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Remembering Charlie Moffit

07 Jul

Charlie Moffit in the 1960s. Photo courtesy of Doug Haack's Vintage Racing Photos.

Charlie Moffit in the 1960s. Photo courtesy of Doug Haack's Vintage Racing Photos.

It said Vern Weber on the roof, but Charlie Moffit had taken over the ride when this photo was taken in 1963. Photo is from the Phil Roberts collection.

It said Vern Weber on the roof, but Charlie Moffit had taken over the ride when this photo was taken in 1963. Photo is from the Phil Roberts collection.

Charlie in recent years.

Charlie in recent years.

My buddies and I grew up in the 1960s in Davenport, Iowa, a city located along the Mississippi River on the Iowa-Illinois border.

We played sports in school and followed major league teams to some extent, but we generally didn’t have many major league heroes. Our heroes were people many folks had never heard of — guys like Charlie Moffit.

Sure, as a kid I liked Stan Musial of the Cardinals, Jim Taylor of the Packers and NASCAR driver Glenn “Fireball” Roberts. But these athletes seemed such a long way from home.

Iowa had — and still has — no major league teams. The hot ticket around here has always been the Iowa Hawkeyes or the Iowa State Cyclones. The closest cities to eastern Iowa with major league sports teams are Chicago and St. Louis. But both were a long way to go to see a game on the two-lane roads of 45 or 50 years ago.

So my pals and I adopted sports heroes close to home. These were athletes who competed basically in our own back yards on Friday nights at Davenport Speedway at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds.

Many fine “weekend warriors” lived in our area, known as the Quad-Cities. And there were contingents from racing strongholds like Keokuk, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Dubuque and Peoria who traveled to Davenport regularly to take on our best chauffeurs.

My buddies and I could relate to these drivers, who were generally our fathers’ ages or a little younger. Most of us adopted two or three of them as our favorites in the two divisions that raced on the Davenport quarter-mile — one that featured newer cars and one made up of 1930s and ’40s jalopies.

We’d watch and cheer for these daredevil members of the Speed Demons Racing Association as they competed wheel to wheel, protected back then only by a roll cage, a seat belt and an open-face helmet. Some of the better drivers were really busy on race night; they drove in both racing divisions.

After the races my friends and I would hurry into the pit area and stand a couple of feet away from our hometown heroes — guys like Charlie Moffit — intently watching their every move and listening to their every word as they wiped beads of perspiration from their faces with a shop rag, drank a can of cold Hamms or Burgy beer, told racing “war” stories to anyone nearby and happily scribbled autographs in advertising-laden programs or on scraps of paper for wide-eyed kids like us.

It was a great experience during a great time to grow up — if, of course, you don’t count the assassinations, the racial unrest, the Cold War and Viet Nam.

A lot of years sailed by since then. My buddies and I have now survived the many good experiences and the many not-so-good experiences that six decades of life brings to someone.

And we’ve sadly stood by and watched as, one by one, not only our parents but our childhood heroes, those race drivers, have left us.

Two legendary drivers from the Quad-Cities area who have died in recent years are Benny Hofer and Ronnie Weedon.

The latest to depart, at age 80, was Charlie Moffit, a soft-spoken, hard-driving gentleman from Stanwood, Iowa, who was as fine a wheelman as the Midwest has ever produced.

When guys like me think of Charlie, we don’t picture an old man living out his final years in a nursing home. We picture a tall, big man in his mid 30s squeezing himself into the cockpit of a race car. We remember him speeding around the track — sometimes winning and sometimes losing — but always racing his heart out and running clean.

It’s guys like this who were our heroes.

Copyright 2009 by Phil Roberts: Creative Enterprises. This article was published in the August 2009 issue of Late Model Illustrated.

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10 Comments

Posted by on July 7, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

10 responses to “Remembering Charlie Moffit

  1. Butch

    September 3, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Wow, Thank you for putting this together.
    I too, was there. Some of my best childhood memories were being at the track or the first one to the newspaper on Saturday morning to see if Charlie took the “B” feature in that little ’27 Chevy car.
    I may not have the spellings right but names I remember are Shorty Bennett, Johnny Moss, Del Williams, Ray Guss, Ron Weedon, Ernie Speth, Dean Montgomery, Bill Star, Red Droste are the few that come to mind. But Most everyones favorite was Charlie Moffit. He would almost always start last and put that little car on the top of the 1/4 mile oval and pass everyone.
    Thanks again for putting this site together.

     
  2. John Kelley

    December 7, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    Charlie was my wife’s Dad’s first cousin.We stayed with
    Charlie and Bonnie several times and we often talked
    about his racing days.They treated Cathy like she was
    their daughter and Paul like he was really a grandson.
    Charlie had a pretty good eye for talent too.I recall him
    watching some young guys at Sun Prarie named Gordon
    and telling me they were going to be really big.
    God speed Charlie.

     
  3. Shane Davis

    December 22, 2009 at 3:48 am

    Thanks for putting this story together. What a fine way to honor one of the racing heroes of the past.

    Shane

     
  4. Margie

    May 3, 2010 at 12:49 am

    I am Ernie Speth’s sister. Just thought I would let everyone know that Ernie is turning 80 years old on May 8th. We are celebrating at the MVF.
    He still goes to the races every Friday night. Now he watches his son Steve race.

     
    • frontporchexpressions

      May 3, 2010 at 1:35 am

      Margie:
      I’m looking forward to it! I should add, though, that this celebration is a surprise to Ernie.
      Phil

       
  5. Candy Stolte

    September 27, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Thanks Phil, for putting this great tribute together, for one of the greatest race car drivers and the greatest man a girl could ever want to be her father. I love and miss you so much dad. RIP your daughter Candy Sue.

     
    • frontporchexpressions

      September 27, 2010 at 1:48 pm

      It was my honor Candy. Thanks for writing. – Phil

       
  6. Ronald Ristau

    February 13, 2012 at 1:45 am

    I used to go and watch Benny and Bill star along with relatives Harold Schillinger and Don schillinger and also Floyd schillinger who raced #31 and #131 and #157 after Bill Star went to #7 this was at the track along rte six in the fifties. Than we would go to the old Whistle stop restaurant on rte six owned by My Grand mother Muriel jones wow what a night. Ron ristau

     
  7. Steve Gabbert

    August 5, 2012 at 3:08 am

    Mike McGrew just asked me if Brett Moffitt was related to Charlie Moffit. I know they are (were) from Iowa, and that their last name is slightly different, but is it possible? Nice tribute by the way. I remember the name, but I actually don’t remember Charlie that much.

     
  8. Dobie Gillies

    February 7, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    I remember Charlie racing modifies #52 in Waterloo, IA on Sunday nites. He also raced in West Liberty Iowa when he hit a gas tank that fell off Mel Morris car and got burned badly,.that affected his smile. There are a lot more stories you could tell from the late 50’s. His personal Ford that they had to move the seat back for him.On and on.

     

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