Keeping it Off The Wall

Auto Racing Through The years
Ed Donath Autobiography
May  2000

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My very first recollection is of the excruciating pain suffered in a racing accident that occurred during my first birthday party.

My dear departed mother always told people that I was the fastest-crawling one-year-old that anyone had ever seen. Most people, especially Mom, were unable to catch me. To further complicate mother's life I had already begun to take my first steps. Mom knew that running would be my next speed mode.

At that critical juncture a trendy cousin suggested that Mom should get me into a new device known as a baby walker. Helen told my mother that this would not only appease my need for speed but it would significantly cut down on the amount of chasing that Mom would have to do. 

In 1950 these primitive walkers were made up of a couple of pieces of vinyl-covered plywood that were loosely connected to each other by some thin steel rods. Three rollers were attached to the bottom piece of plywood. A baby-size hole was cut into the top piece and a vinyl strip hung under the baby-size hole. When baby was lifted up and into the hole, the vinyl strip became a seat, over which baby's legs dangled to the floor. Baby could then stand in place, walk or even run without anyone's assistance. Naturally, I assumed that I had been chosen for the job of test driver for these new vehicles. 

My birthday party test session was going very smoothly. Several hot laps of the one-bedroom apartment had been completed to the delight of the assembled relatives and neighbors. The capacity crowd was thoroughly impressed and entertained by the birthday boy's feats of speed and endurance. 

But suddenly, the cornering limits of the low-tech racer were exceeded. Coming around the back straight behind the sofa one of the rollers brushed the edge of a throw rug. In the absence of steering and brakes, all of my efforts to correct proved futile. I had become a mere passenger, destined to run headlong into the pointy corner of the coffee table. The scar in my left eyebrow attests, fifty years later, to the bloody gash that was opened there on the day I turned one in turn one.

About three years later I moved up in class to steer-able vehicles. It was a wonderful and powerful feeling being able to terrorize pedestrians on the wide sidewalks of our Brooklyn neighborhood on my velocipede (a larger-than-normal tricycle). Racing challenges were issued daily to anyone with handlebars.

During an exciting late-season dice with my pal, Alan, who drove a similar old trike, our rear wheels touched. Both of the top-heavy vehicles rolled. Alan walked away but I had to be rushed to the hospital. Subsequently, most of my kindergarten year was spent wearing a heavy cast on my triple- fractured right arm. To this day, the old elbow still twinges occasionally - especially during the writing by hand of rough drafts for recollection stories such as this one.

Later came bicycle racing, followed - at LONG last - by car racing. I dragged and street-raced my way through the muscle car era. After attending a prestigious driving school I gave auto-crossing and showroom stock road racing a try. Most of my racing trophies, however, were awarded to me far away from podia by tall men in Smoky the Bear hats.

Over the last 25 years I've driven about a million miles, most of which were racked-up in the course of commuting and business travel. If you think that I haven't been running flat-out during this stint you must have already forgotten about the mindset of the boomer-fidget in the baby walker.

Now, after half a century of racing in its purest, albeit mostly unsanctioned form - with the scars to show for it - it would be appropriate for the autoracing community to recognize me for my life-long dedication to the sport. From as far back as I can remember racing has been my life.

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