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History P.I.T.A. Dragstrip, Erie, Pa.

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by T McG, Sep 27, 2008.

  1. T McG
    Joined: Feb 12, 2005
    Posts: 1,255

    T McG
    Member
    from Phoenix

    In 1958, my uncle, Don Jensen and friend Buck Ackerman opened a dragstrip just outside Erie, Pa. in a small town named Wattsburg. It was an interesting track that ran uphill slightly, then downhill, then just past the finish line it ran very uphill to slow down the faster cars. Surprizingly, the uphill downhill worked out to correct times compared with other tracks. The place stayed open into the early 70's when my uncle decided it wasn't feasible to keep it open anymore.

    My parents and a few other uncles and aunts ran the concession stand, which meant I was dragged along every sunday from the time I was 3 yaers old. Man, what a place to grow up. I got to see Ohio George Montgomery, the Arfons brothers, Romeo Palamedies, the Little Red Wagon, the development of the funny car era, as well as loads of others. My uncle even got a ride in the Little Red Wagon, and what a ride it was with a full 1/4 mile wheel stand, turned it around and came back down the other way on the rear wheels. I witnessed Walt Arfons crash an Allison powered propeller driven dragster, E.J. Potter wipe out a Pontiac powered motorcycle, and the Hill brothers destroy a Willys gasser. (some think it was the long lost Mazmanian coupe since Hills did own it and can't remember where it went)

    This could go on and on, but what this is all about is a jacket. Through the years there were several versions of the jackets worn by the workers, and some that were given to the winners of certain races. I have been trying most of my adult life to find a P.I.T.A. jacket. I have been close several times, but every time I find somebody that has one, they won't part with it. I have tried an ebay search with no luck.

    On a recent trip back to Pa. to visit family, I found out one of my cousins that worked there had a jacket. Same story, "well I'm not sure what I will ever do with it, but let me think about it". Well, today the mailman showed up with a package. Upon opening it, you could have knocked me over with a feather. Yep, the jacket from my cousin. A better gift couldn't be found. Sounds silly to get all emotional over a jacket, but I relate this to a very influental time of my life. The cool part of this is this is a jacket that would have been given to the winner of the big race of the year rather than an employee. My search is officially over for the elusive jacket.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. TagMan
    Joined: Dec 12, 2002
    Posts: 5,852

    TagMan
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Congratulations on getting the jacket. I know from first hand, how finding something like that that means a lot to you, can be so gratifying.

    I read & re-read your post, but I dodn't see any where that you said what P.I.T.A. stood for. I'm pretty sure - at least I don't recall and I'm a pretty old guy - that P.I.T.A. ("pain in the ass") was used back then, so what does P.I.T.A. on your jacket stand for ??
     
  3. the shadow
    Joined: Mar 5, 2005
    Posts: 1,093

    the shadow
    Member

    you mean this hill brothers gasser that ken kull found and restored?

    [​IMG]
     
  4. Cool story. Thank you for posting!
     
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  5. 4tl8ford
    Joined: Sep 1, 2004
    Posts: 1,087

    4tl8ford
    Member
    from Erie, Pa

    Presque Isle Timing Association

    I was also there when Arfons ran the Monster off the end of the track.
    Raced there during the 60's, helped start the organized motorcycle racing.
    Good place to growup.
    In 95 took my 4yr old Grandson to his first drag race there.
     
  6. stretch 1320
    Joined: Oct 1, 2006
    Posts: 1,861

    stretch 1320
    Member

    Really cool story! Thanks for sharing!
     
  7. T McG
    Joined: Feb 12, 2005
    Posts: 1,255

    T McG
    Member
    from Phoenix

    Not that Willys, the one that crashed was a 40-41, and it was completely destroyed. It is a known fact that the Hills had the Big John Willys, but during the time they raced it they were apparently high on more than gas fumes! They say they just don't remember what happened to the car. They also had multiple cars during the gasser years, so maybe they just lost track. During those days, they had no historical value and were just race cars that got sold and traded.
     
  8. Plumber 1
    Joined: Sep 28, 2008
    Posts: 27

    Plumber 1
    Member

    The PITA drag strip was the first drag strip that I ever went to. I saw Doug Nash race the Bronco Buster there in either 1966 or 67. I believe that it is still operating to this day. Now named Lowville drag strip. Maybe up for sale. I haven't been to Erie in 3 years, so some of this information may be obsolete.
    I can also remember a yellow 1967 Z-28 racing there in the summer of 67, and no one knew what it was. The street hemis were the kings there.
    Great memories.
    Plumber 1
     
  9. isn't that place open again., or still open.????

    1939fiat
     
  10. T McG
    Joined: Feb 12, 2005
    Posts: 1,255

    T McG
    Member
    from Phoenix

    It reopened sometime in the late 70s early 80s after my uncle sold it to a well known racer named Lucky Foley. It is still running today under the Lowville Dragway name.
     
  11. TMCG;
    thought so..we got a request to come down and run a few laps..

    Might be a place to do some Nostalgia stuff prior to Thompson races..

    1939fiat
     
  12. T McG
    Joined: Feb 12, 2005
    Posts: 1,255

    T McG
    Member
    from Phoenix

    The current owner is less than honest, be careful what he promises you.

    I just thought of another day out there when Romeo Palemedies brought the jet dragster out. Something broke that needed welding, and the closesest welder was in Lowville about 2-3 miles away. He enlisted the help of about 20 guys and they pushed that thing right down the road, got it welded and pushed it back. Romeo bought everybody hot dogs and drinks. Not something you would likely see happen today!
     
  13. LZ
    Joined: Sep 9, 2007
    Posts: 618

    LZ
    Member


    LINK...
    .
    http://www.luckydragcity.com/

    And its for sale again .
    Look next to the pic of the 63 Vette

    Hey buy it and move back.......:p Have some HAMB drags there..:)
     
  14. LZ
    Joined: Sep 9, 2007
    Posts: 618

    LZ
    Member

  15. 6-71
    Joined: Sep 15, 2005
    Posts: 539

    6-71
    Member

    I was at the 1964 AHRA regionals at PITA. I was not racing,but spectating. I raced some there over the years,I even have a couple of trophies out in the garage from PITA. The place has changed very little in 44years.I still go when I have a sunday to kill. They are now racing 1/8 th mile,because the cars got too fast for the shut down area,and the trees at the end arent very forgiving. Lucky Foley doesnt like to pay out the money once he gets it in his hands.:)
     
  16. richie rebel
    Joined: Oct 8, 2007
    Posts: 1,184

    richie rebel
    Member

    my first time there was in 1959,drove up from pittsburgh,old rt8 all the way,i to saw the green monster going in the woods at the top of the track........richie........
     
  17. I grew up near Jamestown NY. I remember Wattsburg Raceway, visited many times with my Dad. I regret my most vivid memory is of my cousin getting into an accident while coming home from the track one weekend.

    Cool about the jacket...
     
  18. Plumber 1
    Joined: Sep 28, 2008
    Posts: 27

    Plumber 1
    Member

    There are a lot of photos from PITA in Charlie Morris book. Total Performers Ford Drag Racing in the 1960's. They were taken by Jack Bleil who was the track photographer. My favorites are of George May and his 1964 Thunderbolt. Anybody remember him or the car?
     
  19. Andamo
    Joined: Jan 10, 2006
    Posts: 500

    Andamo
    Member

    Jack Bleil now lives outside Pittsburgh and sets up at all the big swap meets selling old photos, decals and die cast cars. I'm not sure of the first year I was there, maybe 1960 and we lucked out and it was a AHRA national meet. Seen many of the cars I only read about in the magazines of the day. The person that now owns the place has kept folks from coming back because of his failure to pay. And yes, the place is for sale and has been for quite a few years.
     
  20. novadude
    Joined: Dec 15, 2005
    Posts: 532

    novadude
    Member

    I lived in Warren, PA from 1995 to 2001, andI have driven by the track many times when it was operating as lowville. Unfortunately, I never made it over there on race days.
     
  21. danny001
    Joined: Mar 19, 2009
    Posts: 2

    danny001
    Member

    yep its still open i work there.
     
  22. danny001
    Joined: Mar 19, 2009
    Posts: 2

    danny001
    Member

    :):)come on down saterdays at12.00 and sunday at like 12.30ish.
     
  23. FastAndLoose
    Joined: Jan 31, 2009
    Posts: 206

    FastAndLoose
    Member
    from Warren, PA

    whoever said the present owner is 'less than honest' hit the nail right on the head. 'Lucky Drag City' is a fun place for a dead weekend, but I wouldn't take anything fast there anymore... it's a shame too, the place has big potential. There's been grass growing up through the cracks in the track for 10 years... anything faster than 11's is really taking their life into their hands running there. It's a great place to initiate into the drag world, but most folks that are racing for more than 'something to do on a Sunday' quickly start making the tow to Lancaster, Leicester, Thompson, Salem, New Alex...

    If Lucky really wants to name the place after himself, he should change the name back to PITA... last I heard, he wants 2.2 million for a run down joke of a facility with no room for anything big to take place.
     
  24. ardyboy
    Joined: Mar 5, 2008
    Posts: 664

    ardyboy

    I met Lucky a couple of years ago when I sold him a set of dragster headers. He wanted us to put together a nostalgia drag show for him but didn't want to talk money. Whenever I think of him I picture him in a plaid suit with a non matching shirt and tie selling well used cars to first time buyer kids
     
  25. I don't think you will fit in it any more you are little bigger now.
     
  26. FastAndLoose
    Joined: Jan 31, 2009
    Posts: 206

    FastAndLoose
    Member
    from Warren, PA

    don't forget the wide white belt and matching shoes, big cigar, and goofy tinted glasses...
     
  27. gasserturk
    Joined: Apr 11, 2009
    Posts: 2

    gasserturk
    Member

    plummer i remember george may ford well that was a very original thunderbolt. i think he was just a sponsor for bill harvey who was the owner. i have a couple of pics if you want me to send them to you. turk
     
  28. Ohhh man. They should really change the name back to Pain In The Ass. We race there on Saturdays sometimes for test and tune. Always a caper. Last time I was there lucky was dressed up like fat 70s Elvis. He always has some dumb ass shit to say. Nobody likes him. When you enter you get a hand stamp that says " no insurance enter at your own risk"
     
  29. Beachbound
    Joined: Feb 24, 2010
    Posts: 3

    Beachbound
    Member
    from Georgia

    P.I.T.A. , stood for Presque Isle Timing Association
    One of the local "car clubs" that helped clear the land for the dragstrip was, "The Road Runners" car club of Erie, Pa. My older brother Howard was a member, along with "Duke" Angelo and a few of the other names at this time escape me.
     
  30. Beachbound
    Joined: Feb 24, 2010
    Posts: 3

    Beachbound
    Member
    from Georgia

    What ever happened to Don Jenson? I know he had to boys and one daughter. And at one time owned a trophy business in Erie,Pa
     

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