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!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Switching gears (no pun intended) to the land "Down Under"

A Tribute to the riders from AustraliaWill Rogers
Bert Spencer
And Ernie Evans

A few more photos of my collection

These are "photos" of photos
The first I believe to be Miny and Sprouts Elder

One of the original Bibs he wore

Miny at White Sox 1931

Mut Kelley hidden behind, all that is visible is his Roost
Next lap putting a little distance on Mut

Ascot Speedway 1929

Notice the contact patch of the tire to the racing surface-almost non-existent

Emeryville Speedway Oakland, Ca.

Circa the 1930's

You know the story....

Behind every great man is the great woman!! Miny and Gwynie Waln

I need help with Identifying the rider in this pic

Any Ideas?

Three wide

3 wide doesn't only happen in NASCAR. Not sure of the riders in this picture other than my grandfather on the outside. Guess he liked the high line!

Miny (outside), Jack Milne (center) and Ray Tauser (inside)

This had to hurt!

Ed Hinkle down on the ground, George Lannon about to join him, Miny coming in, Rusty Roberts right behind Miny

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ahhhh the board tracks

This picture was taken in Beverly Hills or Culver City, California. Has a question mark on the back so if you know, I will update it.
Wonder if this ticket would still get me into the races?

A poem written by Edna Louve

One of about 1,000 newspaper clippings in my collection

Back to the racing action

The racing action was good enough to draw some large crowds

Getting ready to drop the flag under the lights

So much close racing action, these guys weren't scared!
Sliding around the corners

A couple of very cool old photos

I love the picture of the sidecar with a special "passenger" Taken in 1920

Notice the name on the business--Setty & Waln Harley-Davidson Bicycles 1919 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

A classic old time motorcycle photo

His British made helmet

A nice piece of my collection!

An old JAP engine that was his

The story goes something like this...Miny swore the Japanese stole the camshaft from this engine to copy it for their own use. Supposedly it was a pre-production engine and there were only 2 made at the time.

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