Museum program to focus on early days of racing

Feb. 18, 2014 @ 10:18 AM

Did you know that in the early 1940s, prior to the creation of NASCAR, High Point was home to one of the finest racetracks in the country?
So says author — and former High Point Museum director — Barbara Taylor, who wrote a book on the topic more than a decade ago and who will discuss the topic during this month’s meeting of the High Point Museum Guild.
The meeting, which is free and open to the public, will be held Wednesday morning at the museum.
“The first track built in High Point (in 1940-41) was considered second only to Indianapolis (Motor Speedway) at the time,” Taylor said of the old High Point Speedway.
“The grandstands were built to seat 10,000 people, and it actually had a tunnel into the infield that went under the track. The original blueprint for the track showed there were supposed to be two tunnels, but they only built the one.”
According to Taylor, who is now director of the Matthews Heritage Museum, the track stood off of Johnson Street in what is now the Hampton Park neighborhood. The one-mile track, which was treated with calcium chloride, was touted as a “dustless” track.
“The track only saw four races, though, because of a little thing called World War II,” Taylor said. “The Enterprise reported that there were 13,000 people there the first day. That race was actually not a stock car race — it was Indy — but the other three were stock car races.”
During Wednesday morning’s meeting, Taylor will also talk about some of racing’s early pioneers who called High Point home — men such as Ken Rush, Bill Blair, Fred Harb and Jimmy Lewallen.
Taylor’s presentation goes back to an exhibit the High Point Museum hosted in 2002, during her tenure as director of the museum. The exhibit, titled “When Racing Was Racing: The Early Days of Stock Car Racing,” led to her book, which she titled “When Racing Was Racing.”
“That exhibit probably drew the largest attendance we had in my tenure there,” she said. “It was quite a hit.”
Taylor will also discuss another of her books during the guild meeting, a photographic history of High Point that is part of Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America” series.
“It’s another photographic book of High Point, but I think it goes far beyond other books, because it has far more information per picture and in general,” Taylor said.
“It’s divided into six chapters — education, religion, business, people, special events and recreation — and it offers a great glimpse of what High Pointers did in their daily lives.”

jtomlin@hpe.com | 888-3579

Want to go?

Author Barbara Taylor, former director of the High Point Museum, will be the featured speaker during the monthly meeting of the High Point Museum Guild, which will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the museum, located at 1859 E. Lexington Ave.
Admission is free.
For more information, call the museum at 885-1859 or visit www.highpointmuseum.org.