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  Clarksburg Drag Racing

 

     Clarksburg produced its own version of American Grafitti during the years of the mid 1960's.  These were the golden years of "street drag racing".  Detroit was producing cars that were extremely fast and well-suited to this type of racing.  These included the famous GTO's, Impalas, etc. Everyone between the ages of 6 to 30 understood the verbage of 283's, 327's, 454's etc. and were masters of the output of the four speed transmission. Cars could create speed quickly and could reach 150 at top end.

     By 1963, drag racing became very popular on Highway 22 which also was Clarksburg's Main Street.  Clarksburg was not incorporated at the time and had no law or constable.  Security was provided by Sheriff's Office and the Tennessee State Highway Patrol.  These were stretched thin with other communities. Law was actually settled between the survival of the fittest. 

     Paul Bartholomew opened a restaurant business at Clarksburg in January 1964 called Paul's Place.  You could order food at the window or go in and sit at a table.  He had teenage children which made it a great place to visit.  It became the center of the community for young people.  It had a juke box and speakers that provided music for those sitting in cars in the parking lot. 

    After Paul closed in the late weekend evening, the drag racing would commence.  Highway 22 between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. would belong to the "drag racers".  Both sides of the road would be filled with spectators between Paul's Place and Bennett's Service Station.  The races would begin in the vicinity of the current OMA's Antik Haus and would terminate at the Poplar Springs road area in North Clarksburg.  This would equal a mile. 

     The races were known far and wide.  They were even announced on WLS in Chicago which was a famous night AM station beaming into this area at this time. 

   On 13 February 1965, the "drag racing" officially came to an end which will be explained in the following "Commercial Appeal" new column.

   

 

Clarksburg Drag Menace Blooms During Night
by George Sutton

Special to the Commercial Appeal

 

     CLARKSBURG,Tenn., March 7. - Most of Clarksburg's 250 residents retire early and lights flicker off one by one anytime after 8 p.m.
     By 11 p.m., however, the town's main street---which is also state Highway 22--comes alive again as the sounds of loud mufflers, shrieking tires and large crowds shake the rafters.
     For nearly two years now by one estimate, Clarksburg's main street has been used for what the automobile set terms "the drags" with as many as 200 Mid-Southerners anxiously awaiting the drop of the flag.
    It sounds like the script of a low-budget film. It actually is an open violation of the law and something the Tennessee Highway Patrol has attempted to stop, but has only managed to slow down.
    And since Highway 22 has become busier with Interstate turning its flow of travelers and truckers onto it to points east via Huntingdon or Lexington, it has become more of a problem.
     The operation has slowed down since a Highway Patrol raid Feb. 13 which netted about 20 arrests and as 27-year-old Frank White of Trezevant, one of those arrested, observes, "I imagine we'll do all of our dragging on the drag strip from now on." 
     In recounting the past days of the "Clarksburg drags," Mr. White attributed its birth to the young people "who were just out to have a good time and wanted to race their cars.  They don't have a drag strip open during the winters so they started using the Interstate and moved from there to Highway 22."
    "It's been going on for about two years, mostly on the weekend. When I was up there, there were about 60 or 70 cars and 150 to 200 boys, girls, kids, old people and everybody."
    "People from all over the state and some from out-of-state stopped to watch or race their cars.  They put flares on the road so drivers would know something was going on, but most of the time they would wait if car lights were coming."
     Mr. White admits "it was dangerous dragging on main highways like that, but it was not as bad as people think it was.  There never was an accident, but at the same time I don't guess they ought to be doing it."
     "I think most of the people at Clarksburg wanted it stopped, but I guess they were scared to come out there since there was such a large crowd."
     Mr. White feels that "if they had a place to go with officials and everything they would have gone, but they didn't so they went on the main road." 
     As a remedy to the situation, he suggested "the state ought to take the money out of these fines and build a strip around here somewhere."

     Mr. White was charged with dragging, which calls for a fine of $50 to $500, not more than six months in jail and 1 to 10 years loss of drivers license, but since he was only a bystander the night of the raid the charge was reduced to reckless driving.
    Highway Patrol Sgt. Robert Etheridge, who led the raid, pointed out the difficulty in raiding the operation. "To go out there in a patrol car is just like saying to them "sit still and wait on us."
    The raid, he said, was finally carried out with private cars and overcoats over uniforms.
    Sergeant Etheridge said cars from Alabama, Kentucky "and everywhere" were seen.  "One car was even towed up here from Alabama just for the purpose of racing. After the races, it was put back on a trailer and carried back."
    He said it was reported "the boys were even monitoring the Highway Patrol (radio) frequency to listen for our movements, but we don't know that for sure."
    He pledged that the patrol will break the race "if it takes every night of the week."
    Some Clarksburg residents along Highway 22 are complacent about the midnight activities now.
    As one pointed out, "Sure, I guess it's dangerous and it might make a lot of noise, but we're all used to it now."
    "I guess we ought to do something about it, but I guess we are just waiting on someone else to do it," a housewife said.
 

 

 

           

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