LaRue Clum called, waving the red flag at The Lima News.
She wanted to stop the press and set the record straight about who was the first woman to win a race at Limaland Motorsports Park. Bob Fricke, the facility’s general manager, told the newspaper he believed it was Emily Gade, a 20-year-old from Clarence, Iowa, who was last year’s Rookie of the Year at Limaland.
Not true, said 88-year-old LaRue.
Then when asked who the first female racer was, LaRue dutifully noted, “You’re talking to her, honey, and there is a trophy in the Wapakoneta museum on Main Street to prove it.”
LaRue’s race happened when the track was known as the Allentown Speedway in the “late 1940s … maybe the early 1950s … I’m too old to remember exact dates,” she said.
But she remembers plenty of the details from that day.
She was in her early 20s and already a regular visitor at the local race tracks, being married to Leon Clum, an upcoming driver at the time. One day she heard the speedway was putting on a powder-puff race for women. No one had to ask her twice to sign up.
“I think there were eight of us in the race that day. I know Bobby Vaughn’s sister was in it — they called her ‘Shorty Plum’ — but I’m not sure who some of the other women were. I was driving one of those two-door stock cars they drove back then. … I think it was a Hudson Hornet, a coupe-like car, but I’m not sure.”
What she is sure about is what happened for the 10 laps between the green and checkered flags. She smashed her foot down on the gas pedal and let her car fly.
“I started at the tail end and before the first turn, I was leading the race. I got out front and made sure I stayed there,” LaRue said.
It was her first and last race.
“They wanted me to run at New Bremen the next week with the guys, but Leon wouldn’t let me,” LaRue said. “He told me all they want to do is to get me upside down … they wanted to wreck me. He said ‘there’s no way they’re going to let a a woman go out there and beat them.’”
For the next dozen or so years, Leon and LaRue spent summers traveling across the country as Leon raced sprints, championship cars and midgets in places like Des Moines, Iowa, Salem and Bloomington, Ind., and Little Rock, Ark. He set track records in Cincinnati and Fort Wayne.
“Leon would have raced longer, but he lost an eye in New Bremen when a car in front of him threw a rock. They said he couldn’t run anymore because he was blind in that eye. He needed to have his side vision. That was in 1962.”
The two still attended races as fans up until Leon’s death in 1990. At one point they became friends of racing legend A.J. Foyt, whose autobiography mentioned Leon.
Now, LaRue finds herself parked in front of the television every Sunday watching NASCAR. She calls herself a “Chevy person,” with her favorite drivers being Jeff Gordon — who she watched win races as a 13-year-old in Anderson, Ind. — and Jimmy Johnson. “They’re good on the track,” LaRue points out. “They don’t go out there trying to wreck people. They just race and push their way to the front.”
And her thoughts about Danica Patrick, the current queen of NASCAR.
“I don’t think she’ll ever make a race car driver,” said LaRue. “She’s not aggressive enough … too content to sit in the middle.”
One gets the opinion that if a younger LaRue had ever received the chance to run at Talledega or Daytona, there wouldn’t have been any sitting in the middle. She would have smashed on the gas, got out front, and made sure she stayed there.
ROSES AND THORNS: Who’s that running through the rose garden, and where did that nifty masonry fireplace come from?
Rose: To Stage 4 cancer survivor David Dellifield, 42, of Ada. His treatment for throat cancer in 2011 included radiation five days a week and three hours of chemotherapy once a week for two months. He now plans to run in the New York City Marathon on Nov. 2, raising money for Not By Choice Outreach.
Rose: To Jay Sain, of Lima, who at age 100, still walks daily, enjoys caring for her flowers and volunteers two days a week at St. Charles School in Lima.
Rose: To Dave Wilcox, a local stone mason, who was honored by the Masonry Heaters Association for his design of fireplaces and wood-fired ovens.
Rose: It took nearly 70 years, but the U.S. Army finally presented Joe Hilty, 88, of Spencerville, with his POW medal, the Bronze Star and the German Occupation Medal.
Rose: To Kathy Snider, who retired after serving 45 years as the church organist at St. John Lutheran Church in Celina.
Rose: To Lonnie Rettig, who has been a mentor, counselor and boxing trainer for Lima youth for 23 years.
Rose: To Gene Graves, president of Lakeview Farms, who plans to expand the company’s Delphos facility and add 20o jobs over the next three years.
Rose: To Steve Haller, who was called “a very humble guy who doesn’t like to be in the spotlight” by Spencerville Chamber of Commerce president Shanna Holland. The group named him as its Citizen of the Year.
Rose: To United Way of Great Lima campaign leaders Kevin Creamer, Matt Childers and Jerry Lewis. The trio pulled in $2.12 million, surpassing its goal of raising enough money to serve 50,500.
Rose: To Fred Barrington, whow as honored by Downtown Lima Inc. for his many years of service to the organization.
Thorn: Some things you just don’t do in the presence of a police officer. A Lima man found that out when he walked out of the Blarney Stone and headed down the street enjoying a cold beer.
Thorn: To Andrew Probst, a former auxiliary police officer for Bluffton who was sentenced to four years in prison for having sexual relations with a 14-year-old girl.
Thorn: It has been one year, nine months and one week since the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio found the railroad crossing on Cable Road in disrepair. It has yet to be fixed by the Chicago, Fort Wayne and Eastern Railroad, which is owned by Genesee & Wyoming Inc., of Darien, Conn.
PARTING SHOT: “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.” — Groucho Marx