Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

It's a much safer world today

Memorial Day, 1946. I was home from the war, bored with civilian life, craving excitement. The place to find it was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway so I was there for the 500 mile race.
If you tune in ABC tomorrow to watch the latest version of the 500, don't expect to see anything like the one I watched 63 years ago. You won't see the 33 drivers sitting in the open in sprint cars while wearing a T-shirt or one they'd wear to work in an office. If you knew what a driver looked like you didn't need a program or a car number to tell who was speeding by. A belt across the lap was about all that held them in their cars. Death often rode as a passenger.
Tomorrow they'll be wearing fire-resistant suits and visored helmets. You'll barely see their heads and what you do see won't allow recognition. They'll have radio communication with their pit crew and a spotter giving them instructions. The speeds will be high, the danger minimal.
All that is good, and yet a little of the excitement will be missing. So will the sickening sensation of picking up a newspaper and finding a driver you have watched race has died in a crash. George Robson, winner of that 1946 race was dead in three months. Dying with him was George Barringer, another in that long-ago 500. During the next few years more of those 33 who took the green flag in '46 would die behind the wheel of a race car: Rex Mays, Ted Horn, Ralph Hepburn, Chet Miller, Shorty Cantlon, perhaps others.
Such a thing is unimaginable today. So is seeing Rex Mays pass a car coming out of the second turn and then look back with a grin on his face while slapping the side of his car in a "Let's race" challenge. It's not that personal in 2009.
It's a lose-a-little, gain-a-little proposition. No decent person wants to see a driver die tomorrow, but to make it unlikely we have lost the chance to see George Connor wipe his goggles with a powder puff fastened to the back of a glove. We won't see anyone slap the side of his car to issue a challenge. Nor will we see Shorty Cantlon hit the wall head-on at the first turn and be impaled on the steering post as he was in the 1947 500.
People in general are more concerned about safety now than they were back then. That may be good. Or it may not be. Everything that makes us safer means the loss of a freedom to be unsafe. Some prefer safety, some prefer freedom. Life doesn't allow for both.


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