It has been more than 50 years since members of the Angel Wheels Auto Club have met as a group. On Friday, July 18, 2014, ten of the original 40-plus members, and their guests, attended a reunion at Sames and Cook in Mt. Gilead during the Sweet Corn Festival.
Angel Wheels Auto Club was formed in 1957 during the hot rodding enthusiast scene that was sweeping the nation. The intent of the group, when it was formed, was to make hot rodding “more acceptable to the older folks,” according to President Larry Wood.
Wood explained that when he was a junior in high school he lived across the street from what is now the Town Pump. He said that he leased the building which was then a SOHIO station and he ran the club there along with Rick Callahan.
The club eventually built a 12-car garage building at Charlie Evan’s dad’s property from the cement block from a body shop that burned down.
Wood relayed a story of how the young men were able to find out how fast their cars could go with the help of a Mt. Gilead police officer who used to run the speed check equipment, which back then were two strips that were laid on the ground. The group went out to Westpoint to calculate their speed. “It was all fun until the State Trooper came along and told us we couldn’t do it,” recalled Marion Newman laughing.
The group encouraged drag racing at drag strips but not street racing. They reminisced about how if a member got a speeding ticket they would then have to pay the same amount in fees to the club.
In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s members of the group could be found helping stranded motorists with repairing their vehicles, doing safety inspections on cars at local high school and churches and other endeavors which created a positive outlook towards young car enthusiast.
When a stranded motorist was assisted by one of the club members, they were given a card which let them know they had been assisted by an Angel Wheels Club member.
One of the memorabilia items shared at the reunion was a letter from James Nichols of Galion to the mayor of Mt. Gilead, dated December 11, 1960 which read as follows:
“I should like to take the opportunity to commend to you Mr. Jim Campbell, whose courteous service I recently appreciated very much. If the Angel Wheels is channeling the enthusiasm for our hot rodders into constructive service, then I am very much in favor of their being encouraged to continue their work.”
In June of 1960, with permission of Mt. Gilead Village Council, the club erected signs along all five main roads leading into the village which read “Angel Wheels Auto Club Welcomes Safe Drivers”.
“I wish we would have held this reunion ten years ago” said Jim Campbell. “Many from our group have passed away, but I am glad we finally did this.”
Reach Donna Carver at 419-946-3010 ext. 1804 or Twitter@MorrCoSentinel.