Excerpt from A Chat with JACK ETHERIDGE - by Eddie Samples

Author's note: Jack Etheridge raced for about 20 years. He retired in 1954 to find a real job.

Samples: Tell us a little about the pre-war racing days.

Etheridge: Well, as a kid I would always go to Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta and watch them race. I fell in love with it and would just about do anything to drive one. Raymond Parks had Red Vogt fix up a car owned by Gilbert Daniels. AAA sanctioned a race at Lakewood with all of the big names. This little ole car did good and Daniels sold it on the spot for $700.

Samples: Speaking of Raymond Parks, did you ever drive for him?

Etheridge: I drove a midget at Lakewood for him once. His regular drivers, Bob Flock and Red Byron, had no interest in driving it. That car really flew just to have a Ford engine in it. Beat a many Offy's that day.

Samples: Offenhausers were the class of the day?

Etheridge: Pretty much so. The Ford engines could wind up pretty good though.

Samples: So Red Byron drove Indy type cars?

Etheridge: Yeah, they fooled around with them over at Vogt's Garage. Back in the 1930's those things were two seaters and the mechanics would ride with them. I know in the 1940's Byron went to Indianapolis a couple of times but never qualified.

Samples: What do you remember about starting in stocks?

Etheridge: I grew up with a bunch of those guys in Atlanta. I raced for Airline Auto Service over on Spring Street some of the time. A bunch of us guys would be there or over at Red Vogt's Garage on West Marietta Street. All the trippers and drivers and mechanics had some link with both places. They always worked on trip cars at Vogt's and it just overflowed over to Airline. Trippers and racers were in those days much one of the same.

Samples: What exactly is tripping?

Etheridge: Liquor was made in the mountains and transported to the city. The trippers provided the transportation.

Samples: I always had the image of these trippers as Robert Mitchem in the movie Thunder Road.

Etheridge: Trippers usually came out a lot better when they filled up their cars in the mornings to blend in with the morning traffic going to Atlanta. They called it sneak traffic.
Samples: What was the best car for tripping?

Etheridge: I was talking to Raymond Parks the other day and we both agreed it was hard to beat a '32 Ford. It would carry 125 gallons at 8 pounds per gallon real good. Best trip car there was in my mind.

Tell me the scariest moment you had in racing?

You mean the day I talked to the Lord? It was in a race in Orlando, Florida. I was on the pole and Roy Hall was on the outside. Every lap he kept pushing me further in toward the fence until finally he pushed me through the fence and out in a lake. When the car hit the water it felt like concrete. The car was sinking. The windows were up, and I had on leather gloves and couldn't unbuckle my safety belt which was a holding backstrap for a mule with a big iron hook. I was in trouble, and I asked the good Lord to help me. I made it to the top about the time the divers entered the water.

Did Roy Hall say he was sorry?

Etheridge: Yeah, but you know a professional driver knows what he is doing. And Roy was a pro. He seemed to spend more time in jail then on the track, but regardless, he could dirve a race car.

Who was the best woman driver?

There were some pretty good women drivers. Ethel Flock and Sara Christian were good drivers. I guess the best was Louise Smith. She could hold her own.

(reprinted with permission from Pioneer Pages, the official newsletter of the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame Association)