by: Bryan Johnson
Marty Himes, born August 29th, 1939 in Oceanside, Long Island, moved to the Freeport area in 1952. In 1952, at the age of 12, he entered a soapbox derby. The event was sponsored by the Nassau County Police Boys Club (PBC). The events were held at the well known Freeport and Islip Speedways.
He continued until 1954 with racing soapbox derbies. At the age of 15, the always industrious Himes, got a job parking cars in Robert Smalley's parking lot across the street from the Freeport Stadium. One night after working in the lot, Himes walked across the street to find out what was going on behind the walls at the Freeport Stadium. After getting an eye full of the stock car races that were going on, it sparked an interest for Marty to begin his infamous racing career.
Marty's Dad was an entertainer. He played guitar, accordion, sang, ate glass, and fire. Chewed razor blades, and sat on top flagpoles. Marty had only one regret -- that his father didn't live long enough to see what he would accomplish in his life. Reginald R. Himes, Marty's father was killed in a freak accident just before Marty would make his first appearance as a driver in a real stock car.
The car was a 1937 Hudson sedan with a radio in it. This is the car that started Marty's racing career. He ran stock cars on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturday's. Marty competed in every division at Freeport Stadium starting with the Novices then moving on to Sedans, Non-Fords, and then Modifieds.
In 1962 Himes became the Novice track champion. This was an amazing feat because he did it with out winning a single main event. Freeport had a huge Novice division, drawing sometimes fifty cars in a main event. During his racing career, Marty and his crew won the Best Dressed award three years in a row. The following year, 1963, Marty entered the sedan division as the year went on.
Later in 1963, Marty moved into the highly competitive Modified division. Marty continued to drive in all three divisions throughout his racing career at Freeport Stadium. Himes accumulated a few cards and had other famous drivers besides himself driving some of his cars out of the Himes stables. Marty drove at Freeport Stadium until July of 1965 when there was a drivers strike at the Stadium.
The Fearless Freeport Flyer, as he was known at this time flat-towed his Liberty Electric Special, a 1956 Ford Sedan out to the Islip Speedway and to the Riverhead Raceway. It was mostly a two-lane highway all the way. When he got there, he discovered this little country track still had dirt pits. You would jack up your car, and the jack would sink halfway in the dirt.
If you dropped a wrench or a lug nut forget it -- you would never find them. At this time Tommy Washburn was the starter, it would take two or three warm up laps to get lined up, and then Tommy turned the field loose. Going into turn three, Marty recalls, my throttle stuck wide open. He had split-second visions of joining the famous swamp club behind turn four. Killing the ignition wouldn't help, It was too late.
So he broadsided the car along the third and fourth turn wall, and got the car back under control with out ever joining the swamp club. Through out the years Marty had his share of close calls, but for the time he put into racing, he basically was about as lucky as Ed Brunnhoelzl, Sr.
Marty Himes continued his racing career at the Islip Speedway driving in the Modified division. The car at the time was a, 1937 Chevrolet Coupe, powered by a 396 cubic inch Chevy engine. The car ran well, but was never a main event winner.
Marty did not have the greatest racing equipment or mechanics. He used to say to Jimmy Hendrickson who he pitted next to at Islip, "The only difference between your guys and mine is, you've got engineers, and I've got pioneers." Marty could get up to the front, but most of the time his equipment couldn't keep him there. But somebody has to come in second, third, and so forth.
Marty recalls a few stories still fresh in his mind, the first being a twenty-five lapper. Marty led it for twenty-four and three-quarters laps. Going into turn four of the final lap, Butch LaFrance in his No. 10-pins, which was parked in the infield for almost a half-dozen laps. LaFrance got his car re-fired and drove out in front of Himes and Gomes, Gomes edged Himes out for the win by only inches.
The second recall, involves Gentlemen Jim Hendrickson in this white and blue No. X3. Marty saw the X3 in his mirror. It haunted him lap after lap. Now that's an unusual sight for most drivers, squinted to see if it was really Jim driving. When they pulled into the pits, Marty went over to Jim and almost apologized. "Geez, Jim, I'm sorry if I was in your way," Marty Said. "Was I taking up too much room?" "No Marty," came Gentlemen Jim's casual reply, "It was your night." Another time at the Islip Speedway, it was Marty's night.
While leading the heat race with Art Tappen and Charlie Jarzombek breathing down his neck, Himes' steering box let go. A track steward was pointing to him to warn him. Marty knew, but when a driver is in the heat of it all and leading the race with some big guns behind, Marty wasn't about to stop. Marty took it that night, steering the last few laps by using the steering column like a tiller on a boat. So the No. X50 Modified ran at Islip with Himes behind the wheel until the conclusion of the 1972 auto racing season. After hanging up his helmet and goggles, he returned to Islip as a fireman with the grounds crew.
After hanging around the track for twenty-some years you can't just walk away from it all. So Marty started the Himes Museum of Motor Racing Nostalgia in 1975. It all started with one single picture photograph of the one legged driver, Bill Schindler. Since the year 1975 the display has grown just a bit, grown into a mobilia monstrosity. When people walk into the front door of the museum it is a religious experience, the first words out of peoples mouth are "OH MY GOD." Sitting out front is a ticket booth from the now shut down Freeport Stadium, with a mannequin sitting inside, with tickets ready to sell, and signs proclaiming "Welcome Race Fans!" greeting you as you enter.
A trip to the Himes Museum of Motor Racing Nostalgia is like a trip back into the past. Marty Himes of the Himes Museum has acquired such a complete collection of both the sport and the period that one cannot help but be totally impressed. His collection includes the following: four full midgets, eight 3/4 midgets, three half midgets, nine stock cars, one early sprint car, a Crosley Tow Truck, three soapbox derby cars, and one racing motorcycle. He also has, more then 300,000 photographs, 125 pounds of unprinted Black and White negatives, racing uniforms, helmets, trophies, club arm bands, posters, tickets, programs, model cars, antique bicycles, and much, much more.
Marty Himes. has dedicated much of his time and money into gathering and preserving this huge collection of racing memorabilia. None of the great stories he tells are put down on paper, and were never on paper. All the great stories he tells to everyone that visit's the museum are stored only in Marty's memory.
His greatest hope s that his collection will stay together for many future generations to enjoy as the times roll on. It would be such a terrible loss to all if his collection is not kept together. When he opened his home display in 1975, his entire life and finances have been dedicated to keeping the memory of racing alive.
The Himes Museum of Motor Racing Nostalgia has been visited by many, sports stars, artists, celebrities, and just fans in general. His collection of racing history is stored at his home in Bay Shore. Although Marty will welcome anyone, into his museum free of charge, donations are greatly and thankfully accepted. Before you make a trip out to the museum, give Marty a call at 631-666-4912, because you never know when Marty is out picking up more of racing history. No ones gives a tour of the museum like he does, so call first. The address is: 15 O'Neil Avenue, Bay Shore, NY, 11706.
MARTY HIMES HAS BEEN THERE, DONE THAT AND,
FORTUNATELY FOR US ALL, PRESERVED IT ALL
Call for Appointment.
15 O'Neil Avenue
Bay Shore, NY 11706
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