Editor’s note: The name of the reader in this story is not her real name. The donor requested to remain anonymous.
It’s a humbling thing, discovering what people think of you. A few days before I left for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona last weekend, I received a message from a regular reader of my blog.
“Are you going to Daytona? I have something for you.”
I replied that I would be there, and we arranged a time and place to meet Friday morning. Readers have given or sent me things in the past- old tickets, programs, pins- small mementos which had some historic significance in racing. I value them all. I wondered what this reader had for me that could not be mailed.
On a windy, cool Friday morning I parked my car in the infield and headed toward the Fan Zone for our meeting. Two thoughts swirled in my head. I wonder what she has, and I hope I recognize her. I had met Sally Pickering here a few years ago. We have a mutual friend who used to come to this race from New Jersey, and she was part of the group he was with when I saw him.
Sally resolved the second question in a message.
“I’m wearing a tan coat and a grey Rolex 24 hat. I just parked.”
I found a table near the historic cars and sat own. One of my favorite things about this event is the historic cars that the track has on display. I love their style and their diversity of design. I find it sad that today’s race cars all look almost exactly alike. That I saw most of these cars race makes me even sadder.
Sally appeared. Once I saw her, I remembered who she was. Sally may be an even bigger race fan than I am. She has been to Le Mans and Monaco several times, a resume I envy. I remembered one other thing she told me the last time we met.
“Didn’t you say you were at Fontana the day Greg Moore was killed?’”
“Yes, I was.” she said.
I also have a story of witnessing death at a track. We quickly changed the subject and talked about the glories of the past. Then it was time.
Sally pulled a plastic bag from her tote bag. I could tell something bulky was in it, but I still had no idea. She reached into the bag and extracted a small item encased in bubble wrap. It was a small item, obviously fragile, but I still had no clue.
A rocks glass emerged from its protective cocoon. I saw the Indianapolis Motor Speedway logo on the front and a list of names on the back. I knew what it was- but I really didn’t. My dad sold sets of these glasses during May at his package liquor store. A brewing company produced them.
“Thank you!” I said. “My dad used to sell these!”
She placed her finger just below the logo.
“I don’t think so,” she said.
I had missed Tony Hulman’s signature below the wing and wheel. I now knew exactly what it was. Hulman bought the Speedway in 1945 and his family owned it until 2019. Every year at Christmas, Hulman gave gift sets of the glasses to patrons and the staff of the Speedway. The back of each glass had a list of the race winners through the current year.
Sally, explained, “My dad was a wholesale grocer in Detroit, and he supplied food to the Speedway every May. He got a set of these glasses every year.”
I looked at the last year on the glass. It was 1962, my first race. I knew Sally didn’t know that.
“I have heard about these glasses, but I had never seen one. Thank you so much. I’m overwhelmed.”
Sally reached back into the plastic sack and withdrew two more protective cocoons. Three glasses with Tony Hulman’s signature sat on the wrought iron table.
“I want you to have these. I’m trying to downsize and I wanted these glasses to go to a good home. From reading your blog I felt you would respect them and take good care of them. You understand the history so well.”
Several moments passed before I could speak. She was giving me a part of her family’s heritage and a memory of her father for safekeeping.
“I’m honored that you chose me. Of course, they will be taken care of. I can’t thank you enough, Sally.”
We both had other people to meet, and we said goodbye. Several minutes after she left my breathing returned to normal.
Sally charged me with a sacred trust, which I vow to keep. I need to begin a quest for the next guardian of this treasure and of all the other precious artifacts I possess.