As we approach the end of 2010 and find ourselves wondering what 2011 will bring, I hope you may be able to integrate this definition of success as part of your mindset. I was introduced to the work of Earl Nightingale by Ken Hamilton, the founder of H.O.P.E.
"Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal"
This definition was one of the motivating factors as I started the lost trotting parks project!
An earlier post of "Bygone Trotting Parks" identified ten trotting parks on Long Island. This Thanksgiving Libby and I journeyed to Brooklyn to give thanks with the in-laws -- The Bradys of Brooklyn! Yesterday we drove to an Italian restaurant near Coney Island. As we drove to the restaurant we passed three locations of past trotting parks. Take a look at "The Golden Era of Brooklyn Racing" by Ryan Goldman. As you read the article click on the map link to a pdf file that will show you where these trotting parks were once located.
The Lost Trotting Parks Heritage Center, founded and coordinated by Stephen Thompson of Hallowell, has set an ambitious goal of documenting—in one place—the rich history of Maine's trotting parks, champion racing horses, and agricultural fairs. I'm pleased to say that the results of this effort have been impressive, and not least for the wealth of information and historic images that have been gathered together and preserved for the benefit of scholars, history buffs, racing aficionados and, of course, the general public. As Executive Director and Curator of Collections of the Bethel Historical Society, I’m especially pleased that our organization has been able to contribute toward this worthy project, and I thank Steve Thompson for his diligence, hard work and enthusiasm. Randy Bennett, Executive Director, Bethel Historical Society I would just like to second what Randy Bennett has said about Stephen Thompson's outstanding work in preserving images and the history of the trotting parks and all connected with them. Hearty congratulations! I was also pleased to be part of the process by allowing the image of my Bethel poster to be part of his research.
Stan Howe, Ph.D.
Bethel Historical Society
Note from Stephen Thompson: I thank Randy and Stan for their kind comments!
Yesterday I had a full day -- driving (more than 300 miles) and meetings with Mike Sweeney at Scarborough Downs and Jean Emerson (publisher of Northeast Harness News) in Saco. After these meetings I ventured to Buxton to meet with Lou Emery in order to return the 1893 premium book of the Buxton and Hollis Agricultural Society. After my meeting with Lou I was scheduled to return to the Maine Mall to meet Dennis Danie who was accompanying me to Gonic, New Hampshire to deal with my lost 67 Chevy Pickup (another story). Being a nondirectional (new word) sort of person I set my GPS and set off from Skip Road. I ended up calling my ISP man and as I spoke with him I couldn't hear my GPS directions. My GPS kept recalculating. Finally, I started paying attention and set off on the new course. As I was bombing my way to the Payne Road in Scarborough, I suddenly realized that I was driving by the Beech Ridge Speedway (location of the former Ling Trotting Park from the 1880's). At some point I knew that I would be taking pictures of the speedway. I suddenly realized today was the day! I quickly stopped my car, got out my camera, and started taking pictures. After the first round of pictures I noticed an open gate to the main office. Here I spoke with Ralph Cusack, the father of Andy Cusack,the current owner. Ralph gave me permission to take pictures of the track. I drove up on and around the track taking pictures as I stopped along the way. Therefore, the unintended slideshow of Beech Ridge Speedway!
Ralph provided me with the trail of ownership for the speedway. Jim McConnell built the speedway around 1950. Calvin Reynolds became the second owner of the speedway. Ralph purchased the speedway in 1981 and sold it to his son in the mid 1990s. In the near future we may have more posts on the Ling Trotting Park and the Beech Ridge Speedway.
The aerial view of the Beech Ridge Speedway was saved from Google Earth.
As this story unfolds I believe you will feel the life and times of Hod Nelson and the stallion that bore his name. Hod Nelson was a civil war veteran. He was born in Palermo, Maine in 1843, the son of Benjamin Nelson. During this time, Benjamin Nelson was a local shopkeeper. The towns of China and Palermo had close ties -- both through families and local businesses. Through these interactions Hod Nelson met and eventually married Emma Pinkham Jones. This was a fortuitous union in that Emma's father owned the broodmare Gretchen.
The following article was published in The Horseman in December of 1893. Cheryl Hendricksen of NEPLAINS.COM scanned the article from their collection of harness racing memorabilia. I thank her for this most valuable contribution.