For one day anyway - Sunday afternoon to be precise - the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown was transformed into a shrine to local dirt-track auto racing.
A scale replica of Stateline Speedway, built by Tracy Thompson and family, sat prominently on a table. Old racing programs lined another table and Randy Anderson, local racing historian extraordinaire, was at the door handing out "pit passes.''
One almost expected to hear the recorded voice of Lloyd Williams, the longtime track announcer at Stateline Speedway, introducing some of the track's legendary drivers just as he did in the early years of the Kortwright Road oval.
Stanley L. ‘‘Squirt’’ Johns answers questions after a documentary about his racing career premiered at the Jackson Center on Sunday. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Scott Kindberg
But one man in attendance yesterday required no introduction. Not surprisingly, this gentleman was wearing an orange T-shirt with black lettering, the very same colors that decorated his No. 511 car for decades.
Yes, Stanley L. "Squirt" Johns was in the house.
More than 120 people couldn't have been happier.
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Anderson, along with fellow Lakewood residents Greg Peterson and Randy Sweeney, have been collecting information and conducting on-camera interviews with the local racing community for the last several years. Among the documentaries the men have produced include "Stateline Speedway - The First Ten Years (1956-64)." During the course of their research, they interviewed Johns and came away with so much information from the Brockway, Pa., resident that the men decided to produce another project - aptly named, "SQUIRT."
The 55-minute documentary premiered yesterday at the Jackson Center, featuring videotaped interviews with Squirt and dozens of other racers, the priceless picture collection of the late racing photographer Gordon Mahan, and vintage home movies. Peterson concluded the trip down memory lane with a question-and-answer session at the completion of the film.
Following are some of the highlights:
Feedback from the documentary when it was shown in Brockway, his hometown:
"We've graced a lot of tracks where there weren't that many people in the grandstand. I was very impressed and honored. Everybody I've talked to was impressed by all the work (Anderson, Peterson and Sweeney) have done."
On whether he raced for the fun or the money:
"I never knew I was a good driver. I always thought I was a pretty good mechanic. My career was about over before I realized I had some driving skill, too. I really thought for years that if I could give anyone out of the stands my car and they'd win the race."
On his popularity:
"Kids made cars built like mine and they gave them to me. A lady drew a portrait and gave it to me. She drew the portrait from a picture in the program. It's hanging in my home yet. Good people, a lot of good people around racing.''
Late-model rival Sammy LaMancuso on Johns:
"His knowledge was overwhelming. He was so far ahead of us when it comes to that stuff. He was amazing."
Joni Paladino on whether she felt like a celebrity growing up in Brockway because she was the daughter of Squirt Johns:
"I was outside waiting for the school bus, another bus went by and a kid had the window down and said, 'Squirt Johns stinks.' I remember being very upset that this kid didn't think that he was the best driver that ever lived.''
Of course, many thought he was.
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As people milled about the Jackson Center lobby prior to the movie premiere, Johns chatted with his former racing colleagues and posed for photographs. Meanwhile, at the other side of the room Gary Swanson of Jamestown pulled out his cell phone and punched in a number.
In an audible voice, Swanson could be heard saying the following seven words: "I just shook hands with Squirt Johns!"
Nearly 40 years after he last got behind the wheel of a late-model car for a competitive race, Johns' legacy continues to grow.