Saturday, August 9, 2008

Centennial Raceways

In 1967, at the height of the slot car racing craze in North America, my parents opened a slot car facility in our home town of Nanaimo, B.C. Complete with two tracks and 1/32 scale cars for sale this part-time business ( open in the evenings and on the weekends ) provided the perfect venue for local slot car fanatics to race their electric cars during the year or so that it was open. Although busy and popular, and timed perfectly ( slot racing was showing up on national television broadcasts, with appearances on Johnny Carson, Mike Douglas and Ed Sullivan's programs, among many others ) the raceway just couldn't pay for itself. I also assume it would have been difficult keeping up with the demands of both this side-line business and my Dad's full-time hot tar roofing job.

Luckily I have a few mementos from the business to share. Above is a combination business card / coupon for a half hour of free racing time at the track.

1967 was the 100th anniversary of Canada officially becoming a country, so there were a lot of new ventures, products, publications and events slapped with the "Centennial" moniker that year. Standing proudly ( in fetching white pants ) in the shot below is my Dad. On the left is the smaller, four slot figure "8" track. On the right is the much larger eight slot track.

No expense was spared in advertising the raceway. Notice the award winning design and cutting edge typography of these two ads from local newsletters and bulletins! The fancy shmancy illustrative race car in the bottom ad was provided by my mom.

I'm not sure if the slot car pictured below was a prize or a purchase, but it was deemed photo-worthy. Look closely at that throng of dewy-eyed racers in the background wishing my mom would hurry up and take the furshlugginer picture already so they could get back to uninterrupted racing!

I'm not sure if there was more than one racing facility in Nanaimo at the time ( if there was Centennial was certainly the largest ) but they felt it necessary to print up these cards to make it official. I wonder if any 15 year olds tried to flash this to get into bars or to impress the chicks? I'm sure it had the opposite to intended effect.

My mom relays the story of painting ( or repainting, I guess ) the walls of the raceway the night before I was born in September 1968. This would account for many thing in my life including my love of racing, of paint, and of my poor memory and occasional lapses of concentration.

Also, this would account for many thing in my life including my love of racing, of paint, and of my poor memory and occasional lapses of concentration.

Soon though, all good things must end, and with a new first child ( me! ) adding to the struggles the Raceway closed down. A couple of large fishing tackle boxes full of cars and parts, as well as the smaller track ended up in storage in a shed on our property as a kid. But the larger track found it's way within 5 or 6 years to the local chapter of the Boys and Girls Club. Covering most of the main floor of the clubhouse building the track was the main attraction for me and many other kids for a few years in the mid-70s.
In the newspaper clipping below from around 1975 or 1976 you can see my dad holding court in the upper center as I put my car on the track upper far left for another go at breaking the track record.

Here are a couple of links to photos of the slot car I ( okay, my dad ) built and I painted and ran at this time. It was made from late 60s parts left over from the business.

And here's a link to a great history of slot car racing.


dmarks said...

Great blog! I found it looking for references to "Code Name: Galactica". I will blog about it soon.

Glen Mullaly said...

Thanks dmarks. Glad you enjoyed it!

Todd Franklin said...

Great post! My dad was into the slot car hobby back then. I think he still has one of his cars or at least he did when we were kids.

DR said...

I read this post two weeks ago (honest), but never did say: that's an enjoyable posting!

Glen Mullaly said...

DR: That's okay, I still haven't gotten around to complimenting you on that especially good haircut you got in March of '89.