Being a life long bachelor, Jimmy, of necessity, had to learn to cook and he did a fine job of it. Many times when he would be camped with us, I would invite him to share our meal. He would usually decline and say, "I have a little something to make for myself." More often than not, his little something looked better than what I had made.
While he was an excellent cook, Jimmyís specialty was the sub sandwich. Jimmy made great subs. I remember the first time I had one. The summer of 1975, Jimmy and I decided to go to the Mid-Ohio racetrack for the F5000 race, which was the week after the RA event. We took my little brother, Donnie, along. Donnie was ten years old at the time and was already a racing fan. Greg and I had taken him to Blackhawk many times and he loved it.
We got into Jimmyís old green Chevy Nova and headed for Ohio. Jimmyís Nova was a ratty looking car, as all of Jimmyís vehicles seemed to be. This car had three on the tree, which is what we called cars with a three-speed with the shift lever on the steering column. Another unique feature of this car was the cloth sunroof. That is the only car I have ever seen with a cloth sunroof.
We stopped at a rest area in eastern Indiana for lunch. Jimmy had made some sub sandwiches for us. I was not sure if Donnie had ever had a sub sandwich before, but he did not say anything when Jimmy pulled one out of the cooler and handed it to him. The subs were great and Donnie really seemed to like his as he wolfed it down.
We had never been to Mid-Ohio before, and had a little trouble finding the track. We knew we were close, so we just kept driving around. I had never heard Donnie swear before, so it came as somewhat of a surprise when he shouted from the backseat, "Jesus Christ! Look at that Zeppelin!" I turned around and, through the back window, I saw the Goodyear Blimp hanging in the air behind us. I said, "Jimmy I think the track is back that way."
A farmer near the track had opened up a field for camping, just as they do at Road America. We set up camp and for dinner that night I had some really nice steaks to grill for the three of us. Donnie looked at the steak and asked, "Terry, instead of a steak could I have that last sub sandwich." Jimmy beamed with pride. While we were eating, a bunch of guys came riding by on their motorcycles, some standing on the seats. What made this really unusual was that they were all stark naked. Donnie was so intent on his sub that I donít think he even noticed them.
Years later, we started going to the "Championship Auto Racing Teams" or CART race at State Fair Park every year. It soon became tradition for Jimmy to make subs for all of us for lunch. Donnie was now an adult and living in central Wisconsin, and would often make it to the CART race as well. His love of Jimmyís subs had not diminished over the years.
Our group would meet at Tomís house in Milwaukee and go to the track together. Donnie would have his own tickets for the race, but would usually meet us in the parking lot at the track so he could get his sub. I remember at one of the early races, Tom asked how Donnie was going to find us since even we could not be sure of where we would be parked when we got to the State Fair Park. I told him all we had to do was start eating our subs and he would show up. I donít think I had taken more than a couple bites when Donnie walked up and said, "Whereís mine?"
Our first trip to Mid-Ohio that year turned out to be a downer. Just the weekend before, at the F5000 race at Road America, we had seen a new young driver named B. J. Swanson finish an impressive fourth. He had come out of nowhere, and none of us had ever heard of him. He was fast and quickly became a fan favorite. At Mid-Ohio, B. J. proved to be fast again and qualified up near the front. The last time we ever saw him was as the cars went past us on the pace lap. At Mid-Ohio, there is a bridge over the track on the front straight just before corner one. At the start of the race, B. J. somehow went off the track and hit the bridge abutment. He died three days later of head injuries
Mid-Ohio has since modified the track by putting concrete walls that angle towards the bridge. Should a car go off the track, as Swansonís did, they would hit the wall, but it would most likely be an angled blow and not head on. That would greatly reduce the force of the impact. Another change Mid-Ohio made is that they now start all the races on the back straight after the Keyhole turn. This gives the cars a long run down to corner seven before they have to funnel through a turn.
We had more bad news that year, as far as drivers go. Penske had entered the Formula One circus the year before with a car of his own design, driven by Mark Donahue, whom he had lured out of retirement. That summer at the Austrian Grand Prix in Graz, Austria, Donahueís car suffered a tire failure during the morning warm-up. His car went into the catch fencing and he was hit in the head by a fence post. He had climbed out of his car on his own and had been talking to the course marshals. Most reports were that he would be fine. Sadly this was not to be, and he died three days later from severe brain injuries.
November, 1975, brought still more bad news when I learned that my old favorite driver, Graham Hill, had been killed when his private plane crashed on a foggy night on a golf course in Arkley, Hertferdshire, England. Hill had finally retired as a driver after a record 176 Grand Prix starts, 14 victories and two World Championships. He is the only man to win racingís triple crown of the World Championship, the Le Mans 24-hour race and the Indy 500.
Hill had started his own team called Embassy racing and was molding it around an up and coming young driver named Tony Brise. They had been testing their new car at the Paul Richard Circuit in the south of France and were returning home. Brise and several other team members also perished in the crash.
A couple of miles northeast of Old Man Millerís field, at the corner of County Trunk A and County Trunk E was a non-descript looking building. Well, maybe dilapidated looking would be more appropriate. This one had no sign out front, but did have a beer sign in the window, identifying it as one of the countless country bars that dot the Wisconsin landscape. This was Blanch and Orvilleís establishment and was a typical Wisconsin country bar. We discovered Blanche and Orvilleís while we were out foraging for firewood one weekend.
Hunting for firewood can be thirsty work, and once we had found a supply and were on or way back to Old Man Millerís field, we came upon this bar and Bunky suggested we stop for a cold one. Our gang was never a bunch to ignore a good suggestion, so we stopped and went in.
This turned out to be a very good suggestion as they served a ten-ounce glass of beer for a quarter and pitchers of beer for $2.50. You could also purchase pickled eggs and pigís knuckles, yum. They had a pool table in the back room and a bunch of games across from the bar like darts, a bowling machine and pinball. We had a couple of beers and headed back to Old Man Millerís field.
The firewood search turned out to be a waste of time, since no sooner had we finished our brats and corn than it began to rain. Bunky again suggested we go back to that bar we had stopped in. There we could drink cheap beer, shoot pool and play games, all inside and out of the rain. When we arrived back at the bar, we met the owners, Blanche and Orville.
Blanche and Orville were an elderly couple who seemed perfectly suited for running a bar. They were very friendly and easily made us feel at home. We liked the place enough that many weekends we would go spend a couple hours at Blanche and Orvilleís rather than sitting around the campfire. This was especially true on those weekends that Jerry and Lynne didnít make the trip, and there was no guitar playing or singing.
Our wives did not mind our trips to Blanche and Orvilleís because if they wanted to, they could stay at Old Man Millerís field and spend a quiet night reading or whatever, and then go to bed early without the sound of limericks and dirty songs wafting through the night. However, many times, the wives would go with us to Blanche and Orvilleís.
Bunky and Mary Ann became especially good friends with Blanche and Orville and even began exchanging Christmas cards. The bar was a pleasant place to spend time and the girls enjoyed it too, especially when there was bad weather. We would sit at the bar and visit with Blanche and Orville and often shoot a friendly game of pool or play darts or pinball.
One night, Jimmy and I were shooting pool when a local came in and put his fifty cents on the rail of the table. In pool tradition this meant that he was challenging the winner of the current game, and would pay for the next one with his fifty cents. I won the game, the challenger put his money in, and retrieved the balls for the next game. He then asked if I was willing to play for a pitcher of beer. I agreed to the wager.
While I was racking the balls, I looked up and saw this guy take out a leather case. He opened the case and pulled out the two halves of his own personal pool cue. The cue I was using was from the rack on the wall. I had simply selected one that felt like the right weight, and rolled it on the table to make sure it was not warped too badly.
As I watched this guy screw his personal cue together, I figured I had been had. Anyone who brings his own cue to a bar has to be a serious player and, therefore, I assumed, pretty good. I enjoy shooting pool but I am far from being good at the game. I figured this was going to be a quick way of losing $2.50 for the pitcher of beer.
Ah, but looks can be deceiving; this guy may have been serious enough about the game to purchase his own cue, but he had not yet learned how to use it. He was lousy, and I easily won the game. He bought me my pitcher of beer and challenged me to play again, which I did. I must admit I was on my game that night, and once again I won easily. Since I had hardly dented the pitcher I won in the first game, I had Orville give this one to the guys at the bar. This continued for game after game. Finally, Bunky came into the back room and said, "Ace, for Godís sake, lose! We are four pitchers behind out here and the beer is getting warm!"
Copyright © 2006 by Terry Aasen