Rushville Republican

June 6, 2013

Ward: Remembering our trips to the Indy 500

Bill Ward
Rushville Republican

RUSHVILLE — Memorial Day has come and gone. The race has been run and the winner has managed to win over $2 million. The track is as closemouthed as ever about the number of spectators, but that is their business and no one else’s. I remember that the race was televised on Channel 6 for two years when television was new and looking for programming. Then the track decided that was costing them admission fees so that stopped for a time. I really enjoyed the televised race, although at times I sort of got lost between turn one and four.

My first 500 Mile Race was in 1963. A good friend and I had just graduated from college and this was my friend’s sister’s present to us, a ticket to the 500. I had been hired by Sears in Omaha and knew I had a job. Mike was going back to get his Master’s as he wanted to be a teacher and even then a Master’s was fast becoming a requirement. Mike had lived in Indy for many years and so knew ways to get to the track better than most. We took a huge cooler (try that today) and had enough beer and food for the race, which was longer then than now. Mike’s sister worked for Mercury Engineering and they would purchase a block of tickets on the straight-a-way right across from pit row and behind the flag person. I suspect Prudence got her tickets pretty cheap, if not free.

In later years, when my cotton batting plant was associated with Foam Craft out of Indianapolis, I again found myself going to the race, for free. Foam Craft would buy 125 tickets in turn four and have customers come to the race. They also rented a huge RV and had it parked under the seats on turn four close to where their seats were. They also supplied food, booze and toilet facilities in the RV. I never did figure out how 125 people could use the toilets in an RV for a length of time. Guess they had managed to figure that out. My wife and I were there to assist with the festivities so it was sort of mandatory for us to go.

By this time our children were older and still enjoyed camping so we would take our motor home to Greenfield to a campground we knew and liked. We would get set up and have my wife’s parents there or her sister and family while we went to the race. This satisfied the children and gave us a sense of safety. This went on for two years and for some silly reason both years got rained out or were elongated because of rain. And I managed to scare the daylights out of my wife at least once.

Seems we parked in the Coca Cola lot and had no problem getting in. After the race was over and it had rained some things got a tad dicey. Where we were parked was not far from a long, muddy road that went up a rather long and muddy ramp to a city street so one could head home. Many had tried to get up that ramp and none had made it, primarily because they just did not get a good run up. One enterprising individual managed to get his wife in the road on top of the ramp and stop traffic so he could get a run up and make it out of the parking area. Well, he did not manage to get out and I saw my chance. I got going rather rapidly and hit the ramp. I whizzed up that mud ramp and scared my wife and the lady in the street to death. The street gal jumped out of the way and yelled at me. I often wonder just what she yelled, but possibly it is better I don’t know. My wife was not ready for my maneuver and to say it surprised her would be putting it mildly.

We got up out of the Coke lot and were headed home. Patty decided she has to use the rest room. Now, when your in a  car on a street side to side  what do you do? I noticed a fire station with numerous firemen outside laughing at the idiots out on the road. I suggested she try there and she did. Guess this was not at all something that was new and so they allowed her to use their facilities. I, of course, had to remain on the street and continue on toward our camper. I got rather worried when we were almost a block away from the fire station and still no Patty. I finally noticed her hustling along looking for us. She found the car, got in, gave me a lecture on my driving and sulked all the way to the camper.

Funny thing about that, it was the last time we went to the 500. Guess I was too enthusiastic for her!