My First and Last First

The Grand Prix cars racing around Long Beach brings back a memory of about 55 years ago. My husband Jack and I loved cars. He was one of the first to sign up to purchase the new MGs being brought over from England.

Paramount Ranch was a challenging and dangerous racetrack. It only remained open for a handful of years, closing after a disasterous accident in 1955. Photo by Martin Goldsmith who worked as a race scrutineer in the 1950s.

Ours was a little two-seater with a red and black plaid top. We enjoyed it so much. We also found that MG owners loved to group together and have fun. We soon had a group of about a dozen MG owners anxious to play with their toys.

We discovered the Paramount Ranch out in the valley, where they had built a small race track. They used it for shooting pictures and would rent it out. Almost every weekend we would pack lunches and spend the day at the track. At first, just the men would race and try to prove whose car was the hottest. Gradually the women got real brave so that soon there was an all-women competition.

I had driven a lot but I did not feel up to racing. Spend any time around these women and you can guess how competitive some of them are. There was one woman who was determined to win every race. And she was brutal on the track. She bullied all the women drivers with her ruthless driving. Some she scared right off the track. She even nicked their rear wheel if they wouldn’t let her lead, sending them spinning into the center field.

Jack kept encouraging me to join the women racers and I said, “Oh no, I’m too young to die.” By then we were calling this woman “The Mine Sweeper.”

After much flattery and telling me that I was a better driver than she was and that we had a better car, I started to weaken. First Jack showed me all the tricks that she pulled. Then we practiced a lot during the week.

Finally the big day came. I was going to race. Word had gotten around and every MG owner that we knew and some others were there. Jack said, “Just get out ahead and stay there. I think our car is hotter. Just stay in front of her and don’t let her pass, then she can’t bully you off the track like she does all the others.”

I was petrified but, believe it or not, I did just that. I shot out so fast that it surprised even me. I actually stayed out in front. She didn’t even get close enough to threaten me.

When I got to the finish line and stopped, I couldn’t move. Jack saw that I was frozen. He ran out to the car. He was 6 feet 2 inches tall, and had no problem reaching down and lifting me out of the car. Tears were running down my face. Jack said, “Honey why are you crying? You WON!”

Just then someone stuck a microphone in front of my face. I said, “I scared myself.” Everyone had a good laugh. That was my first and last time as a race car driver.

Dorothy Samuels
Long Beach, Calif.

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