Friday, July 9, 2021


These guys (Frank Manley, below, and Frank Lies, right) raised me, and yes I spent A LOT of time in garages and at tracks. But they didn't teach me much about cars--forcause I'm a girl, I'm guessing. 

But I managed pretty well on my own.

For instance, if your battery cables are loose on a '55 chevy that goes 103 in a quarter-mile and you have a portable clothes iron in the backseat (no idea why, now, but there it was), you can use it to hammer nails in next to the cables and get the battery to work. Probably not recommended.

And if the car still won't start, you can leave the hood up in a shopping center on 13th Street and Oliver in Wichita, Kansas, and eventually a sympathetic woman will stop by and pour her coke over the cables to get them cleaned up--and get the car started.

And if you wear a a yellow-lace two-piece bathing suit and sit with your legs in the engine compartment while holding a big screwdriver and can of Gunk, guys will pull over and offer to help you clean that sucker right up.

Lies did quiz me one day about my red Corvair convertible with the 8-track player and Muntz speakers in the doors:

Lies: Have you noticed anything funny about your car lately?

Me: Yeah. It's pulling to the left a little.

Lies: What do you think might be causing that?

Me: Well, the guy at the gas station said I need an oil change.


Lies: I'm sure you do. You also have a tire going flat.

Luckily, I amused him more than I irritated him. Of course, the bar was pretty low--forcause, you know, a girl in a garage.


#novel #fiction #author #mustread #summerreading #bestnewbooks #booksoutin2021 #authorstowatch #debutnovel #racecar #racing #dirttrackracing #readinglist #bookclub #bookaddict #goodreads #booklovers #midwesterner #nostalgia #carracing #racetrack #comingofage #WichitaRacing #81Speedway #HutchinsonFairgrounds #TaftStadium #Kansas #Oklahoma #racinglegend #racingbooks #trophygirls #romance #candidchildhood

Monday, July 5, 2021

Years Beyond the Finish Line

The Hall family has owned Park City's 81 Speedway since 1963.

This happened and I didn't even know it . . .and now two years after the fact, I find myself staring at the place I used to sit in those stands, halfway below the press box on the right aisle--watching my stepfather fly around the track in blue 55, my mother looking into her lap with fingers crossed on both hands until the checkered flag dropped--or some mishap sent cars spinning or flying and the crowd howling. 

I'm wishing desperately for one more evening up there, Juicy Fruit gum in my clutch bag next to me, warming paper cup of Coke at my feet. Mom's friends would be gathered around--often including Happy Bottom [Gladys] Balzer, the sweetest Mennonite lady on the planet ("Come see us once!") all talking about deliciously and often hilariously grown-up things. The brightly painted, heavily branded cars wove onto and around and back off the track to the rhythm of the flagman's signals. 

For most of my young life--up into high school--I was a captive audience, sometimes at three races a weekend. I never expected, at this late date, to miss it so much.

81 race track selling

By Randy Fisher
Last Updated: November 21, 2019

By Randy Fisher

After more than 55 years of ownership by the Hall family, 81 Speedway in Park City is being sold.

Owner-operator C. Ray Hall confirmed that the sale will be finalized Nov. 29. Until then, he is not able to reveal the buyer.

Hall wasn't looking to sell the Speedway when opportunity came knocking a couple of years ago. He entertained two separate offers, but nothing happened. Unexpectedly, one of the parties resurfaced this July.

Although he still wasn't interested in selling, Hall realized that in 50 years no one had ever offered to buy the track. Then the other party from two years ago came back to the table.

"What greater scenario than having two wealthy companies/individuals wanting to purchase the place," he said. "The more I thought about it, what happens in a year or two if I need to sell for whatever reason and there's nobody there, then what happens."

Hall was able to hammer out an agreement to sell the track. He understands the new owner has a lot of plans for the track. That will result in many changes Hall never had the extra capital to make.

"They're going to invest a lot of money in the place. I always had to do it the hard way," he said. "They want the experience to be nicer for the fans. That tells me they're going to spend quite a bit of money."

Originally built in 1954 as Robbins Speedway, the track was sold in 1958 to O.L. Douglas, who renamed it 81 Speedway.

In 1961, C. Ray's parents ran the concessions at the track. He had a full-time job and worked there on weekends. Two years later, his parents purchased the track. C. Ray took over operations in 1971 and later became owner.

"I was working for Phillip Morris USA and decided it wasn't enough of a challenge, so I tackled me a real challenge, not realizing what kind of a challenge it would be," he said with a laugh.

Just because the 75-year-old Hall is selling the track doesn't mean he is retiring. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

He will continue to operate the National Championship Racing Association (NCRA), a historic regional touring series of sprint car, late model, modified and modified lite racecars. Two longtime 81 Speedway employees, Mylisa Powers and Warren Hardy, will work with him.

"When I signed the agreement, I … said to Hardy and Mylisa, it's not a fun day but it's a good day," Hall said. "I enjoy doing what I'm doing, and that's why I want to continue. I still feel as enthused today as I did five years ago; 10 years ago. It's a good day because now I know where I'm headed."

Hall attributes much of 81 Speedway's success to the fans and sponsors.

"Fans and sponsors is the only reason this place has survived," he said. "As everybody knows, every night doesn't have enough fans to do what we've done."

The sale of 81 Speedway marks the end of one chapter in the track's history and the beginning of another.

"It's coming to an end as far as my era is concerned," Hall said. "Hopefully racing will go another 50 years out here."

Saturday, July 3, 2021


TROPHY GIRL excerpt, page 20, for fun--Now available for pre-order with a 15% discount using code preorder2021 before launch September 30Th:

OFFICER MCDONOUGH motioned for Frank to follow him to the parking lot, well away from where Sandy stood by the open door looking back and forth from them to the girl in the bed. He placed one foot on the bumper of Frank’s ‘55 buckskin-and-white Mercury and bit down on a toothpick. “So what’s really goin‘ on here?”

Frank gazed out across the lot and patted his chest in a nervous reflex, feeling for a pack of cigarettes. “You wouldn’t happen to have a smoke on you?”

McDonough pulled out a red-and-white pack of Winstons and tapped the top against his index finger to coax a cigarette out.

Frank took it and put it between his lips, then ran his hand down his hip, getting it caught in the folds of the bed spread. “Shit! Gotta light?”

McDonough lit Frank’s cigarette, then one for himself. “So, Frankie. Is she your kid or not?”

Stay tuned!


#novel #fiction #author #mustread #summerreading #bestnewbooks #booksoutin2021 #authorstowatch #debutnovel #racecar #racing #dirttrackracing #readinglist #bookclub #bookaddict #goodreads #booklovers #midwesterner #nostalgia #carracing #racetrack #comingofage #WichitaRacing #81Speedway #HutchinsonFairgrounds #TaftStadium #Kansas #Oklahoma #racinglegend #racingbooks #trophygirls #romance #candidchildhood


TROPHY GIRL, my debut Historic Fiction, is now available for pre-order at 15% discount using code preorder2021 until launch date of September 30th, 2021, using the code preorder2021 from blackrosewriting@sales/womens/trophygirl.

And I'll be signing copies at the Grand National Race the novel is centered around.

C. Ray Hall (former owner of 81 Speedway in Wichita) who is organizing the GRAND NATIONALS has invited me to set up a book table in front of the grandstands July 15, 16, and 17--and in the pits Saturday morning. When C. Ray and I were track rats, I NEVER got to go into the pits until after the races were over, forcause I'm a girl, you know.

Mar-Car’s Dub Richardson Ford official Pace car 
April 24, 1965, with Queen Priscilla Fields on the far left and Linda Green on the far right, mentored by the legendary queen-maker Mary Carson.


#novel #fiction #author #mustread #summerreading #bestnewbooks #booksoutin2021 #authorstowatch #debutnovel #racecar #racing #dirttrackracing #readinglist #bookclub #bookaddict #goodreads #booklovers #midwesterner #nostalgia #carracing #racetrack #comingofage #WichitaRacing #81Speedway #HutchinsonFairgrounds #TaftStadium #Kansas #Oklahoma #racinglegend #racingbooks #trophygirls #romance #candidchildhood

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Laughing Matters


My starter husband was a great joke teller. Me not so much. I once tried to retell a visual joke of his where he wiggled and flourished his index fingers and thumbs forming two circles (think circus music here), put them behind his head, and ta da! Out from behind his head they came, magically hooked together!!!

Simple and silly and what could go wrong, right? 

So one day I decided to share the joke--made two circles, hooked them together behind me, and then . . . wait, what?!? I'd put my arms behind my back. 😆 

Eventually, I just turned around to reveal the "magic," the joke being on me.

May we find much to laugh at as we emerge from our Covid cocoons. And if you have a funny to share, as Pops, my favorite character in the novel I'm currently writing, says, "I guess that'd be awright."

Sunday, February 16, 2020

A Trip to the Principal's Office--Half a Century after Graduation

I sub in our little town--K through 12. I'm nice, I kid around, I teach all I can when I can, and encourage kids to apply themselves. I teach them the one thing they'll never get any more of is time. The little ones make me cards with hearts  and write stories about how I fight off the evil pop quiz monsters. The middle graders write, "Ms. Marlis is the best!!!" on the white boards, a standard and acceptable form of sucking up.

We do yoga, the starfish stretch, and for the more anxious kids we do "tapping." You can check it out for yourself: An anxious second grader with chronic headaches and stomach issues, who wanted only to be allowed go home, let me teach her to tap, and two weeks later ran to me on the playground all bouncy and bubbly to report it was working, and her mom and teacher were delighted with her improvement. (She's older now, so instead of running to me for hugs, we grin at each other and tap our chins in a private greeting.)

Just today I got an affirming high-five in the high school gym from one of the cool boys and the usual hug from another kid who seems to have made me his pet sub. You get the picture. I do okay.

So . . . when I got a call from the principal of one of the schools to come to the office to "talk," I was not only surprised, but as apprehensive as when I was a teen. Seriously? A formal meeting in her office?

The walk down the hall was reminiscent of other walks of shame more than half a century ago. Yes, I really did cut class, and yes, one day in 9th grade I really did not even bring shoes to school to wear, and so on. My junior-year English teacher explained that I was an A student doing B work and getting a C because I was so disruptive in class. But that was then, right?

When the principal smiled and asked me how I thought my subbing was going, the red flag shot to full mast and began flapping. Pretty well, I said. Was there a problem? Well, yes, in fact, there had been a problem reported . . .

When the 7th graders asked me if they could work with partners, I asked if they usually did, and they answered in the affirmative, so we partnered up. And, yes, it got a little loud. Enough so that I put two pairs in the hall to spread them out more. And so I didn't hear the heated exchange of insults between two boys in language that is not appropriate. As it would happen, some other students overheard and ratted them out.

Lesson learned: if it's not written down in the sub instructions, don't go there. Regardless of how many of the darlings insist it's really really okay.

A pleasant chat followed, and I said I'd get stricter with the kids. I wrote an apology to the teacher, who wrote a lovely "not-to-worry" email back.

And what I was thinking was how lucky they never found out that the H.S. band convinced me they could stand on their chairs if they'd memorized their parts. My first-born daughter, who teaches fourth grade, sent me a big MOM! text and talked about liability insurance. No students or horns were harmed, but I've made sure they keep their feet on the floor.

And I'm pretty sure the art students who waved and laughed at me through the window when they realized I'd locked myself out of the room did not pass that news along. Why would they give up the leverage?

And I'm truly grateful that the disgruntled boy in the fifth grade who kept insisting he wanted to work with a partner didn't tell his teacher that I told him--with a tad of frustration, I'll admit--that what I wanted was to go to a dance in a red dress and drink a beer, but that that wasn't happening either. (Who knew that beer--which echoed throughout the room in whispers--was a trigger word?)

In English class last week when I had received written instructions that no one was to leave the room for anything but a trip to the bathroom, I finally got them to word their requests to leave "appropriately" (I suspected such devilry as runs to a locker for a forgotten item or the refilling of a water bottle). I'm learning how to survive the system all over again. And now, when they try to tempt me into bending the rules, I just tell them I've already been to the principal's office and I'm not risking that again. It's given me quite a lot of street cred.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Don't Forget to Check Your Teeth

Frank and Joan Manley with his first race car, a Deutsch-Bonnet
When my father and step-mother began to drift toward the unraveling edge of independent living--both health and mobility-wise--I flew to Bellevue, Washington. Several times. Eventually to diminished receptions as we drank lattes and good gin while putting off discussing the hardest things amidst the deteriorating circumstances of two brilliant lives lived in the literal fast lane (sports car racing and officiating and tours in far-off countries investigating airplane accidents). 

Here's what my year of rescuing my parents from the places and life they loved that could no longer sustain them taught me: there. is. no. best. way. There's only way. Way too hard. Way too messy. Way too complicated. And whenever it happens, for them it's always going to be way too soon. 

Unless it's way too late, and then--as a home care worker in Washington advised me--the next of kin can be held criminally libel for . . . I'm not sure what. But as an only child, I took heed. 

After months of researching independent living units in Kansas City, where their only child and three of their grandkids and their families live, and a doable drive from my step-mother's extensive Nebraska family, I embarked on yet another downward path to wisdom. What to do with the stuff--from a table made from a zebra skin (including legs, now illegal to sell in the USA, so donated, with like artifacts, to a local museum) to household records dating back to 1962. Post-its were applied: "Moving Van," "Donate," "Pack," "Estate Sale," etc. I spared them the "I've got Junk" truck labels. But there were two loads. 

Letting go is not for sissies.

Then all that's left is preparing a house to sell, arranging the estate sale, a car sale, emptying the safe-deposit box and moving accounts, checking on meds, getting the cats their shots and buying two soft, squishable carriers for under middle seats, asking your son to come lend two hands and a good brain, and buying four more plane tickets. Finally, in spite of the loose ends flailing around you like brain fog, you arrive at the airport, secure wheel chairs, and start to roll through what to my parents must have felt like the Wonderland rabbit hole. 

Joan Manley, now a young 97, and granddaughter Nancy 
Klein enjoying Happy Hour at Brookdale Wornall

And then . . . we discovered my father--world traveler extraordinaire--had put his wallet and passport into his checked bag. A fabulously understanding worker allowed us to go through in spite of that little hiccup--with wheelchairs, walkers, canes, a carryon with important papers and the family jewels, lattes, sack lunches, and two cats in carriers. Once on the plane in the front row of economy for the three of them, me across the aisle one row back in the middle so I could stow the other cat, my father needed to use the bathroom--fortunately just steps from his seat. But it was not an easy negotiation. I assisted, but still, we delayed the flight. On take off, the cat in the front row relieved itself as well. As soon as we were airborne, wet paper towels flew at my son who had charge of that feline. 

As I sat there deep breathing in a middle seat--willing the second cat to maintain control of its bodily functions for the duration of the flight--I made the inane mistake of shaking my head and wondering--almost aloud--what else could possibly go wrong? That's the exact moment I felt the bridge on my upper right side slip loose and settle onto my lower teeth. 

I rested my head against the seat and let the irony wash over me as we sailed over Washington State headed for Kansas. I desperately wanted to laugh, but how to explain that to the strangers on either side, and what if the bridge fell out into my lap and bounced onto the floor? With kitty under the seat, my purse and carry on were in the overhead compartment. Eventually, I ordered a drink through clenched teeth and discretely wrapped the appliance in a cocktail napkin and stuffed it into my pocket. I thought about wiping it off and jokingly asking the flight attendant if it was too late to check it, but even I know a bridge too far when I see it.

#SCCA #sportscars #seniorliving #pettravel #aging #caregiver #brookdalewornall #racing #flying #i'vegotjunk #passport #dentalbridge #looseteeth


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