Southern Penna. Historic Auto Racing Commission
2nd Quarter 2023
No one ever said this would be easy, and as we have learned the task of raising a large sum of money to build a structure is daunting. But we’re not folding our tent, instead we’re using the facility we already own. The Museum Board made the decision at the end of 2022 to close the mini-museum store on Richard St. in Bedford. We benefited from the exposure with our name on a permanent storefront in downtown Bedford, but unfortunately it did not lead to any substantial revenue sources that we sought. However, we thoroughly enjoyed each and every diehard race fan and casual visitor that stopped in our store. In addition, the support we received from the Chamber of Commerce and the intown Businesses has kept us inspired as we continue to maintain a positive outlook for the future. I’ve stressed before that this Museum is not about us, but instead the essence of our mission is to celebrate the thousands of race related participants in our region that pioneered the sport, and at the same time recognize the tracks they made famous. Many of those tracks were closed for one reason or another and unfortunately no longer exist, except for the memories.
The Board Members are turning their immediate attention to our facilities at 232 Mann St. in the Orchard Hts. section of Bedford, a property we already own. The former Gus Frear shop has served as our meeting room and memorabilia storage site for the collections we have received. Thanks primarily to Board Member Don Metzler, the garage room was cleaned, organized, and upgraded with new lights and paint to accommodate our needs at that time. However, we now plan on refurbishing the building in order to exhibit items both for display and to sell. This room, although not huge, also presents the possibility of conducting a seminar or round table discussion for groups of up to 40 people. The former large machine shop is presently utilized for storing vehicles, including several vintage race cars. We have discussed enclosing the corridor between the two buildings which would permit direct access and open up possibilities using both buildings simultaneously. A year ago, once again thanks to Don, a new metal roof was installed on the large machine shop. Consequently, now additional upgrades to this building are structurally feasible. We are only beginning this phase of our journey; in fact, the project is still in the discussion stage. The fact we own these buildings makes good business sense to improve these facilities and establish a home for the Southern Pennsylvania Historical Auto Racing Commission at the present time. We’ll keep you updated as plans develop.
Our web page, (Museum of Speed at Bedford), has gone through a major face lift. We plan on keeping the new look fresh and up to date, something we were unable to accomplish on the old site. One of our main objectives is to sell some of our nostalgic merchandise online, such as photos, hats, shirts, collectable scale models, etc. We should now be able to control this media information outlet more efficiently in the future.
This winter we acquired the Frank Dunkle racing collection in Everett, consisting of a large assortment of NASCAR memorabilia. Frank was a lifelong racing participant and fan beginning in 1955 when the South Penn Speedway in his hometown was built by Jack Sponslor. Frank was primarily responsible for writing the first rule book for the track while also playing a major role in forming the Hobby Auto Racing Association who operated the track’s weekly events. A consistent driver, Frank finished in the top 10 in points 7 out of 8 years racing at Everett’s ¼ mile oval. After taking time off for business reasons he returned to the tracks driving his familiar #98 in the dwarf car division. Frank was a winner both on and off the racetracks, and we are honored to own his collection.
One memorable visitor we had in our Richard St. store this winter was Roger Johnson from Ligonier. He confirmed an event at the Bedford fairgrounds from 60 years ago that I vividly recalled despite only being 12 years old. Roger and his dad Kenneth were sitting up on the hill in turn 4 during a 200 lap October modified race sanctioned by NASCAR and promoted by fame race Director Sam Nunis. In the late stages of the race a wheel came off of car #145 as he negotiated the south end of the speedway. With no wall or fence to intercept the errant missile the tire bounced up the steep shale bank gaining momentum while heading directly for the Johnsons. As the tire cleared the cliff Kenneth dove on his 9 year old son, Roger, to shield him from the direct impact. Roger was spared from serious injury; however, his Dad took the brunt of the blow causing the impact to shatter his leg. His injury required an extended hospital stay while the healing process took 9 full months before Kenneth could return to work. In order to generate some family income Mrs. Johnson turned to racing and began creating beautiful images of the race cars the top competitors drove on the Penn Western Racing Association circuit. And Roger, who avoided disaster because of his Dad’s sacrifice, received only some brush burns and was able to return to school the next day with one heck of a story. Over the years others claimed to be the one at the center of this story, but without a doubt when 68 year old Roger Johnson began disclosing his story I knew it was a firsthand account.
Check out our contact information to make comments, suggestions, share stories, volunteer for events, or just to say hello. Till next time……………..