Bob Small’s Christmas Party Featured His Classic Customs
Words : Richard Parks Photos: Bob Small
Gone Racin’ … Bob Small’s Christmas Party.
I met Bob Small at Chet Vedder’s funeral and though it is a somber occasion it is something that I try to emphasize. Celebrations of Life, Memorials, Going to the Great Race Track in the Sky parties or just regular funerals are important celebrations of a person’s life and a way to help the family grieve and say goodbye to loved ones. But it is more than that; it is also a way to meet new people and to see old friends that you don’t normally get a chance to visit. Reunions and races are other events that hold the opportunity to meet new people and to see old friends. Some events are planned around an annual event, such as the Indy 500 parties where the race is seen on a big screen and friends and family can mingle, eat, rehash old days or simply relax and enjoy the race. At the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona in February or the World’s Finals race there in November there is always a nostalgia area set aside to show off some of the famous old cars and the current owners who are glad to talk about the history of the race cars. Cacklefest events and car shows are other events where you can meet and greet those that you haven’t seen in years.
Seated at a table were a group that called themselves the Bobs, after Bob Small and labeled themselves by number from one to seven; Chris Kozaites (boats and bikes), Bruce Fischer, Les Taylor, Ralph Aguirre, Vic and Carol Clift, Greg Grandon, and Ray Harstad (drag raced a ’59 Corvette at Irwindale). Bob Longpre, owner of a car dealership and long-time sponsor of many drivers had left early and I didn’t have the opportunity to hear his story. Longpre was a partner with Mickey Thompson. Also in attendance were Brian Williams (Harley drag bikes and raced at Famoso), Dale and Chantal Vazanian, Dave New (who told me he was Bob Small’s dancing instructor), Ed and Margaret Bogart (Bob Small worked for Ed), Gene and Holly Gustafson (Gene works on Brad Boyle’s huge bike collection), Bill Ellerman, Jamie Boetto (works at Amber Marine and races vintage flatbottoms at Lake Havasu, Marine Stadium and other boat racing venues) and Brad Boyle.
Bob Small catered the party with delicious meat dishes and tasty desserts. Bob is the owner of Bad Ass Productions and is a super stock drag racer. Scrub Hansen is affectionately known as the Reverend. He obtained a ministerial license from an out-of-the-ordinary religion, mail order I believe, so that he could officiate at a marriage ceremony for bikers and car guys who didn’t want a standard church wedding. He told me one of the wackiest ideas was marrying a couple on motorcycles going down the road as he drove his bike after them. The Reverend is a good friend and a hot rodder who has judged at many car shows, including the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, California. Scrub was born and raised in Pocatello, Idaho and was a member of the South East Idaho Racing Association (SEIRA) which put on many drag races in that area. He knew Terry Roach and Lee Wooley who were drag and land speed racers and remembers a young Tex Smith. Tex married into the Woosley family near Bozeman, Montana and later wrote for many hot rod publications. A column that he wrote also mentioned many places throughout the West where old cars were junked.
Tiki Alvarez is a car builder who has many famous people as his clients and has a shop near Bob Small’s. He is a member of the Alvarez family that includes; Jules, Fidi and Rick Alcala, well-known in Southern California for their racing, car building and hot rodding and are often seen over at Art Chrisman’s Wednesday Night parties in Santa Ana. Dave Parker is a renowned hot rod, car racing and motorcycle photographer, who also works on the Brad Boyle and Penske collections, creating wonderful calendars and other photographic pieces. Rick Alcala told me about the Kam Oka track roadster which has been lovingly restored. Kam Oka and his brothers, along with Danny Sakai and many other Japanese/Americans were active in land speed and oval track racing before World War II. When the war began many Japanese/Americans were interned in camps until the war was over and they lost their homes and farms when they couldn’t make the mortgage payments. The Oka brothers went back to Detroit to work in the defense plants and Sakai passed away in a tragic auto accident. His funeral left a deep memory in the racing fraternity as many turned out to honor his life. Danny’s family owned a flower shop and the church was covered in floral arrangements.
Dale Vazanian owned NOS (Nitrous Oxide System) and sponsored pro-modified drag racing until the Holly Corporation bought him out in 2000. He also raced in Jr Fuel and at Bonneville. I finally got a chance to meet Brad Boyle, who in his youth raced in motocross until he hurt his back and retired. Brad wasn’t through with bikes though and has amassed a collection of over 1200 motorcycles. “I like preserving old bikes and their history so that people can enjoy them. I don’t know what I am going to do with my collection. I told my children that when I go I’m going to give it to them and let them figure it out. They love bikes too,” said Boyle. He’s a lot like the image people have of Santa Claus, with a ready smile, a twinkle in his eye and a good story or joke to get everyone laughing. Totally committed to a cause he showed us around two storage units filled with bikes of every kind, though the majority of them were racing bikes. He knows their history as well.
Joining us were Ray Harstad, Roger Rohrdanz, Dave Parker and David Parks. We marveled at the variety of bikes and wondered if Brad would have to get another building if his collection grew any larger. “He doesn’t need to,” said Parker, “He has plenty of space at his home.” I always enjoy seeing these private collections and then I remembered a huge collection of bikes that I once saw down in Carlsbad. Ray Harstad invited us over to see his shop not far from Bob Small’s. Ray is a car builder and restorer and he showed us the car he is building for Barry Meguiar. Before we left Bob Small introduced me to Bill Ellerman who was his partner in drag racing. Bob built the car and Bill drove it at drag strips all over California. As the party ended and guests walked over to other shops in the complex to see various collections and rebuilds, I remarked to Roger that the party ended too soon. There were other people I didn’t get to see and talk to and learn their history. Bob said not to worry; he will invite us back next year to see those we missed. I’m looking forward to the next party.
Gone Racin’ is at RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM.