My wife Sherry and I attended friends Ken and Annette Tank’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration Saturday night at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds. We congratulated the happy couple on this milestone and enjoyed the PowerPoint photo display of their family history, as assembled by their children.
We saw many friends at the gathering, and we enjoyed a fine meal, catered by Riefe’s, one of our favorite places.
On our arrival, as we got out of our car in the parking lot, I recognized the man exiting the car next to us as Lee Reedy and re-introduced myself to him as it has been years since we’ve seen one another.
Lee was a scorekeeper for many years at Davenport Speedway and other area tracks, and I’d see him regularly back then as I attended races to report on them for my “Around the Track” show on radio.
Knowing that I eventually became a racing announcer, Lee mentioned my mentor and friend, the late Paul Liebbe.
(Incidentally, Paul, whose race announcing career started in 1960, started “Around the Track” in 1965 and hosted the show through 1972 on the former KWNT in Davenport. I hosted it from 1973 through 1990 on KWNT and some other stations — KWPC, WZZC and WMRZ. Paul was semi-retired and living in Florida when he suffered a stroke during a visit back to Iowa. He had spent the evening with me at Tipton Speedway and had even guest-announced some races that night. He survived the stroke but, after a stint in the hospital, he spent his remaining years in a nursing home. He died in December 1992.)
Paul was a knowledgeable, interesting announcer with a memorable Paul Harvey-type voice. The words literally dripped from his mouth like honey. (He kept those great pipes and speaking ability, too, despite the stroke.)
Lee shared a story about Paul Saturday that I can easily visualize taking place.
Lee says they were working together at a speedway — Lee scoring and Paul announcing — when an out-of-control race car took down a barrier protecting the judge’s stand and was headed right for it. Since Lee is still around to tell the story, apparently the car stopped short of hitting the stand. Or if it did hit the stand, Lee escaped injury.
But Lee says while all of this was taking place, Paul jumped clear of the stand and scurried to a safer location.
A consummate professional, the announcer never missed a beat, giving the audience a play-by-play call of the action as it was taking place.
That is, until Lee brought a problem to Paul’s attention.
Lee says he reached down and picked up the end of Paul’s microphone cable, which had become unplugged during Paul’s leap to safety.
No one but Paul had heard brilliant commentary!
Copyright 2009 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.