Monthly Archives: March 2013

WW II: Guns of Venice

I survived the “Battle of Los Angeles”

Venice, California

You’ve heard of Believe it or Not by Ripley? Well believe it or not from December 1941 until 1945, as an 11yr old boy I lived through World War II in the Los Angeles beach community of Venice, California … and I’m still here to talk about it!  Kidding aside, beginning in the early morning of February 24, 1942, and continuing until early morning of the 25th, I watched with worrisome glee while peeking through blackout curtains of our family home in Venice, viewing the “Battle of Los Angeles ”.

You see, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese had attacked our naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and destroyed a goodly part of the U.S. Navy, subsequently causing a declaration of war with Japan.  The only communication we had for how the war was progressing was local newspapers, “Movie Tone News” at theaters and the President’s weekly “Fireside Chats” on the radio.  When I think of today’s internet technology and looking back, we were quite in the dark about knowing where we stood as far as the war was concerned.  No television, satellites or cell phones.

Our home in Venice was located just below and south of the west end of the runway for the Douglas Aircraft Company in Santa Monica. The plant was completely camouflaged to eliminate air detection during daylight hours (pictured below).  The company made several kinds of warplanes and as a youngster I was fascinated watching a new plane take off about every half hour.

Mar Vista hill was just south of the plant and was inundated with anti-aircraft gun emplacements.  Dotting the neighborhoods of Mar Vista, Venice, Santa Monica and West Los Angeles were Barrage Balloon sites.  Barrage Balloons are large rubber-like objects about 60-70 feet long and 25 feet in diameter with four tails, filled with helium and looking much like a baby blimp tethered by cable to a ground based winch.  In case of an air attack, the balloons would be raised to heights reaching as high as 5,000 feet.

On that early morning of February 1942, air raid sirens sounded and those guns on Mar Vista hill gave me and my family a frightening wake-up.  BOOM! BOOM! … BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!  Within a matter of minutes, it sounded like every battery of guns on the hill was firing.  Peeking through the blackout curtains, I could see Army searchlights filling the air.  My dad was an air raid warden and my older brother was a “messenger” (bicyclist to deliver messages to air raid wardens within the city during emergencies) – the telephone rang and both father and brother were called to duty.  Dad left in his car (35 Pontiac Sedan) with the lights off and my brother took off on his bike …. in the dark.

The entire city was blacked out during this emergency.  My mother was scared to death, I was fascinated but a little frightened at the same time.  I knew about Pearl Harbor and we were at war with Japan but those guns and really got my attention.  The incident was never fully explained to the public.  There were rumors of all kinds circling Southern California and the greater Los Angeles area:  Japanese spy planes, a stray weather balloon, an emergency test, even a UFO (recent movie with that angle) .  The Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox (source: L. A. Times) finally came forward and dismissed it as a false alarm.  False alarm maybe but I was there, I was awakened by the guns, I saw the searchlights, my dad and older brother left our home in the dark — it was all real and to me it was “The guns of Venice for the Battle of Los Angeles”.

See ya at the races

Ronnie Hier

Home Of Nostalgia Drag Racing

Editor’s note:

Unlike the many airports of the time, Santa Monica Airport was neither turned into a drag strip — should have been —  nor turned into a strip mall.  It’s still there and though some people complain, while the city puts quite a few limits on the facility, it’s still there and in operation.  For more on the history of Venice, California, go here.


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55th March Meet — 2013 Nitro Results

The 55th March Meet in 2013 had a little of everything and seemed like a long weekend for a lot of teams as the four-day meet had some interruptions … and as we speak, parts of it are still going.

Jim Young with Frank and Debra Ousley’s Crop Duster crew

Teams started arriving to the mecca of drag racing as early as Tuesday because in-part the event has become so large that people have learned to get there early plus the Bowser’s, who run Famoso, opened it earlier to accommodate everyone.  In addition, Thursday would be a test and tune for many who needed the extra time to get ready — since this was the first meet of the year.  One particular eye-opener test run was Tony Bartone’s Top Fueler clicking off just before the lights and still going 5.56 seconds at just 220 mph (source: Bakersfield Californian).

It never rains in California … unless there’s a drag race

There’s been a drought of sorts here in California but as many of us have witnessed over the years, if you need to end a drought, schedule a drag race.  On cue, Friday saw the rains come and thus, there would be no joy in Mudville.  And that’s what it was like for some — which happens to dirt when it gets wet.

So in the nitro ranks, Saturday saw a lot of qualifying as teams from every division jammed in as much as they could on a cool and mostly cloudy day.  Top Fuel saw last year’s winner Jim Young as the top qualifier with a 5.68 ET.   34 Funny Cars vied for the top 16 spots with Jason Rupert snagging #1 qualifier with a 5.70.


While most of the Sportsman classes ran early Sunday morning to get in a second round of qualifying, Top Fuel and Funny Cars started eliminations shortly afterwards.  Reigning Hot Rod Heritage Series champion Adam Sorokin lost to Young in the first round.  Eventually, with the Top Fuel final under the lights, Young and his Ousley family Top Fueler matched-up against Denver Schutz.  The top end speed of Young’s car was too much for Schutz to overcome and Young was victorious with a 5.65 ET and at over 269 mph.  In Funny Car,  Tim Boychuk ran a stout 5.81 ET at 249 mph to defeat Mark Sanders who broke a transmission almost at the hit.

Funny Car winner Tim Boychuk
– Driving his ’77 Firebird

The immense popularity of Nostalgia drag racing is alive and kicking and probably bigger than it’s ever been.  It would be nice to think something this big with such a fan loyalty and following could  garner more coverage and sponsorship.  Even with all the rain, the crowds were unbelievably huge and there wasn’t a seat to be found each time Top Fuel and Funny Car came to the line.  The Bowser’s do a good job with Famoso but it certainly would be nice to see more seating.

If you’re wondering, all the other classes had to run today after getting only one round of eliminations in on Sunday.  Again, the delay was due to the lost day of rain.

By the way, if you would like to see some videos of the March Meet, the Bakersfield Californian has several clips here.

Daryle W. Hier

Home Of Nostalgia Drag Racing

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What is the best feature at the March Meet?

Backup girl at Famoso

Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, California, is often called the mecca of drag racing.  For the March Meet every year, tens of thousands of fans from all over the world, come to this spot out in the orchards of the San Joaquin Valley to embrace a sport that has since the ’50s, offered some of the most pure Americana in all the land.  During the March Meet, which runs nearly a full week now and maybe the most infamous event in drag racing, there’s so much to do and see and smell and hear, that the Nostalgia fan can almost be overwhelmed by its magnitude.  With that said, what features of the March Meet do you or would you like the most?  Let us know and thanks for sharing.

Check out all things Famoso here.

Daryle W. Hier

Home Of Nostalgia Drag Racing

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Taking A Look At Recent Racer Etiquette

Recent remarks by a NASCAR driver and some of the same issues with a drag racer after last season raise an interesting quandary as to how a racer acts etiquette-wise, who does he talk to and what and why the situations arise.  Do racers or for that matter, any athlete have a right to privacy?

First off, supposedly both of these situations allegedly involved racial overtones and what exactly was said and not said is technically not known.  What could be a disturbing feature to both of these incidents is the way that NASCAR and Don Schumacher Racing handled the situations.

What we know is that 29 year old Jeremy Clements from South Carolina is a part-time racecar driver in NASCAR’s Nationwide series.  The incident in Daytona was a casual one where an editor (news releases say he was a reporter) for MTV was looking to interview another driver and a NASCAR official along with Clements, help the ‘reporter’ find the other driver.  While walking for a few minutes, during informal conversation, Clements used the ‘n’ word though not towards anyone in particular (source — ESPN).  Nothing more would have been heard about it but NASCAR felt compelled to suspend Clements indefinitely.  That reaction seems extremely severe and intransigent.

In the case of 30 year old Spencer Massey from Texas, who is a Top Fuel driver in the NHRA, purportedly was less than civil during the end of the season awards dinner.  Massey brought his own beer into the banquet room and evidently during Antron Brown’s speech – Brown is Massey’s teammate and won an historical championship as the first black American title holder – threw beer and then said something that wasn’t proper and rumored to be racial.  Schumacher quickly let him go.  Massey then apologized to Brown, who forgave Massey, saying they were friends.  Schumacher has since that episode, somewhat strangely hired Massey back, right before the season started (source — Fansided).  Massey is undergoing anger management as we speak.


These incidences are not the norm, however neither are they isolated nor unusual and yet don’t really offer any undertones to some larger racial conspiracy or otherwise.  Rather, they are a snapshot of human nature, mistakes, political correctness and the white-wash era in which we live.  What these situations say is that regardless if you’re an athlete or not, you cannot make a mistake verbally and if you do, you’re ostracized.  Then quash the story.  Check out out more about political correctness here.

Let me be clear, I don’t condone any of this behavior and personally have a hard time understanding why race, creed, color or religion has anything to do with anything.  I, like many Californians, grew up in a mixed society and have and have had friends of every persuasion under the sun.  I don’t like to talk about it but I even knew several Caucasians from Venice, California.  Egads!  I know, it seems way out there and to further muddy the waters, yes, I admit to being friends with Lutherans.  In fact, and this hard to say: I’m a German-Irish Lutheran.  I even have a very small percentage of Indian in me! Oh, the humanity!  Can you imagine and yet, there, I said it.  Okay, I feel better now.

Anyway, the egregious and careless behavior by these two drivers is nothing to laugh about but we have to think about the bigger picture and make sure we don’t go overboard and become reactionary.  Why NASCAR felt obliged to ban Clements is beyond me no matter what or how the slur was said.  If Massey never said anything derogatory, then I still don’t understand why he was fired and then forgiven by Brown.  Forgiven for what?  If everything is fine then why the anger management?  Very confusing.

Is it over-reaction

We don’t know the specifics of these two occurrences and the white-washing and hyper-sensitive reactions on all sides of what happened bother me more than anything else.  And I’m not the only who thinks their was over-reaction — check out USA Today article by Jeff Gluck regarding Jeremy Clements.

But my point is this: What does a driver do?  Is literally everything a driver does under public scrutiny whether he’s in an official capacity or not?  Racial insensitivity shouldn’t be tolerated but especially in Clements situation, he was having a casual conversation that wasn’t on the record; yet he’s out of racing.  There are other disturbing issues regarding the Massey deal that I may jump into at another time.  However, the questions about conduct and etiquette are real.  Can a professional driver act or have any conversation that isn’t susceptible to political correctness?

I’m not sure there are any direct answers to these questions or circumstances and might say more about society in general and the current state of affairs, than anything else.  Does someone have a right to be who they are, good or bad, and do they have a right to some privacy?

So what do you think?

Daryle W. Hier

Home Of Nostalgia Drag Racing

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