By Jim Kyle, ‘48
This memory appeared in the Fall 2008 issue of the New Classen Life.
TV hadn’t yet arrived. Movies were for weekends only. So how did we amuse ourselves in those dim dark ages of the late 40’s and 50’s? For many of us, it was by rackin’ around.
It was a game played with cars and had only a few rules. Basically, it involved a carload of girls driving around the city and a second carload of boys chasing them. That was it. Somehow the boys almost never (well, at least when I was driving) caught up, so we had only the thrill of the chase. I’m told that the girls enjoyed it as much as we.
The game did, however, lead to my one and only moment as the director of a production number involving a dozen or so actors and locations all around Classen – and an unexpected result for some of the participants.
It happened in the summer of ’48. I had just graduated and was heading for Norman come fall, to move forward toward my career goal of becoming a big-time magazine photographer. And I had already had a minor success, having sold a couple of articles to a national photography magazine while still a senior. The idea crossed my mind that a picture story about “rackin’” might be salable – and it would definitely be fun to do.
So I wrote a query letter to the editor of a magazine called Varsity, published in New York by MacFadden Publications, asking if he would be interested in such an article. I was overjoyed when he replied that it sounded like a good idea to him and he would like to see what I could come up with.
The next step, of course, was to recruit the two carloads of rackers. I enlisted the help of my pal Wendell Harris ’49, and he recruited Jamie Edwards and a number of her friends. With the participants lined up, we needed vehicles, so I paid a call to the sales manager at Reinauer Studebaker and asked him to lend us a new convertible for the girls to drive. He said yes. The boys got to use my ancient ’37 Pontiac coupe.
To avoid serious problems, I felt we needed police cooperation, so my next stop was at the chief’s office. I explained the project and pointed out that the final photo would be of everyone involved getting ticketed for reckless driving. Again fortune smiled on us, and a motorcycle officer was assigned to take part in the production.
With all the necessary pieces in place, we got together one afternoon for the big shoot. Most of the photos were made on Blackwelder around NW 20th. One in particular that I remember purported to be the boys “shooting the gap” between two other cars at the north end of Carey Place. In fact, none of the cars was moving. We jacked up one side of my coupe to make it lean as if in a high-speed turn, and I later had the jack retouched out of the photo.
I sent the pictures and a couple of pages of text to the editor, and he accepted the package. It appeared as a three-page spread in an early fall issue – and that’s when unexpected things happened.
Mr. Taylor, the principal, was not amused. He felt, I’m told, that the publicity was very bad for Classen, even though I had taken pains to point out in the article that the photos were all posed and no actual recklessness had occurred. While he couldn’t find any grounds for taking disciplinary action against the participants, he did chew them out, leaving them with mixed emotions about the whole thing.
Meanwhile I went on to J-School at Norman, and discovered that my writing was much more acceptable to editors than were my photographs. Never again did I produce a picture story. But it was fun while it lasted.