Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Indianapolis Motor Speedway employees behind the scenes

Tony Hulman, left and Wilbur Shaw, right, talk with Eddie Rickenbacker, center in 1945 

After Anton “Tony” Hulman, Jr. a businessman from Terre Haute Indiana purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for $750,000 from Eddie Rickenbacker on November 14, 1945, Mr. Hulman understandably installed his own hand-picked management staff that included 3-time Indianapolis 500 winner Wilbur Shaw as President and General Manager with longtime Hulman-owned Clabber Girl Baking Powder Company vice-president Joseph Cloutier as treasurer.

Eloise "Dolly" Dallenbach

Don Burge

Hulman retained several key personnel from the Rickenbacker era, chief among them Theodore E. ‘Pop” Myers who had been the general manager at the Speedway since 1915, and Eloise “Dolly” Dallenbach, who had served as Myer’s secretary and the Speedway auditor since both were hired by James Allison in 1910, and the ticket sales manager since 1937, Don Burge.  

Joe Quinn, left, and Clarence Cagle, right 

The names of several of the other people involved in the Tony Hulman management team at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are well-known to race fans, such as Superintendent Clarence Cagle, Safety Director Joe Quinn (who also promoted the Hoosier 100) and Public Relations chief Al Bloemeker, but today’s article will examine the lives of three other Hulman associates, little-known to the public, but integral to the success of the great racing plant. 


Leonard Marshall poses with his first wife, Anita in 1952

One of the men present in the private meeting room at the Indianapolis Athletic Club on North Meridian Street to finalize the sale that historic November day was Leonard Marshall of Terre Haute, Hulman’s personal attorney. Marshall was a Terre Haute native the son of Buena Vista Marshall one of the first attorneys in Vigo County Indiana and a graduate of Indiana University. He was admitted to the Indiana bar in 1922 and joined his father’s practice in 1925.

With Hulman’s purchase, Marshall became the secretary of the new Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation. In that role, Marshall advised the Speedway board of its roles and responsibilities, recorded the minutes of board meetings, and managed all the corporation records until he retired from the Speedway at the end of 1968.

Away from the Speedway and his law practice, Marshall was extremely active in civic and political affairs and a number of Terre Haute businesses; most notably he served as President of the First National Bank of Terre Haute for 30 years. Under his control, the bank’s assets grew from $49 million to over $135 million. Marshall also served on the board of directors of the Home Packing Company (before its destruction in 1963) and was the past President of the Union Hospital.  

It was in the latter role that he met his second wife, having become a widower in 1963. His second wife, Ellen Church, was the Administrator of the 250-bed Union Hospital, but most interestingly, was both a pilot and a registered nurse, and the world’s first female flight attendant, having flown on a Boeing Air Transport flight from San Francisco to Chicago on May 15 1930. Ellen Church Marshall died in horse riding accident on August 22, 1965, 11 days short of the couples’ first anniversary.  Leonard Marshall himself passed away in September 1970 survived by his son daughter and his third wife.

Ms. Frances Welker chats with her boss, T.E. 'Pop' Myers

‘Pop’ Myer’s secretary and the Speedway’s original auditor, Eloise S. “Dolly” Dallenbach, credited with the idea of paying the lap leaders of the ‘500’ which began in 1920 retired in 1947. Miss Frances Marie Welker a 40-year old native of Vernon Indiana whose father Ed and mother Almada ran the hotel in Vernon was hired to replace Ms. Dallenbach. 

As the auditor for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation, Frances Welker was responsible to insure that the company’s financial statements fairly represented a true picture and to establish internal financial controls. Like all the key Speedway personnel Ms. Welker annually received a Pace Car replica to drive during the month of May.

In addition to her official duties, “Fran” often supplied inquiring newspaper reporters with factual information for articles about the Speedway, such the number of full-time Speedway employees during the off season (95-100).  It is unclear when Ms. Welker retired from the Speedway, but after her retirement she returned to southeastern Indiana and settled in North Vernon Indiana (Pat O’Connor’s hometown) where she passed away on November 4 1993.


This photograph of Ms. Derr appeared in the 1986 Indianapolis 500 Official Program- author's collection

There was another Frances who worked in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway office at the corner of 16th Street and Georgetown Road – Frances E. Derr, the Director of ticket sales. Ms. Derr succeeded her boss, Don Burge, following his passing at age 49 on August 2 1951. 

Ms. Derr, a native of the south central Indiana town of Boonville was the granddaughter of John Derr, an innovator in the manufacture of extracts and flavorings for soda fountains, and manufacturer of Derr’s Soda.

Hired by Tony Hulman in 1945, after 35 years of service, Ms. Derr retired from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1980, but continued to work part-time in the Speedway office, commuting several days a week from her nearby home on West 44th Street.  

Ms. Derr, born in 1917, disappeared on December 20, 1985, and her niece reported her missing to the police. At 4 AM on December 22, 1985, Derr’s body was found inside her unlocked car in the parking lot of the Lafayette Square Shopping Center, just 2 miles from the Speedway.   An autopsy revealed that she had been strangled and beaten several hours before her body was found.

The Indianapolis Police suspected robbery as the motive, but the killer of Frances Derr was never found. The 1986 Indianapolis ‘500’ program contained  a memorial page dedicated to Frances Derr which did not mention the cause of her demise, and closed by stating “her loyalty and dedication to the Speedway and the Indianapolis 500-mile race has been unparalleled and she will be dearly missed by all who knew her.”      

All the black and white photographs that accompany this article appear courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection in the IUPUI University Indianapolis Library Center for Digital Studies.

No comments:

Post a Comment