History walk recounts racing past
WATKINS GLEN--In commemoration of the launch of road racing in Watkins Glen 72 years ago, the Schuyler County Historical Society hosted a history walk led by Jim Scaptura and Bill Green starting at the county courthouse Saturday, Oct. 3. People from throughout the region attended to hear the pair, who both personally experienced the original Grand Prix held in Watkins Glen. Their talk discussed everything from the evolution of track safety, the birth of the Corvette, to how the original Grand Prix was permeated by the smell of sausage and peppers in the air.
"You could stop in all of the garages... and the street smelled of (oil) and gasoline, it was a great time," said Scaptura.
Scaptura said there are still times, even with the street racing era long gone from Watkins Glen, when he remembers what it was like during the first few Grand Prix held in Watkins Glen roughly 70 years ago.
"When they start up the engines (Green) and I can remember what it was like when it was real," Scaptura said.
Scaptura then took the opportunity to talk about a bevy of topics relevant to the original era of racing in Watkins Glen, from the development of track safety to the development of the Corvette.
"It was at Watkins Glen when (American racers) realized the need for an American sports car," Scaptura said.
Charles Lyles from Watkins Glen brought his young daughter along with him because he said he was worried stories of original Watkins Glen racing would be lost to time.
"I want to see the history passed down from generation to generation," Lyles said.
Joyce DeSarno said she has always been interested in racing and decided that attending the history walk would be a great chance to learn more.
"I think it's good for our community, it honors our history," Desarno said.
Joe Burnett, who lives in Endicott, said there aren't many places in the world that have a history as rich and significant to road racing as Watkins Glen.
"I'm interested in learning about street racing here in Watkins Glen, it's fascinating, there aren't many places like this," said Burnett.
This story was updated on Oct. 9 to correct an error in giving context to the quote by Joyce DeSarno.