4 April 65 : Indianapolis 500 Speedway and backstage in American TV : Indianapolis, USA

This continues the letter dated 2nd April 1965, which began: 

Dear family

Sunday 4th April

We had a very good day yesterday, we went to the world famous Indianapolis 500 race track, and looked over the Racing Museum there, and then did a lap of the circuit, and got a certificate (but it didn’t say that we did it in a bus, at an average speed of about 30 miles per hour!!!)

The big race day this year is May 31st, and we are hoping that if we are in this area on that day, that we may be able to go. It would be great if we could as this is one of the sporting events of the world.

In the museum they had the winning cars right back to 1911, and it’s amazing how they’ve changed. We saw the 1912 winner, which had the world’s first rear view mirror – a very elaborate affair!!

We then had a look around Indianapolis which hasn’t really got much to offer. We then went to look for an ice skating rink, but couldn’t find one, and ended up roller skating (a very popular sport here) and after nearly breaking my neck, I decided ice skating is far safer – which is very surprising really.

 

Indianapolis speedway ticket front

 

indianapolis speedway ticket rear

 

We had a very pleasant evening. We were invited around to the home of ‘Hi,’ our boss. He had laid on a bit of a party for us, and invited in neighbours and friends, and the inevitable horde of children who wanted to talk about The Beatles. We had a very pleasant time as they were a very exuberant bunch. There were three women who were a real comedy turn.

One of the fellows is a TV director with the local TV station (or I should say one of the four local ones), and we spend a lot of time talking to him. He was a Spike Milligan type, (a famously surreal British comedian) and as mad as a hatter. He not only directs and produces, but reads the news, edit films, does commercials, and in the mornings for the children he has his own show, and appears as ‘Captain Star’.

(Note: This was Larry Vincent, who later became a cult TV figure, hosting the hit comedy horror show, Fright Night, from 1969-1974. Sadly, he died of cancer in 1975. Vincent’s character, Seymour, would appear in a small window on-screen to heckle the films as they played, sometimes even interacting with the film’s characters. He was always introduced by a never-seen assistant, as: “The Master of the Macabre, the Epitome of Evil, the most sinister man to crawl across the face of the Earth, SEEEEEEEYmooooourrrr!”) 

 

 

We were horrified at some of the things he told us about TV here. For instance his own hour-long show is completely unscripted and unrehearsed, and it is decided what they are going to do about half an hour before they go on. They rehearse nothing – except the commercials. He has rehearsed for commercials up to two hours, but rehearse the show? Never!!

It’s fantastic – the reason is that they are on the air about 20 hours a day, and to rehearse everything would be impossible. Take the news for example, this isn’t rehearsed or timed. The news comes second, the commercials come first, and if it’s running over time they chop a few items of news to get in the required number of commercials.

He said he would take us down to the studio to see the news and weather and sport being done, and at 11:30 pm we all squeezed into his Volkswagen (Oh these European cars) and went down to the studios. It was very interesting and he showed us all over.

In the newsroom about six teleprinters were churning out miles of national and international news, and he said ‘this is all the stuff we can’t get onto the news because of the commercials’ – a very sad state of affairs.

Apparently it’s easy get into TV here (that is, in the middle of the country – on both coasts it’s very difficult). But here in the middle you can join a local station and get all the experience in the world. The fellow we saw directing the news last night couldn’t have been more than about 25.

As we were there, they were showing the first of the all night films, and he showed us the commercial schedule – and there were about 25 commercial breaks during the film!! Anyway, it was a very enjoyable and informative visit.

I had two letters from you when we got to Hi’s house (his name is Harold Heithecker). I was delighted to hear of Carol’s success. Fancy her now being a State Registered Nurse. I have been very proud to be able to tell people here that my sister is a nurse at Guy’s Hospital (it is quite well known here), and now that she has left, I shall miss being able to say that. Still, being able to say she’s marrying a dentist is just as good.

img106
Tony’s parents, Gwladys and Lewis

I enjoyed Dad’s epic letter very much indeed (he really ought to write a book, you know). We roared at the description of the Cotham murder, and also at the comments about the ‘crowd scene from Ben Hur’. You know, that business about pinching wheels off cars is very common here, and there are cars everywhere in the street with no wheels.

Dad’s description about the good weather and the garden, and having a cup of tea in the sunshine, brought back happy memories, and a bit of nostalgia. I am not homesick but I do think of home and you all, and home cooking an awful lot.

Home to me is a different motel room every night, and a different restaurant for every meal. We joke about it a lot, and quite often have to think hard to remember where home is for that particular night. But the compensation in other ways is well, well, worth it.

Travel is a real education you know. I have learnt a tremendous amount about life, people, politics, geography, etc. So the fact that I haven’t got Mum fussing over me, (scorching my shirts before I can put them on), can be suffered – although I do miss it a lot.

The food, I’m afraid, has got worse in the last few weeks, and we haven’t had a decent meal for ages. I don’t know when I last had any fresh veg. I have started to take vitamin tablets as my nails began to split off, and cuts and scratches wouldn’t heal up for weeks. Since I have been taking them everything’s back to normal, and this I’m sure is proof of the bad diet. Although I still continue to put on weight.

We have decided that in future we will check into a motel with a kitchenette and do some of our own meals, which should make a nice change.

Fancy Nigel turning out to be an expert dog trainer, maybe he should join a circus or something?!!

 

1965 04 04 Indianapolis speedway postcard rear

 

1965 04 04 Indianapolis speedway postcard front

 

The gangster fellow in Brooklyn (J–) did something very nice. He wrote into the office a very complimentary letter about the good job we had done, and thanked the company very much. Our boss wrote and thanked him for his comments and sent a copy of each letter to us. Also the people in Cincinnati have written into the office as well (so they have told us), so we are not doing too badly I think.

People are very interested in us and always want to talk and bring in their wives and children and I’m sure we bring the company a lot of goodwill. This week in Cincinnati the owner of the place where we have been working has said he wants to have an evening out with us, so that, we assume (and hope), will be a free meal on him.

We have already planned our travel for next week. Have to go north again to Michigan to a place called Battle Creek, and we are planning to cross Lake Erie to Wisconsin State, and drive down to Chicago for the weekend. That trip will include two new States, which brings my total to 18 States visited already.

Well I must end now as I have run out of news.

I’m sorry you haven’t been getting my mail too well. I think they may have been overweight and they have been sending them surface mail. Colin has been very unlucky. He always insists on putting our address on the back, and instead of sending them on by sea, they return them to him.

Well that’s all for now. Glad to hear that you are all well and that Mum’s shoulder is better. Look after yourselves.

All my love,

Tony xxxx

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The postcard to Tony’s brother Nigel reads:

Dear Nigel, 

Here is a picture of the Indianapolis 500 Track. 33 cars race in it once a year and they really shift. One car has actually got up to 196 mph. 

In the picture you can see the pits road, well they drive off the main track and into there at 100mph and brake and stop alongside their ‘pit’ (so the guide said.)

The track is banked at 9° at the end curves and they go around at 100mph. It is really just a giant speedway track.

In case of accidents there are 2 helicopters parked in the middle of the track ready to whisk any victims to hospital.  

Cheers, Tone.

The postcard caption reads:  500 Mile Race – Indianapolis, IND. The first lap of the world famous 500 Mile Memorial Day Race.   

 

 

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