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Book Review - Red Stockings

Book Review - Red Stockings
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Gone Racin’…Red Stockings

“Red Stockings” is a 250 page, paperbound work, with 14 chapters, covering baseball, football, boxing, tennis, bicycle racing, gambling (yes, they gambled in Utah), skiing, fishing and land speed racing. The chapters on boxing are enlightening, for Tex Rickard and Jack Dempsey promoted and fought throughout the area. The chapter on gambling was new information, as so many people believe that wagering was never allowed in Utah, or any other vices for that matter. It is a scholarly work with ample footnotes and a 16 page index. So many authors stint on footnoting and indexes, yet here you will find a first class effort to make it easy for the average reader to find what he/she is searching for.

My interest lay in chapter 10, “These Bloomin’ Salt Beds,” by Jessie Embry and Ron Shook. There are 16 pages of text, 3 pages of footnotes and one black and white photo. Not much for the die hard land speed racing fan. The authors gleaned a great deal of their information from the files of Jack Underwood (SCTA archivist), books, magazine articles, pamphlets, programs, and personal interviews. The authors present a shortened history of the racing on the Salt Flats that leave out a good deal of what actually happened there. It is unavoidable, given the few pages that they have to work with.

They stress the runs made there by the more notable names, Campbell, Cobb, Breedlove and Arfons, among others. They still manage to find room for a few personal interviews and details about the other classes that also ran speed trials at Bonneville. There is a definite Utahan perspective from how they see these time trials. They struggle with terms such as ‘hot rodders’ and ‘professionals.’ This isn’t a major obstacle for those LSR fans, and it is interesting to see how others view this form of racing. Whereas some of the chapters are dry and overly scholarly, Embry and Shook present a narrative that flows naturally. 

Yet, some of their conclusions seem to be rather disjointed. The authors state, “…it is questionable whether the Salt Flats will ever be used again for the land speed record. It’s use as a hot rod track is also in doubt because of the continued deterioration of the salt. Some racers will continue to use Bonneville for records near the 400 mile an hour mark in different classes.” This remark was made in 2003, after three straight years of salt replenishment and improved racing on the salt flats. What they meant to say, is that the unlimited record runs will have to find other venues that will be long and safe enough to race on. But every person who races in any category that is recognized, will take offense to being labeled just a “hot rodder,” or in a category other than “THE land speed record.” Every category is “The land speed record” for that class, and every person who tries to set a record, no matter what the classification, is a land speed record racer. 

Whether this short chapter is sufficient to buy the book depends on your needs. To see Bonneville as Utahans see it and to have a short history of the Salt Flats may be enough reason to add it to your library.

Gone Racin’ is at www.oilstick.com