March 12, 2012
One of the most popular pages on MEADOR.ORG is the one about the Pathfinder Parkway. Today I received an interesting comment from Bob Curtis:
Hopefully you can help me out. Back in the 50′s/60′s, was there a large asphalt race track located between Tuxedo Ave and Frank Phillips Ave, just about where the orchard is located? I have asked many people about this about this and have always got a no, but I could have sworn that my Dad took me by there one time when I was a kid and showed me it. I believe he said it was not used very often.
Occasionally I get very specific questions generated by my Bartlesville history pages, but often they are about specific people whom I cannot possibly trace down. But occasionally one of my Bartlesville history books will cough up a clue. The above question seemed answerable by using old maps and aerial photographs, so I took the bait.
First I went to the USGS Store’s interactive map and found the 1971 topographic map for Bartlesville. It did not show anything but the orchard between Frank Phillips and Tuxedo, but it did indicate a small oval track north of Tuxedo, located between the sewer plant and the cement plant. (You can click any of the images in this post to enlarge them to their full scale.)
Could that be what Mr. Curtis was recalling? I needed some photography to check that out. My next stop was the USGS Earth Explorer where I zeroed in on the same area looking for old aerial photographs. This was more difficult, but I did find imagery of the area from 1954 and 1971. Here’s the area in 1954:
So in 1954 there was definitely no race track anywhere around there. Instead of an orchard and Blazer ball fields, there was just a farm field. But in 1971 there definitely was some sort of oval track just west of the cement plant:
That’s not a huge track, but it is about half a city block in length and bigger than a baseball field. So to a kid 50 years ago it probably seemed much larger than it looks here. Here’s a zoom in on it:
Hmmm. Perhaps bleachers on either side? Now here’s the same area today:
So the area in question is still a clear space, with visible tracks, surrounded by the Pathfinder on the north, the house and field where the horse lives on the west (with the sewage plant farther west of that), the cement plant on the east, and Automasters to the south. I suspect Automasters takes cycles or other vehicles out for a spin on that land.
Here’s a big zoom of the area, showing that the oval thing-a-ma-bob was located just south and east of my favorite bench on the Pathfinder, where I like to sun myself and watch the horse that lives just south and west of there.
So I think there was indeed some sort of track there at one time and that is probably what Mr. Curtis recalls from his childhood. I’ll encourage him to go inquire about it at Automasters…they may know something about it. I’m impressed once again by what one can find on the internet if you know where and how to look.
3/15/2012 UPDATE: Patrick Yokley’s father confirms this was a Micro Midget racetrack:
Bartlesville Micro Midget Racers Association was organized in Sept. 1958.
President Johnny Pearson, Kenneth Coonfield
Vice President, Donna Fox Secetary
Treasurer, Lew Fesserman
Business Manager/Promoter and Kenneth Tate Trace
Supervisor/Flagman + a membership of 25 people.
Other members were Jim Clause, Paul Fox, Johnny Hankins, Johnny Sawyer, Curtis Wilkerson, G.B. Brown Jr., Bob Milton, Francis Rourke, Buddy Small, Roy Putman, Jim Cable, Dee Strum, Walt Thompson, Clinton Clopp, Mary Alice Pearson, Virginia Hankins, Kenneth Roland, Eddie Coonfield, Tommy Fresserman, D.C. McKibbin, Tom Carman and Marvin Schaal.
Quarter Midget racing for children was added later. The inter-club competition heats were held on Sundays at the track at the north end of Quapaw. The local track was constructed in 1960 and named “Phillips 66 Speedway”. I do not know what was used prior to this date. I assume they went to other tracks until they could afford to build one.
The track was 1/8th mile oval with medium banks. The long dimension ran north and south. The track was asphalt with concrete and wooden bleachers. The facility had a concession stand, parts and repair services, press facilities, and complete medical facilities manned by two local doctors, Dr. Elvin M. Amen and Dr. Merle D. Fox.
The opening race was on Friday Aug. 21, 1960. It was quite an event. The most well-known entry was Marty Robbins from Nashville, Tenn. Yes, the country and western singer. On Saturday he was leading the race when he was involved in a crash. He was not hurt nor were the other two drivers. Kenneth Coonfield won the race in the twin-cylinder Konigs class.
Even with the low banking, the racers reached speeds of 60 mph in the straight-a-ways and 30 to 40 on the curves. These cars had 19 to 23 cubic inch engines and weighed 320 pounds. The cars cost $400 to $500 to build.
There was an International Championship race held on Aug 19, 1961 with some 150 racers. The prize purse for the event amounted to a whopping $1,500 total. It made it into the major Oklahoma newspapers.
3/18/2012 UPDATE: I walked the Pathfinder a few days after this post to locate what remains of the speedway. The asphalt track is entirely gone, with just a bit of concrete poking through the overgrowth in one area and then there are the overgrown remains of the west and east stands.
This post continues to get traffic, and Rich Scaler has kindly shared some great photos he found in a garage sale.