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When Tri State Dragway opened in 1960, Kahoka, Missouri entered a new era of something besides farms, factory workers, and retirement. A group of motorsports pioneers started a drag strip. The town had no traffic signals, but did have a four way stop (blinking red light) at the intersection of US 136 and Mo.#81. Gasoline stations occupied three of the corner locations, an MFA, Sinclair, and Mobil.
Gene Hamner operated the Sinclair (Atlantic Richfield turned BP) and was a ‘go to guy’ for minor repairs and great car service.We are not sure how Gene viewed the drag strip at the Fairgrounds but he did take advantage of the increased traffic on summer weekends when the track was in operation. And his son Dewayne really liked the fast cars which were brought to town from all around the tristate area. (Iowa-Missouri-Illinois)
To quote Dewayne, “you guys (the originators of Tri State Dragway) were my hero, I was a young twelve year old student and you never ran me off.” Before he knew it, he was traveling around the area with several other Kahoka youths, placing fliers and posters everywhere about events at Tri-State. (Some guy named Jim Baker put this promotion into operation, and it worked!)
Next Dewayne started selling National Dragster & Drag News in the stands during the races. He credits Pat & Paul Gutting, two of the original operators, for ‘keeping him on the payroll’ when I left for OCIR in 1967. As a young starting line steward, he was there when Tommy Johnson, Sr. made a run in his Ed Bruegge built Crosley Station wagon.
During the Dragway’s final season, an older Dewayne became a linesman and starter at the track, a position he held until construction of the US 136 by-pass halted operation of the popular track. Hamner confesses that at age 15, he drove an El Camino and won a trophy. Now he was ‘really hooked’!