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Treasures of the Valley » Mike Lawler

Posted by on Dec 24th, 2015 and filed under Viewpoints. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Car Race Track for Kids Proposed in 1958

We’ve seen a lot of uses of Crescenta Valley Park over the years. The 32-acre oak-covered oasis regularly hosts huge community fairs, Scout camp-outs, cross-country races and birthday parties. The huge community building provides space for community meetings and classes, and two baseball diamonds have hosted generations of boy and girl ball players. Recently we’ve seen the very successful addition of a dog park and currently a skate park is under construction.

Mike Lawler is the former  president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley and loves local history. Reach him at lawlerdad@yahoo.com.

Mike Lawler is the former
president of the Historical Society
of the Crescenta Valley and loves local history. Reach him at
lawlerdad@yahoo.com.

One unusual use of the park was proposed in 1958, just after the “Hindenburg” portion of the park had been added to Crescenta Valley Regional Park. That portion to the west of Dunsmore Avenue had previously been a privately owned German-American cultural park. In the Aug. 3, 1958 issue of the Crescenta Valley Ledger, the Glendale Quarter Midget Association proposed building a car race track for kids on a section of the newly acquired Hindenberg side.

Quarter midget racing was a natural progression from the car-racing culture that had swept the nation starting in the ’30s and peaking in the ’50s and ’60s, particularly here in Southern California. Young men who had hot-rodded their cars as teenagers were now family men who wanted to pass their love of racing on to their kids. Quarter midget racing was started in the early ’50s as a venue for children’s auto racing, and it continues today. The tracks for quarter midget racing are 1/20th of a mile dirt, asphalt or cement ovals, often banked. The cars are tiny, looking like sophisticated go-karts, powered by one-cylinder two to seven horsepower engines that push the cars at speeds between 30 and 45 miles per hour. The racers themselves, both boys and girls, range in age from 5 to 16. Several famous race car drivers today got their start in quarter midget racing, including NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon, and Indy drivers Sarah Fisher, Jimmy Vasser and A. J. Foyt.

The Glendale Quarter Midget Association had actually started in the Crescenta Valley two years previously, but had moved to Glendale when no appropriate track could be located in CV. The Glendale club had created a track at the far west end of Colorado Street on the L.A. border near San Fernando Road. Their organizations had become so popular in the two years since that they needed to restrict membership, and were regularly having more that 80 racers show up at their events held each weekend and two nights a week. The spokesman for the club said that the only other track available was in San Fernando, and the Glendale club didn’t like using that track as the San Fernando group went by “hot dog rules,” allowing souped-up engines and different types of fuels. If the new track could be built in Hindenburg, the Glendale group could split and form a new association here that would encompass the entire Foothill region from Sun Valley through La Cañada.

According to the Ledger article, the new quarter midget association would be headed by Gene Henry, past president of the Glendale group, and La Cañada resident Don Webb. They were to lay out their plans for the deputy director of County Parks, the Montrose Chamber of Commerce and local residents at a big meeting. The proposal would show the track laid out at the very bottom of the park, against the mountains, and as far away from residences as possible. The promoters of the proposal acknowledged that the track would probably face opposition from neighbors.

Well, they were right, as that’s the last we read of their proposal. It makes sense that the neighbors would oppose the idea as they had just seen the exit of the German-American League from Hindenburg Park. The park had seen thousands of visitors each weekend since the 1930s under the ownership of the German-American League, and the valley had vibrated to the sound of oom-pah bands at the weekly gatherings. The neighbors weren’t likely to be amenable to replacing that sound with the even louder sound of hundreds of un-muffled race cars.

Just another interesting “could-a-been” in the Valley’s history.

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