I hope his birthday today is "almost" as good as his 21st Birthday Party!
Here is how it is described in Beltsville Shell: You Are What You Drive
“rac· on· teur n. One who tells stories with skill and wit.”
The American heritage Dictionary, Third Edition
Alternate meaning: French for Bull Shit artist!
I never spent enough time with Howard Ignatius DeLauter. Always known as “Nace” (rhymes with “Racy”), he lived on Montgomery Road in a nice home across from Wayne Armiger. Nace’s Dad owned a heavy equipment sales and rental company. Nace had a natural talent for spinning a story, and once he starting talking, the room would become silent and everyone would listen. He could enhance any tale with impersonations of the voice of characters, and give hand gestures to make the story come to life. This talent continues to this day.
Although Nace wasn’t much bigger than me, he learned at an early age to drive big, expensive, complicated machinery. He could drive a tractor, road grader, backhoe and more. Driving a car was anti-climatic for Nace.
Contrary to Corvette drivers, Nace had a practical approach to dating. He drove “passion wagons”. His first station wagon was a 1957 Ford. On “One Dollar per Car Load Nights” at the Beltsville Drive-In, Nace would load up a pile of friends, collect loose change to finance the adventure and one and all would have a great time. Nace was suave and popular with the girls and had in some mysterious way mastered the art of romance. He tried to bestow the basic elements of his secret knowledge on me but his best efforts were in vain.
Nace also owned an extremely rare 1956 Chevy two-door station wagon, uncommon because most wagons were the four-door variety. But the car that we all remember the most was his 1962 gold Chevy Impala.
Although Nace would earn his living in the heavy equipment business, his real love was painting cars, and he was very talented. Nace painted Sonny Boteler’s Corvette, Tommy Jenkins Jaguar XK-E, and loads of motorcycles. Some of his bike jobs received awards for the exotic designs.
In 1968 most of the JTRAMFGS Club members were turning 21 years of age, a major milestone because you could get beer right in Beltsville and wouldn’t have to drive to DC. I decided to throw a party for Nace at my parent’s house. I didn’t need my parent’s approval because they were going to be away for the weekend and they would NEVER find out!
Or so I thought.
We all wanted to be sure that Nace celebrated this important event in fine style. Anyone who wanted to come was invited. In teen-age potluck style, everyone brought a six-pack of beer. Some of the girls had the common sense to actually bring some FOOD.
It was a gathering of all the regulars. Nace, Dexter, Johnny, Charlie, Peewee, and Tanguay. Brenda Fisher, and the Reid girls, Bonnie and Brenda, joined the guys.
I had also invited Jeff Hughes, from Wheaton, to attend. Unfortunately, a large number of Wheaton street racers had heard about the party and decided to infiltrate our “private” gathering.
From left to right: Brenda, Dexter, Nace, Bonnie andPeewee. Johnny is hidden behind Peewee. My parents are not shown because they were NOT HOME!
The Saturday night party started out calmly enough. Yucca Street was lined with houses on both sides. Few homes had off-street driveways, so my neighbors’ cars were lined up along the curb on both sides of the road. In addition to the cars of my neighbors, the arriving guests filled the parking spaces on either side of the street until Yucca Street was wall-to-wall with cars.
As more and more people arrived, my joy for Nace’s celebration started to fade. I was getting the sense that our rock-‘n-roll music and beer drinking might get out-of-hand. My anxiety increased as a growing number of complete strangers were streaming into my parent’s basement. I decided that I needed to take control of the situation and left the party downstairs to guard the front door. The next two strangers who arrived, both of who were much taller than me, resisted my communication that this was a private party and that they were not welcomed. They got nasty and threatened me. Having learned long ago that short guys should always seek reinforcements when threatened, I ran to the basement for help. The first guy I saw was a burly friend of Jeff Hughes named Marc Hughes (no relation). Having consumed enough beers to bolster his already abundant courage, Marc advised me that he and Jeff would take care of the problem.
Marc stormed out the front door of the house with Jeff in trail. They quickly surmised that the bullies had retreated to their car and were making a get-away. Marc must have felt that the intruders needed to be punished, because he decided to chase after them. With me watching in horror from my front yard, Marc jumped into his brand new, canary yellow 427/435 HP Corvette convertible, started the engine, and sped up the street in first gear. When he flat-shifted second gear, the beautiful new Corvette slid sideways, and at 40 MPH began destroying my neighbors’ cars on both the north and south sides of the street, not to mention simultaneously shaving the front and rear ends off of his Corvette!
I prayed to God to take my life that instant. He failed me.
As Nace told me later, the sound of crashing cars and police sirens and the sight of flashing police car lights kind of took the enjoyment out of his 21st birthday celebration. In no time everyone had disappeared leaving me a mess about the size of a Superbowl to clean up.
When my parents returned home on Sunday night, I confessed everything. I thought my Mom was going to die, and I’m sure she felt like it. Her wild and crazy son had gone too far, and she was embarrassed that one of my buddies had crashed the neighbor’s cars.
It’s a miracle my Mom didn’t go to the nut house!
As we all have learned, timing can be everything. What are the chances that Bris and a mini-tornado would arrive at the Shell station at the same time?
Somewhere along the line Bris started to figure out what was really going on at Beltsville Shell after he went home for the day. Every once in a while, he would go home, have dinner, take a shower, and return to the Station for an unannounced inspection. One Saturday afternoon while Nace was helping out, Bris paid such an unexpected visit.
As luck would have it, this was not the Saturday we replaced the engine in Ralph Bull’s 1957 Chevy in a single day. Nor was it the day we installed a complete set of headers on Johnny Bradley’s Corvette. Instead it was a fairly innocent, calm day. Calm until the wind picked up.
As Bris and Nace were exchanging pleasantries, the sky grew dark and the wind started to blow. Suddenly a mini-tornado began to swirl from behind the building and traveled right through the middle of the property. The twister went directly across the roof of the Shell station. In an instant a thousand beer cans, most containing the Budweiser motto, were lifted from the roof and scattered all over the parking lot.
Bris looked at Nace with his winning smile, said, “I wonder how all those beer cans got on the roof?” Next, Bris got in his truck and drove home. He never said a word about the beer drinking to any of us (until the time he fired Albie and Ralph for about 10 hours)!