The Post-Journal - Silver
by Doc Hamels
Dirt and Emotion
Every once in a while I have an experience or I’m exposed to some new information for which I grow curious! As many of you may know I host and produce a weekly cable TV show on Access 5 called “Chautauqua Sunrise.” Since the new year I have had two shows that involve sports related topics.
During the first of two shows I had the pleasure to talk with Randy Anderson, Greg Peterson and Randy Sweeney. I suspect many of you know who these gents are. They had asked to be on my show to discuss something that I knew nothing about – dirt track racing. I’m guessing some of you may know a lot more about this than me if you were raised here in Chautauqua County since birth. (I started out in Buffalo till I was 21 before moving here so I missed this very fascinating era of racing.) Before they came on the show I was pondering how I could fill a 38 minute segment. Boy, oh boy, that was not a problem at all!
Many folks I know are very passionate about sports, music, politics, family, etc. These men are passionate about dirt track racing. They told me that there were 19 dirt race tracks in Chautauqua County. How could this be? Back in the 50s and very early 60s this type of racing was very basic and was part of folks’ weekly family entertainment. Often “dad” would pull the car up to the rim of the race track and the kiddies would sit on the front hood cheering for their favorite jalopy driver. They tell me that a jalopy was basically any car that came out of the junk yard or was in the garage that could move! No special paint jobs of flashy jump suits. Engines that were tweaked, of course, and just an all American determination and grit to have the fastest car that week were required. America seems to have been in love with fast cars since the first horseless carriage hit the muddy streets.
The important part of all this is that they are requesting any and all memorabilia associated with dirt track racing. They will make copies of what you have and return the artifacts to you. They would love to do interviews and so on. Become part of the county’s racing history. Somewhere in your attic or photo albums one or more of you have cool memories. Contact Randy Anderson down at the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame or call him at 484-2272 or drop by 15 W. Third St., Jamestown. They seem to have a special fervor for the Coon Road dirt track in the back hills of Westfield.
Later on in January, Randy Anderson, President of the CSHOF, joined me again. I must tell you if you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Randy, it’s electrifying, especially at 8:30 in the morning while I’m getting ready to go on the air. I think he mixes jet fuel in his coffee. He is energized and wants to talk sports all day long!
I mentioned passion earlier; I suspect that is his middle name. Such fun listening to his involvement with the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame. Another topic that I really didn’t know much about. After the show, I had to do a little reflection of why so many people love sports. I have had an ongoing love of football since junior high school and enjoyed little league baseball. My dads baptized me into loving the Buffalo Sabres unconditionally. I guess coming from a large city like Buffalo, it’s easy to get swept up into the “fever.” We don’t have such a large population as many other locations but the fervor is no less. After I was able to de-vibe from Randy’s appearance I found my way to the hall of fame this past week. When you first see it, it sort of looks like a bookstore, I guess. Then you open the door, wowza! You can’t help but be mesmerized by the athletes staring back at you who have been inducted into the hall over the past 30 plus years. Nearly 200! Faces of people who lived long before my time and faces of people who I know right now were in places of honor. On a light note, I worked with a fella who I used to think was just pulling my leg about competing at a state level tournament as an adult in javelin and discuss. Lo and behold. I looked up and there were all of his gold medals hanging off his javelin! Who knew?
So as I looked around, I’m thinking well this is nice to see the inductees’ pictures, and then Randy takes me to another room. What? Wait a minute! Ice skates, a motorcycle, a world champion soap box derby race car, baseball/softball bats and balls, footballs, trophies galore, race car memorabilia and so much more than I have space to record. All from fellow residents of our county. Very cool indeed. Then he takes me to yet another area where they are going to expand even more. It’s a sports maze.
The question beckons yet, why do we love sports? I think in part that it pushes the American spirit to excel. To master a technique or series of physical competencies. It often requires teamwork and camaraderie. One can experience a sense of accomplishment. When we see the various artifacts it can bring us back to another time. Perhaps a more innocent time in our lives or a time that is wrought with challenges that were overcome. Regardless, sports invoke emotion. I can’t tell you now but Randy and I are working on a very dear project that will invoke fond memories, hopefully for some of you as well. Stay tuned!