What did Billy hit with his car?
What did Billy hit with his car?
‘Whistling Billy’ The Racing ‘White’ Steam Car.
Whistling Billy History Part 2
Dr Robert R. Dyke
Six weeks later Webb Jay was seriously injured crashing into a pond when the Whistling Billy hit the barriers while he was unsighted through dirt from the other car in overtaking. He sustained nine broken ribs giving a flail chest, a broken leg, a broken arm and a head injury. The New York Herald announced next day that he has “Sustained fatal injuries.” He did however survive but he never raced again and Whites decided to pull out of motor racing. The White brothers set up Webb Jay with a White agency as recompense as they felt so sorry about his injuries.
Charlie Bair, a wealthy sheep farmer from Billings, persuaded Whites reluctantly to rebuild Whistling Billy and sell it to him probably in a deal where he also purchased two 1906 White tourers and a 1906 White runabout. The repair and preparation for racing on the Pacific coast of America was reported in “The San Francisco Call” on 12 December 1905 with the driver to be Albert H. Piepenburg. Charlie did not drive the racing car or even the other Whites but employed drivers and mechanics.
Whistling Billy was reported as having taken the Five Mile Track Record in 1906 as well as winning more races. I do not have much information for this year.
Another report reads “On September7th 1907 A.H Piepenburg in a White Flyer and Bert Dingley in a Thomas Flyer succeeded in making the mile in a minute flat. By an accident in the White, these two men were not able to compete in the race of the day.” I have no more reports of this accident to Billy but it seems that Al Piepenburg was also competing in his own 30hp White tourer at the race meeting. I believe that Piepenburg retired from track racing just two weeks after this as his friend Roy Rehm was killed on 21st September while racing a50hp Matheson. Al was attending the racing while on his honey-moon.
Whistling Billy was rebuilt again in 1907 by Eddie van Luenen of Chicago- perhaps after the above accident. It was reported in a letter back to Charlie Bair that the car was now capable of two miles per minute in a straight line (120mph).
Billy continued to win races including in 1907 the valuable Post Cup in Kansas City driven by Ralph Baker where it broke Barney Oldfield’s previous records.
On December 25th 1908 this newspaper article appeared;
“One of the most spectacular accidents ever occurring in American automobile racing happened at Ascot Park, Los Angeles, this afternoon when the front tyre on the White racer Whistling Billy broke on a curve while Gus Siegfried of San Francisco was driving it at more than a mile a minute, the car turning three somersaults in the air a blazing ball of flame, and landing a broken wreck in the centre of the track where it was practically consumed by flames”. No mention is made of the driver’s condition and I have no pictures of this accident.
Whites rebuilt Billy for Bair for 1909. It is likely at this time that the 1909 engine was used with its double piston valves and Joy valve gear and this is shown by the shorter bonnet as this engine has the valves beside the pistons rather than between them. This engine is almost bullet–proof with few moving parts. The steam pressure was then raised to 1200psi. What was now the maximum speed of the car? –I have yet to find out for sure! It now weighed 1700lbs (400lbs less) and was 18 inches shorter than the original car. I believe that it also had smaller lighter wheels and tyres.
Whistling Billy then went on tour on the Pacific coast of America for the season’s racing. In January 1910 the car was returned to Billings after a successful tour and Bair announced at a celebration dinner ” Billy has taken 29 races since the car left Billings a little over a year ago and it has been entered for just 29 events with a clean record. The car is just about as fast a thing on wheels as there is in the country. It made a clean sweep of the records on the Pacific coast and beat machines driven by Barney Oldfield and Strang…”
Billy continued to win races and take records including the 5 mile track record on a flat circular dirt track in 4.54 minutes at over 60mph. By 1910 the motor racing was becoming part of the show rather than all of it over the weekends. Flying displays were now the great new thing. This started putting motor racing more into the background. The first wood tracks had been built and stone and concrete ones were coming soon. The long distance tours and rallies were still quite prominent in the USA partly as the roads were so poor.
On July 9th 1912 at Portland, Oregon, Billy crashed and broke in half after going over an embankment 30ft high. and is seen in a photograph upside down, broken in half with the body crumpled beside it. The driver I believe was Chris Dundee but I have seen one report which stated that it was the usual driver Fred Dundee, his older brother. Anyway the driver sustained two broken legs and a broken arm, plus some broken ribs.
I assumed that this was the end of Whistling Billy’s racing history but I have heard one report of the car racing in 1914. Whites had stopped producing steam cars by 1911. It is said to have ended up rotting at the back of the premises of Charlie Bair’s solicitor in Portland and then the bits being sent to a farm.
References come from;
“The White Bulletin Volumes 1-12 which I have in a leather bound volume believed originally presented to T. H. White, the father of the three White brothers who developed the White steamers. The White Bulletin was produced by the company as advertising literature from 1903 to about 1908.
Newspaper cuttings; I still have many gaps to fill in Whistling Billy’s history but they tend to come in small batches such as came recently when someone approached Jay Leno at a garage when he was out in his Doble, telling him that he had a late relative A.H. Piepenburg who used to drive Whistling Billy and that he had his newspaper cuttings about his exploits. Jay Leno put him in contact with me and I now have a copy of those cuttings. Al Piepenburg was a racing driver who became a garage manager and probably owner. He initially raced Billy as a hired driver but later seems to have used his own cars for cross country races or tours. From the cuttings it appears that he was also involved in developing the aeroplane and later was a Studebaker dealer.
Another contact is Bob Ohnstad, who is researching Charlie Bair for a possible film score and has delved into many local newspapers of the period. Charlie has had at least 4 books written about him and The Bair Museum saves many memories of him and his family in Montana. Bob has done much research into Charlie’s activities which of course involve at times Whistling Billy.
Charlie Bair came from farming stock and when his father died his brother took over the farm. Charlie worked for him for a couple of years and then set out on his own (one book on him is called “Fourteen Cents and Seven Green Apples” –what he set out with). He worked on farms and was a ticket collector on a train going through the new town of Billings where he set himself up. He started banking as a ticket collector on the trains for people coming home for the weekends or needing money going away and bought land to run sheep with any profit made. He soon joined in running the town bank. He went to the Klondike goldfields where he made a small fortune selling heated power ground cutters (a form of thermic lance) to the other miners which cut through the permafrost and could do a normal week’s work in a day. He then purchased and rented land in Montana and Yellowstone Park to run up to 300,000 sheep. He ran large numbers of sheep for the rest of his days, tending them in storms and looking after his employees and the local Indians well. He gave much of his wealth away for such things as building schools and hospitals and even setting others up in business. He was often “the power behind the throne” and new most of the presidents of the USA over many years. In one book, “The House of Bair”, there is a picture of his eldest daughter Marguerite sitting in Whistling Billy in about 1909. He also went to see the Wright brothers when they were first flying their aeroplanes.
Some pictures and information has come from Australia and France and I expect that there will be more in other countries.
What I do not have are any pictures of Whistling Billy without the bonnet on. I always want more information and newspaper cutting on the car. Please send to me anything you find on Whistling Billy!
The Condensing Car
There was a second similar car built in 1905 which is sometimes muddled with Whistling Billy but is usually known as “The Vanderbilt Cup Car”. It had a 30hp engine and was a true two seater with a 30hp engine and probably a 40hp steam generator. It also has a black condenser wrapped all the way around the bonnet so it is easily recognised. It was hoped that it would be good in long distance races but it was never a great success.
There were other White steamers raced over the same period as Billy but they tended to be lightly modified tourers or unmodified tourers for the standard car races. The 30hp cars seemed well capable of 60mph but they were not as fast as Billy especially on the bends.
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What did Billy hit with his car?
At approximately 12:25pm Billy and 4 of his friends decided to go to lunch at
the mall. This was something the juniors and seniors were allowed to do.
They can leave the school campus during their lunch break and if they have a car
they can go wherever they want as long as they are back at 1:10. This gives them
approximately 40 minutes to have lunch and get back.
On this day the guys Billy usually went to lunch with couldn’t go. Neither
could one of the guys who usually goes with the group Billy decided to go with,
leaving a seat open in that car. They all got in the car and decided to go to the mall.
Billy was in the middle of the back seat of his friend’s 2002 Infinity. No one in the
back wore seat belts because none were available. They left the school grounds and
proceeded up to the highway to go to the mall.
On this particular road the speed limit is 55, they were going much faster than the
speed limit. His friend lost control of the car and went off the road
into the guard rail. They hit the guard rail going approximately 83 mph. After
hitting a tree they sailed through the air about 200 feet and hit another tree
where the car finally landed on it’s trunk.
The back of the car was smashed right up to the window.
Billy’s head hit the back window and he was immediately knocked out.
All this happened within about 10 minutes of them getting out of school.
At the same time this was happening I was on the phone trying to call Billy
to tell him that his name was in the newspaper listing him as starting 1st baseman
for his baseball team. I was wondering why he wasn’t answering his phone.
Now I know why.
The driver as well as the front seat passenger had minor injuries . The boys on either
side of Billy were hurt. One with multiple injuries including a back injury.
Both Billy and one of the other boys had to be cut from the car.
Billy was airlifted to Westchester Medical, (the best place for him to be).
The other boy, Matt, broke his back & tore his ACL in his knee, as well as some
other injuries. He required several months of healing but is doing much better now.
I truly believe that Billy was in the arms of an angel that day. I know his brother Thomas must have been looking out for him, and although he couldn’t prevent what was happening, I think he made sure Billy didn’t suffer. By being knocked unconscious almost immediately, Billy probably didn’t know what was happening.
At least I hope he didn’t know what was happening.
And I know that Thomas was there to meet him.
By May, myself and a large group of concerned parents asked the school board to change the school lunch policy. We were met with some resistance from many parents who thought the kids should not be penalized because of one accident. My view was that it was not a necessity for the kids to be able to DRIVE off campus to go to lunch when we had a lunch program in the school as well as many nice places to eat within walking distance of the school. Why should any parent have to worry that their child is not safe while they are in school. We have plenty of other times to be worried about our precious children.
It took some time but the school board voted to change the lunch policy. The juniors are no longer allowed out for lunch and the seniors get the privilage of going off campus for lunch but not in a car. All cars are parked on campus and are not to leave until the end of the school day. Although this will not be a 100% foolproof policy,and it doesn’t change anything for me and my family, if it saves one family from going through the hell that has become my world, the effort, during a very difficult time, was well worth it.
What did Billy hit with his car?
“Crash” Craddock to Perform at High Point Theatre
by Jim Longworth
Growing up in Greensboro, Billy Wayne Craddock loved two things, football and music.
Jim: Who was your favorite singer when you were a boy?
Crash: I had a lot of them, Hank Williams, Faron Young, Jim Reeves, but my very favorite was Carl Smith.
Jim: So how did you get the nickname “Crash”?
Crash: A lot of people think I got it from racing cars, and where that came from was Marty Robbins introduced me one night as a “race car enthusiast”. Actually, I got it from playing football, believe it or not. I played right half back and my brother played left, and I was the smallest man on the team. So when the guard or tackle would open up a little hole, I was gone, ‘cause the other guys were so big I didn’t want to get hurt (laughs).
But young Crash dreamed of making hits, not getting hit, so in 1957 he made his first professional recording at a local studio, singing the Rock-a-Billy song, “Smacky Mouth”. The following year he was picked up by Columbia records as their answer to Elvis. In 1959, Craddock, the Everly Brothers, and several other performers were booked for a concert tour of Australia. Sometime earlier, Crash had filmed a black and white demo of “Boom Boom Baby”, but unbeknownst to him, the film had made its way to Brian Henderson, popular host of a “Bandstand” program on Australian television. Said Henderson, “We played the film many times, and we were able to promote Crash Craddock so successfully that he was able to fill stadiums all over the country, and made several live appearances on “Bandstand”.
Crash: When I landed in Sydney, there were thousands of fans waiting, and I thought they were screaming for the Everly Brothers, but they had turned out for me because of the video that had played on Australian TV.
In fact, “Boom Boom Baby” became the number one hit down under, and Crash became a super star in the land of Oz. Over the next two decades, Billy became the international King of Country Rock music, and racked up a number of hits here in America, including the sexually suggestive, “Rub it In”. Not long after he was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, Crash went to see a comedian perform at High Point Theatre, and one of the ushers recognized him.
“You know, I’ve never played here,” Billy told the usher. “Wait a minute, I want to introduce you to somebody,” said the usher, who then brought Crash together with Dave Briggs, director of the Theatre.
Dave: Billy told me he had never played here, so I said, “We can fix that!”
Briggs and Crash finally got their schedules to jive, and Craddock headlined a special show in the Summer of 2016. On April 27, Crash returns to High Point Theatre for a much-awaited encore performance. On a recent visit to “Triad Today”, I asked Crash why he chose to remain in Greensboro, when he could have lived in so many other cities.
Crash: Jim, I love it here. When I go somewhere, I know how to find my way back. They asked me to move to Nashville several times, but I told them, “Look I love my hometown. When I die, they’re going to put me in a pine box and send me back home anyway, so there’s no need to move. I’ll just stay right here” (laughs).
I also asked Crash, now 79 years old, if women still throw their under garments at him on stage.
Crash: No. Now they throw Depends (laughs).