Throwback Thursday: Stock Car Racing in Houtzdale

You can ask many of the baby boomer generation or those older and native of the Houtzdale area about the Houtzdale Stock Car Races in Woodward Township, and they will share memories of wrecks, noise, dust as well as fondly recall the names of drivers and car numbers. Stock car racing became popular in rural Pennsylvania in the post-World War II era.

Dirt tracks emerged in DuBois, Mahaffey, Clearfield (now paved) and Houtzdale.  Guys with a gift for auto mechanics, a love of speed and a daring and competitive spirit skillfully put together their own modifications to make old cars over into racing machines.

The Houtzdale racetrack was located on the hill south of town where the State Correctional Institution at Houtzdale now stands.  Part of the site was known as Moose and later Legion Park, and was a popular area picnic ground, equipped with kid’s playground swings and slides.

Racing there, began in the early 1950’s, stopped for a few years and then began again in 1961.  The D.O.R.A (Drivers Owners Racing Association) was formed to enter cars and drivers, set racing rules and to handle admissions and prizes for the winners.

The members built raw wooden bleachers, a ticket booth and concession stand, what looked like a slapped-together fence around the track and wired the place for electricity and a PA system.

It may have looked backwards by today’s NASCAR standards, but the Houtzdale races drew summer crowds of thousands of spectators on Tuesday and Saturday evenings. The park grounds became a giant parking lot.

The races were great entertainment for families and dating couples alike.  The engine roars began at 8:30 p.m. and went on for a few hours.

Dust clouds were made visible by the overheard floodlights as crowds cheered on their favorite drivers.  Many came to see the collisions and wrecks and to sometimes cheer on the women who were “powder puff” drivers.  These ladies were a novelty for the times and were usually the wives or girlfriends of DORA drivers.

Stock car racing in Houtzdale ceased, in 1971, after a driver was tragically killed after his car wrecked through the wooden fence.

The 1961 photo shows Ron Butterworth of Philipsburg, today in his 80’s, posing with his 1935 Hudson Terraplane that had a with a six-cylinder, 262 cubic-inch engine.  He too won his share of races and proudly took his victory laps, while holding the checkered flag.  They were, he says, “great days.”

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