Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
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Bonelli Stadium Racing Program.
J.C. Agajanian Presents 100-Lap National Championship Midget Race.


J.C. Agajanian Presents 100-Lap National Championship Midget Race.

Bonelli Stadium, Sunday, January 29, 1956.

Maroon spot color cover, else black, 28 pages.

Cover: J.C. Agajanian with driver Johnnie Parsons and trophy queen Claire Weekes of Van Nuys.

Driver profiles: Walt Faulkner, Duane Carter (retired).

Feature: Race Drivers Brave Lot.

About J.C. Agajanian: Joshua C. "J.C." Agajanian was a son of Saugus (Haskell Canyon) hog farmer/garbage king James T. Agajanian who went on to become a major auto and motorcycle racing promoter and car owner. He was the racing presenter (manager) at Bonelli Stadium in the 1950s (later called Saugus Speedway) and later manager and leaseholder of Ascot Park in Gardena and part-owner of the Ontario Motor Speedway. His cars set four track records at the Indianapolis 500 and won twice.

J.C. was born in San Pedro on June 16, 1913, six months after his father smuggled the family out of war-torn Armenia. At 18, Agajanian had saved enough money to buy a race car. When he told his father that he was going to become a race car driver, the elder Agajanian's reaction was not what young Aggie had hoped. Looking at the car in the garage, his father said to J.C., "So you are going to be a race driver, that's fine. Just a few things I want you to do first. Go kiss your mother goodbye, pack your bags since you won't be living here anymore and while you're at it, change your name" [from AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame].

And that's why J.C.'s brother Elisha Agajanian eventually took over the family garbage business in the Santa Clarita Valley instead of J.C. — although J.C. did run it for a short time — and why Elisha, instead of J.C., was the one who established a bank and hospital here and served on the local school and water boards over the next several decades. J.C. had gone another direction.

Forbidden from driving, J.C.'s path was set in motion at 18 when he became a car owner. From 1948 through 1971, his cars won the pole position for the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race three times, starting with Walt Faulkner in 1950). Troy Ruttman (1952) and Parnelli Jones (1963) won the 500 in Agajanian machines.

J.C. was also instrumental in the development of the air jack for faster tire changes at Indy and in the 1930s was president of the Western Racing Association. He died May 5, 1984, in Gardena. Read more in his obituary.


Driver Profile: Walt Faulkner, the "Little Dynamo"

There's one record the "Little Dynamo" from Long Beach, Walt Faulkner, holds that no one else wishes to challenge.

Walt wound up "on his head" 14 different times during the 1946 racing season. According to Walt and Racing Impresario J.C. Agajanian, that mark is likely to stand for a long time. The miracle of it all is that Faulkner missed only a couple of racing dates because of the 14 flips.

Now a more mature and experience race driver, Walt ranks as one of the greats of his chosen sport. He currently has his sights set on winning top money in "Aggie's" initial presentation of the season, a 100-lap USAC National Championship midget auto event at Bonelli Stadium in Saugus, Sunday afternoon (Jan. 29).

Walt, who finished fifth in the 1955 Indianapolis 500-miler, will be up against many of the same drivers whom he battled on the Indiana brickpath, including Johnnie Parsons, Andy Linden, Rodger Ward and Johnny Boyd.

Walt laughingly looks back on 1946 as he recollects his collection of abrasions, contusions and burns. "I guess I was a little wild then. It just didn't seem right to 'back off the throttle then."

Today Walt has learned you have to drive with your head as well as your foot to make a championship race car driver. "There's no substitute for experience any way you look at it," he points out. "You have to know how to react to any kind of a situation that might arise.

"And how can you learn what to do if you haven't experienced it on the race course."

Faulkner admits he probably "got religion" during the '47 campaign. Early in the year he was involved in one of the most spectacular and terrifying crashes in Gilmore Stadium annals, locking wheels at the start of the back-stretch and flipping seven times as his car went end over end all the way down the backstretch, finally stopping in the next turn.

On that occasion, he wasn't so lucky. For days following the accident Walt hovered between life and death, and some of the medical reports had him "near death." "In all the long months of slow recovery, there was too much time to think," states Walt. "Finally, I decided I would have to 'back off once in a while."

Faulkner, a 5 ft. 4 in., 135-pound jockey, feels, at 37 years of age, he still has time to win the biggest race of all — the "500." He has come close on several occasions.

Little Walt set the Indianapolis qualifying record while driving for Agajanian in 1950 and repeated again with a new mark in 1951. In the latter race "we had it won" more than halfway through the race when a piston broke and he went to the sidelines.

Walt right now has his choice of three different mounts for the '56 Indianapolis outing. He's spending some time checking, because he'd like to get everything working for him for once.


RACE DRIVERS BRAVE LOT

By Al Franken (Publicity)

For sheer courage in sports, it's hard to top that select band of individuals who make their living from racing cars.

Take husky Andy Linden for example. A few weeks prior to the 1953 Indianapolis 500-miler, Linden took a bad spill in a stock car race, suffering a slight fracture of the skull and three broken ribs,

The medicos told Andy he would never be able to fulfill his Indianapolis assignment, but he qualified among the leaders and was running well up in the chase when his brakes went out. Andy hit the wall and was hauled off to the track hospital.

The track doctors told Andy he might have some internal injuries or might have re-broken the injured ribs. The 5 ft. 8 in., 200-pounder from Manhattan Beach would have nothing of it. He got up and walked out of the hospital and back to the race track.

Just then Rodger Ward was hollering for a relief driver. Linden drove nearly 100 miles in relief for Ward, then chauffeured another stint in relief for Johnny Thomson.

When the race was over Linden went back to the track hospital where X-rays showed his ribs had been broken again. He was so badly banged up he couldn't attend the Speedway Banquet the next night to pick up his check, but still he drove several hundred miles in relief, apparently oblivious to the pain.

Linden, who finished sixth last year at Indianapolis (4th in '51), is looking forward to the "Big One" again. Meanwhile, he's one of the big-name jockeys Maestro J.C. Agajanian has lined up to run in a 100-mile National Championship midget auto race at Bonelli Stadium, Saugus, Sunday afternoon. All of the leading names, including Johnnie Parsons, who'll drive Agajanian's brand-new $28,000 beauty at Indianapolis, will be there.

And a braver band you'll not find.


Driver Profile: Duane Carter (retired)

By Ed Elliott, Publisher of Pit Pass Weekly

Duane Carter, born in Fresno 42 years ago, now Director of Racing for the U.S. Auto Club, started racing in 1934 while pursuing an engineering career at Fresno State College. Driving roadsters and in his first professional race, suffered a serious accident which laid him up for over six months. This did not stop Duane and he continued on entering the midget field. As a birthday present his father purchased the fifth Offenhauser midget engine built and this launched him on a long and successful midget career that continued until 1952. During World War II he was an aircraft engineer for Packard and saw time in England and other foreign countries in a consulting capacity. Along with foreign invasions he was among the first team of midgets to invade New Zealand, managed by E.A. Roscoe Turner, he later invaded South America, has driven at Le Mans, Mexican Road Race and in many other countries. Carter was 1950 Midwest Champion in Aggie's Sprint car and also drove for Aggie last year at Indianapolis, where he placed 11th. His best effort at Indy was in 1953 when he placed fourth in the Belanger Special, and in 1954 he relieved Sam Hanks, in the Bardahl Special to place third. Carter is married, and his lovely wife Arza bore his two sons, Duane, Jr. (Pancho) age 5 and Dana (Cisco) age 3. Carter is known to the fraternity as Pappy. Carter has not retired from racing, but he will be inactive as long as he is connected with USAC.


About 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.


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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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