Source: Doug Long
I grew up in Detroit in the 50s and 60s, and Ive been enjoying some of the sights on your Water Winter Wonderland web site. Thanks for creating it; it will provide many happy moments for us old Detroiters (and probably for not-so-old Detroiters, too).
There is a race track that I didn't see listed on your web site - Motor City Speedway. It was located on the north side of 8 Mile Rd. (which I believe is across the street from Detroit proper) and was about a block east of Schoenherr (which I may have misspelled). The parking lot was on 8 Mile Rd. and the race track was immediately north of the parking lot. It was torn down in late 1957 to make way for some stores. Its possible that complaints about the noise from the neighborhood may have contributed to its demise; we lived a mile south of Motor City Speedway and we could hear the engines whining and roaring when they'd race.
But I absolutely loved Motor City Speedway. My father took me to see hot rod races there in 1956 and 1957. I believe they also had stock car races, although we just went for the hot rod races. It had old style wooden spectator stands and it probably couldn't exist today - it wasn't a big enough place to pull in the big name car drivers or the big money. But the fans didn't care about that back then. It was more fun than the current (and expensive) "race track, incorporated" racing corporations. After the hot rod races, they would let you go down in the pit area and see the race cars. I remember feeling how hot the tires were. Well, thanks again for a great web site - very attractive and well organized.
Yeah, I was one of the "Campbell's Kids" in the early to mid-fifties, who hung around Campbell's Gulf at Stephens and Gratiot, and we sort of worked on the hot rods, washing them, banging out the fenders, and stripping out new bodies when needed. We also went to the races with them, and several of us were treated as family members of the Campbell's (Father Grant (WWI vet) Son Dean (WWII vet, and younger Son Ken (Korea vet) and the older employees such as Eddie Daniels. After I turned 16 (1955) I went to work for the Campbells, and worked both part time or full time untill the early 60's when I moved to the Dearborn Area to work at Ford Engineering. During my kid days we had the run of Campbell's, and I learned the basics of my shills in mechanics, metalworking and welding. Campbells was also a local hub for area racers, and names like Carson Zieter, Stan Yee, Cliff Sommers, Hub Blair, Bennie Howell, Clare Lawicki, Ray Niece, Jack Goodwin and many others often came in. In fact, as kids many of us had our own minature race track near Campbells, first with push-mobiles and later with home-made go carts. In fact the City was so concerned about the havoc we were causing with our go-carts, they built a dirt race track for us behind the East Detroit Teen Center, which doubled as an ice rink in the winter, to keep us off the streets. I used to go there with my cart (about a 1/3 scale midget) with a 5-gallon gan of gas, and run around the dirt track untill I was so tired I could not lift myself out of the car.
As we got older and graduated to real cars, as you say, the traffic signal at Stephens and Gratiot was like a Christmas Tree at a Dragstrip. I once watched in amazement as Stan Yee did a "burn-out" from Campbell's with his Olds-powered '53 Ford that would make John Force proud even today. East Detroit Police began using a de-comissioned police car as an unmarked car to crack-down on the racing, and I got a $90 ticket racing from that light. (which is about equivelent to a $1,500 fine in today money)
The Campbell family also ran a Pure station on Stephens Drive south of Hayes, and another Gulf Station in Roseville just south of 11 mile. I worked at all of them at one time or another.
Those were the days, my friend, those were the days. It is absoutely illegal to have that much fun, and be that outragous. And, at the time we did not give it a second thought, we thought everybody did that kind of stuff. Campbell's alumini gave GM thier Truck Engine Chief Engineer Bill Large, who retired in the late 90's, whatever contribution I made at Ford in thier racing effots, and several others who went on to sucessfull careers in the automotive industry. Dave Lyall, Livonia, Michigan.