Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A bit about the life and times

     Minard H. Waln, known the length and breadth of the short track racing world as the "Mighty Mite,” was born in Cedar Rapids , Iowa November 20, 1901. Miny spent most of his school and boyhood days on the family country estate, taking long courses in the art of hunting, fishing, hiking and the like.

     After finishing school, Waln began traveling and visited Richmond , Virginia during the war. His racing career began in 1918 at the age of 16 and in his first year racing he took the Iowa State Championship. "I rode a Pope at Cedar Rapids my first race" Miny said. "The favorite was a scrappy guy named Peanuts Spurgeon, of Marion , Iowa . He was taking bets he would lap me. I chased him down to the finish line and almost nosed him out." After winning in the East, he came to Los Angeles , California in 1924 and raced on the 5/8 mile Ascot track along with other venues at The Beverly Hills 1¼ mile board track, Long Beach, Emeryville, San Diego and numerous other tracks. He rode primarily Indian, JAP, Douglas, Crocker and even threw his leg over a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle during his brilliant racing career.

     The biggest crowd he ever appeared before was at Syracuse , New York where 90,000 fans saw him take the nationals in 1930. Syracuse was then the Indianapolis for bike racing. The major factory teams were there, men like Jim Davis, Joe Petrali, Freddie Ludlow and Andy Hader. Miny had won there in 1929 also.

    

     In 1931 at the Breakfast Club, was the night when short track racing started in Southern California . Miny, with his experience, was a natural over the kids at the new sport. Only Sprouts Elder stood in his way. They ran nip and tuck as top scratch riders for a while, and then Miny took the lead. Sprouts retired and for a couple of years Miny ruled the roost. When the Breakfast Club shut down, Waln retraced his steps to Richmond . Virginia . There he won two national championships at the Richmond Decoration Day race meet and returned to California shortly thereafter, where he continued to thrill speedway fans.

    

     Waln, the first man to introduce the Comerford JAP machine into the United States , held records at practically all tracks of the western circuit. Some of the records were Oakland , Ca. 4-lap handicap record, Fresno , Ca. 4-lap scratch, Gilmore Stadium, 4-lap handicap, Atlantic Stadium 2-lap, San Diego , Ca. 1-lap title and Bakersfield Ca., he held the 5 mile record on big track.

  

     In all he held 15 national title medals and was a 3 time National Champion from 1930-1932. He retired from racing speedway in 1938.

  

     The late 30’s brought on a different form of racing. Miny built midget cars and stacked up prize money with Louie Foy behind the wheel of the Dale Drake Special. He went to work for Lockheed in 1938 where he was in charge of a hydraulic crew for years and then went on to be a supervisor on final assembly and finally a test mechanic.

     

    Through out his career his pretty wife Gwynie was ever present at the races. She was immensely popular with the motorcycle fraternity. The great tragedy of Miny’s life was when Gwynie succumbed to a brain tumor in 1963. They had traveled the country and had been inseparable for 37 years.

     

     Joe Walker, of Santa Ana , former Sprouts Elder Mechanic, who watched Waln race for years, observed, “Miny was one of the all-time greats. He was such a mild mannered, soft-spoken gentleman, nobody would suspect he was such a tiger in action and tough enough to take such a battering over two decades and quit in one piece.” 

   

     Miny purchased some land in a small town about 100 miles east of Los Angeles, known as Hemet, California. There he owned property that consisted mainly of apricot orchards. He raised his two daughters and retired, being close to them and his grandchildren. Miny would frequent the local tracks at the time and shared in many reunions, seeing his old friends and fellow racers at tracks that continued to prosper such as Costa Mesa Speedway. Miny passed away in 1991, but I am sure he is riding faster than he ever dreamed. A true legend in his time, he was always looking for a way to do whatever he could to outrun the competition. Godspeed Miny!


4 comments:

Anonymous said...

the andrew hader mentioned is my great uncle. do you have any photos of him. his speedway bike is here in Cincinnati. i have seen it several times.i have 1 poster with andy,bill davidson, and a third rider in some family papers. i enjoyed your article and was thrilled to see something about andy. thanks Wayne

George Adelsperger said...

Congratulations on Miny being featured in the American Motorcyclist June 2013 edition. He is the AMA Hall of Fame member featured in this issue.

Later in life, Miny was married to my Grandmother's best friend, Wilma.
I had the privilege of meeting Miny a few times, and perusing SOME of his scrapbooks.

George Adelsperger
Sacramento, CA

Robert Melton said...

Minard Waln is my Great Uncle! My mom Pauline Porter (Smith) was Minard's sister Clara's Daughter. I have a few old pictures with Minard's on his motorcycle. Also, in Anamosa IA, at the National motorcycle museum, I found a picture of Miney in the early days of racing!!! I am Polly's daughter Priscilla Melton.

Robert Melton said...

Minard Waln is my Great Uncle! My mom Pauline Porter (Smith) was Minard's sister Clara's Daughter. I have a few old pictures with Minard's on his motorcycle. Also, in Anamosa IA, at the National motorcycle museum, I found a picture of Miney in the early days of racing!!! I am Polly's daughter Priscilla Melton.

 
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