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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Tony Vickio Lap 20

Experiences of "The World Famous"
by: Tony Vickio

Painting at the Famous Race Tracks

Lap 20: What a find!!

For the next few months I was back doing commercial signs, trucks and pinstriping various cars and motorcycles. My finger was almost back to normal. To this day the tip is numb, but I figure the numbness is a small price to pay for a stupid mistake. I'm working along one sunny day when, you guessed it, the phone rings. I look for the portable phone, s***! I can't find it! The phone keeps ringing. Seems I forgot to turn the answering machine on. I walk to the front of the shop where there is a wall mounted phone. I pick up the pace and grab at the receiver as if it is going to be the last ring. "Vickio Signs", I say. "Tone-Man", I hear on the other end. Only one person calls me "Tone-Man". "Michelle", I say in a loud, surprised voice. Before I could say a word, MIchelle (Matt’s secretary at the Race Track) says, in an excited voice, "Tone-Man, you have to get up here right away. They just cleaned out some offices and there are boxes of old photos in the dumpster! I mean tons of pictures"! I say, "I'm pretty busy right now, I'll be up tomorrow". "NO", she says, "it will be gone tomorrow". In her most demanding voice she commands, "you get up here NOW!” "Alright, I'm on my way"! I say. As I hang up the phone, I turn to walk away and mumble to myself, “Sheessh"! You see, when Michelle gives a command like that, your feet better be moving before she finishes the sentence! Guess I can't finish this sign!

I get into my truck and reluctantly head for the track. On the way up to the track I'm thinking, "Right in the middle of a job, I have go up and look at something, somebody threw out! I don't want to waste my time with this stuff!" Until this day, I didn't really collect many things. This day changed me forever! "At least now, Michelle will stop hollering at me"! I'm thinking as I'm driving. I pull up to the GT Center building, where the Maintenance Offices are. Once inside, I see Michelle sitting behind her desk. Her usual "stuff" is only a reach away.............three cans of Diet Coke and full assortment of candy bars from the vending machine. I say, "Michelle, someday you are going to "explode into 500 lbs!" You see Michelle is about 5'-4" and a hundred pounds "wet". She drinks more Coke than anyone I know! "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, follow me. I'll show you the dumpster", she says. As we walk through the Maintenance shop, I wave and say Hi to George, who is working on a huge Blue Ford tractor. (to the back, where there are two large overhead doors. Outside to the right of one of the doors is a large, green dumpster. "There it is", Michelle says pointing at the dumpster. I say, "Get in there and hand the stuff out to me". She gives me the "look" and goes back into the building. I walk to the front of the building and drive my truck out back to the dumpster. I see Rudy (remember the head-on collision?) driving by and holler at him to stop, "Hey Rudy! give me a hand?" He pulls over as I am putting one leg over the dumpster and start to climb in. "What the hell are you doing"? he says with this weird look on his face. I tell him the story and he says, "you're s******* me"! Just then Tim Coleman (now the General Manager) comes out and says, "That’s right where you belong Vickio". "It's not bad in here", I say back. I hand him three large boxes and several cardboard shipping tubes (unopened) and about ten yellow, plastic "Slide" boxes and he puts them in the back of my truck. I climb out of the dumpster after making sure I got everything. In the back of the truck, I open one of the boxes and look in. "Holy s***!" I say out loud. The box is full (thousands) of old black and white photos from the early days of racing at the Glen. Tim says there are more things (posters, pictures and banners in another building that is being torn down. "Go get what you want, tomorrow it's gone", he says. Away I go!

In this old building, one of the first things I see is a "wadded" up, poster size piece of paper in the corner. I can see what looks like a racing tire in folds of the wrinkles. I go over and pick it up. As I try to straighten up the poster, I see it isn't a poster, but a numbered and signed Print of James Hunt in his Formula1 McLaren! Scattered all over the floor was a number of banners, posters, photos and programs that I quickly picked up. There are unopened boxes of programs from the '80's and 90's. "Get it now", Tim said, as tomorrow the truck was coming and everything left will be gone! I picked up everything, figuring I would sort it out at the shop. As I drove out of Gate 2 and turned right and headed down County Route 16 to my shop, I turned and looked over my right shoulder to make sure that none of the "treasures" were blowing out of the truck. I couldn't wait to look in the boxes.

As I pull into the driveway, I get this feeling that I get a Christmas when I'm about to open the presents! I back the truck up to the shop door and get out. I carry the boxes and tubes into the shop and place them on my work table. Where do I start! "Wonder what's in the yellow, plastic boxes", I think. There are about eleven of the 9" x 19" x 2" thick yellow plastic boxes and they are heavy. I open one..............WOW! It is full of 35mm slides. They are categorized as Race, Spectators, Media and Misc. The dates are 1984 to '86. I pull out a "race" slide and gently hold between my thumb and forefinger and hold it up to the light. There, right before my eyes is the Jaguar Prototype, driven by Davey Jones. I put it back in its slot and continue to look for my favorite, the Lowenbrough Porsche. There it is! I smile and say out loud, "holy s***!" Counting the Yellow boxes, special bound notebooks and cardboard boxes, I figure there are more than 8,000, 35mm slides! Now to look in the cardboard boxes. I pull one open and it is full, to the top with old Black and White photos! I just stand there for a second before I literally dive in! There are photos of old Formula1 drivers and cars. I pulled out pictures of Dan Gurney, Phil Hill, Jackie Stewart, Mario Andretti, Graham Hill, just to name a few. There are two small picture books (about 3"x5") stuffed in the box. I find they are full of photos of every race car that ran the first (1948) on the "old" road course. The photographer was standing just up the road from my house on the outside of "Collier's Corner" and took a picture of every car that went by. It is named Collier's Corner because John Collier was killed there in the 1949 race. There is another box, full of driver photos (used for the media). I can't believe it! This is unbelievable!

"What's in the tubes", I wonder. I look at them (5 tubes) and not one has been opened! I get a razor and cut around the top of one. I carefully slide out two posters that are wrapped in cellophane paper. "Oh my God!" I say out loud! Here are two prints of the #11 Budweiser car (NASCAR), Junior Johnson, Tim Brewer and Bill Elliott with his helmet on. That's not the good part! It is autographed by all three of them! Not that this isn't good enough, it is signed and numbered by the artist (Gary Hill # 15/1000). Carefully I roll them back up and put them in the tube. I open the others. I am in shock! There is a print of Dan Gurney in Ford GT Mark IV at LeMans.Yup! Signed by Gurney and the artist, Stephen Oosterling (#5/200). The other poster is Gurney at Daytona driving A Toyota Eagle Mark III. Also signed by Gurney and the artist (Stephen Oosterling #5/200). In another tube is a poster of Dale Earnhardt at the 1990 Daytona 500 when he blew the tire on the last lap and Derrick Cope went on to win. It was signed by Gary Hill (artist # 197/500), Derrick Cope and team owner Bob Whitcomb. Another tube had a beautiful print (# 14/500) of the 1970 Formula1 race at Watkins Glen, where Emmerson Fittapaldi won his first race. It is signed by Emmerson and Jack Brabham! There are some other fine posters in the remaining tubes.

I haven't gone totally through the thousands of photos yet, or the slides. What I do is, in the winter I have one or two "slide shows", where people from the Racing Library (Watkins Glen), Race Historian, Bill Green and a "bunch" of race fanatics such as "Scotty" Welliver (ex owner of Mike McLaughlin's Busch team) and any other race fans that want to show up to see the "past", come to the shop where we chip in for beer and pizza to watch the show. The good part is, if anyone sees a photo he likes, we pull it and they can have it! Lately it's turned into a party! Some are bringing dishes to pass and it is a food fest! It is a great time as we don't know what the photos are ahead of time. A few of my pals come up early and we load about 1,000 slides into the trays without looking at them. It is FUN not knowing what is next in the tray!

Just think of what would have happened if Michelle hadn't been aware of what was going on ! What a tragic loss of racing history could have occurred! Thank you Michelle!

Lap: 21: Pace Car Rides

Click on the photo and go to Sally Ann's photostream for more photos.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tony, with all the stuff you have hanging on your walls, how do you manage to get any work done? How do you manage to keep everything clean?

You should start some sort of a museum. Old racing stuff and hand lettered signs!

10:48 PM  
Anonymous The Famous said...

Those pictures are of a room at the back of my shop where I keep my Corvette. I will post some pictures of my shop at some point. It is a museum!

I clean a lot!

I collect Bee Hives also. Have some nice ones!

9:10 AM  

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