Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
> SAUGUS SPEEDWAY
Bonelli Stadium Racing Program 11-3-1946
Saugus, California



Bonelli Stadium program book, November 3, 1946.

A Ware and Crosley Presentation / Sanction No. 6 / California Roadster Association.

One year after Billy Vukovich won the first race at Saugus following a postwar hiatus (Sept. 9, 1945), Jack McGrath of Pasadena (b. Oct. 8, 1919) was the "King of the Hot Rods," having won the first California Roadster Association championship (1946). From the handwritten race times in this program book, it appears McGrath was the winner on this day in Saugus, as well.

Although they didn't do so on this day, Vukovich and McGrath would square off many times in the coming years, most notably in a 26-lap duel at Indianapolis on May 30, 1955. McGrath blew his engine on lap 54, and three laps later, with a 17-second lead, Vukovich was killed in a chain-reaction fireball crash. McGrath himself was killed six months later (Nov. 6, 1955) in the American Automobile Association's last dirt-track race of the season in Phoenix.

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Officials:

President - John Walker

Vice President - CHuck Leighton

Secretary - Walter Bowen

Starter - Bob Ware

Chief Steward - Harry LeBohn

Track Supervisor - Bob McKee

Pit Manager - Artie Swanson

Track Physician - Dr. Sidney Senter

Ambulance Service - Harry Snyder

Concessions - Olympic Concessions Co.

Notable advertisements:

Babe Ouse started the California Roadster Association in 1945.

The official race photographer is E. Lovingood, 5509 Sunset Blvd.

Newhall Refining Co. produces, refines and markets its own brands of gasoline: Newhall Ethyl Gasoline and Newhall Regular Gasoline.

Back cover advertisement urges a "yes" vote on Proposition 2 on the Nov. 5, 1946, ballot, and says it's "for Veterans Relief and Rehabilitation." We're unclear about this; Proposition 2 pertained to paramutuel betting (it failed); Proposition 1 pertained to loans for military veterans (it passed).

Point leaders (drivers) as of October 28, 1946:

No. 1 Manuel Ayulo

No. 2 Bud Van Maanen

No. 3 Jack McGrath

No. 4 Le Roy Snooks

No. 5 Gordon Reid

No. 6 Fred Ryness

No. 7 Bud Gregory

No. 8 Wally Pankratz

No. 9 Jim Rathman

No. 10 Yam Oka

No. 11 Don Nauman

No. 12 Bill Steves

Photo captions:

(Cover) Fred Ryness, No. 52, receiving the trophy from Miss Joyce Robinson and Bob Ware.

Le Roy Snooks, No. 90, and Chuck Leighton, No. 440, fighting for the lead in the main event.

Wayne Scroggins, No. 50, fighting to hold his scant lead over Jack Frank, No. 48, in the second heat race.

Troy Ruttman, No. 4, "pushing" Yam Oka, No. 53, in the semi-main.

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Meet Jack McGrath
King of the Hot Rods

Jack has earned his title, "King of the Hot Rods," the hard way; as a member of the SCTA's Gophers, he screamed through the traps in 1945 for an unofficial time of 131 miles per hour, and this year the "King" was officially clocked at 124.

Jack also holds the coveted position of owning one of the fastest accelerating roadsters in C.R.A.

As proprietor of Quality Motor Rebuilders the "King" has built half the engines now used by the "Outriders," "Gophers," and "Sidewinders." Jack was a major factor in the experimental work on the S&S manifold, the Evans manifold, and the S&S heads. In his roaring roadster he has recently incorporated a new quick change gear box and a 1927 model T body.

"King McGrath," after trying midgets and dry lake racing still prefers the roaring roadsters. Ask Jack if the sweat, money and tedious, painstaking assembly that they represent is worth the thrill of watching them perform.

Incidentally, here is an oft repeated saying that is whole-heartedly endorsed by Jack — Fours for plow - Eights for gow.

Fans, what do you think?


About Baker Ranch Rodeo / Bonelli Stadium / Saugus Speedway

About Saugus Speedway.

The future Saugus Speedway was built originally as a rodeo arena in 1927 by Roy Baker, brother of shoe magnate C.H. Baker.

Roy Baker purchased the 40-acre property east of Bouquet Junction in 1923 for the purpose of breeding and selling show and pleasure horses. To that end he imported saddle brood mares from Kentucky and studded them with a pedigreed, chestnut-colored saddlebred stallion named Peavine McDonald (b. 1910), which sired five pedigreed mares and four pedigreed colts between 1920 and 1936. Baker advertised that he had 2,500 acres of grazing land and also offered training and boarding services for outside horses.

Probably to attract horse buyers to his ranch in faraway Saugus, Baker staged rodeos. Some references suggest he built a 12,000-seat arena in 1924, but this is dubious. We do know he held a rodeo on the property on April 11, 1926. That December, Baker and partner Bob Anderson started construction on a new stadium, complete with partially covered grandstand seating and a quarter-mile oval track. When it opened May 1, 1927, it seated 18,000 fans, and thousands more had to be turned away for lack of room.

Over the next decade, ownership of the arena would change hands three more times.

As with a majority of the American populace, Baker was hit hard financially by the Great Depression of 1929 and was forced to sell the stadium to cowboy actor Hoot Gibson in 1930. Gibson continued to hold rodeos at the stadium and drew a Hollywood crowd including famous actors such as William S. Hart, Harry Carey, Tom Mix, and John Wayne. He also used the stadium as a movie set or leased it to other companies for film making.

But Gibson felt the effects of the Depression, as well. In September 1933 he appeared in a Los Angeles courtroom and pleaded poverty, saying he had no assets with which to repay a $2,500 loan. He testified that he owned a one-third interest in Hoot Gibson Inc., which owned the Saugus rodeo, and that it was in arrears.

In 1934, Gibson sold the stadium to Paul Hill, owner of the Western Livestock Stockyards, who continued to call it the Hoot Gibson Rodeo. As with his predecessors, however, the stadium brought Hill financial hardship when it was hit by the Great Flood of March 2, 1938. Heavy rains that year caused a river of water to flow down Soledad Canyon and filled the ranch home and arena with mud and debris. As reported in the Los Angeles Times, the "old buildings ... collapsed during the March floods" and the arena was built anew.

Nonetheless, Hill lost the ranch sometime after the April 1938 rodeo. According to Reynolds, the property was repossessed by the bank. In 1939, ownership passed to William Bonelli, and it was renamed Bonelli Stadium.

Bonelli, a professor of economics at Occidental College, continued the annual rodeo tradition for a number of years but introduced auto racing in 1939 on a more frequent schedule; ultimately auto racing became the primary draw and Bonelli renamed the arena Saugus Speedway. Occasional rodeos and circuses continued until at least the late 1960s, auto racing until 1995. The facility was sometimes used for concerts before the grandstands were removed in 2012 (the originals had been replaced in 1955). The venue continues to host an outdoor swap meet.


LW2831: 9600 dpi jpegs from original program book purchased 2015 by Leon Worden.
BONELLI STADIUM

SEE ALSO:
• Saugus Speedway
• Fireball 500


* RACING PROGRAMS *


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1st Postwar Midget Race 9/9/1945

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Program 10/7/1945

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Midgets 1945 x2

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Photo Annual 1945/1946

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Pit Pass 1945

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Lineup ~1946

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~1946

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Pit Pass 4/21/1946

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Program 5/26/1946

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Program 11-3-1946

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Walt Faulkner 1940s-50s

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Program 7-24-1948

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Program 1-29-1956

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Program 12-30-1956

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Program July 1962

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Program 9/8/1962

(More to be Indexed)


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