Celebrating The Big 5-OH – May 2011
It is not often we get to celebrate the big 5–OH also known as fifty. Some of us have made it to our 50th birthday and there are a few couples that have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. But there is one big 50th anniversary that I will be celebrating on January 2, 2012. I plan to spend that day in Soda Springs, ID. I will drive my car three miles southeast of town on the highway that leads to Montpelier. I will find the specific corner where the highway turns and rises to go over a set of railroad tracks. I will sit alongside that little hill. Likely I will shed some tears and say a prayer of thanks. That is the location where, 50 years ago, January 2, 1962, I literally died. Our car had left the road, rolled three times and came to a stop. They found my crumpled body 50 feet ahead of where the car came to a stop. With no seat belts in the 1952 Ford, I had been thrown out as we barrel-rolled down the hillside. Six college students were returning to college in Kansas after Christmas vacation and in an instant, their lives were changed forever.
They tell me that, at first, they could not locate me. “They” were the three in the back seat who survived without major injury. The driver was found lying outside the car by the left rear tire. He had cuts and bruises, and the center front passenger suffered a broken collar bone. I had been sitting in the front seat by the right passenger door. As we rolled, the doors flew open, and were bent backward against the front fender, and I was ejected. When they finally found me, and got back to the highway to get traffic to stop and get a message into Soda Springs that an accident had happened (You see, we did not have cell phones in 1962.), an ambulance came and took three of us to the emergency room at the small hospital in Soda Springs. The driver remembers hearing the ambulance staff telling the emergency doctor, and I quote, “There is not much use working on this one. He has no pulse and no blood pressure.” That was me they were referring to.
The story could go on and on. It would include seventeen days in a coma, 24 days in the hospital, home recovery, several surgeries, physical therapy, and some minor permanent brain damage. But there is more to this story. It includes 34 years of teaching middle school, cross-country motorcycle trips with a tent and sleeping bag, a lovely wife, two sons and daughters-in-law, and three grand children. The story would also include a span of 20 years as a drag racer, numerous friends and memories, two Division 6 Wallys, one Division 7 Wally, and one World Champion Wally. Indeed it has been a great 50 years.
There is another 50 year celebration on which we need to focus. Woodburn Dragstrip first opened in 1961. In the year of 2011, Woodburn Dragstrip celebrates the completion of “50 years of Championship Drag Racing.” The front cover of the 2011 Woodburn Dragstrip Calendar of Events proclaims “50 Years of Excellence.” It would require volumes to record all the 50 years of memories from this location. I cannot imagine how many gigabytes of memory would be required to store all the photos of each car that has blasted through the traps or how long the list would be if every driver’s name could be documented.
But I do have an idea. Jay and I were talking this week. Why don’t we start a “Memory Lane” section on the Woodburn Dragstrip website and include photos, names, and a short explanation of the action for each entry. Fifty years of memories in words and pictures – what a great way to celebrate. So I invite you to go through all of your old pictures that relate to Woodburn Dragstrip. You can send by email with attachments to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can send hard copy via mail to 7730 Highway 219, Woodburn, OR 97303. Please send a stamped return envelope if you would like us to return them to you. We look forward to hearing from you. Oh, by the way, let’s make the next 50 as great as the first 50.
Story by Elvon Kauffman.
Elvon Kauffman has been drag racing since 1975. He has been a NHRA Northwest Division Bracket Champion twice – first in 1978 when he defeated fellow Woodburn racer, Joe DiFillipi at Seattle International Raceway and secondly, in 1980 when he again defeated a Woodburn racer, Ron Burch at Woodburn Dragstrip. He was the first and only World Champion in Heavy Bracket, winning with his 1970 Plymouth Road Runner 4-speed at the now defunct Ontario Motor Speedway in October, 1980.
Elvon’s variety of life experiences become the basis for the stories he shares in Straight Talk, a monthly column produced by Woodburn Dragstrip. Hopefully, you will enjoy reading them.