Saturday, May 9, 2015

Indy 500 - Racing Days with Hub Capp (1949)

Sometimes you teeter on the edge of the larger world, tilting toward the vastness that is wider acclaim and then swaying back toward the warm confines of virtual anonymity. The best I can figure, Tom Ward experienced just that sort of career. He was an artist and cartoonist from the tiny south-eastern Indiana berg of Aurora, a quiet community nestled into a bend in the Ohio River closer to Cincinnati, OH and Louisville, KY than the state capitol and in March of 1949 when the story of his creation of the comic strip Hub Capp garnered a page in Boy's Life. According to the article, Ward wanted to become a race car driver and even worked in his father's auto garage, but eventually settled for penning a racing-based strip.

Just missing the draft and World War II, Ward attended the Cincinnati School of Art and eventually found his way to then Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Wilbur Shaw's desk seeking access to Gasoline Alley its driver and mechanic inhabitants. Cotton Henning and George Connor granted Ward access and, like many drivers and mechanics of that era, the cartoonist moved in as a boarder with a Speedway family.

The Boy's Life column goes on about the people Ward met in his season at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, nailing the life and lingo of the drivers and mechanics. On April 10, 1950 Racing Days with Hub Capp was copyrighted to appear in The Indianapolis Times, from there the racer disappears in a cloud of smoke and dust. How long the strip ran is a mystery, at least as far as the internet is concerned. I'll have to do more digging to find out the facts, maybe the library has a trove of Hub Capp to be delved into. Perhaps fodder for another racing season?

What I learned from the piece, though, is the value of hard work. Now it's easy to sit at a keyboard and punch in Google searches for this or that, it's even easy to start thinking of yourself as fairly well versed. I don't know, maybe we've entered an age where close is good enough, but do you ever find yourself asking if cops really talk the way they do on television? Do you ever wonder if there's more to the 1930's than bootleggers, gangsters, and breadlines? Nothing beats in person research. Getting out and doing the footwork, talking to real people who have lived the life you want to write about, can open new vistas and even teach you more than the lingo. It can let you into the psyche of your characters and point you in new directions. But we're talking racing, not writing, aren't we...

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