WHERE THEY RACED
The book becomes a motion picture
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sun, Feb 24, 2013
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Story and pictures by Doug Stokes
One day in 1996, early in my work as the PR guy for the Perris Auto Speedway, a package containing a Xerox copy of a master's thesis in geography with a picture of an old race car on the cover page was mailed to an unknown name in the "Media Dept." ... I opened it. Inside I found a wonderful document that unfolded the story of the relationship between land and motorsports in the southland. It was a remarkable piece of information, scholarly, but at the same time vitally interesting to me (hell, we were building a racetrack … something that wasn’t being done very often those day around here). Harold Osmer was listed as the author and was the person who sent the paper along. I did not know him at the time, but I remember calling him and telling him that he might sell a few copies of the paper if he copied some up and had them at the annual “Gilmore Roars Again”* gathering that took place at Farmer’s Market near the site of the Gilmore Stadium raceway (a track that had closed in 1950). Well, Harold did a bit better than that. He went and published a 64-page soft cover book that he called “Where They Raced” (which I still, to this day, prefer to call “Where WE Raced” but that’s a small point). The book was a real eye-opener for so many fans in the LA area and around the county. It told a story of the tracks great and small that we had all loved, watched great events at, and even competed on as racers ourselves. But those 64 pages would only be the beginning. On or about Day Two after WTR, as we now refer to his book, Harold began getting phone calls and messages about racetracks that were not listed in his book. The fact of the matter was that he had not set out to chronicle every racetrack that had ever seen the light of day in the southland; his thesis had basically just used the information about racing how it was used to lure land buyers out west when the weather was bad back east. The calls and messages talked about all the other tracks that had come (and gone) over the years. He really hadn’t set out to list every track that had ever existed in So Cal, but there they were, the drag strips, dirt tracks, and pavement that he had “missed” in his book.
Of course, many of the latter stories were perfect illustrations the second part of Harold’s story, the part were racetrack properties became more valuable as other uses (like shopping centers, TV studios, and freeways). In 2000, Harold published “Where They Raced LAP 2” and the page count redlined 164. The first 64 pages were the original book. And the next 100 were the tales of all the other tracks that had lived (and died) in the southland. A few years back Harold was asked to be the historical advisor on a segment of Huell Howser’s “California’s Gold” when they did a story on the races that took place on Grand Avenue in Corona (a nearly three mile long perfect circle of a boulevard where racing took place from 1913 to 1916). On that shoot Harold met one of Huell’s long-time (how does 2,000+ shows sound?) producers named Harry Pallenberg. Harold, of course, brought along a complimentary copy of “WTR LAP 2” which Pallenberg latched on to pretty quickly. Harry subsequently decided that the book should be a documentary … The rest is now available on your favorite mode of web-enabled device at wheretheyraced.com. And … in case you’re one of the very few who does not have your own personal reference copy: Harold’s is book is still in print. -Stokes *The 30th and last Gilmore gathering was held on September 9, 2001