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This isn’t Jim’s first time writing for DRO. Here’s a little something from 2003 that you might enjoy www.dragracingonline.com/special/vi_8-usn-jimhill-1.html.
It’s difficult to guess at the content or quality of distractions running through the mind of an already car-crazy, pre-teen kid. This mental upheaval reaches critical mass after he’s been exposed to the super-sensory enlightenment of drag racing. That’s what happened soon after my parents moved from our former northwest Miami home to the Miami suburb of Hialeah, Florida.
It was 1958. Rock and roll and Elvis had firmly overwhelmed America, the nation was consumed with Sputnik-mania and school kids were being drilled to “duck and cover”. I was confined to St. Mary’s Catholic School in Miami, struggling against the authority and discipline generously distributed by the good Sisters of St. Joseph. Being Gaelic imports from Ireland, they often described my miscreant behavior as “bold”, as in: ”He’s a bold lad, that one!” While they toiled to re-direct my wayward energies, my focus was squarely on hot rods.
So it was that during my first week in our new home, I hopped aboard my bike and began the exploration of my new neighborhood. That meant an immediate trip a short distance eastward, to the sagging, rusted front entrance gates that led to Amelia Earhart Field, on LeJune Road. Although we were residents of 1950’s suburbia, the area was surrounded by vast open fields that were once three different airfields, one of which was Amelia Earhart.
Amelia Earhart Field was named for that lady pilot who managed to drop her Lockheed Electra somewhere into the Pacific in July 1937, with her story becoming a well-worn trivia question. The airfield had been built in the 1920’s, actually preceding Wilcox Field, later re-named Miami International Airport, or “MIA” in aviation jargon.
Amelia Earhart visited, and flew from the airfield on what became her final flight into legend. Used for flight training during WW II, the long abandoned airfield was named for Miss Earhart in 1947. All of that was insignificant, because in the mid-1960’s it attained legendary drag racing status – at least among locals - as the home of sanctioned, trophy-awarding drag racing.
The South Florida Timing Association, loosely modeled after the California Timing Association, hosted drags on the first and third Sunday of each month. SFTA was headed by Ernie Schorb and staffed by a coalition of hot rod car clubs in the Miami area. Schorb was once Wally Parks’ NHRA business manager and the first Southeast Division Director. The twice-monthly SFTA races were single-day “regular meets”, bolstered twice yearly by the annual Big-Go East Winter Nationals in February and the Florida State Championships in November.
The second weekend after our relocation to Hialeah happened to fall on the third weekend of November, and the Florida State Championships. Early that Saturday morning I heard the roar of open exhausts coming from the airport. Like a flash I was off, following that sweet siren, like a moth pedaling furiously towards the open flame, eager to find the source of that wonderful noise.