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By Linda Emley
It was a cold day on the hill, but the Ray County Museum was filled with memories of hot summer days from Ray County’s past.
We had a NASCAR party Saturday and a fun time was had by all. As usual, we had a few minor issues, but I think everyone left happy and was glad they took the time to stop by for a visit. It was a good day, but Murphy’s Law made it a little more exciting than I had hoped for.
In 2011, the Richmond News published my first story about the Richmond Speedway, the first NASCAR track west of the Mississippi River.
After that story, I knew I had sparked a fire because I got more comments about it than any other story I’ve written since I started the “If Postcards Could Talk” column.
Richard Petty wasn’t really on the hill with us, but that’s OK because we had two race car drivers who were competing on NASCAR tracks long before King Richard ran his first race.
Our special guests for the day were Kenny “Burt” Schooley and my dad, J.B. “Smiling Jack” Martin. Bert was the Missouri State NASCAR Champion in 1954 and the trophy in this picture was his first place prize.
I’ve been collecting pictures and stories about the Richmond Speedway for two years, but I was up until midnight Friday night putting the finishing touches on the book. I’m one of those people who still believes things should be perfect but in reality, I know that nothing in life is perfect, so I settled for “OK. It’s finaly done.”
When the museum opened at 10 a.m. Saturday, I was still putting the “Richmond Speedway” books together. I was happy that I had 20 books by the time noon rolled around.
I love planning a party and was really enjoying my job when the crowd started arriving. Everyone was sitting around the conference room looking at the pictures in the book and sharing stories. I left the party for a few minutes to take a tour group upstairs to show them some of our collections and that is when my cell phone rang.
Carol Proffitt was calling to tell me that my mother was looking for me because a picture was missing from the book. I didn’t panic because I thought she was talking about one book, but I soon found out otherwise.
My mother, Betty Lou, informed me I had left Bert Schooley out of the book. I knew she had to be wrong, but as always, my mother was right.
After printing a couple of books, I decided I needed to change a page and update it. Somehow I left Bert’s page sitting on my desk. How on earth could I leave out the Missouri State NASCAR champion?
After telling Bert and Shirley Schooley how sorry I was, I started correcting my mistake. With over 25 people watching, I took 20 books apart and rebound them with Bert’s page. I had a little help from my friends, so it all worked out.
Dorothy Stevens was in charge of collecting money, while her husband Clarence helped with crowd control and kept eveyone telling stories. John Dee Thompson jumped in and helped me get out the binding machine and passed me new spirals while I worked on the books.
His wife cheered us on as she waited for her new and improved book. My mother sat near the door and thanked everyone for coming. Shirley Schooley made the coffee and also helped greet everyone. Burt and J.B. talked and shared stories with the 40-plus people who stopped by. It was so much fun watching the guys sign autographs, just like the big boys.
Soon after this problem was solved, we ran out of books. That, too, wasn’t a problem for long because Carol Proffitt and her grandaughter Hannah printed a few more and I went back to the binding machine.
Another highlight of my day came when I thought I was being funny by introducing everyone to Richard Petty, my dad and Kenny as I escorted them into the conference room.
I’m not sure, but I think I introduced Kenny to his neighbor and good friend, Wayne Euper. Kenny and Wayne are always overhauling a car together, so they sure didn’t need my introduction.
The thing I enjoyed the most about our party was that we had some people who had never met, but for a few hours everyone was sharing stories just like they had always been good friends. That’s way I love living in small town America.