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Thread: Charlie Bailey

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    Default Charlie Bailey

    Charlie Bailey was an extraordinary boat racer. He was fearless, but was either magical, or had some way of making a saving move. The first time I saw Charlie, he was driving a blue green runabout in D runabout at the Baytown Boat Club near Highlands, Texas in 1966. That boat was all over the place. It was jumping all down the front straight, and through the turns. He was in the mix with Clayton Elmer, Freddie Goehl, Raymond Jeffries, P.G. Stepleton, Roland Pruett, Joe Bowdler, and other top drivers in Texas. My Dad Baldy filmed those heats. It wasn't just one...it was like that in both heats. We watched that film many times. I cannot to this day think of one time I ever saw Charlie flip. He didn't always drive like that. That runabout must have been tough to handle, but he didn't flip. and he stayed with the mix in front. Many years later, Charlie had proven his abilities, mostly in the South, that Marshall Grant chose him to drive for him at Lakeland....Marshall's last time there. Charlie was the first to drive the 8 cylinder Konig for Marshall, but they had a problem of finding a good prop, and Dieter had selected dump tubes that were too big. Joe and I saw Dieter take pliers to the brass dump tubes as it lay on a trailer and pinch them down. I will have more stories and photos about Charlie later.


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    Well....they laid Charlie to rest today. Joe and I talked many Charlie Bailey stories over the last couple of days. This morning Joe told me he couldn't make the funeral. I had planned to go because I thought it would be in Houston. Steve Wetherbee and I were going to go up and meet with Joe, Clayton Elmer and others, but the funeral was further northwest and with the timing of the funeral, none of us could make it. Joe called this morning having thought about Charlie, and having reflected about all the fun, excitement, thrills and stuff to do with racing Joe had to tell me something he had pulled up from his memory back when we raced at Hot Springs, Arkansas. Charlie eased down that half mountain of a hill surrounding Lake Catherine in his pickup. He spotted a place in the pits to call his own and backed in. Joe happened to have been watching this as Charlie backed in. No big deal. Joe just happed to notice Charlie was there and went on about his business. Except Joe was close enough to notice what happened next. After Charlie parked his trailer and unhitched it from the truck, he walked back around to the back of the trailer...opened it up...and took out a lawn chair. Joe just happened to see this. Nothing out of the ordinary here. But Charlie only took the lawn chair out of his box, closed it up, then opened up the lawn chair...sat down and admired the pits and the lake in front of him.

    I had never seen Charlie like this. Joe had never told me this story until a couple of days ago. It was nothing remarkable. No reason to mention it, but it stuck in Joe's memory for 44 years. Charlie Bailey just sitting and relaxing while overlooking the race course. He didn't get back up then to start unloading the trailer, rigging up or anything....he just sat there by himself in his lawn chair just contemplating. God bless you and your family Charlie Bailey.


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    I told this story before, but I'll tell it again here in case some people never heard it before. It was C hydro in front of my Dad's house on Lake Corpus Christi. I believe it was 1974. We ran down to the first turn, and I got around Charlie quick and was gone down the back straight. Charlie came out of the turn second and chased me, but quickly realized he had no chance to catch me. He could accelerate pretty good, but I had the speed and so he had no chance with me already out in front. Charlie was second fastest and had a good lead over the next boats, so over the next couple of laps he began to slow down. He was still going fast, but not full throttle. As normal, I backed off instead of charging ahead because there was no record to set, and I always like to save the lower unit. Charlie had kept slowing down and so did I. I had a comfortable lead, but not a huge lead, and had slowed down myself some more. As we rounded the final turn, I was looking ahead to the judges stand where the checkered flag was being readied. I wasn't paying attention to Charlie anymore. The next thing I knew, Charlie blew past me on the inside. As we were going through the turn, I was just doing a lazy arc while Charlie slammed the throttle closed. He had so much momentum, he blew by me and was gone. I immediately got hard on the throttle and it seemed like it took forever to get that Konig to wind up again. It finally got going and I was catching up to Charlie fast. I caught him at the finish line. There was no camera so the referee polled the officials. This part I was proud of. The three men said Charlie won, the three women said I won. So it was still a tie. The referee flipped a coin and Charlie won. It was the first and only time I ever lost a heat due to a coin toss, but they weren't timing laps and that was the only option they came up with. In truth, even though I was clearly the fastest, Charlie really won the race on his cunning and wits. And if he hadn't done that, I would have never remembered that race because it would have been just like so many other ordinary races. But Charlie gave me a good story and something to always remember him by.


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    Clayton Elmer says that Charlie Bailey took over driving for Jack Chance when Clayton was transitioning from Houston down to Corpus Christi when he became the manager of Emmord's Boat Shop, (or Marine it later became). I did not remember Charlie taking over the driving, but I do remember Jack hauled Charlie's Morton runabout BT-6 around during the 1969 season. Charlie was also married to Jack's daughter Charlene at that time. Seems like I would have remembered rigging up together in the pits, but I don't. It might have been a time when Charlie didn't drive that much. I need to look at some of the points standings, because sometimes Texas drivers were gone for awhile, like when Artie Lund was drafted and was gone for a few years. Anyway, through the years Charlie and I were very competitive with the hydros. He never drove the small runabouts, and I was never good in the large runabouts. Never during any of our time in racing did Charlie and I get cross with one another, and he did not give in inch when he claimed his lane. He also didn't drive dirty to win. I followed Charlie in the final heat of the OD World Championships at Phoenix, Arizona in 1976. He got a good start, and although I had the fastest hydro, I just followed him to be safe. I had enough points to win already, and if I challenged him something might have broke. But even if I decided to, I knew Charlie wouldn't pull anything on me to knock me out because he didn't do that. If Charlie would have not made the first heat, he might have been World Champion instead of me. We had the fastest two boats in OD, but something happened to him that I cannot recollect right now. It would have been a showdown had points been close, but as it was, I chose just to follow Charlie around for the win. With the start Charlie made, I'm not sure I could have gotten around, but then again, I played that last heat safe and sound all the way around. If I would not have won, I would say Charlie would have been my second choice.



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