Note from Paul: In 1954, my father, David Dalbey, attended his first Indianapolis 500 with his father and aunt. Several years later, he started recording his experiences in detailed, handwritten journals. He has continued this practice all the way through the current year. Several of the earliest years were written many years later and may contain some errors in information. He was not a wordsmith, but nonetheless, I am pleased to present these journals in their original form without attempt to edit or correct any mistakes.
Memorial Day was on Wednesday this year. My aunt, Bobby Dalbey, went with us this year and again we used Lyle Coy’s station wagon.
I came home at 11:30 when school was dismissed for the lunch hour. When I arrived home, Dad and Bobby were packing our equipment. I helped them finish the job. We ate dinner and then left home about 1:00. Our only stop was at Chrisman for about 15 minutes. We arrived at Indianapolis about 5:00.
The city had been having heavy rain all during May. There had been a heavy rain just the day before on the 28th. Because the rain had washed out a bridge on the regular route, we had to take another route to the track, which only took a couple minutes longer.
We stayed where we did two years ago, at Kramer’s. After eating supper, the three of us walked down Georgetown Road to 16th Street and saw the carnival, the midget races, the concession stands, the drunks, the parties, the long lines of cars and all the usual night before the 500 sights. We got back to the station wagon around 11:30.
Bobby slept in the front seat, and Dad and I folded the back two rows of seats out and slept on them. As usual, we got little sleep and were awakened by the military bomb at 5:00.
We got up, went down and watched the cars go under the track, and then came back and ate breakfast. We left for the track about 8:00.
Everything was soaking wet. The ground was just mud. There was water standing everywhere. The infield of the track was really a mess. The track was just dry enough for the race. Crews had been working around the clock for the last couple of days in order to get rid of the water. There was uncertainty until a couple of hours before the race whether the race could be run or not. The three of us had to be careful where we were stepping while we were walking around in the infield looking at everything. We got to our seats at about 9:30.
The race started on time at 11:00. About half way through the race, Al Herman hit the outside retaining wall twice and then the inside wall once right in front of us as he was coming down the main straightaway. Al was unhurt, but he surely gave the fans some excitement for a few seconds. Paul Russo crashed into the wall on his 21st lap in the Novi car while leading the race but was unhurt. There was an unusually large amount of caution time, but at the end, Pat Flaherty won the race with Sam Hanks second and Don Freeland third.
We got back to the car about 4:00 and rested for a few minutes before we left for home. We left about 4:30. A few miles before we got to Illinois, it was raining so hard that we couldn’t see ahead of us at all, so we pulled off to the side of the road until it let up a little, which was about 15 minutes. When we got to Chrisman, we stopped and ate supper at the usual place. After eating, our next stop was home. We arrived home between 8:30 and 9:00.
Our trip for this year was finished, but it gave things to think about for many years to come. This was the first year the 500-mile race was run under the sanction of the new United States Auto Club.
Pace Car — DeSoto
Queen — Virginia Mayo