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Thread: Ketzer Racing Team

  1. #21
    Team Member Master Oil Racing Team's Avatar
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    You and I think the same way Steve. The way your are telling your story is in my mind as if I were one of your pit crew. It's just like I remember. The same time, same things going on, but just a different locale. I love it, and the photos that show what you guys were doing. When I first saw those pictures of your Dad standing by the airplane and some of those earlier pictures I thought to myself "he kind of looks like a movie star from the 40's". In fact your Dad looks a little bit like a young Spencer Tracy.

    When you posted your membership cards of your boat racing affiliations, I thought to myself...Steve is a good boat racing packrat like myself. I was planning on the same thing for my Baldy thread, but I was waiting until I got to the year of the oldest surviving card, then post them as the years came up. I would like to talk to you. PM me or E mail me your phone number if you want to talk.



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    Thanks, Wayne. Glad you're enjoying it. I'll shoot you an email here in a bit. I'm still working my way through your story; I'm around page 35. So I can safely say, you have way more racing memorabilia than I pack-ratted, but then you guys started earlier and kept going after we bailed out.

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    Wayne, you're a popular guy: Your mailbox is full. Mine is empty, so email me when you get a chance, and we'll link up.

  4. #24
    Team Member Master Oil Racing Team's Avatar
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    Smile

    Sorry Steve. I thought I had cleared it out except for some I needed to get back to. I haven't had a PM in a while. Maybe that's why.

    With this new format, I can't find any PM's. I'm not sure about the emails. BRF has inspired me to learn a lot about the internet, but when changes suddenly confront me, it sometimes takes awhile before I figure out which way North is again. As a pilot I know you would want to know the barometric pressure and elevation before you reset out your elevation before takeoff.



  5. #25
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    Miss Mouse: My racing season was cut short in July of 1969. I knew it was coming. Right after high school graduation, I received Uncle Sam’s greetings and my draft notice. At Dad’s suggestion, I beat feet down to the U.S.A.F. and talked to the recruiter. Would they promise me a slot in Air Traffic Control? You bet! No sweat! So I signed up for four years with induction in July. Back then, with Vietnam still hot and no enlistment contracts, recruiters could, would and did lie. With my background, the Army recruiter promised to put me in a helicopter “right away”—that probably wasn’t a lie. But I wasn’t too sure about helicopters, and neither was Dad. In 1965 with Mom and Dad on a trip to visit the relatives in Brooklyn, we had flown in one of those Pan American choppers that fly between airports in NYC. While the view of Manhattan was amazing, that chopper shook, rattled and vibrated like it was coming apart, and was so noisy we had to shout to talk—it even had Dad raising his eyebrows. Wings that rotate? That can’t be right. Whereas, fixed wing aircraft were…sssssmooooooth, baby. Anyway, the Air Force required a college degree to fly for them, and since I barely got out of high school, ATC was the next best thing.

    With me gone and Dad hitting every boat race he could, Bass Haven bit the dust. He sold it and had a house built in a new subdivision a bit farther out 70W where all the streets were named for aircraft manufacturers. Uncle Ed and my grandmother also bought houses there and lived on Cessna Lane, while Mom and Dad had theirs built on Douglas Drive, of all places. I received pictures of the construction while at basic training in San Antonio. Yep, San Antonio…basic training…July and August. Woof. As soon as the house was finished, Dad and his boat racing buddies began constructing a shop in the back, nearly as big as the house. Beautiful work came out of that shop for the next twenty years: boats, engines, motorcycles, Chevy vans and Ford Falcons, to list a few projects. Still, I wish he could have held on to Bass Haven; it was a huge chunk of lakefront right on 70W, probably worth a few mil today. (The Razorback Boat Racing Club helping Dad build his new shop. L-R kneeling: Vernon Ashley, Mickey McGuire and Steve Ketzer. Standing: Tommy Goslee, Bill Henderson, Eddie Jr., and Uncle Ed. And a picture of Steve with his Warren; Conover in the water, probably taking a pee.)

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    About to finish basic, I got my assignment. I would be, not an Air Traffic Controller, but a Protective Equipment Specialist. My drill instructor, when quizzed, said he thought it was one of those guys who paint safety lines on floors in hangars and shops to keep people from getting into dangerous areas. Well, what the heck, I figured they wouldn’t have to teach me how to paint. As it turned out, Protective Equipment was also known as Life Support, which involved fitting, maintaining, and instructing pilots on everything that touched their body: helmet, oxygen mask, G-suit, survival vest, .38 special, parachute, and the survival seat pack that contained all kinds of stuff, including a one man life raft, and sat directly on top of the ejection seat. So after a trip home and a boat race—I’ve forgotten where—it was off to Tech School at Chanute AFB in Illinois, where I filled out my “Dream Sheet” and requested Barksdale AFB in Shreveport.

    After marching through snow to and from class for a few months, the assignments came in, and I got, not Shreveport, but Phan Rang, Vietnam. A popular song at the time went, “And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for? Don’t tell me, I don’t give a damn, next stop is Vietnam,” by Country Joe and the Fish. In fact, while at Aunt Helen and Uncle Larry’s in Sacramento before flying up to McCord AFB to cross the pond, I saw Country Joe sing that song on Johnny Carson’s, Tonight Show. It was quite a send-off. Thank you, Country Joe. It was no better coming back, probably worse as we went into Cambodia while I was there, Kent State happened back home, our cities were burning, and so on, all of which I read in “The Stars and Stripes,” thinking, “What the….” But anyway. Thank you, female college student who called me a pig (we had to travel in uniform at that time). I should have asked her, “And how did you fare in the draft, Miss?” I recently read an article that stated the bad treatment returning troops received while passing through California was vastly overstated, if not in many cases untrue. Don’t believe the revisionist history. It happened, and it was not nice. In the words of Forrest Gump, “And that’s all I care to say about that.”

    Otherwise, no complaints. Life Support was a cushy job on a relatively cushy air base in Vietnam on the South China Sea. I went to Hong Kong on R&R, and went TDY to Clark Air Base in the Philippines to run through Jungle Survival School, a requirement for fighter jocks and a Bennie for Life Support personnel. I bought a Super 8 camera and movie projector. Dad sent 8 mm boat racing movies, and Mom wrote every day and occasionally sent boxes of homemade Toll House chocolate chip cookies, my favorite, especially the way she made them, a little overcooked and kind of crispy. (Pictures of my digs at Phan Rang, one of our F-100s, i.e., “The Hun”, and me on a once-in-a-blue-moon day off, up on a hill above the base.)

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    From the movies, I could tell this much as it pertained to boat racing: Dad was back home kickin’ it up a notch. Gone was the Neal and Jones and the rest of our obsolete fleet, and in their place a Warren, that he got while I was in Tech School, a couple Sid-Craft hydros and a DeSilva runabout. And, from the newspaper clippings, Dad was doing good. A greater change was that he was transitioning from gas to Alky in the form of Merc flathead engines, but still running both, burning the candle at both ends, so to speak. Dad was on a roll with the Razorback thing and naming the boats after pig parts: we had a “Ham Bone” hydro and a “Pork Chop” runabout. He wrote and asked me to name the Sid-Craft B-hydro, and I broke the tradition, coming up with “Miss Mouse.” (Dad’s favorite newspaper clipping and Mickey's least.)

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    Getting short in Vietnam, I filled out my dream sheet and again requested Barksdale and a few other bases close to home. They gave me Lockbourne AFB outside of Columbus, Ohio, a Strategic Air Command base where I would work in Life Support for a wing of KC-135 refueling tankers. Well, it wasn’t Louisiana, but closer than Vietnam. The first boat race I went to in 1971 was the Southern Championships held at Vicksburg, and I’ve forgotten how we did with everything, but I won the Pro B-hydro race in Miss Mouse running a hot little B-flathead. Arthur McMeans, Jr. (Little Arthur) also raced in B-hydro with a Konig. He couldn’t get out of the pits for the first heat, which I won, but he got out for the second, and I came in second, but won the overall. (Later pictures of Miss Mouse running a C-Service at Alex: Dad getting weighed and going out.)

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  6. #26
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    Default Brothers

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    Brothers: Whether the gas burning Mercs, the flatheads or the rotary valve Konigs to come, I didn’t learn squat about working on engines; largely, because I didn’t have to. Dad and Uncle Ed already had it figured out and done by the time I strolled in. Around the Ketzer shop, if you hesitated a moment, or had to “get around to it,” well, you could forget it, because it was already done, and done perfectly. And, when projects were on-going, you never walked in to ask, “Do you need any help?” You would be ignored or given a shake of the head. Nope, you walked in, sized up the situation, looked at what was being done, considered what needed to be done next, and started doing it. Then, with everyone at their task, conversation and banter would resume, and Mom might walk up from the house to bring coffee or glasses of ice tea. If you couldn’t figure out what was needed next, you started sweeping the floor or greasing lower units or something. Before long, one of them would call out, “Stevie, come here and hold this,” or, “Stevie, go get me one of those…” That was working with Dad and Uncle Ed. I learned a great deal from those guys, but only a fraction of what I should have. (Steve Ketzer in his shop on Douglas Drive and one after he traded for the Marineaux equipment.)

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    There’s an art to helping. After many years, my wife, Vicki, has yet to learn it: “No, Vik. Hold the flashlight so ‘I’ can see, not so ‘you’ can see.” Or, backing up trailers that I’m not too good at to begin with, I won’t be able to find her in the mirror, and if I do, she’s back there with hands all a’flutter like she’s trying to explain Chinese algebra in sign language. But after Dad and Uncle Ed found each other in 1965, Uncle Ed with his wife and two boys, along with my newly found grandmother, moved down from Cincinnati to Hot Springs, and soon the relatives (Dad’s sister, Pauline, her husband, Ernie, two girls and two boys, one of them Mikey) from Brooklyn also moved to Hot Springs. They were all fun and nice people. But of the lot, Dad and his brother Ed from then on were like “peas and carrots.” Between working at the airport together all day, and then working up in Dad’s shop until 9 or 10 PM, and then running off on the weekends to boat race, they spent far more time with each other than they did their own wives. (Hot Springs Sentinel Record newspaper photo of Uncle Ed Ketzer, Steve Ketzer, and Vernon Ashley—I have no clue what they meant by “outside right.” Ed is on the left.)

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    In Cincinnati, Uncle Ed had worked as a mechanic for Ford, and he was a great automotive mechanic—he bailed me out many times, and would drive halfway across the country to come save me. In Hot Springs, Dad got him a job at Futrell’s, working on airplanes under his supervision until Ed built up enough time to test for his A&P (it was A&E when Dad took the exam, the E for engine, but later changed to P for Powerplant). Someone, I think Futrell, with Ed standing there, asked Dad, “Do you think you can turn him into an aircraft mechanic?” And Dad answered, “Hell, yes, as long as I can get him to throw away those big hammers.” Going from automotive to aircraft was going from half-inch drive to quarter-inch drive (instruments and avionics even smaller) and absolutely nothing was ever forced, i.e., no big hammers. Well, Uncle Ed turned out to be a great aircraft mechanic, and a pilot, too. His specialty was overhauling engines, either Lycoming or Continental; he turned out a bunch, and I helped with the teardowns, Gunking, cleaning and painting: Lycoming grey, Continental gold…orange around the base of the cylinders if the walls had been chromed. Very pretty and such a unique smell when they cooked off chemicals after the first ground run.

    It took Uncle Ed a few tries to pass the A&P writtens—General, Airframe, and Powerplant—as he wasn’t a great written test-taker (That’s one thing I am good at, taking written exams. Through college and later taking course after required course at the FAA Academy in OKC, I wanted to make one of the highest scores, naturally, but more important to me was being the first to finish, and finishing as quickly as possible. I was racing! So I kicked the mind into overdrive and roared through the test—first thought, best thought—and then casually walked up and tossed it on the instructor’s desk while other students looked up in shock: “Damn you, Ketzer!” ). But the oral and practical exams were easy for Uncle Ed. Still, I wish I had been in the room with him and the FAA’s Designated Mechanic Examiner for the orals, because when you asked Ed a question, you might have to wait five minutes for an answer, but you’d eventually get one, well thought out and correct. So I could just see Uncle Ed chewing on his cigar and staring at the examiner after each question. I often joked that I would ask him a question, go get a cup of coffee, and come back for the answer.

    As for Dad, it sometimes irritated me that he was so good. When he bailed me out, I complained that he knew so much, and that solutions came so easy for him. He countered that he didn’t always know all that stuff and that he had to read the manuals and study, which was what I should do (instead of, I’ll guess, via osmosis, my preferred method). That was true; he did study. I still have a couple of his notepads from the 1950s when he was working toward his A&E, and I can see him studying and learning the rudiments, all in his textbook cursive. But he was just so damn fast, quick to understand, to get it. You could almost see the gears spinning and lining up in his head, like some kind of burly Data from Star Trek, and then, to mix metaphors, a 100 Watt light bulb coming on. Whereas, for me, when it came to things of a mechanical nature, my mind was like a three-way bulb, except it went up to 100 from one watt, one click at a time. For Dad, reading a wiring schematic was like “Dick and Jane,” whereas for me, even after years as an A&P, IA, Repair Station Inspector, and FAA Airworthiness Inspector, it was (is) like wading through Kierkegaard or Thorstein Veblen. (Some pages from Steve Ketzer’s old notepads.)

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    Not to speak too much of myself, although it’s already too late for that, what I personally missed and needed was the schooling to understand theory, because I was too lazy to do it on my own. Of course, I studied and learned enough to pass the tests (with high scores), but just enough. From Dad and Uncle Ed, I learned what to do and how to do it, but I didn’t always know why I was doing it. You can qualify to take the A&P exams three ways: Military experience, going to a FAA certified school (usually two years), or by logging thirty months of practical experience under a certified mechanic, the latter being what Uncle Ed and I did under Dad’s supervision, but Ed was a natural mechanic, and I wasn’t. Still, I ended up being pretty darn good! (Har!) Many, many years later as an FAA inspector, I had young people come into my office with inadequate documentation and frightened eyes to request approval to take the A&P exam based on practical experience. With the meager documentation, I was compelled to quiz them and then call their A&P supervisors and quiz them. If they had the right answers, I’d throw in the towel and say “I am going to approve you to take the exams, but before I do, I’d like to tell you a little story about theory.”

    It is interesting, though, how American boys, and perhaps boys everywhere, once learned their father’s trade, whether me in aviation, Wayne Baldwin in the oil industry, my buddy, Shorty, who became a brick layer like his daddy, or other high school friends who followed their father’s trade into plumbing, electrical work, transmission overhaul, or what-have-you. No more. No more. (A few more pages from Steve Ketzer’s notebook.)

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  7. #27
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    Default Soooie-Pig

    Soooie-Pig: Out of Lockbourne AFB during 1971-72, in addition to the Southern Championship at Vicksburg, I was able to attend a couple other races, I believe one at Alex and the other on a river at St. Claire, Mo., west of St. Louis. Of course, Dad, Uncle Ed and Vernon were hitting every race they could. It probably wasn’t wise for me to drive at major events like Alex, being rusty and all, but I did. For the race in St. Claire, I jumped into a van with a few of my Air Force buddies after work on Friday and we took off. The most memorable part of the trip was driving through Illinois where we encountered migrating Monarch butterflies, thousands of them. We were in awe until they started splattering on the windshield, so much so, that we had to pull over and clean the beauties off.

    Once at St. Claire, I hopped in the camper with the Ketzer Racing Team and let my buddies fight for space in the van. As to the boat races, I can’t remember what I raced or how I finished (probably not too good, or I would remember), but I remember the first turn was just before a bridge, but especially, there was a boat that Dad and I just fell in love with, a Goff-Hagness owned by Bill Van; it was fast, and looked so pretty on the water, the bow kicked up high on the straights, floating, with just a little rock from side to side. It had tall sides and a windshield—most unusual back then—and the plexiglass was green, so we called it the Green Hornet. We talked about that boat quite a bit, and before I left for Keflavik, Iceland, Dad had it in our fleet, still with the green windshield, but painted in our racing yellow with blue trim, L-113 on either side of the bow, and on the side, Soooie-Pig. (Pictures given earlier of the Goff-Hagness, the first I think taken at St. Claire in 1972, and then a year or so later with Roger Purtee's "Jolly Roger" in the foreground.)

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    While we were transitioning to Sids and flatheads, many were moving on to pickleforks and Konigs, but, by then, Dad knew who was who and what was what, so what he bought or traded for was pretty hot stuff, and we, while still not front runners, were competitive. I was really appreciating the Pro Class; it was faster, I liked the flatheads, the look and sound of them with their bell pipes, and I loved that alky, the smell of it in the pits or when crossing a rooster tail and getting a snoot full; I liked the way it turned to milk when spilled in the water, and even enjoyed measuring out the castor and mixing in five gallon jugs, sloshing it around.

    At that time I decided neither runabout boats, nor C-Service engines were my cup of tea, although I continued to race both. While it might look scary from the bank, and indeed was equally dangerous, if not more so, in a hydroplane, the view was of nothing but water, while in a runabout, kneeling in the back with that long, pointy bow in front, you could see it, often un-commanded, jumping and dancing all over the place, rising way up in the air and slamming back down. But a hydro was somewhat like ridding an inner tube behind a fast boat, and about as sensitive to body position and shifting weight.

    As for the old Evinrude engines, if you enjoyed having a rope pulled from your hands or catching fire while attempting to start the monster, then C-Service was the way to go. Priming a C-Service was like playing an odd musical instrument; there was a certain technique and rhythm required. With the kill switch off, you put a loop of rope around the flywheel, tugged until you hit compression, let the compression pull the rope back, and then tugged again. It went something like, “Cha-chunk, cha-chunk, cha-chunk, cha-chunk…” While doing this, either you or someone else had a hand cupped over the carburetor’s throat. If you lost rhythm, the rope fell and got tangled around the shaft. Successfully going through a number of those “Cha-chunks,” you pulled it through to get fuel into the cylinders, and then you were ready to make it hot. Oh, and the fuel that didn’t get sucked into the cylinders dribbled into the boat.

    The old Evinrude had a propensity to backfire, and when it did, the rope and its wooden handle departed your hands in a hurry to fly through the air, sometimes in a circle if still wound around the flywheel, to slap hell from the poor souls who held up the back of the boat. Not necessarily worse, but also a problem if it backfired, was the boat catching fire. As alky burns cleanly, and in the sunlight, invisibly, you might be on fire and not know it until you noticed hair disappearing from your arms or felt heat obviously not provided by the Sun. Mostly, Dad raced the C-Service—he loved them—and let me run, what he called, the “hot stuff,” the C-flathead and later Konigs, but when I was off with the Air Force or later in college, he raced them all and did well.

    Coming from a fast and loose fighter squadron in Vietnam to the strictness of Strategic Air Command back in the states was driving me nuts. So I requested transfer, again to Barksdale at Shreveport, but to make sure I got out of there, I also volunteered for places I figured no one else wanted to go: Turkey, Alaska, and Iceland. Orders came through for Keflavik, Iceland, a Naval Air Station that also had a contingent of Marines, an Air Force fighter squadron that raced up to intercept Russian Bear testing our air space, and a couple Air Force AWACs, back then using the old “Connie.” I would do Life Support for both fighter and AWAC, but I would not boat race for the remainder of ’72 and ’73. Dad and the Ketzer Racing Team, still racing both gas and Alky, did and wrote to tell me about it. I sent money to buy a new Grant tower housing for the C-flathead (my meagre contribution). The cast tower housing was also the fuel tank, which got the fuel out of the boat, and moved the CG aft: Soooie-Pig! (Steve Ketzer driving Soooie-Pig with a gas burner, and a faded but one of the few pictures with all three Ketzers—Steve Ketzer, Steve Jr., and Ed—with MX in the background.)

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    Up at 0300 this morning for the lunar eclipse: Very nice view from Florida of the "blood red" Moon, orange Mars, and stars.

  8. #28
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    I remember Steve Ketzer as being a real southern gentleman and always fun to be around. There was a race in Hot Springs with a lot of foreign drivers one year. They had a drivers party, out in the middle of no where, in a club house. There was a terrific band and Steve got up to sing. Even the foreign drivers stopped what they were doing and listened to him. He really got that house rocking!. Miss you, Steve! Eileen Van Steenwyk

  9. #29
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    Where in Florida do you live, Steve?
    Charley Bradley


  10. #30
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    Now, Eileen, he weren't no country gentleman. Why, he were a Yankee born! Probably just trying to score points with you while Bill weren't lookin'. Yeah, I remember him singing at the Diamondhead race in Hot Springs. That was fun. He had a great blues/jazz voice and played great bass, too. After the war, he played in a jazz combo in Hot Springs that toured into Texas. Then he went back into the service and got picked up by Special Services while in Okinawa, played in a combo and acted at the Ernie Pyle Theatre in Tokyo, and went by ship down to the Philippines, entertaining troops at stops along the way. Here are a few pictures of him playing in Japan, the first in full makeup. Great hearing from you, Eileen!

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