Great summers were made of St. Louis Cardinals, cars and girls

They would pay $50 to $75 for a car and spend lots of hours getting it in good running condition

Jim Bunch said summer time in 1951 was kind of laid back… “Lying on the porch swing on a summer evening listening to the Cardinal baseball games on the radio, drinking an R.C. Cola from Hubbard’s Grocery Store (cost a nickel) and a big glass of ice so it would last nine innings.” He says his best memory was getting to go to a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game in person with a community organized father-son trip. They stood outside Sportsman’s Park as the players came out. Getting a wave and a “Hi kid,” from Stan Musial was really great.

Larry Hayes remembers … “I started school in 1932 at Webster Elementary, first through sixth grade. I remember all of my teachers and many of my classmates, such as Jim Bentley, John Potter and Ray Farris. There was a store just one block south of the school where several of us boys would gather to listen to the radio broadcast of baseball games involving such greats as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.”

Some other summertime fun for Jim Bunch included building a racetrack with friend Don Clark on a flat field of clay at Sucker Flat (now King Jack Park). He remembers his first end-over-end crash on one of those homemade racetracks.

Atlas Garage

Many hours were spent at the Atlas Garage, formerly behind the Post Office, where they were always working on hot rods and racecars. They would take off to the Green Top Speedway behind the Green Top Skating Rink to watch hot rods and midget car races.

It was usually the guys who were driving cars of their own at the school. They would work to earn the money to pay for their cars. “You had to mow quite a few lawns to save enough cash to buy a car,” says Jim. They would pay $50 to $75 for a car and spend lots of hours getting it in good running condition. Many a girl learned to sit patiently and wait for the love of her life to finish ”tinkering” with the car before he would show her some attention. It became a challenge to become a distraction to pull them away from the car!

“Another thing I remember about the good ole days was that a guy was happy to have a car, any car and he wasn’t embarrassed about mismatched doors or fenders. He was still cool to have his own wheels. You could watch weekly improvements to the car as money was earned and time was spent lovingly fixing up the hot rod!

“Now-a-days, you can see those souped up hotrods at the local Cruise Nights on Main street. Those cars do look sharp. There is a lot more money being put into those cars today than there was in the past. And wasn’t it fun, way back when, to go to the junk yards to get the parts for the old cars being fixed up. And the used parts were quite a bit cheaper back then.

“Cars in the past were shown off at the drive-in theatres, at the local hamburger stands and at the bowling alley. But the most fun had to be driving the circle around the swimming pool at Hatten Park. Guys were openly eyeing the girls in their swim suits and girls were secretly eyeing the guys in their wheels. And before you knew it, that guy would be driving the circle to show off the gal he had sitting next to him in his sharp wheels.

“Here in Southwest Missouri, we didn’t have too many races for ‘pink slips’ like they did in the movies. There might have been a few races to show off the motor under the hood and what it could do. But it was even more fun to go to the demolition derbies. That is why those old cars of yesteryear are worth so much money today. Only a few survived the final destruction of the demolition derbies. The crazy things we did for fun in those days!

“Living in Southwest Missouri did have its advantages… the chats! What better place to have a little car racing fun without worrying about hitting anything of importance. Of course there was the danger of mine holes and the legend of the Hatchet Man, but that is a story for another day!

“Wouldn’t it have been “neat” to know the future and to have held onto that used ’57 Chevy, ’64 Chevy, ’65 Ford Mustang, etc. that you bought for a fairly low price, knowing that it would be worth $20,000 down the road! And there is always something special about the first car you owned.”

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