The dry lakes were in the...
The dry lakes were in the middle of nowhere in 1947 but that didn’t stop the throngs from making the trek to watch racers like Bruce and Don Blair blast down the desert. Many beet-feet home to speed shops like Blair’s to build their own record breakers.
“We had a guy come in one time with a ’55 Chevy with a real nice paintjob on it and he wanted the fenderwells radiused. Mike Hoag told him he had a special tool that could cut the fenderwells out and it wouldn’t burn the paint. When the guy came back to pick up his car, of course the paint was all burnt. Hoag never thought the guy believed him and that he was kidding!
“I lived next door to Blair’s. I got an old television, took the guts out, and my snake Julius Squeezer lived in the TV. I’d put the snake on the dash of my Killer Whale, which was a ’51 Cadillac. We’d go every day to In-N-Out for lunch in that car. I took the top off, no windshield, and no top. I’d have to go real slow over driveways and railroad tracks without a top because the body would flex so bad that the doors would fly open. Anyway, I’d put the snake on the dash and the gas station attendant (remember those days?) thought it was a fake and about fainted when it moved.
“I fed the snake rats, and this particular rat, the snake wouldn’t eat. I took it to Blair’s and as a joke I let it go on his counter. Don fell in love with it. It was a white and black rat and he named it Thirilla. It lived among the catalogs and would come out on the counter and the customers would scream and Don would know exactly what happened, he knew somebody had found the rat. Thirilla would eat Don’s pumpernickel bread. Don would drink raw Alta Dena dairy milk and eat butter sandwiches that his dad would bring when Mr. Blair would do the books.
“The snake died and we didn’t know what to do with it. So I put it in the car and drove to Bob’s Big Boy. There were three girls sitting on a bus stop bench and we threw the snake on the girls’ laps. Two of the girls jumped up and started screaming real loud. The other girl stayed on the bench with the snake on her lap. She lost her voice she was screaming so loud. We drove around the block and around the front of Bob’s and all three were holding each other and screaming and the snake was in the gutter.”
Robison of Vintage Race Car Restoration created the Legends of Speed Motor Sports. Robison, along with another former employee, Eric Vaughn, organized the Blair’s Speed Shop 60th anniversary gathering at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona in 2009.
“My grandfather,” Don recalls,...
“My grandfather,” Don recalls, “left me a small amount of money with which I was able to buy a lot in Pasadena and put up a building on Arroyo Parkway right after the war. I think it’s still there today.”
Doug Robinson opened Horsepower Engineering in Pasadena by working out of his garage in 1961 and moving to Fulton Avenue in January 1962. Robinson has been in business at that location ever since as a full service performance shop.
“I lived across the street from Don on Sierra Vista Avenue near South Pasadena when I was a kid. Don called me and offered me a job just after I graduated from Wilson High in 1956. I started going to Pasadena City College and worked for Don over the summer and after school. I was a flunky, starting out sweeping the floor, chasing and delivering parts. I worked at Blair’s part time at first, and then I had to drop out of school because my dad had died and I had to support myself and my mom.
“Don sent me down to Pasadena City Hall to look up the records to see who owned the property where the shop is now on Daisy and Foothill. Don didn’t want to pay the commission to a realtor if he didn’t have to. He ended up paying the commission anyway.
“I learned how to weld and began helping in the muffler shop. After a while I was pretty much the lead guy back there. I was at Blair’s from 1956-60. I went into the Army in 1960.