The summers of ’68 and ’69 were filled with the roar of revved-up motors and screams of excitement from thousands in the stands.
Carol Saulnier-Davis recently donated scrapbooks to the Yarmouth County Museum highlighting racing at the Yarmouth racetrack where the Mariners Centre now stands.
CARLA ALLEN PHOTO
The Yarmouth Speedway, where the Mariners Centre is now, was the place to be back then.
Carol Saulnier-Davis remembers it well. The excitement returns as she leafs through scrapbooks filled with tattered and fragile race clippings from old Vanguards.
“Every paper, I’d wait for it to come… then I’d cut the pictures out of it,” she said of the articles.
“Look, there’s Allan and Carmen Christie, Larry Hamilton, Jim Hall and Cliff Gavel,” she said, pointing to young men wearing helmets that look more like a pilot’s headgear than driver’s.
“Jack Throp, he was the announcer and Larry Munroe was the starter of the races,” she said.
She was in her mid-20s and “crazy” into the racing. Her first husband belonged to a pit crew.
“I’d just go and yell like the devil,” she said.
She flips to clippings reporting a visit by the Invading Midgets from Westhaven, Connecticut; then the Mighty Midgets, and the Hell Drivers.
Renowned photographer Bob Brooks was one of the men who were instrumental in establishing the track.
Her connection to racing has remained strong throughout the years. She’s been to the Daytona 500 twice and was rooting for Tony Stewart until he broke his leg.
She points to photos of people in the Yarmouth racetrack stands.
“Look at the crowds. You can tell it was loved,” she said.
The cars came in all shapes and sizes and were driven by young daredevils.
“There were so many of them and they put their heart and soul in those cars. They’d get smashed up and then they’d have to go home and put their heart and soul into it again,” said Saulnier-Davis.
She saddens for a moment, recalling the end of the glory days. The reasons for the track’s demise are muddied, but one thing is clear.
“It was the biggest disappointment that could ever have happened. It just got bulldozed in,” she said.
Now her two grandsons, Tyler and Coady Thibodeau, race at the Lake Doucette Motor Speedway, which is leased by the Southwest Stock Car Association.
Races are held every third Sunday (next one is Aug. 25)
At 67, Willard Hurlburt is the oldest driver there. He’s raced on the Yarmouth track, at the one that used to be in Plymouth, and now at Lake Doucette… for the enjoyment of it.
His advice for anyone looking to get into racing: “You gotta work on your car. Get a sponsor unless you’ve got a lot of money. Parts break. Engines are expensive.”
Hurlburt plans on continuing to race until he’s 70… just as long as he can stay competitive.
Saulnier-Davis has donated her scrapbooks to the Yarmouth County Museum, where they can now be viewed in the archives.