Indy journal: 1965 – The Lost Letter

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.

In the early 1960s, dad was a member of the US Air Force and stationed at George Air Force Base northeast of Los Angeles. In previous years, he had always been able to get leave and attend the Indianapolis 500, but being near the end of his enlistment in 1965, he was not able to secure leave. Thus, he missed seeing the 1965 “500” in person, the only race he has missed to this day since 1954.

For the last 25 years, since I first discovered my dad’s journals, I had assumed there was simply no record of our family’s attendance at the 1965 race. However, in cleaning out my parents’ house a couple months ago, I discovered a handwritten letter from my grandfather to my dad describing his trip to the Big Race with his brothers-in-law, Newt and Ted Coy, and his sister, Bobby Dalbey.  This letter is simply invaluable to me personally, and I believe those who have enjoyed my dad’s journals will enjoy this letter just as much.

Like my dad, my grandfather was not a wordsmith, though the resemblance in writing style between my grandfather and my dad are uncanny.  Nonetheless, I am pleased to present this letter in its original form without attempt to edit or correct any mistakes.

Wednesday, June 2, 1965

Dear Dave,

It’s a rainy day here, and it’s my day off this week, so I thought it would be a good chance to write and give you some details of the annual trip.

By the way, we sure enjoyed hearing from you on the telephone Sunday.  If you had waited much longer, we would have been gone.

We took off about 1:15 PM.  I intended to go by and pick up Newt and Ted but they wanted to come over here so they did.  It was better that way because they had all the things they were taking and that way we could load all at once.

The back end was pretty low when we left.  Newt sat with me, and Ted and Bobby in back.  We took plenty of blankets.

The weather was perfect, clear and cool.

The trip was uneventful  We stopped at the regular place at the Chrisman junction and had coffee.

The traffic was about average for the Holiday.

When we got to Lynnhurst Drive, I stopped and filled the tank so we wouldn’t have to stop coming home.

We got to the old familiar corner about 5:30 PM.  Mr. Cramer was out in the yard and called me by name when I asked him where to park.  The spot by the faucet was filled so we parked in front of the garage.  I didn’t care, just so we got a space somewhere.  The yard had more cars than I ever remember for that time of day.

After talking a little to Cramer (he wanted to know where you were), we rested a little, had some coffee from the Thermos, and then walked over to the Speedway.  The crowd was very heavy.  There was a long line waiting to get into the Museum.  It stretched from the door to the street that goes into the grounds, about 4 abreast.

We finally got inside, and I know Newt and Ted got a big kick out of seeing all the old race cars, pictures, trophies, and etc.

There is supposed to be a bigger building built for this in the coming years.

When we had had a good look in the Museum, we went back to the car and ate supper.  The menu was: Hamburgers, beans, salad, and coke with coffee to drink.

We were all real hungry by that time and the food sure tasted good.  The stove worked fine.  When we had eaten and cleaned up, we took a walk along 16th St.

Things were pretty quiet compared to what they used to be.  The cars don’t line up along 16th now like they used to.  We ended up walking east, under the viaduct to that street that has a stop sign.  That was the only place it was safe to cross, you know how the traffic is on that street.  We walked back on the south side of the street, stopping along the way to have a can of Coca Cola. (It was Coca Cola.)

As I said before, things were much more quiet and calm than a few years ago.  The police were keeping things calm.  When we got to the car, we sat and talked a while and then got ready to sleep.  Newt and I were on the cots.  He said then he had worn a blister on his toe walking.  He had an old pair of shoes he wore from then on.

As usual, nobody slept much.  We were under an apple tree and they kept falling all night.  It made a noise when they hit the car.  I woke up once and Newt was gone.  I woke up again and he was still gone.  When we got up at 5 AM, he said he had gone down to the Standard Station and talked to people as he hadn’t been able to sleep.

By the way, somebody over there was selling horns about 2 feet long that made a big noise when blown.  The kids were walking up and down blowing on them the whole time we were there.  Whoever sold them must have made a lot of money. 

When we got up some men came over and asked us if we had heard those horns honking all night.  He said: “I’d like to kill the guy that was selling those damn horns.”  They sounded like the horn on a diesel locomotive.

We all walked down and watched the cars going into the track.  By the way, while we were in Cramer’s yard Sunday evening, the police came along Crawfordsville Road and announced all cars would have to get out or be hauled away.  That was another change.  No cars lined up along that street.  I also didn’t see all those railroad coaches that are always parked on the railroad track as you walk along the road to the track.  Another change this year.

We came back and had our breakfast of eggs and bacon and coffee.  Newt went to the Standard Station and got coffee in the Thermos bottle for breakfast and more to take to the race.

When we finished breakfast and cleaned up, we took off for the track.  We got to our seats about 8:30 AM.

Newt and Ted and I walked up and down and looked at all the cars and people around them.

I took two rolls of film altogether on the trip; 1 black and white and 1 color.  Suzy’s camera wouldn’t work again when I tried it on Saturday, so I went to the Lincoln Center and bought a new one, Kodak Instamatic.  It was a new type of film, so I hope the pictures turn out all right.  Ted took some too.  They had the usual program.  The Purdue Band and the celebrities.  I took some pictures of the drivers and the crews.

The weather was perfect, cool and not a cloud in the sky.  I had a double blanket under me and two wool blankets over me at night.

Naturally the race started right on time as you know.  I sure hope the pictures in the theater where you were were good.  You can let us know in your letter.

As you saw the Race, I don’t need to tell you about that.  It wasn’t nearly as exciting as some, did you think?  Clark took the lead and that was that.  It’s better when 2 or 3 cars are trying to get the lead.  I was glad there weren’t any bad wrecks.  The Lotus cars held up all right.

I was sorry to see A.J. Foyt drop out so soon because Ted likes him and wanted him to win.  I see in today’s paper he is thinking of quitting.

The crowd after the race was the worst I’ve seen.  It took us a long time to get out of the grounds and down the road to where we turn west to go to the car.

After we got back to the car and washed up and had everything ready, the traffic didn’t seem to move.  I never did see why, but the cars seemed to just stand still for a long time.  When we finally got going and made the turn south on Lynnhurst, then I got in another slow line.  We stopped or crawled all the way to where we turn west on Rt. 36.  I don’t know why traffic was so slow, but it sure was.  When we headed west it was pretty good from then on.  We stopped and ate dinner at a new place just west of the filling station at Chrisman junction.  It’s called Country Cupboard or Kitchen, and is a smorgasbord.  They charge $1.95 a piece and it was very good.  The food is about like the Blackhawk at Jacksonsonville.

I bought 5 gallons of gas at the station as the gauge was below 1/2, but evidently it doesn’t read right as it read 1/2 or better when we got home, and I know I used more than 5 gallons to go 110 miles.

Traffic was fairly heavy all the way home but it didn’t rain any.  We stopped at Coys’ and let them out and got home about 9:15 PM.

I had to go to work Tuesday, so we left everything in the car, I took a quick bath, and shaved and got into bed.  I was pretty tired yesterday at work but made it all night.  I sure did sleep last night.

Your old friend Jim Hoover stopped by yesterday afternoon.  He’s finishing up at Eastern ILL U and says he’ll teach botany or biology or zoology.  He said he thought you’d be home this time of the year.  We explained the situation.  He’s going over this summer and finishing his schooling.  He looked real good and still has the same car, Rambler.

I hope I gave you the details of the trip, Dave.

We can talk over the finer points when you get home.  I want to hear your opinion of the race and of the telecast that you saw.

It won’t be long long.


3 thoughts on “Indy journal: 1965 – The Lost Letter

  1. billytheskink

    I am glad you found this letter, Paul, and I am glad you shared it and so many of your father’s journals. Reading them over the years inspired me to keep a similarly-styled journal of my trip to the 500 in 2016 with my father. I will probably do so again when I am able to get back to Indy.


  2. Huge thanks for continuing to post these, Paul. I always get a kick out of reading what it was like to go to the 500 back then, and I always wind up hungry by the end…

    Oh, and welcome back to the blogoshpere. It’s nice to have your well thought out posts back around.


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