Tuesday, August 17, 2010




Tommy Woods has lived in Wilkes Barre Township for quite a while. The Township is known for the great Giant's Despair Hill Climb Ride. So Tommy knows all about race cars. Joey Shaver, a long time resident of Harvey's Lake is no stranger to cars. A long time Corvette owner, Shaver was in the thick of promoting outings at Pocono Drag Lodge when he was the popular night time jock on the Mighty 590 in the 60s. This past weekend Tommy and Joey, members of the WARM Sensational 7 participated in the second annual PDL reunion. Here's John Gordon's story from the Times Leader:
Do you remember that catchy television commercial from 1974? You know, the one that goes: “baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet.” It is a musical piece of Americana that resonates with many people from that beloved era. It brings back many nostalgic memories.
On Saturday, at the second annual Pocono Drag Lodge Reunion in Bear Creek Township, the lyrics might have been a bit different, but the Americana, memories and atmosphere were undeniable.
If the song played yesterday, it surely would have had a Northeastern Pa. feel to it, and gone: “Drag racers, potato pancakes, apple turnovers, and yes, Chevrolet.”
More than 250 supercharged autos, including Fords, Chevrolets, and a multitude of other makes and models, lined the edges of the deteriorating NHRA quarter-mile drag strip off Meadow Run Road.
There were a variety of Gassers (racing cars that run on a mixture of alcohol and nitromethane) and AFX cars (factory experimental cars donated by auto companies in the 1960s for drag racing) on display for the estimated thousands of spectators to photograph, sit in, and gawk at. They could simply dream of a time long passed.
The 1958 Everly Brothers hit song, “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” played over the event speakers early in the day and set the tone for many at the reunion.
“It’s like that movie, ‘Field of Dreams,’” said racing legend and enthusiast Wally Bell. “If you build it, they will come.”
Bell chuckled after that statement, sharing the laughter with event organizer, Charlie Hulsizer, and complimented his efforts.
“Charlie brought the racers back, back to drink that wine,” Bell said.
The appetites of many in attendance were satisfied with good foods that ranged from french fries and potato pancakes to apple turnovers and muffins. Booths lined the track from the, still visible, starting line, to the finish line, 1,320 feet away.
Vendors sold T-shirts, model cars, racing DVDs, car parts, and a variety of books and car manuals that added to the enjoyment of those in attendance.
“These people are such a great group of folks and car enthusiasts,” Hulsizer said. “They have a special camaraderie and come from all around the area. Some even hiked all the way here.”
Tom Vanchuri and his 3-year-old son, Luke, might not have hiked to the classic site, but their trip from Plains Township was family time, well spent.
“I’ve had an interest in cars since I was very young,” Vanchuri said. “I’m trying to get my son interested now.”
Young Luke simply bobbed his head up and down with a precocious smile when asked if he liked the show.
Tom’s father-in-law, Robin Brown, of Mountain Top, even had a grin on his face when asked about the reunion.
“I’ve been a car nut forever. I’ve built a lot of cars over the years and to see this place reopened is great,” Brown said.
Charlie Hulsizer and his wife, Darlene, reopened the drag strip for the event after seeing how well preserved the area was a few years back.
“We were tripping over old car parts at the site and looked at each other and just said, we can do it, we can do this reunion,” said Hulsizer.
Kevin McHugh, from Langhorne, Pa., was a former racer who started his career at the Lodge and said the reunion brings back many memories.
“Wally Bell was driving his racer back to the pit area one day and opened his car door to give me a ride,” McHugh said. “It was my first ride in a race car and the sound of the engine was in my blood from there on out.”
The former Kingston resident went on to work at the lodge from 1965-1972. He worked the starting line and handed racers their time cards at the end of races.
After the track closed down following the flooding from Hurricane Agnes, McHugh would practice at the lodge with his 1972 super stock car.
WARM radio closed its doors in 2009. However, the sounds of the station would echo throughout the 300-acre drag lodge lot once again on the crisp and cool summer afternoon. Music from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s blasted from the speakers at both ends of the drag strip.
“The records from back then just sounded great on 45s over the AM airwaves,” said Joey Shaver, from Harvey's Lake.
He was one of the disc jockeys of the station back when the lodge and racing were at their peak.
“WARM fit the nostalgia back then,” Shaver said.
The spokesperson for WARM went on to say he hopes that the station will make a comeback one day.
“I miss playing old songs like my favorite, ‘I Only Have Eyes for You’ by the Flamingos,” Shaver said.
Charlie Hulsizer emphasized the personal importance of WARM radio and its connection to the racing track and lodge.
“As a kid I would visit my Grandma in Wilkes-Barre and my ears would be glued to the radio and WARM station,” Hulsizer said. “When I hear old WARM broadcasts on CDs now they bring tears to my eyes.”

He went on to praise all of the people that made the show a hit once again.
“My relatives, the vendors, the parking attendants, the racers, they all did a great job this year. The show is very organized today and a huge success,” Hulsizer said.


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Anonymous said...

Giants Despair Hillclimb is in Laurel Run Borough and Benifits the Laurel Run Borough Volunteer Fire Dept. Not Wilkes-Barre Twp.