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Stock car races

In July 1951, racetrack owner Pearl (Pug) Page announced the formal opening of Osceola Flying Saucer Stock Car Track east of Osceola.

The track was located two and a-half miles east of Osceola on U.S. Highway 34 and one quarter mile south. Page, along with Con Hall and Russ Miller, built the track with a dozer and grader.

All of Osceola’s stock car drivers and top talent in the area were expected to be on hand for the opening event on the just completed quarter mile dirt track. Admission was $1, including tax.

Races were on Sundays with time trials starting at 1:30 p.m. Page’s wife Maxine and daughter Evelyn (Mrs. Charles Kent) placed speakers on top of their car and drove around Osceola announcing the races. They also operated the refreshment stand at the races. Page’s son Bob Page drove a truck carrying a tank filled with water and watered the track the night before the races.

Anyone could have a stock car. All that was required was an old car, fair mechanical knowledge, several hundred dollars’ worth of additional equipment and a mild streak of insanity.

The average stock car may have looked like a piece of junk running wild around the track, but you didn’t want to be deceived by appearances. The care, pains and expense going into the fugitives from the junkyard might have been more than that afforded the average late model car on the highway.

There were long, exhausting, late-into-the-night tune-up sessions and some late night test drives before the engine would breathe the dust, grime and grit of the tracks. These sessions resulted in sometimes startling performance of the cars.

The races were sponsored by Osceola Stock Car Association. Fifteen entries were on hand at the start of the first race with a good crowd on hand. The races were thrilling without any serious accidents, aside from the usual fender scraping and radiator banging. At each race, emergency service included medical aid, ambulance and fire control. A wrecker always stood by.

Stock car racers and owners from Osceola, Weldon and Van Wert included Gene Hockensmith, Jiggs (Keith) Davison, Louie Race, Don Crabb, Paul Stiles, Gene Hesseltine (1934 Ford), Lyle Kerns (1937 Ford Coupe) David Glenn, Malcolm Tiedje, Bill Tiedje, Junior Goodrich, Galen Hylton, Cliff Low, Buddy Huffman, Phillip Patrick, Myron Jones and Ray Olsen.

Mabel Hylton of Osceola competed in the Powder Puff races driving red stock car No. 2.

Winners of some of the fastest races of the year included Ray Olsen, Glen Curtis of Osceola, Jim Fowler, Fred Erwin of Chariton and Bill Alley of Humeston. Osceola driver Russell Cox won the Australian Pursuit and main event turning in the fastest time trial, as well as 22.5 seconds. A time trial record of 21.7 was later set by Cox, breaking his own record.

The first race in July 1952 was under newly-installed lights at the track with the fast competitive lap ever turned — 22 seconds flat.

Don Miller of New Virginia was the only driver to win more than a single race taking the novelty and main event. Other winners were Buck Mason of Osceola, Bill Steele, Bob Ward and Ray McAuley of Creston, Lyle Foster of Chariton, Leonard Davis of Leon, Duane Johnson of Hopeville and Bill Fisher of Mercer, Mo.

More than 800 racing fans were present at one race.

The racing fans were thrilled at one race by a rollover and collision right in front of the stands. The neck of one driver was strained by the jarring impact, but he continued on to win the race.

At another race, two cars became tangled together on the track and headed for the infield to avoid involving other drivers. A spectator was standing on the infield, and as the cars jerked apart, to avoid one car, he walked into or collided with the other car. He was treated at a local hospital and released the next morning.

Something new offered to racing fans in the area were Midget races. Some of the top Midget drivers from the Midwest brought their powerful little cars to the track for the event.

Stock car racing continued every Sunday in 1953 with a good show, plenty of seats and $1 admission — including tax.

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