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Through the Years with JEEPS


On June 1, 1956 the Wichita Jeeps Motorcycle Club will celebrate their Twentieth Anniversary.

Under the following Preamble and Platform a new club was organized and held its first meeting at the Harley Shop in the first block on North Water Street, on June 1, 1936 by E.C. Smith.

Whereas, we believe that the greatest benefits from motorcycling are received through the organization to be known to us as the Wichita Jeeps Motorcycle Club we declare the purpose of this organization to be the promotion of motorcycling as a sport in whatever ways may seem best to achieve this purpose.

We declare furthermore that this club is a non—profit organization and whatever money or property shall accrue to said club from races, dues, fees, or any sources whatever shall be placed in a fund to be used and spent only on club activities. This shall not be construed to prohibit the buy­ing of presents and flowers on appropriate occasions.

The Wichita Jeeps Motorcycle Club aims:
1. To bring within the organization all riders, male and female, who are actively engaged in or connected with the motorcycle sport, to press in their hearts the spirit of mutual helpfulness, and to impress them with their obligation to do their best for the wel­fare of each member and for the Club as a whole.

2. To adopt and put into active operation an effective plan to stabilize motorcycling for all the members of our organization.

The following charter members were present at the first meeting: Clay Allred, Kenneth Allred, Warren Heinkel, Paul Stepleton, Leland Chapman, Bill Devore, Les McColgan, Al Olmstead, Curley Bauer, Glen Richmond and Virgil Mendenhall, who was elected President.

Little did they dream that 20 years later from this small gather­ing would emerge a club that would receive the highest award “Most Out­standing Club” trophy. On April 10, 1956, four charter members Clay Allred, Warren Heinkel, Les McColgan and Al Olmstead saw Mayor Claude Devorss present the Trophy to President Jerry Frazier.

The club has received eleven coveted Safety Awards. The first was presented to us in 1938. Five Awards have been won in the last five consecutive years.

To secure information on the progress of the club from 1936 to 1950 required personal interviews, scrap books and newspaper clippings as all of the club records were destroyed by high water in 1950.

In 1936, 1937 and 1938 most of the activity was getting the new club started and on its own two feet. Races were held on a quarter mile track at 28th and Market. Price of admission was $0.10 per person and the riders’ prize money was in proportion to what was taken in at the gate.

Interest was increasing in the sport of motorcycling and so was the membership in the club. Then the big race in 1939. Track location was on East Kellogg and the purse was $400, which was guaranteed by all club members. Riders came from all points. A few were: Hap Jones from California, J.B. Jones from Indiana, Les and Dutch Meyers, Wichita Falls, Texas, Bruce Pearson, Tommy Hayes, Stan Newton, Dugan Douglas, Wilbur Fudge and Eldon Beer. Over 40 entries were in and on that event­ful Sunday under a threatening sky and with a very large crowd it rained. Some of the riders promised to come back the following Sunday and a few didn’t leave town. The weather was favorable and the race was held. The Winners were: Hap Jones 1st, J.B. Jones 2nd, and Dugan Douglas 3rd. After seeing a profitable adventure washed out the Sunday before the club members were happy to only break even.

On May 5, 1940 on East Harry at a motorcycle race as an added event, which everyone in attendance remembers, was the burning four wall crash by Ed Adrain who now resides at Newton, Kansas.

In 1941 the membership had grown to approximately 50 members. Five members of the club made a Good Will Tour to Mexico City. In April 1942 races were held on South Meridian. That was the last event for the public for a few years due to World War II. 1943 and 1944 were curtained to meetings and house parties. Services were volunteered and accepted for Auxiliary Police Work. Members furnished their own cycles and gas with the Police Department furnishing the gas stamps.

In 1944 the club moved to the new and present Harley-Davidson Sales and Service Shop at 623 W. Douglas. It was along about this time that George Merritt was elected as Activity Chairman. He continued to serve until his death in April 1951. No one has contributed as much time, talent and interest in the “Jeeps” as George did. It was during his years in office that the policies were set up that has allowed the club to make money and progress to one of the outstanding clubs in the world. In honor of George Merritt the following statement is posted in a prominent location at our present clubhouse:

All money spent here regardless, goes for the benefit of the Wichita Jeeps Motorcycle Club.
By: Geo. H. Merrritt

In 1945 the club moved into a clubhouse of its own known as “the chicken house”. Then in 1947 the new clubhouse on East Pawnee was completed. The club was in debt $2646.97 on April 16, 1947. Through various ways and means of raising money under George’s leadership the loan was paid on June 7, 1948.

In 1949 the club was incorporated as a non-profit organization under the state laws of Kansas and carry our present title Wichita “Jeeps” Motorcycle Club “Inc.”

The City of Wichita was growing and so was the “Jeeps” Club. The Quonset clubhouse was too small for the growing membership and the city limits was getting closer. Land was purchased on K-42 (Southwest of Wichita) on which the present clubhouse was constructed. We have been at our present location since January 1, 1952.

Club activities have increased yearly. The following races are now annual events: Side Car Race, Easter Egg Hunt, Gypsy Tour, Hare and Hound Race, Turkey Run and Christmas Run. Numerous other races are scheduled through­out the year. A Halloween Party, Dinner-Dance Party, Christmas Party are the annual social events.

In 1955 a large number of club members joined the Wichita Auxiliary Police. They have all completed their primary and advanced First Aid Courses and primary course in Police Training. In case of war this group would work as a Civil Defense Unit.

The club now has a total membership of 85. We own our clubhouse, which is located on a 7-½ acre tract. We are debt free and our total evaluation is approximately $20,000.

We have been honored with the highest award for 1955. We have accepted the challenge to do better in 1956. Activities have been scheduled or every month this year. We will continue to prosper and grow by following our Preamble and Platform.

In 1957, the Club was advised by the Hi-Way Department, that our land and building on K-42 Hi-Way would be condemned for the right-of-way of the I-235 bypass around the West side of Wichita.

After looking at all available land around Wichita, we decided to buy 80 acres at 101st. Street North and 81 Hi-Way.

With the financial backing of Warren Heinkel, we took possession of the land in November of 1957, but there was no construction work started on the new clubhouse until June of 1958. The work, which was start­ed, was a 72’ x 25’ basement and this was not completed until December of 1958, just in time for our New Years Eve party.

In 1959, a racetrack was laid out in an open field East of the clubhouse and from that time on this was the big thing for the Club. Also in 1959, Jim Wycoff and Les Bennest constructed a concession stand out of lumber from our K—42 clubhouse. The original concession stand is still in use.

In 1960, Leroy Hanilton, Jim Cooper and Clarence Bash, laid out and built a short ½ mile race track. Parts of this track are still being used to race on.

In 1961, Bill Dusenbery, Sr. borrowed from the County, a D-8 bull­dozer and a motor road grader to improve the ½ mile track. The track was later oiled with 12,000 gallons of oil, was also sanded and sand plowed under. In the early 60’s track lights were installed around the half-mile track under the direction of Bill Dusenbery, Sr. and night races were then held.

One of the most important jobs in the Club is the job of Activity Chairman. The first one being George Merritt, in the early 40’s. Follow­ing George were, Buddy Siegel, Jim Cooper, M.L. Kinney, Pete Jones, Harvey Bankson, Clarence Bash, Bob Fitzgibbons, Bob Chenault,.Bill Pat­terson, Sam McCurly, Don Lowman and the present Activity Chairman, Gene Benefield.

In 1968, a new clubhouse, 72’ x 50’, was built over the basement. This was promoted by Don Lowman, and quite a large sum of money was bor­rowed for the new construction.

As of today, the clubhouse has now been finished on the inside, largely by the efforts of Bob Bledsoe and Gene Benefield, along with the help of 4 or 5 different club members.

In 1969, under the direction of Sam McCurly, improvements were made on our racetrack and a ¼ mile short track was added.

This Club is not a racing club, although we do have one or two races per month. Along with the races, we also have activity events such as, poker runs, lime runs, banquets, parties in the clubhouse, bench riding, and sometimes it even sounds like a Liars Club as each rider or member tries to tell the tallest tale.

Our club membership, as of September 1973, stands at 70. This is down from a peck of 120 in December of 1957. But as of now, we are build­ing our membership up again as more and more people are enjoying the Sport of Motorcycling and I truly believe our best years are ahead of us.

Plans for the future could be for a 2,000 seat grandstand and a new and larger concession stand, which would include restrooms and shower facilities, as soon as water is available. We are hoping that this will be possible in the spring of 1974.

THE FUTURE IS OURS; IT WILL BE WHAT WE MAKE IT!

The Wichita Jeeps Motorcycle Club is in its Fifty-first year as an American Motorcyclist Association Chartered, Club. As such, it is the oldest, continuously active, motorcycle—oriented association in our area.

The name “Jeeps” was adopted by the membership when the club was chartered, and refers to a popular Cartoon Character of that time period. This name is not to be confused with the small, four wheel drive vehicle that has been in evidence since the late forties.

The club has eighty acres of ground situated on One hundred and first Street North, between Broadway (81 Highway) and I-135. Exit number Nineteen on I-135 is 101st Street and from there the grounds are only a short distance west. Business meetings are held at the clubhouse on these grounds each Friday evening at Eight O’clock. Visitors are welcome and applications for membership can be obtained at any regular meeting.

The Jeeps have traditionally been involved with some of the more competitive aspects of motorcycling. In addition to the clubhouse, which is used for meetings and social events, three racecourses are maintained on the grounds with the possibility of a fourth one being added in the future. These consist of: A Short track (slightly banked, dirt oval, race track), a Motocross course (a rather short, simulated cross-country track, of jumps, bumps, and assorted mayhem), and a Hare Scrambles course (an approximately three and a half mile, cross—country course for longer duration racing). These race programs provide competition for adults and youngsters on two—wheelers, three-wheelers and minis.

All this does not mean that other, less strenuous, activities are left out of this club’s schedule. To the contrary, there are members whose interests run the entire spectrum of motorcycling. This is a club, which provides the opportunity to do it all!

 

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