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Ken Berg

Ken Berg
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Burrard Rockets
Gary Pennington, Dave Milne, Ronnie (Robertson) Litzen (p), Ken Berg (mgr-p)
TBA, Pat Roach, Bob Reisig, Henry Einartsen, Jim Lythgoe
Jay, Jack Berg (c) Bob Blount (c)
Ca 1950, SE Corner Connaught Park, Brewery behind, looking East,
picture by Bob Blount’s mother

After graduating in 1951, Ken was a West coast logger, in construction, an oiler on a power-shovel and a cat skinner (bulldozer operator). He was a Purchasing Agent for Prince George Pulp and Paper, Kaiser Resources, Island Creek of China, NLK (Australia) and retired from this line of work in 1990. Ken was honored by Dofasco Steel in 1978 for tire quality systems and awarded a $5000 cash prize. Other honors included: Buyer of the Year 1978 Canada (Purchasing Magazine), Chairman of the Fernie Golf Course expansion committee in 1980. Ken was the Report Coordinator for a Technology Exchange Trade Show in 1982. He was a member of the Fernie Public Library expansion committee, also in 1982. He wrote Materials Management TQI articles, for the periodical The Maintainer in 1984-85. Ken Developed and presented a digitized tetrahedron animation program for the purchasing course at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

The red 1952 MG-TD under the snow. Dad behind it, at the home he built on Sunset Boulevard in North Vancouver in the 1950s. I had started with a ’41 Ford coach, then a sedan, Model A 5-window, ‘42 Plymouth business coupe, ‘42 Dodge deluxe coupe, the MG and bunch of others ... none very interesting, until the MG-B, a TR4A, now an S Type Jag 4.2 (with retro XK120 grille.

 

Ken was an owner and captain of a 36’ canal boat “GOL”. “My late wife Angie and I traveled throughout France, Switzerland, Germany and Luxembourg from 1986-87. We met local people along the canals and were often invited to join them for meals and other festive gatherings. In turn, we took them on short cruises. Many of them, in spite of living on the banks, had never been on a boat on their canals. It was a great way to meet people. We had a lot of fun and met a lot of nice people. Even if we didn’t always share a common language, we found that with a little good-will we could get along with our few phrases in their language. And many spoke good English. In those days we could tie up pretty well anywhere we wanted. It’s a little different now and more commercial. But it’s still a great way to see a country ‘from the inside’, not as a tourist, but as a visitor.”

Ken shows Angie how not to throw a rope. Menage family joined us for hors d’oeuvres at the cocktail hour on GOL in Joigny (about 120 miles SE of Paris on the river Yonne).

While in Europe he prospected for contracting opportunities to suit his career in retirement, and got to meet people in industry and visit their plants and shops. He was a purchasing agent and consultant for the management of contracts, systems and products related to the total quality improvement (TQI) of goods and services for the construction and operation of heavy industry, mining, chemicals, pulp and paper etc. in Canada, USA, Japan, Europe, China and Australia. 

In the 1990's Ken became a member of the Burgess Shale Foundation, East Kootenay Childhood Foundation and was awarded the Governor-General Canada Confederation Medal. In 1992 the Indy 500 race spurred his interest in motorsports quality and achievement. "I began tape recording interviews with racing notables and scanning their personal photo albums, producing digitized files and an interest to take the work ethic of racers (The Racer's Edge) into the classroom. This project is ongoing to this day," Ken told me. "As a member of a loving family, I have been able to meet interesting people around the world and have made some long-standing friendships. I have been very lucky," Ken added.

With Buck Boudeman’s Novi at the Milwaukee about 1995. I thought we were going to talk about the Novi but Buck wanted to tell me about Sylvester Roper and his steam powered ‘racer’. I later tracked the story back to Poughkeepsie, New York. Their library had clippings from 1865 that had the race report and the timing of the race.

This was the first vehicle race, on a closed course, setting track records, world records and land-speed records—years before the races at Rouen and Chicago and Narragansett.

Buck is presently (March 2012) preparing a book on Roper. American Mechanics, like Roper, figure in my work too. They have a work ethic, like racers that bring innovation and improvement.

He wrote various articles on Zero Emission Vehicle technology and events from 1993 to 1997. From 1993 he has written various publications, articles, columns from a digitized book-in-progress about Louis Meyer, his friends, family and colleagues; a Reunion of American Racers.

With Ed Rannberg and his ‘Lightning Rod’ EV streamliner before it got its star-spangled paint job. We had some problems and I was the only one with thin, open-ended 9/16” tappet-wrench to get into (and out of) a tight spot.

     The EV boom has been a sort of a bust, but a lot of high-school kids got some hands-on engineering experience in competition in the early ‘90s. The ones I spoke, and their teachers were enthused about EV racing programs. Since then many ‘shops’ have sadly been dropped from schools. UCI has developed Performance Engineering Competitions joining high-school and university and private teams in competition. We are trying to make this into a national program, with a digital component allowing and encouraging classroom teachers to interactively develop their own programs.

He received recognition by the City of Bastogne, Belgium in 1994 for a presentation Jack and I made of his models of Sherman tanks. The presentation was in combination with annual ceremonies honoring the American forces in the Battle of the Bulge. 1994 was he 50th anniversary of the battle. We were there for about a week in the middle of December. One of the tanks is now displayed in Bastogne City Hall (Hotel de Ville). The U.S. 4th Armored Division awarded him the Civilian Award that same year, and later awarded us honorary membership in the 4th Armored Division and in General George Patton’s Third Army.

December 1994 with Jack on left and Gilbert Stevenot in middle in front of 4th Armored Sherman tank in McAuliffe Square in Bastogne. We had taken four of Jack’s model Shermans, but we only got one through  German customs. Our Belgian friends were outraged at German intransigence! So were we.

The presentation went well. We used a parachute from the 1944 air drops as a backdrop for the tank which was in a diorama painted by Jack to reflect the wintry scene of December 26th 1944 when 4th Armored tankers broke the siege of Bastogne by blasting their way past the pillbox at Assenois.

Ken was mentioned in Who's Who in the West 1998. He is an honorary member of the 4th Armored Division, and Associate member of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge. In 1998 he gave a report to the International Council of Motorsport Sciences, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Ken delivered a Paper to the International Automotive Media Conference in 1998, at Las Vegas, Nevada. He was given the Citation and an Honorary Membership in the U.S. 4th Armored Division, in 1994. He helped prepare papers delivered by John Fitch to the Society of Automotive Historians in Dearborn, Michigan and another in March, 2000, in Los Angeles, California.

His wife Angela passed away in 2004, and two years later he married Beatrice Drake, who was the widow of John Drake, in 2006. He has three grandchildren, Crystal Roberts, Amanda and Liana Buessecker, three step-grandchildren Robert, John and Brett Carlile and one great grandchild, Aislyn Roberts. He co-authored papers with John Fitch for the SAE in December, 2006 in Dearborn, Michigan. Ken co-authored another paper with John Fitch for the SAE in August, 2007, in Hollywood, California. “I had met John at the SAE conference when I presented an SAE paper on Motorsports Education in 1996, at Dearborn, Michigan. We later corresponded on racing safety and other issues that John was concerned about. We then collaborated on 2 papers he presented to SAE. In 2005 I joined him at Bonneville where he was driving Bob Sirna’s 300SL on a land speed record attempt. Since John had driven an MG Magnette roadster around England in 1939, dicing with other Brits on their country lanes, and then got his competition license in about 1946, I suggested that he had a unique competition history running from 1939 to 2005 ... 66 years, and counting. He has been in indifferent health lately and may not still be driving competitively, but he still aggressively attacks his writing and planning on a daily basis. His book Racing With Mercedes contains some of the finest writing I’ve ever seen. He describes his racing exploits in a way that puts you breathlessly into the driver’s seat. You can feel the heat, Hear the noise. Smell the hot engine ... it’s reality racing. He presented a paper to the Motor Sports Working Group (MSWG) of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) in 2008, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Ken was a member of the Western Mining Purchasing Management Group of which he was the founder. He is a charter member of the Forest Industry Purchasing Management Group. He was a member of the Timber, Pulp and Paper Purchasing Managers Group.

"One of my major interests is in motorsports education … creating programs to establish linkage between motorsports and educational facilities with the object of creating research and development projects to encourage the teaching and learning of Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Management (STEM) to improve safety, medical and other technologies of benefit to education, the motoring public, the automotive/racing world and the public at large. “All of these things will benefit the student in their lives and careers," he told me.

Ken published several papers on the www.academia.edu website and has begun a History of the Motor, (including motorsports) in Los Angeles within the 'Los Angeles as subject' project at: www.usc.edu/libraries/archives/arc/lasubject/records/id227.html.

Today Ken is busy researching, writing and promoting the racer's work ethic as an example of values that can teach science, technology, engineering, math and systems engineering to teachers and students. He is committed to finding a museum to house and disseminate in promotion of education, the history and memorabilia of racing. Ken also records and tapes interviews with celebrated racing men and women. He operates The Motorsports Education Foundation, a non-profit society in Mission Viejo, California. Ken created digitized historical monographs for Smoky Joe Wood, Leo Goossen, George Bignotti, Stu Hilborn, Dale Drake, John Drake, Lou Meyer and other notables.

With Lou Meyer on his porch at Searchlight 1993.

Bob Sirna put me in the 300SL to steer as he towed it into tech inspection at Bonneville 2005. John Fitch drove the LSR attempts.

Bob Pierson told me how it was done on the salt. Great guy, great stories. 

This began as an enquiry to find the roots of quality in motorsports. I had spoken to Derrick Walker about it while in Pennsylvania on a trip around the country. He told me about their 1992 Indy second-place finish and I became interested in the way big events can turn on a few micro-seconds. The more I dug into it, the more I found that the people in racing were thoughtful, civil and driven to continuous improvement of their craft. I met professors from prestigious universities who were racing electric cars. They were surprised at what it took to develop and continuously improve their cars and their teams. I went with Ed Rannberg’s team to El Mirage where he hoped to run at 200 mph in his EV streamliner. He missed, but later did 200 at Bonneville. The Ohio State team leader and I set out to pull motorsports into a Chair in Motorsports. There were already a number of universities doing research for racers, and we couldn’t raise the interest, or the money to the level of a Chair.

OSU went on to break 300 mph at Bonneville with an electric vehicle and continue their work to ‘improve the breed’. Meantime I had contacted Lou Meyer because he had driven an EV for a high-school team in Phoenix. His special friend, Frances Parsons called me an invited to come on up to Searchlight, Nevada and talk to Louie, Which I did. This led in a ripple effect into his family, colleagues and racing in general where I was able to borrow family albums, do tape-recorded interviews and set up the results on digital files. Some can be seen at ‘Ken Berg Synopsis’ on the web or at ‘academia.edu’.

In the long run what I found was that racers have a work ethic much admired, but seldom equaled, in other pursuits. Currently, the manufacturers of America are looking to ‘education’ to provide talented and competitive people to man the shop floors, and the executive suites of their organizations. The people I’m working with at the University of California, Irvine have developed hands-on, project based competitions that will improve academic knowledge and the work ethic of students. We are now seeking to expand this, and similar programs, nationally. The racing work ethic, or Racer’s Edge is the heart of the matter. It’s not something that racers spend any time thinking about, but it is of vital importance to our future.

Racers ... take a bow! All those I met were courteous, knowledgeable, modest, and good company.

I never met Leo Goossen but I have heard him on tapes. Sonny Meyer and John Drake both described him as a genius in preparing engineering drawings from a basic verbal idea. The race record for his creations is well documented. He connects American racing from the earliest days of the Harry Miller engines, up to the Drake-Offy turbocharged Indy winners, 6 of them, of the 1960s and 70s.

Ken also has an interest in early baseball, traditional jazz and most other musical forms, Battle of the Bulge, Unlimited air and hydroplane racing, carrier-deck operations, NASA and similar high technology, high achievement pursuits. "Hot-rodders are of particular interest because even with an amateur economic status, they show great improvement to their craft over the years. They are American Mechanics, a traditional title for people who can invent and craft competitive technology while overcoming adversity and inertia, cheerfully and skillfully," he added. Ken is a co-organizer of the Automotive Motorsports Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona. He is the Associate Motorsports Editor for Motorsports Digest, Long Beach, California. Ken is a columnist of The Racer's Edge by-line, Motorsports Digest. He is an archivist for the American Spirit Motorsports Foundation, Long Beach, California. He is an archivist-historian for the U.S. 4th Armored Division Museum, Perle, Luxembourg.

 

Gone Racin' is at [email protected].

Click photo gallery below to enlarge images.