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BobMiller

The life and times of Carroll's Grove Speedway...

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I could be 100% truthful and say in one word what happened to Carroll's Grove Speedway, but sometimes just telling the truth doesn't tell the whole story. What wouldn't get said is also the most interesting part of the story. I can't let that happen now that I've learned the history of Carroll's Grove.

The property where the track was built was located in the Town of Brunswick just off Route 7 on the Carroll's Grove Road. Initially, the property was a large banquet hall that also included square dancing and round dancing and local musicians playing big band music. Carroll's Grove was a favorite place for politicians to meet. Clam bakes were held there every year for various political gatherings. I found several mentions of this varying from year to year in the local newspapers.

The race track was built at the back of the property in the spring of 1950. The promoter was Bernie Carroll Jr., who also raced cars occasionally and worked the events as flagger when he wasn't off on Reserve Duty. Carroll's Grove didn't have grandstands. Spectators drove their cars in and parked on a ridge around the track. The grand opener was held on June 4th, 1950 and seemed to be well attended. Newspapers didn't do a good job at carrying results so there is no way of knowing how many events were held that year. What I DO know is that the last one was on October 7th. This headline appeared in the paper just one week after one spectator was killed and another seriously injured at Altamont Speedway, which seemed to be the motivation behind it.

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In order to fully understand the history of Carroll's Grove, you have to look at what was going on at the other tracks in the state that were conducting Sunday Stock Car Racing. 1951 was not a good year to be a track owner or race promoter because the State was dropping the Blue Law bomb everywhere. Joe Russo, promoter at the West Seneca Speedway had a bomb land in his lap. Donald Cleveland, promoter at the Naples Speedway had one land in his lap. And Marjorie Marble, female track owner and promoter who was trying to run her grand opening show at Ithaca Speedway in Lansing, NY was threatened. It took this unified effort to contest the laws to change things.

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Cleveland and his ticket seller were arrested. The ticket seller paid a $5 fine, but Cleveland refused and took his case all the way to the State Supreme Court. On December 7th, 1951 judges decided that the laws were unfair to promoters and antiquated in nature. The state still has these laws on the books, but they no longer enforce them. Communities themselves can decide to allow or not allow Sunday Stock Car Racing and the State doesn't need to be involved.

So where does Carroll's Grove fit in all of this? While researching the history of the track, I couldn't find anything at all from 1951. Bernie Carroll was asked by a reporter in October of 1950 if he planned on contesting the Blue Law ban and he said that if this was the law, he intended to comply. After nearly an hour of searching multiple newspaper archive sites and not finding anything at all about the track in 1951, I gave up and moved to 1952. That's when I found an article saying that a public meeting would be taking place at the Brunswick fire hall on April 20th, 1952 that would hear complaints and concerns about Sunday car racing at Carroll's Grove. Nobody showed up and within 10 minutes the meeting was over. Sunday racing was allowed to continue at Carroll's Grove. An announcement in the paper followed with a brief interview from Bernie Carroll saying that because the track sat idle last year, and because of a recent wind storm that tore apart the judges tower, work needed to be done to reopen the track and said he would set a date soon. About 10 days later another brief column states that on June 1st, 1952 - car racing we resume.

Then on July 20th, Bernie Carroll has another brief interview in the paper. "Due to excessive heat and drought conditions, Carroll's Grove Speedway is suspending racing for a couple of weeks and will notify everyone when racing will continue."

And that's when the flat line starts. Nothing about the track appears in any newspaper since then.
 

 

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