I want to thank Hell Driver for commenting about my recent post recalling Jack Kochman’s annual shows at the York Fair.
I’m continuing the thread because automotive sports and exhibitions were an important part of my experience growing up in York county.
One of the most exciting parts of Jack Kochman’s show was when five or six Hell Drivers in late model cars maneuvered around each other in tight formations bumper to bumper at high speed. Weaving back and forth, in and out, the speeding cars would come within inches of each other, a heart stopping spectacle.
To wind up this segment of the program, the drivers were individually introduced as they raced past the grandstand in single file. As each driver's name was announced, he would jam on the brake, send his car into a sideways skid, and dangle his leg out the open door as the vehicle slid to a halt. To top it off, the cars all ended up in a neat row, equally spaced within a few feet of each other!
Let’s not forget two of the most important members of the Hell Drivers’ team: Happy the clown and the invisible yet indispensable booth announcer. In addition to introducing the various drivers and stunts, the announcer served as Happy's straight man.
The announcer also had to relay Happy’s punch lines to the audience because Happy didn’t wear a microphone and few in the audience could hear the clown when he delivered his one-liners. Happy, meanwhile, put his life on the line several times during each show, making us laugh while performing extremely dangerous stunts.
I neglected to mention one of the Hell Drivers’ most impressive feats. A car was driven up one side of a ramp causing it to tilt up on two wheels. The stuntman then made a complete lap around the track with the vehicle balanced in a nearly vertical position. Back in front of the grandstand, he gently brought the car down on all four wheels in front of the astonished audience. Kids, don’t try this at home!