

That car was driven by a one-time Indy driver named Ray Gilhooley. Ray drove the Isotta entry for that year's race, starting in 20th position and wrecking in lap 41 and finishing in 27th position out of 30 entries. He never led, didn't sit on the pole, and never raced in another Indy 500. Interesting note, in the article to the right (clipped from the May 1919 issue of Automotive Industry magazine) a 500 entry couldn't even be backed by a woman because "women have no standing with the contest board of the AAA).

It'd be another 15 years before another car number 49 would compete, but the 1929 entry (driven by Wesley Crawford) went out due to carburetor problems, not a wreck. There's also the small fact that by the late 20's, Indy cars looked like the Stutz Black Hawk shown at the left. Gone was the ride-along mechanic and the Beverly Hillbillies squared-off grill so definitely no match.

In the end our mystery car is Gilhooley's Isotta from the 1914 race. It's doubtful this is an image from the back straight where Gilhooley's racing career seems to have ended. Initially I thought even the infield of the track would have been better groomed than what's pictured here, but then I recognized the banked track in the background (initially it just looked like a cloud bank). The image had to have been taken on Saturday, May 30th, the day of the 4th Indy 500 documenting the final resting place of Gilhooley's number 49.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Indy 500 - Wilbur Shaw (1933)

Nice image of Wilbur Shaw and his team from the 1933 Indy 500. Shaw would finish second in 1933. Shaw would go on to win three 500 races before being killed in an airplane crash outside Decatur Indiana in 1954.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Foods of the 500 - Hunt's Catsup Sacrilege

Pouring over old food ads can be a dicey proposition. You're going to see things that just aren't right, things that you can't un-see. Mostly it's the usual suspects - margarine that need dye packets to turn yellow, canned meat products, Velveeta cheese - but from time to time you come across something so wrong, so terrible, that it makes you question whether you wan't to keep trawling through the ad bins.

That's how I felt when I came across...this. A t-bone steak that actually looks edible is a rarity in a 50's era magazine ad. The rest of the plate is more common, the baked potato looks like an open sore and the green beans like lawn clippings, but the steak actually appears to be meat. And then the catsup...what kind of monster puts catsup on a steak?

Hunt for the best? I'm hunting for the jerk who thinks the proper sauce for a well grilled steak is catsup. There has to be a 12 step program for people like that.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Indy 500 - Newsreel of the First Indy 500

1911 and for the first time a race was held at what would become the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This lovely video comes from Patrick Smith's YouTube collection.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Indy 500 - 1953 Ford Crestline

To be honest I didn't know burned orange was a color choice for automobiles. I'd also never heard of a Ford Crestline until I saw this ad. Apparently it was the top-of-the-line offering from the Ford Motor Company in the 1953-54 model year.

1953 was Ford's 50th anniversary and the year the company introduced power assist brakes as an option on its vehicles. That same year William Clay Ford drove a Ford Crestliner Sunliner (the convertible of the line) at the Indianapolis 500.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Indy 500 - The Kurtis 500M

In 1955 Indy 500 body maker Frank Kurtis designed and built his own version of a sporty roadster. The Kurtis 500M was a soft-top convertible that, according to Popular Mechanics, would top out at 125 mph and purr like a kitten in traffic. Kurtis planned on producing the 500M in Glendale, California and offering it to the public at a price of $6000,but his dream never really flowered.

Kurtis produced 22 street legal cars between 1948 and 1949 and the design gradually transformed into the Madman Muntz-Jet, which sold from 1950-1954. Kurtis made another foray into the street-legal market in 1954, with 500KK, 500S, and 500M series, all based on a version of the successful Indy 500 Roadster chassis, still only 18 roadsters were ever produced.

Proof, I guess, that success on the track doesn't always translate into success on the street. Still, the 500M is something to look at.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Indy 500 - Pyroil (Again) - 1934

Another Pyroil ad this morning, this time an earlier one. In 1934 the company wasn't claiming to have won six of the ten Indianapolis 500 races and they didn't have a dog spokesperson. My favorite is Barney Oldfield who gained fame for driving an Allis-Chalmers tractor at over 64 mph. Sounds like he was a big hit at the La Crosse county fair!

New Yorker Louis Meyer went on to be the first ever three-time Indy 500 winner, claiming the trophy as a rookie in 1928, in 1933, and in 1936 and he's credited with starting the tradition of drinking milk in the winner's circle. Meyer also was the first winner to receive a gift of the pace car, another tradition that continues to date.

Bill Cummings was an Indianapolis native who competed in nine Indy 500's, only winning in 1934. I'm not quite sure why the geniuses at the ad agency decided not to mention that he won the actual race in '34, opting instead for the brilliant statement that he won the Pyroil trophy using Pyroil. The Borg Warner trophy was commissioned in 1935 and wouldn't be presented to the winner of the 500 until the 1936 season.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Indy 500 - Pyroil Scores Again!

Pyroil seems to have a problem with counting. In the ad copy they state "Six of the ten winners of the 500 mile Memorial Day race at Indianapolis kept their racing machines lubricated with the help of Pyroil." The problem? Well, in 1947 when this ad ran in Popular Mechanics there had been 31 winners of the Indy 500, not ten.

There isn't much in the way of history for Pyroil online. My search only turned up more ads and a few MSDS sheets, but nothing in the way of when the company was founded or by whom. We do know it was located in La Crosse, Wisconsin, but not much more. Pyroil products are still available, now marketed under the Valvoline brand.

Jerry the talking dog was sort of the animal equivalent of a side-show act, barking words for the boys in veteran's hospitals around the US at the behest of his Pyroil masters. Didn't find too much on Jerry, either, but I did locate a site with a good (autographed no less) photo of the little whippet!

By the way, I'm not exactly sure how many cans of Pyroil for Aircraft Engines the company sold, but it seems a little strange that they'd run an ad for it in Popular Mechanics. Back in '47 were there that many people with their own planes in need of lubrication?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Full Moon Music - Luna Waltz

Carl Emil Paul Lincke was born in the Jungfern Bridge district of Berlin in 1866, a year that saw Jesse James rob his first bank and Italy go to war with Austria. After his father's death, Lincke was sent to Wittenberge where he joined the Wittenberg City Band and learned to play various instruments. Lincke didn't go into minitary music as a career as his mother thought he would. The nightlife drew him away from the starkness the life of a military musician and he found himself drifting toward the dance halls and berlesques. In 1987 he created the one-act musical play Venus auf Erden which premiered at the Apollo Theater in Friedrichstrasse.

In 1899, after a two year stint with the vaudeville house Folies Bergere, Lincke returned to the Apollo and produced his biggest success the operetta Frau Luna and the Luna Waltz (below) featured in that composition. But, as we all know, a lovely song does not make a lovely person and as the nineteen-teens ebbed into the furious twenties and then the steely thirties, Lincke found himself one of the poster-boys of the Nazi regime.

In 1937 he was awarded the silver cross and made an honorary citizen of Berlin. He departed Germany to conduct Frau Luna in Bohemia in 1943 and returned to find his Berlin home and publisher had been destroyed by allied bombs. After the war Lincke couldn't endear himself to the allies as he had to the Nazis. He moved to Arzberg, Bavaria with the approval of American General Pierce and later to Hahnenklee where he died shortly before his eightieth birthday. To this day his march Berliner Luft remains the unofficial anthem of the city that adopted him and his tune Das Gluhwurmchen (The Glow Worm) was translated into English in a greatly edited version by Johnny Mercer and made a hit by the Mills Brothers in 1952.

Foods of the 500 - Hot Dan the Mustard Man

Last week I gave you an ad for Friendly Franks so it only seemed right to follow up with condiments and when you're talking hot dogs that means mustard. I grew up with French's mustard in the refrigerator and the yellow stuff figured prominently on every bologna sandwich that went into my lunchbox up until I stopped bringing a lunch to school. Still, in all those years, I never encountered Hot Dan the Mustard Man.

Hot Dan was the vaguely potato-shaped shill for French's, and apparently he led (or leads) a shadowy life. I paid a visit to French's webpage and, though I found pictures of Dan, I couldn't find any information on his history, origin, or fate. For all I know he went into the witness protection program, sheltering from retribution for turning state's evidence in the big mustard scandal of nineteen-ought something.

As for the ad itself, I'm not sure you can call combining mustard with butter a recipe, but I'm pretty sure the resulting reaction would take out a city block and leave the landscape littered with mutant, potato-shaped mutants bent on destroying humanity.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Indy 500 - 1956 Pace Car

The official pace car for the 1956 Indianapolis 500, the Desoto Fireflite! Looks more suited for the parade than the race!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there, here's hoping you got the puppy you wanted!

Indy 500 - A Saucer for the Track

Frank Kurtis proposed this super-streamlined "racing saucer" for Chapman Root in 1955 and it appeared in the May 1955 issue of Popular Mechanics Magazine. Kurtis would go on to complete the car design, known as the Sumar Streamliner. The Streamliner generated 400hp.

In 1955 the Streamliner would be driven by Sam Hanks, Tony Bettenhausen and Jimmy Daywalt. Daywalt qualified at 139.416 mph. In 1956, Bob Sweikert, Cliff Griffith and Elmer George drove the car. That same year, Marshal Teague attempted to qualify the Streamliner for the Indy 500, but ran out of time. In 1959, Teague drove the car at Daytona International Speedway and reached a speed of 171.80 mph.

Coronet Films - 1950s Advice on Appreciating our Parents

Mother's Day always kicks off the parental appreciation season and there's a Coronet Film to tell us all about the things we should thank them for. To me it seems a little like mom's getting a raw deal!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mothers Day - Buy More Flowers

Okay, so Mothers Day is this Sunday, but stumbling across this ad I felt like I should put it on the blog. I have to say mom looks a bit like Don Knots, and mama Knots doesn't look too impressed with the did get more than a card, right?

The ad comes from the May 1920 issue of Florists' Review hence the emphasis on greenery. Mom expects flowers, mom should get flowers, a good child would have given flowers not just a crummy card...

Indy 500 - Views from 1925

I discovered these two illustrations of the 1925 Indy 500 in the June 1925 issue of Popular Mechanics. Interesting to note the wooden surface the cars raced on that year as shown in the bottom image.

Pete DePaolo
Pete DePaolo would go on to win the 1925 race. He had to turn his car over to a backup driver while getting his blistered fingers treated in the infield hospital. By the time he returned he'd dropped to 5th position and would have to race his way back into the lead.

DePaolo has the honor of winning the first Indy 500 where the average a speed of the participant cars was over 100 mph. He also nearly had the honor of killing Adolph Hitler in the 1934 Avus race outside of Berlin. During that race DePaolo's car threw two connecting rods which barely missed Hitler who was watching from a track side box. That definitely would have been the biggest racing achievement ever!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Indy 500 - Your Own Private Blimp?

May is the month of the blimp here in Indy, but back in 1930 Goodyear foresaw a futuristic era when we'd all hop aboard our private dirigibles for the family vacation. This ad from a 1930 issue of Boy's Life touts the company's growing fleet of airships and its usefulness as a luxurious means of long-distance transportation. Eighty four years later, in an era of airlines working on a way to charge you for the contents of your bladder, I'm not so sure the American consumer wouldn't be well served by the ability to choose LA via blimp from their list of travel options.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Indy 500 - Champion Spark Plugs (1941)

A Champion spark plug ad from 1941, in seven months Pearl Harbor would be bombed and the US would be propelled into World War II, ending competition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for five years. This is the first Champion 500 ad I've seen that breaks free of the old "all-seeing spark plug" meme.

Indy 500 - 1949 Borg Warner

Today's find, a Borg Warner ad from a 1949 issue of Time Magazine. The namesake of the Indy 500 winner's trophy manufactured automotive components including, as the ad indicates, transmissions. Curious combination of illustration and photography in this ad - not to mention an unfortunate choice of spokesperson. Mr. Allred not only looks like a weasel, but he works for a "well known" insurance company. Two strikes, buddy.

I like Allred's title, though: travelling executive. In my mind he blows into town in his '49 Plymouth, pushes his fedora back off a troubled brow, and straightens his tie as he surveys Main.

"This town could use some real exeutiving and I'm just the man to do it!"

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Foods of the 500 - Friendly Franks

With May being the month most associated with racing here in Indiana, I thought that I would use my usual Wednesday foodie slot to feature the dishes many race fans might be cooking up over at 16th and Georgetown. We start off with hot dogs or, in the parlance of this 1941 American Meat Institute ad, friendly frankfurters. I'm not sure if the whole friendly shtick owes to the looming threat of the Axis powers in Europe and the Pacific, but I guess it's better than militant, angry frankfurters. In 2001 they would have been called freedom-furters or something equally asinine, so I won't poke too much fun.

Nearly forty years after Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle and the meat packing industry still was trying to convince Americans they weren't eating the severed digits of some poor slob working nineteen-hour shifts in a Chicago weenie-skinning operation.

The weenies themselves look pretty innocuous, just like the dogs you might get out of an Oscar Meyer package today, but it's the inset that I find disturbing. Exactly what is smeared on that hot dog? I think it's supposed to be mustard, but why is it smoldering?

Indy 500 - Howard "Howdy" Wilcox 1915

Howard "Howdy" Wilcox grew up in Crawfordsville, IN and drove in his first Indy 500 at the age of 22. In 1919, after leading the race for 98 laps, Wilcox won his first and only Indy 500.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Indy 500 - Jules Goux First Frenchman to Win Indy

During my research on 500 information to post in the merry month of May, I found this little snippet of a 500 documentary covering the years 1911 to 1913. I thought it was notable that Jules Goux, winner of the 1913 race, consumed four bottles of champagne during the race. Of course the average speed of 76 mph meant the race took more than six hours to complete.

Goux had been successful in European road races, winning the Catalan Cup twice and as a part of a four-man Peugeot team he helped develop what was at the time a radically new straight four-cylinder racing engine. In 1913 Goux traveled to the United States where he became the first European and the first Frenchman to win the Indy 500. Goux managed a fourth place finish in 1914, but before he could compete again the specter of World War I intervened.

After the war Jules Goux continued racing. He won numerous European events and eventually competed in five Indy 500 races, but 1913 would remain his only win. He died in his home town of Valentigney, France in 1965 after a severe allergic reaction.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Indy 500 - The Mercer Porter-Knight

The Mercer Automobile Company intended to enter the Porter-Knight Mercedes shown here in the 1915 Indianapolis 500, however my research shows no Mercer entries competed in that race. Mercer had entered cars in previous 500's without a win, and they faced a changed race when they  attempted to qualify for the 1915 race. In 1913 the field of competitors had been reduced to the 33 as a safety precaution and, apparently, the smallish Porter-Knight didn't make the cut. It's a spunky looking little car, though. Kind of reminds me of a Model T bucket hot rods.

The Funnies - The Race

As a writer I get this one, the race between the muse and the reaper is something we're always dealing with. Seemed like an appropriate cartoon for the month of May in Indy. Clipped from the March 1911 issue of Life Magazine.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Indy 500 - 1911 McFarlan Six

Between 1909 and 1928 McFarlan built automobiles in Connersville, Indiana as an outgrowth of John B. McFarlan's Carriage Company. Alfred H. McFarlan, John's grandson conceived of and ran the McFarlan Motor Company for all 19 years of its existence.

McFarlan cars were entered into the 1911 and 1912 Indy 500 races without a win after which the company focused on luxury automobiles and McFarlans were owned by Wallace Reid, William Desmond Taylor, Fatty Arbuckle, Paul Whiteman, Jack Dempsey, and E. Lee Trinkle (governor of Virginia). Al Capone purchased one for his wife in 1924 and a second in 1926.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Mint Julep Time

Hope you're having a great Derby day and to help, here's a little recipe for the drink of the run for the roses - the mint julep. Now, I'll qualify this entry by saying I'm not a julep fan so I can't attest to whether this clipping makes a drink worth watering the horses with.

What I can say is that it comes from the July 1942 issue of Boating Magazine and (as you can see) is attributed to Holland-America ship line. Doesn't sound too southern to me.

Like many alcoholic beverages, it's virtually impossible to track down the origin of the mint julep. What can say is that it probably started as a medicinal treatment and cases can be sited where it was prescribed as a treatment for nausea and vomiting. Londoner John Davis described the mint julep in print in an 1803 publication as "a dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it, taken by Virginians in the morning..."

Indy 500 - The Year Without a 500

As you can tell from the headline, this lovely cover comes from the November 15, 1917 issue of Motor Age. Yeah, I know there have been several years when the Indianapolis 500 was cancelled and most of them have been due to wartime rationing, but I especially liked this cover. It might be because the brawny brute literally casting the wet blanket over what I believe is supposed to be the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (or maybe a surf board, not really sure) reminds me of Heatmiser from The Year Without a Santa Clause. Regardless, you can see the smoke of war rising on the horizon, a representation of World War I ravaging Europe. Nice cover, even if it's a bit crude and I love the two little fleeing race cars at the lower left. If you assume this is the 500 track they're tearing down 25th Street heading for the interstate!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Indy 500 - Louis Chevrolet's 1915 Cornelian

Louis Chevrolet, the founder of the Chevrolet car company, was born in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Canto of Neuchatel in Switzerland, but he honed his mechanical skills in Beaune, France. In 1900 he emigrated to Montreal, Quebec where he worked as a mechanic. in 1901 he moved to New York where he eventually wound up working for the French auto manufacturer de Dion-Bouton.

In 1905 Chevrolet was hired as a race car driver by FIAT. The arrangement with FIAT apparently didn't work out since a year later he was working for a Philadelphia-based company developing front-wheel-drive for automobiles, but Chevrolet's interest in racing did not wane. In 1909, Chevrolet raced for Buick, participating at the Giant's Despair Hillclimb.

On November 3, 1911 Chevrolet co-founded the Chevrolet Motor Car Company with William C. Durant (ousted founder of General Motors Company), Durant's son-in-law Dr. Edwin R. Campbell,  and William Little (maker of the Little Automobile). They established the company in Detroit  and by 1917 Durant had bought a controlling interest in General Motors and Chevrolet was folded into GM.

During this time Chevrolet continued racing and in 1915 he finished 20th in the Indianapolis 500 in the Cornelian, a car he designed with Howard E. Blood. Though it didn't win, the Cornelian has the distinction of being the only chain-driven car to compete at the Speedway. Chevrolet would go on to compete four more times in the 500, placing 7th in 1919, but failing to earn a spot on the Warner-Borg Trophy. The connection with Indianapolis continued through the family, though and Chevrolet's brothers Arthur and Gaston both competed in the race with Gaston winning in 1920.

Louis Chevrolet died in Detroit, Michigan on June 6, 1941 and is buried in Holy Cross and Saint Joseph Cemetery in Indianapolis. He's memorialized at the entrance of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame where his bronze bust greets visitors.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Maidenform's Dream

I decided this might be a good ad to run since it mentions horse racing and the Kentucky Derby is this weekend. Still, when I look at it, I have to say what the...

Okay, so I get they're going for dream-like imagery and there's that old trope of dreaming you're in some public place either nude or in your underwear. I could have settled with that - not thought it was a good ad but settled - and then I look at the creepy Nick Bottom dude looming in the background.

This woman isn't dreaming, she's having one hell of an acid trip.

Indy 500 Ad - Champion Spark Plugs

We're kicking off May's Indy 500 themed ads with this one from the folks at Champion. Champion Spark Plugs has been linked with the Indy 500 for a long time, and much of the time they've employed what I like to call the "beam me up" ad. Typically, a big alien mother ship spark plug hovers over some 500-themed scene, shooting out a power beam.

This particular example comes from the July 1947 issue of Popular Mechanics and is a little more impressionistic than what would become the typical Champion ad. I was attracted to the old-style car with its art deco lines.

Quote for May

"It’s spring fever…you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!"

- Mark Twain

Poem for May


by Sara Teasdale

The wind is tossing the lilacs,
The new leaves laugh in the sun,
And the petals fall on the orchard wall,
But for me the spring is done.

Beneath the apple blossoms
I go a wintry way,
For love that smiled in April
Is false to me in May.

Welcome to National Barbecue Month

The weather starts warming up, leaves and Indy cars return to Indianapolis, and a fellow's thoughts turn fondly to hot coals and slow-roasting meat. May is National Barbecue Month and to honor that fact I'm going to season my usual lineup of Indy 500 themed posts with a sauce of barbecue information and music. And to kick it off a little ditty called Pig's Feet and Slaw by Tiny Parham.

Parham was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and grew up in Kansas City where he worked as a pianist at The Elbon Theatre. He was mentored by ragtime pianist James Scott.  Though the entirety of Parham's catalog would easily fit on a single CD, he holds the distinction of being the only non-American to appear in cartoonist R. Crumb's trading card collection "Early Jazz Greats".