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HAROLD Volland didn’t recognize the difficulty of his task in finding someone with memories of an old motorcycle track just off Terrace Lake Road until he got to the Old Timers Race Fans reunion this year.
If anyone had stories about the hilly terrain that made up the tourist trophy track on a farmstead owned by Cebert and Elsie Bohall back in the late 1930s, they would likely be found at the gathering of old-time auto racers and fans that has been put on by promoter Jerry Castor since 1999.
Harold’s problem was that when he presented his question to the reunion attendees, he got the same response.
“Nobody knew what I was talking about,” the Columbus retiree lamented.
Admittedly, most of those attending the reunion were more likely to be interested in cars — particularly those that were raced at the old Columbus Speedway and the 25th Street Fairgrounds — than motorcycles, but there have been a number of crossovers in the two forms of racing.
Harold’s search for stories relating to the long-gone track stems from his younger days in the 1940s when he could sit on a hillside looking down on a group of older but still young men racing on a curving dirt track that included a number of small hills.
“I could only watch because I wasn’t old enough to get my driver’s license,” he said. “Still, just watching them was pretty exciting.”
Harold has had to rely on his own memory in reconstructing the track in his mind.
He estimates that it was opened around 1947 when many veterans of World War II who had become enamored of motorcycles returned to their homes. He recalls that it was not designed in the form of an oval but in a series of twisting turns that would have been more in keeping with motocross racing.
They called it a tourist trophy track because motorcycles were sometimes referred to as “touring machines” and the drivers ran on dirt courses that had both right and left turns as well as steeplechase-style jumps.
So far as Harold was able to discover, the Terrace Lake track had a short life span, only three years or so.
Despite its relatively short tenure, the unnamed track did have a history, and he eventually found much of it through a fellow who spent a good part of his seven decades-plus racing motorcycles in and around central Indiana.
Kenneth Stoughton could well have been sitting on the hillside watching some of the same races Harold saw. He, too, could only watch since he wasn’t of age to drive; but once he reached that magic number, motorcycles would be an integral part of his entire life.
In some respects he’s an encyclopedia of local motorcycle racing history. He lived a good part of it. He lives in Mooresville now, but a good portion of his time was spent in and around Columbus.
He recalls that the Terrace Lake track was likely started by two motorcycle dealers in the Columbus area — Jim Askren, who sold BSAs and Triumphs in Garden City; and Harry Smith, who sold Harley-Davidsons in a shop on Seventh Street.
The track was an outgrowth of a fascination with motorcycles that began in Columbus during World War II. That was at the height of fears that the country might be subjected to bombing raids, and local communities adopted strict blackout rules that required residents and businesses to darken their buildings at night with no light showing.
The law was enforced here by the Columbus Police Department, which was unable to cover all the territory to ensure that everyone was in compliance. As a solution, the police authorized the formation of a group of volunteer motorcycle owners who would patrol the city at night, record the address of any violator and report it to the police.
“My brother was a member of that patrol,” Kenneth recalled. “They didn’t have any arrest powers, but they did turn the names of violators over to the police, who would take whatever action was needed.”
The group became known as the Columbus Motor Patrol, and even after their services were no longer required the members continued to meet, usually at Smith’s Harley-
Davidson shop. Eventually they disbanded the patrol and formed a racing club. So did a similar group that met at Askren’s shop in Garden City.
“One of the clubs ran races at the tourist trophy track, and the other ran at the old 25th Street Fairgrounds,” Kenneth recalled. “At one time one of the groups planned to put up a tourist trophy track in East Columbus, but that never materialized.”
He doesn’t recall the circumstances that led to the abandonment of the Terrace Lake Road track, but in 1948 or ’49, one of the clubs purchased ground and built a clubhouse in an area where Lowell Addition is now located north of Columbus.
That track and clubhouse were sold in the early 1950s, and the group acquired property at Stoney Lonesome, becoming the Stoney Lonesome Motorcycle Club in 1954. Today it is the second-oldest motorcycle club in Indiana.
Despite the fact that it had such a short life, the Terrace Lake track hosted some of the best motorcycle racers in the Midwest. Shown photos of the old track and some of the racers taken by Harold, Kenneth was able to recognize some of the numbers on the bikes.
“There were some pretty top-flight drivers on that course,” he said. “They came from all over the Midwest to race there.”
For instance, it might have even been where one of the greats in local auto racing, Larrett “Crash” Crockett — who went on to earn rookie of the year honors at the Indianapolis 500 before being killed in a crash during a race in Langhorne, Pa., in 1955 — honed his skills on motorcycles.
Kenneth laughed about Crockett’s infamous nickname.
“He got that from Vera Griffin,” he said, mentioning another legendary name in motorcycle racing, that of a local woman who helped found the national organization Motor Maids and is now enshrined in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame. “She watched him get involved in a smash-up and immediately began calling him ‘Crash’ from that point on.”
Although Crockett never appreciated the nickname — who would want to enter a race of any kind with the name of “Crash”? — it stuck with him to the end of his life and beyond.
The same can’t be said for the Terrace Lake Road track, which apparently never got a name.
Maybe it doesn’t need one. The role it played in local motorcycle racing history might be enough.
Harry McCawley is associate editor of The Republic. He can be reached by phone at 379-5620 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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