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Racing Commentary

Email Lew at lewboyd@coastal181.com

(Erin Geisman Photo, Marty Himes Collection)


ON O’NEILL AVENUE: Visiting the Marty Himes Museum

It’s one of those things that can sit idly in the back of your mind.

There must be thousands and thousands of racing enthusiasts who have heard of former racer Marty Himes and his museum somewhere out there on Long Island. They’re also likely aware that it’s supposed to be a pretty cool place, even after the ferocious fire that all but destroyed it a few years back. But, alas, they’ve never been there to see if for themselves.

Last Monday, Cary and I made the leap. Bay Shore is about an hour and a half out the Long Island Expressway from New York City. Twist and turn through a mixed-use community, proceed down the dead-ending O’Neill Avenue, and there it is on the left, right across from a metal recycling plant.

No question you’ve arrived. A couple of coupes rest just off the street, uncovered, weathering peacefully next to an enormous vintage sign welcoming fans to Freeport Stadium. You are in for a mind-boggling experience.

Marty’s modest home and yard are full race, packed with innumerable bits of Northeastern racing history. Inside storage trailers are 10 midgets of varying sizes, a sprint car, dragster, soap box derby cars, Crosleys, a motorcycle, and Bob Dillner’s first go kart. Outside are seven complete stock cars, tucked in around ticket booths, turn styles, and all manner of equipment from Freeport and Islip Speedway.

Stunning as the yard walk may be, it is nothing compared to the inside of the house. Marty claims well over 300,000 photographs and 125 pounds of negatives. There are trophies, driver suits, helmets, posters, model cars, scrap books – all stacked high to the ceiling, arranged in aisles.

There is a contagion to Marty’s passion as he leads you through his collection, four decades in the making. His command of racing history and every trinket is phenomenal.

Bronco Bill by the door. (Coastal 181 Photo)

What strikes you first as you walk through the dusty light into the house is the one-legged figure of Freeport’s Bronco Bill Schindler, standing there spookily with his own Cromwell, glasses and goggles, racing shirt, belt, pants, shoe, and crutch. And as Marty begins to reminisce about Schindler, his focus changes from the history to the person. He speaks of Schindler’s habits, of his family, how he met Bill’s son Bob at school, and how he accumulated such personal items.

The same thing happens when the subject of Pappy Hough, another legendary midgeteer, pops up. “Roscoe and I were great friends,” Marty says. “I always go to Stan Lobitz’s party in Pennsylvania each fall and I’d see Pappy there – one year on a cane, the next year on a walker. But then the next year, he was walking just fine. So I asked him how he had gotten so much better. He told me he had taken to putting WD-40 on his knees and his joints – worked like a champ – and said I should use it, too.”

Standing next to the beautifully maintained baby blue Giresi Offy, Marty’s stories move past the car’s record to his lifelong friendship with its driver, Johnny Coy. There was that one weekend in 1959 that Coy drove from the Island up to Buffalo solo to win a Friday night 200-lap midget race at the Civic Stadium. He drove back and the next night in the same car captured a 500- lapper that ran a grueling non-stop two hours plus. On Sunday it was down to Trenton for a century grind on the mile. He was leading but ended up fourth when a dog bone (shock link) snapped. How was this humanly possible? “It wasn’t,” claims Marty with admiration. “Johnny was some tough dude. He had to be. He raced so his family could eat. It was not easy going. He had two televisions – one for the viewing and one for the hearing.” Marty ought to know – Johnny Coy ate breakfast at Marty’s house every day for years. Coy passed away in 2006 but his coffee cup still sits atop Marty’s refrigerator.

Johnny Coy in the Giresi car back in 1959, NASCAR midget days.
(Marty Himes Collection)
The Giresi Offy today at the Museum. (Coastal 181 Photo)

He had that same deeply personal connection with Long Island’s winningest driver, the late Bruno Brackey. “Two things about ‘Mr. Zip,’ the mailman. He was great with the fans, but he was thrifty. Bruno never bought nothin’. He’d win the feature at Freeport, drive over to the teardown spot, let the water drain out and let that 312 Thunderbird cool down. He’d always park in the same spot against the wall so they could measure only one side of the engine. Guess why! Once his engine had been checked, he’d put the head back on using the same gasket with lots of Permatex. He’d never put water in it until the next day to let it seal. He had the system down. And before leaving, he’d amble over to the pile of junk tires others had left behind so he could go through them to select which of them he would use the next week. Won all the time, without spending anything. I was over at his house once and we were having a cup of tea. We had to make space on the kitchen table because he was even more of a pack rat than me. I squished my bag against the side of the cup, and he went nuts. He said he always kept them for more than one serving. So, when he died, I slipped a used tea bag into his coffin.”

Bruno Brackey at Freeport. (Marty Himes Collection)

National Speed Sport News columnist Gary London told me, “I’ve always thought Marty is the number one attraction at his Museum.” Gary is spot on. At the end of the day, for the hundreds of thousands of items there in Bay Shore, Marty Himes, with his glorious stories of racing and its people, is the most precious.

You really must go there. With notice. the Museum can open any time. Or, you can go to the annual open house the last Sunday of each August, scheduled tight up on Marty’s birthday. O’Neill Avenue shuts down, and they say it’s quite a gathering.

When you do, remember this. Very unobtrusively in one of the storage trailers is a large glass bottle with a few donations inside.

May it be just as full as Marty’s heart.

Marty holds Les Ley’s helmet from a time capsule, originally buried under the first turn at Freeport Stadium and recovered when the track was torn down. Ley had been killed at Riverside Park in 1964. (Refer to 9/1/08 TEAROFF “One Night at the Park – the death of Les Ley"). (Coastal 181 Photo)

Marty Hime Museum of Motor Racing Nostalgia
15 O’Neill Avenue
Bay Shore, NY 11706

© 2013 Lew Boyd - Coastal 181

If you were interested in this Tearoff, you might enjoy the book below:

Long Ride on a Short Track

By Ken Spooner

MODIFIED STOCK CAR RACING OF THE '60S & '70S: An Illustrated History Featuring the Drivers, Cars, and Tracks of the Northeastern U.S.

by Steve Kennedy

Stop by our Book Store Directory for a look at our book and DVD selections:

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.: Previous Tearoffs :.

3/8/13 - David's Destiny

2/20/13 - Racin' Wrecked

1/29/13 - The Call of the Wall


© 2007-13 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181



























































































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