next in the series
"On Fraser Raceways 1/24th track, she blows a lot of guys off," Bill Eisenson said to me. We
were watching Bill's wife, Cheryl, running his 1/32nd Lola around the SVMRC track. She'd
only done three laps and was still having trouble with some of the corners.
The green Lola failed to make the hairpin at the end of the straight, spun, and flopped over
onto its roof against the guard fence right in front of us.
"She doesn't have the finesse thing down yet for 1/32nd," he said, leaning over the track to
retrieve the car. He held it in front of him and checked the tires. It looked like his lower lip was
pouting as he studied the bottom of the Lola.
"Brakes, hon," he said, as if he was talking to the car instead of his wife. He placed the car in the slot of the yellow
lane and looked up. Cheryl gave him a tight smile and switched her attention to the Lola as
she fed it power through her hand controller.
"Don't talk about me like I'm not here," she said. The car sped down out of the uphill sweeper
and into the esses.
She was getting better with every lap, which was a good sign. I could tell that she was already
more than good enough to contest the Powder Puff trophy at the upcoming Richmond GP in
The Lola flew down the fifteen foot straight, braked smartly and powered through the hairpin
turn and under the overpass into the uphill sweeper. Bill had a self-satisfied grin on his face.
"I'm building her her own car," he announced. "I got an old Cox TT500 from my Ford GT I'm
gonna rewind with #32 wire and stick it in an old Dynamic chassis. She picked out a clear
"Jeez. That sounds like an awful lot of car," I said. Bill was the kind of guy who liked to have
fire in the belly of every car he owned. I wasn't sure this was the best way for Cheryl to go but
who was I to say?
"That's my #31 wind Russkit she's using," he said.
"Jeez," I said again. And she isn't doing bad, I thought to myself. If she could keep it on the
track and put in some good quarters, it might just be an interesting Powder Puff at the Richmond
race. Gay Woodbody had pretty much had things her own way for the last couple of years now,
which made for an interesting contrast because her husband, Bob, was notoriously famous for
having never won a big race. All of the trophies on the mantle of their home were Gay's.
Remember, Bob's the guy who liked to run his trademark rewound Varney motors for some
unknown reason. Varneys had a habit of overheating and melting commutators even in their
stock form. Bob's rewinds were usually good for a heat or two but eventually the inevitable
caught up with the old train motors and they grenaded with regularity.
"I think," said Cheryl. "I like this better than your track, Bill." This was in reference to Fraser
Raceways which Bill managed on evening shift. "It's more of a challenge," she added. "I really
like this." The Lola was going faster and faster every lap.
Just then the basement door opened and Gordie Parch and Del Prutton came in. Both of them
looked confused at seeing Cheryl at the driver's stations.
"Hey, Gord," I said. He looked like he needed some kind of explanation. Del grinned and
placed his race case on the bench beside the power console.
"Bill stopped by to let his wife try out the track before the club meeting." I added.
He nodded and went to join Del.
"I got a name," Cheryl said. She didn't hesitate or take her eyes off the car.
"Cheryl," I said, sheepishly. Beautiful women tend to intimidate me.
I wasn't sure I understood the guys' concern. Even though Bill wasn't technically a member of
the South Vancouver Model Racing Club, he frequently showed up for Thursday night meetings.
I could only assume it must have been Cheryl that was bothering them.
Dave Craster and Tony Lai walked in. Dave, too, appeared startled. He frowned at Bill, and
then Cheryl, too, proving he was indeed an equal opportunity grump. I knew there wasn't any
love lost between Dave and Bill. Dave had a thing about 1/24th cars and the people who raced
them and of course the larger scale was Bill's real passion. He happened to be a damn good
1/32nd racer, too, which may have added to Craster's dislike. . . jealousy might be more like it.
"I guess we oughta pack up and get outa your way here," Bill said. "We better call it a night,
hon." he said to Cheryl. She stopped the car on the straight and handed the controller to her
"Sure," she said, with a toss of her head. She ran her fingers through her hair to remove stray
curls from her face. Cheryl really was a damned fine looking woman and more than once I
wondered why she'd hooked up with a plain vanilla guy like Bill Eisonsen. No accounting.
"Can we run?" Dave said. He was standing at the far end of the track with a car and controller
in his hands, waiting for Bill and Cheryl to come out. It was a little narrow between the back
wall and the stations. "Did we need reservations?"
I thought that was uncalled for. I guess Bill did, too because he stopped in front of Dave and
looked him straight in the eye.
"S'all yours, Dave," he said. "Cheryl warmed it up for you."
Craster turned away and made a raspberry sound with his lips. "Ya know, Dave," Bill said. "If you don't like
somebody, you should look him in the eye and tell him so. You notice the way I just did to you?"
Dave ignored him.
Each October, just before Hallowe'en, the SVMRC held an invitational inter-club race meet
called The Fall Classic. I suspect we stole that from a race horse event of the same name but I'm
not sure and it doesn't matter anyway.
The selection process of the 'invitational' part usually saw an ad hoc committee sitting around
a few beers at the Eldorado Hotel on Kingsway. In this case that 'committee' consisted of Del
Prutton and Gordie Parch, best friends that were as unalike as possible. Del was outgoing and
gregarious; he always got the joke no matter how obscure . . .
Gord was shy to the point that he would blush if you spoke to him even though he'd known you for
several years; we'd never seen Gord speaking with a girl. Bob Woodbody and Totman Harding were
there, too, and of course, myself.
The first few names were the easiest. We wanted all the fastest guys from each club. No one
had ever turned down an invitation, they were so hard to come by.
Ace Newsome and Tom Diggery, both from Haida Circuit were a unanimous choice right
away quick. Same for Gil Babbit, Rob Tightley and Sonny Chin from the Richmond bunch. Dick
Craster got in simply because he insisted his Coquitlam club was not defunct (as we all
knew it was) and he was the sole rep left on the roster. Bill Eisonsen and the other Bill,
McCormick, were added to a scribbled list which I was attempting to keep out of the spilled
beer and write on at the same time. Who made me secretary? It seemed I always did the
The two Bills because we always liked to have the fastest from each of the 1/24th
commercial tracks. Eisonsen from Fraser and McCormick from Grand Prix Raceways. We would have included
someone from Ernie Holland's East Burnaby location as well but no one could come up
with a name. I made a note to drop in on Ernie and see if he could suggest a hotshoe from his track.
"We can't leave it up in the air," Bob said. "Ask him about next time." I could see the wisdom
in that. We needed entries, not a list of possibilities.
"Those two guys from Burnaby/New West," Totman offered. "Ivan and Bryan, I forget their last names."
"Yeah! They were fast at the PNE" said Del. "Clarke Park, too. Tony told me they might be
finding a new home for their track."
"He's been saying that for months," Bob said. "Thought he joined us?"
"Makes eleven," Gordie said, blushing. "So . . ."
"And us five!" said Totman. Well, anyway, the four of them, I thought, and then couldn't
think of anyone else who could take my place if I turned it down. I wasn't the fastest in the
SVMRC but I was sure I was fifth fastest . . . and could win the odd race when someone else had
That would round things out to four heats in all three classes, Sports, GT and Formula I. It only
left the Powder Puff. There weren't enough girls to allow one from each to be selected so we
would have to do our best. Gay Woodbody was a shoo-in for the SVMRC, and of course Jillian
Rhuyter from Richmond. But then we were stuck. My wife liked to race but our second child
was due soon and she had told me earlier not to put her name forward.
"Whatsername? Ace's wife from Haida Circuit?" Totman said.
Del raised his eyebrows and gave a silent whistle.
"I dunno," I said. "Ida? Heidi? Sumpn' like that."
"Down boy," Totman said to Del. Ace's wife was a fine-looking woman. Del had a 'cat that
ate the canary' look on his face.
"You talked to Ace?" I said to Totman.
"He said she'd like to try," he replied.
"All in favour!" Del said. It was more a statement than a question. Gordie frowned.
I thought it was time to bring it up.
"Cheryl Eisonsen," I said. "Bill told me she'd like to enter if there's a place."
"Is she fast?" Totman said. We all looked at him . . . like we had a lot of choice. "I mean
relatively," he added, abashed.
"All in favour," Del said again. Again it wasn't a question.
There were no nays and it was assumed by all that we had our four girls for the Powder Puff.
"Gay, Jillian, Cheryl and whatsername," Bob said, raising his glass. The amber liquid gleamed
in the lights of the bar.
From such innocent beginnings, who would have suspected?
Hallowe'en was on Tuesday night. That Saturday before, at 1PM in the afternoon, the Fall
Classic began quietly. It was not to end that way.
Now the nice thing about having the track in my in-laws' basement was that the entry door led
out into their back garden. The day was mild and a low autumn sun was proving that late
October is still warm in Canada, at least here on the west coast.
We set up lawn chairs and small fold-out tables. Those who were not in a qualifying heat or had
not been conscripted as corner marshals, along with the girl friends, wives and kids of the
entrants, sat and visited outside during the running of the heats.
Four heat races, sixteen guys, were run in each class. The winner of each heat went on to the
class final. It made for sixteen races in total, twelve heats, the Powder Puff followed by three
finals. The novelty class was skipped for the Fall Classic so there would be no Volkswagen race
or motorized hot dogs complete with mustard. Some would miss that; I wasn't one of them.
After the GT heats we found Ace, Gordie, Gil Babbit and Bob Woodbody in that final. Bob
was some excited about his rewound Varney finishing a four-lane heat, never mind winning. If it
had been me, I would have been changing that Varney motor for the final, no matter how bullet-
proof it had proved to be in the heat. But Bob raced on faith, not common sense . . . and don't
get me wrong - Bob is my best friend. It's that never say die attitude of his that appeals to my
nature. Go figure.
Formula I saw Del, Bill Eisonsen, Rob Tightley and myself in the final. No one was more
surprised than me at my winning a four-lane heat over guys like Ace, the other Bill, and Tony
Lai. I was gonna have to find some time to tune the Honda up before the final but that was still
over an hour away.
Sports qualifying was next up and the first heat was a surprise. Dick Craster won it by .2 of a
lap. I've said before that he was a good driver and can be fast given a quick car. But his strength
lay in concours, not in the building of fast cars. For once he'd put a new motor in his Cobra-
Ford, added silicone slicks (a thing he'd sworn he'd never do!) and the little blue car eked out a
narrow victory on our 42' track. He'd actually won by just under 48 inches after three lane
changes. I would have been happy for him if he hadn't been so damn arrogant about the win . . .
you know how some guys go on and on instead of letting their racing do the talking? I found his
joy annoying. Maybe it's just me . . .
Ace topped the second heat, putting him in two finals, the only one to do that in this Fall
Classic. Totman, holding up the honour of the SVMRC, won heat #3 handily and then four guys
came out to line up for the last qualifying heat race of the day.
It was 5PM and some of the wives were wondering when it was going to be over. Bill Eisonsen
had drawn heat #4 against Ivan Craley, Tom Diggery, and Rob Tightley.
Everyone was allowed five laps warm-up before each heat and it was while cutting a few hot
laps in the yellow lane that Bill's Lola stripped its pinion coming out onto the straight. It didn't
look good. Bill had no time to swap motors and he wasn't allowed to change cars after practice.
It looked like a three car race when Bill looked up from uselessly spinning the wheels on the
"I can't change cars," he said. "But Cheryl can take my place, can't she? The heat hasn't
We all of us looked at each other. Then a voice came from the
far end of the straight down by the hairpin.
"But . . . she's in the Powder Puff." It was Gordie.
"And you're in three classes, right?" Bill said. "What's the big deal? She can use the practice.
You guys afraid you'll get beat?"
Besides Bill, I was the only one who had seen Cheryl run hot laps. She was good enough to
win the Powder Puff for sure, though that was yet to be determined, and she might be able to
beat some of our other club members, the ones who weren't so fast but always showed up for
races like the Classic to pitch in as corner marshals and watch the fast guys burn up the track
like they'd never be able to do themselves. In my opinion she was out of her class against the
three guys standing waiting at the controller stations. Three cars seemed to be waiting
expectantly at the starting line.
Like always, everyone turned to look at me sitting at the power console. Jeez, roped into Track
Steward again, I thought. Why do these things happen on my shift?
"I don't know any rules against it," I said with a slight hesitation in my voice. "She is
technically entered for the meet though we haven't seen her car for scrutineering." (we didn't
usually scrutineer the Powder Puff cars) "Bill seems to have dropped out of the heat and we have
an empty lane." I looked at Bill.
"What about Gay?" It was Bob's voice. I'd forgotten his wife had just as much right as Cheryl
did to fill the empty slot.
"Let's ask the girls," I said.
Someone opened the basement door and called all four girls. Dick Craster came in right behind
them. He'd been sitting out in the evening garden waiting for his final.
"What's going on?" he said.
"I want to talk to the girls, Dick," I said.
"Damned Race Stewards," he mumbled, loudly enough for all to hear. I ignored him.
"Bill's dropped out of the last heat," I said to the four girls. "He has suggested his wife be
allowed to take his place. Anybody else interested as well?"
Gay seemed to think hard about it but shook her head. Jillian Rhuyter looked like she was
ready to give it a try but when she looked at the three guys waiting, she made up her mind
quickly, albeit, I thought, a little reluctantly.
"Pass," she said.
"Me, too," Ace's wife said. Meina, that was her name.
"What the hell?" Dick Craster said.
"Dick?" I said. "Unless I'm talking to you . . .?"
"Let's get on with it," he growled. Always had to have the last word, I thought.
"You've got her car, Bill?" I said.
"Don't talk about me like I'm not here," Cheryl said. "I've got the car."
She reached over and placed a very pink Ferrari in the yellow lane. I heard Dick snicker.
"Hey!" Tom said. He was in the yellow lane.
"Power's off," I said to him.
We scrutineered the pink Ferrari. I didn't expect it would have any problems and I was right.
Bill was a savvy guy and knew how to build a 1/32nd car to scale.
Bill put his wife's car in the blue lane, plugged his Cox controller into the blue trackside pad
and stepped aside to let Cheryl take her place at the station.
"Rest of you guys hold it," I said. "She gets five laps warm-up."
Cheryl punched the controller and the Ferrari thumped the wall at the end of the straight. Not a
good beginning. The rest of the lap was slow but uneventful. Dick Craster seemed to have lost
interest in the proceedings after seeing her car crash into the wall.
After five laps I turned off the power and Bill lined Cheryl's Ferrari up beside the other three
cars. I flipped the Power On switch for the first three minute quarter and all four cars raced for
the hairpin corner. Cheryl was last coming out but not all that far behind. She lost a little more
time through the uphill sweeper, only a couple of feet but that was going to add up over a twelve
I killed the power after three minutes. The four cars were separated by about ten feet first to
last. Tom Diggery was in the lead in the yellow lane by about four feet over Rob Tightley.
Cheryl was in last place, a few feet behind Ivan's McLaren. She was really doing pretty good
considering the competition but now her car was put into the dreaded red inside lane. This would
be her biggest test. To the surprise of all of us the pink car was only a quarter of a lap behind
Tom's red Ferrari at the end of the second stint.
Let's make a long story short. Tom's motor blew on the straight. Not so much blew as slowed
to a smoking crawl until it resembled a steaming snail. Rob had a wheel roll off under the
overpass and the marshal fished out the car but had trouble finding the wheel as the other two
cars sped through every few seconds. End of Rob. Still, Ivan, in the green lane, had a good lead
over Cheryl at the start of the final quarter. She was now in the yellow, acknowledged by most as
arguably the fastest lane.
Then suddenly, near the end of the quarter, Ivan's McLaren seemed not to brake at the end of
the straight and hit the end wall a good wallop. By the time he'd been marshalled Cheryl's pink
Ferrari was right behind. Ivan seemed to keep a good steady pace but the pink car passed him in
the decreasing radius corner, swept around the last turn and lead the McLaren across the finish
just before the power went off.
Cheryl was in the final of the Sports of the SVMRC Fall Classic. It was a popular victory. The
only one not happy was Dick Craster which was after all to be expected.
After a five minute break the Powder Puff was run and Cheryl ran off and hid from the other
three. To her credit, Gay was as excited for Cheryl as Cheryl was herself and was the first to
congratulate her at the end of the race. Two popular victories in one day. Could she pull out a
miracle in the Sports final? Didn't seem likely . . . I figured she'd reached the end.
As I predicted, Bob's Varney blew in the GT final. He never got out of last place so it wasn't
ever going to win a quarter never mind the whole magilla. Ace won nicely, pacing himself over
the last quarter in the red lane. He grinned widely and got a big hug from Meina who had
finished last in the Powder Puff.
The Formula I was all Bill Eisonsen. Again, as I predicted, I was last. Didn't disgrace myself
but proved to one and all that I was a fourth place driver, steady but fourth place. Hey! I had fun!
So the last race of the meeting was the Sports, an event for open-topped cars. Dave Craster
started in the red lane which, if he wasn't already in a bad mood being in a final with a girl,
really pushed him over the edge. Luck of the draw and all that.
Ace began in the green; Totman in the yellow and Cheryl in the blue outside lane. I figured with
Dave starting in the red she had an outside chance of at least beating him in the first quarter.
It wasn't much to expect but it was enough if it actually happened.
Power on saw Ace jump out into a lead which he held nicely until the end of the seven minute
quarter. Dick and Cheryl diced together throughout the whole section. She turned out to be at
least a match for him as long as he was in the notorious slow lane. Trouble being she was now in
the red lane herself for quarter two. She turned out to be up for that, too. You could tell Dave
was losing his cool having to race beside a pink Ferrari. I'm sure it offended his sensibilities on
several fronts. One, it was a girl wielding the controller of the car that wasn't losing as much
ground to him as he had hoped it would. Two, having to race beside a for gawd's sake pink
Ferrari was by itself upsetting. Three, everyone at trackside (and everybody had moved indoors
by now to watch the final) was cheering Cheryl on and, in the process, good naturedly ribbing
Dick. It was a bit of good old fashioned hazing but nothing mean or out of hand or I, still yer
trusty Track Steward, would have stopped it.
Third quarter. Cheryl moved into the yellow lane and Dick into the green. Now they were side
by side at least in theory though separated by a couple of feet on the track. Dick had about a half
section lead, twenty inches or so. It looked closer than it was cause the two cars seemed evenly
matched and if they both drove well Dick should eke out a couple more feet in the green.
The mistake, when it came, was Dick's. His car had seemed solid all around the track except
for the esses after the downhill sweeper. A little too much power and not enough finesse and the
car slowly but gracefully popped out of the slot and coasted to a halt straddling the yellow lane.
Dick screamed at Tony Lai who was marshalling the esses. Tony was reaching for the car
when the pink Ferrari hit it a resounding whack and sent the Cobra-Ford skittering down the
track out of Tony's reach. Cheryl's car continued on as if nothing had happened. A bit of a
miracle in my opinion, considering. Now Dick's car was in the territory of Bob Woodbody who was
tending the left hander following the esses. He was not ready for a spinning car to
appear out of nowhere behind him and jumped when Dick screamed his name. If Bob seemed to take a
little too long replacing the car in the yellow slot, well, that happened sometimes. My own
opinion was you got better marshalling if you kept your mouth shut but it was a theory Dick
Craster had never subscribed to. Likely never would.
By the time Dick was running again Cheryl had close to a quarter lap lead on him and the gap
remained when the third quarter ended. Now it was Dick in the blue and Cheryl in the green. It
was always a toss-up as to which was the faster of the two if either.
The last quarter was anti- climactic. Cheryl held her lead over Dick. The only occurrence of
note was Totman's car gradually slowing more and more until he finally lifted it off the track.
And that's the way it ended. Ace won it by a half a lap.
Cheryl was second and Dick a distant third. From the way the crowd went crazy you'd have thought
Cheryl had won. She got more congratulations than Ace who had won two classes, Sports and GT,
of the SVMRC Fall Classic.
It had been a memorable event all round for many reasons.
Forgotten in a couple of months of course but it was Cheryl's moment and we all of us have too few
Bill Eisonsen was standing at the end of the track barring Dick's way out of the driver's
stations. Dick frowned at him and to Bill's credit he never said a word. He just shrugged and
smiled, then stood aside to greet his wife as she followed Dick out.
"Way to go, babe," Bill said to Cheryl.
"Did I tell you?" she said to Bill. "Pink is so my lucky colour."
I have nothing to add to that.