Army/Navy Demolition Derby

Some stories change over time but the basic truth of a legend remains. This is such a story. Jim Carden had told the story to a then very green seaman, who tucked it away in the memory of good sea-stories. One will have to remember the fifties, and there was no bigger football game than the Army/Navy game on a Fall Saturday. The Flat Rock Speedway featured stock car races, figure eight races and demolition derbies. Probably keeping the Army/Navy rivalry in mind, in August 1958 the promoters of the Speedway thought a competition between the local Army/Navy guys would be a great event and sponsored a demolition derby that pitted the sailors of Grosse Ile and the soldiers of a local Nike site in a duel to the finish. The Speedway provided the cars for the Army/Navy guys to defend the honor of their service.

The names of the soldiers are long forgotten, but fortunately after a little prodding of memories, three came forward with their story of the Flat Rock Speedway Army/Navy Demolition Derby.

Harry Barriger remembered the event, and he not only has the story but photographs of the Navy participants including himself, Dan Kegley, Jerry Muck, and a forgotten soul named John whose last name may have been Stanton.

Harry said, “We met at Muck’s house prior to the race to get a little courage and had a couple pictures taken.  As much as I hate to admit it we did not win the race.  I was the next to the last car running, I had a 1949 Studebaker and I had to match off against - either it was a fifty-one or near that year Packard.  It was twice as big as I was.  So I decided I would go for a draw and hit him broadside as fast as I could go.  My little Studebaker was finished at that time and the Packard went another fifty feet or so and he got the win. It was a blast and the raceway wanted to schedule another one, but the word got out to the old man and it came down that they could not stop us because it was on off duty hours.  But if anyone was hurt it would be considered as misconduct. Kegley being our resident legal man advised us, that it was fun, but we had not better press our luck.” 

Tom Carter said, “Harry is right about two of the people. I don't know a John that was there. Jerry Muck got me involved and I borrowed Les Morrisetts’ helmet and drove a four door something. I finally had to back around the track because all the forward gears were shot. I must have done something right because I "won" $25 and was paid off in one-dollar bills. When I went home that night I must have been filthy with speedway dirt because Dorothy…. started raising hell about tracking in dirt. Then I started dropping one-dollar bills from the front door to the refrig where I got a brew. She calmed down fast. I had a hell of a job with Morrisetts’ helmet trying to get it clean. I can't remember Harry driving but Jerry Muck was a mad man. Wide-open and aimed right at you!”

Mike Kegley said, “I was there for the demolition derby. That was not John Stanton. I don't remember his last name either. I remember after the race we all went to Harry's house at Naval Housing for a finishing party. It was sure a lot of fun. The only one that I know that got hurt was my brother Dan. He hurt his hand.”

Don a corpsman at the time who had somehow never heard the story added, “I don't know if our caskets were being stored down at the balloon hangar at the time or still in the dispensary while you guys were trying to kill yourselves, but it wouldn't take long to polish them up for you.”

Rodney Martin ETN3
NAS Grosse Ile 1962-64, NAS New York 1964-65

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Revised: August 05, 2010