Four Aces History

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Virginia City GP (Year Unknown)
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50 Years with AMA
by Susie Ellsworth

The Four Aces were organized in 1939. The four original members broke away from Van Nuys MC; Woody Lanshore (1st president), Mac Carver, George Burkhart, and John Beck were the four original members.

They decided to base the club on a deck of cards. They would be the Four Aces. Lyle Hesley came in next, he kept humming the song "Jack of Diamonds" and was given the card, jack of diamonds. Tex Myers was the next member and was given the two of spades. The senior members used to hold the Aces, although the tradition has not been followed in many years. The joker goes to the high point man of the year.

After being organized for six months, the club went to the Riverside Rally and won the trophy for being the largest club in colors. The colors consisted of; white stroker cap, red shirts, and Leviís.

The first meetings were held in Woodyís garage. Then they built a club house at Victory and Sepulveda. In order to build their cub house, they would have scavenger hunts. They would have to get a 2x4, a sack of cement, box of nails, etc. The club house was sold when the war started. For 25 years the meetings were held at North Hollywood Park, then at the Body Shop in Van Nuys, now the club is scattered from Colorado, Paso Robles, Hesperia, Laverne, Agoura, Burbank, Lancaster, Palmdale, etc. (you get the idea). We have a news letter that usually gets sent once a month, and meetings occur out on the desert at races and get togethers.

Minutes: March 8, 1945; Meeting started at 8:30 with Eunice acting as chairman. Club agrees to award points for special work done for the club. Van Trees will get mimeograph copies made for point schedule. Club run Sunday will be to the Glendale field-meet at the Oaks starting at Fred LaMonts house at 10:30 A.M. The chairman is to sponsor this respective weeks club activity on Thursday night. A large group agrees to go cow trailing tonight. Meeting adjourned at 9:00 P.M. Eunice Cannon, Secy.

The Tragedy of the Hills

The Four Aces and the visitors who came on motors with Bob Blair started for a ride through the hills around Mullholland Drive after adjourning a short club meeting. There was a large group, it was a pretty night and we couldíve had a good time, But! First Bob Blair broke the throttle cable one mile from the club house so while he was repairing it the rest of the gang had a coasting race down Coldwater Canyon, James Clay decided he would make his motor run better so he broke his ignition points and Dick Stowe who didnít have any gas or tickets pushed him home. Tex Luse developed generator trouble and had no lights (itís a good thing he left before the cop finished writing a ticket), so several of the riders followed him home furnishing lights. This left half the gang, so, Fred Ellsworth led them up Dixie Canyon to Mullholland then started South down the other side of the range. I donít know where we started for but we didnít get there. Blairs friend Hogan on a Harley 80 hit a dip and splashed gas on his motor which burst into flame. The rest of the group came back and started digging dirt which was pretty hard to get. The front tire burned, the engine and tanks flamed, and it looked like it would not quit burning. It finally was smothered out when the entire motor was buried in dirt. When the last flame quit all the gang stood around in a circle and for one minute, they were silent as if in mourning. The owner took his loss like a good sport. The front tire was removed, ignition wired direct, dirt dug out of the controls, and he started it up and rode out to the road. Don MacLean loaned him a tire and he rode home with it in pretty good style, minus a light, some paint, wires and speedometer cover. We hope he will ride with us again soon. Eunice Cannon, Secy.

Now for the Moose Run: For a great; many newcomers to the desert racing and I suppose a few old timers, the "Moose Run" could conjure images of rifles and a hunting trip to the wilds. To those who know, it means a well planned desert race.

It started with the 1950 Big Bear Run, known to many as the Bear Chase. As usual there were many Four Ace members among the entrants, one of whom was a young man by the name of Mason Page, also known as Mickey Page, a Pro wrestler and known to his friends as "Moose". Frank Cooper, the U.S. Distributor of AJS and Matchless, (For the uninformed, these tow machines were four strokes with winning ways for those days) was Mooseís sponsor.

The Bear Chase was led by Aub LeBard, Moose, and Dude Criswell, when they lost the trail: in those days the riders did a little scouting for the lime; no ribbons, stakes and arrows no day-glows. When the error was discovered, Dude put on the binders and Moose slid into him, braking Dudeís leg. Dude insisted Moose continue the race without him. A half mile past the fourth check tragedy struck. A Four Ace member was down. Tex Myers, a fellow club member, turned back from check five to come to the aid of Moose. Ez Erhardt, a Northern California Highway Patrolman, and others helped get Moose into a station wagon and to the San Bernardino Hospital. He had multiple head injuries, caused from his "Metal" helmet.

Fred and Sis Ellsworth (Phelps), Danny Parnell, Dude Criswell, Opal and Tex Myers, club members, and friends, organized a benefit run two weeks later, Jan. 23, 1950, to help off set the medical bills. The entry was $1.00, and some riders donated $5.00 upward with no intention of riding.

The run started at Sepulveda and Royal Hills Drive, just north of the Sepulveda Tunnel. That was B.F. (before freeway). This area is now known as Woodland Hills. The Fire Representative of the area, unsympathetic to the clubs view, terminated the run at about the three quarter point. The club decided to continue the race at Hansen Dam as a rough scrambles, after a short lunch break.

During the scrambles, Dudeís mother drove out to inform the club that Moose had succumbed to his injuries. He left a wife, Jenny, and two daughters, Irene and Ilene.

After Moose passed away the Four Aces decided to hold the run annually. There was a trust fund set up for the girls. Later when the fund was discontinued, the proceeds went to charity. Now there isnít enough left to go anywhere but to the bill collectors.

Since the first Moose Run, which was limed from Ventura and Sepulveda, the run has been held at Castaic, The Tanks (known to some as the Holiday area), Lake Hughes, El Mirage, Adelanto, and the Rand Mts. In Freemont Valley, now Spangler open area. The weather has been colder than a well-diggers wallet at Lake Hughes; windy to the point of erasing the lime at Adelanto; six inches of snow for stragglers and follow up, also at Adelanto; so wet, that the sandy surface of Freemont Valley in the Mojave desert had puddles; there has been bright sunny days too, like this year.

The most memorable run was Jan. 26, 1969, Fremont Valley. The roads were impassable according to the radio reports. The flood had roads blocked everywhere, yet, all members managed to swim, float, and drive their way out. Half of the club set up camp Friday night in the rain. The rest of the crew spent most of Saturday getting into camp. The truck with the lime didnít arrive until late Saturday night. One of the members El Camino Truck was swamped, the high water marks were to the tops of the windows from the inside. All but the food survived, and one paisley tennis shoe was recaptured about a half mile downstream, it was on a sandbar.

A little bit of sunshine showed for sign-up, and a cloudburst for the start. You couldnít see the mountains or the smoke bomb. There were 400 riders and all the people who came with them. The race was limited to one loop, due to poor weather, or too much water. (some quicksand too). Dennis Torgerson was the winner of the 1969 Moose Run

There were muddy people, pooped people, and happy people, and gasless motorcycles. The general opinion of the riders abut the run was , "It was a GAS." "Fun", "It was fun but sure glad itís finished." "What do you mean one loop?". There was a rumor that there was over a thousand people stranded in the desert and as soon as they could get to it, they would send a food drop. By 9:00 PM Sunday night there were two campers and a jeep left, everyone else went home.

Everyone: Rescue 3, Radio crew, Participants, Friends, and Club Members, and those who make it out every year, will be a long time remembering this muddy Moose Run. The purchase of campers and trailers were held in the majority the following year. Your gear swimming around the bottom of your tent made an uncomfortable weekend.

There has been the time when someone decided the wind was blowing too hard and the lime too scattered to see, and stopped the run without the club's permission. A restart was held when those who made the first check returned.

There has been the problem of marking the course in snow, toilet paper wrapped around the lime bags was used to color the snow and the ground, if the snow should hopefully melt.

And when the sheepherders got the sheriff to cancel the race at the Tanks, destroying the grazing was the excuse, a couple weeks before the race. The race was moved to El Mirage.

One start had to be changed as it was going through the bird sanctuary. The BLM was informed that the motorcycles were saving more birds than they hurt by scaring them away so the hunters couldnít shoot them, the ranger on the phone said hunting wasnít allowed there either. He was informed he had better go out and tell the hunters that.

One year the BLM put a Turtle Preserve in the way of the first loop, which was rearranged to everyoneís satisfaction.

Another time some sneaky soul switched the markings at the point where loop one crossed loop two just past the bomb, which routed loop one to the finish. This was switched back early Sunday morning before the start.

Some of the pre riders Saturday night burned the tires that were set out for the smoke-bomb. Thanks to the Los Gatos from up San Jose way, we had more tires to replace those that were burnt. Those who burned the bomb were some of those who had scouted the first loop, and got upset when they passed check 5 twice, never having passed check 1. One of those pre riders was an ex-club member and a minister to boot. Made the extra work of switching the arrows worth it.

In Adelanto about 1958 or 1959, Steve Lydecker was leading, missed the course and kept going until he got to Hi Vista, when asked why he kept going when he discovered his mistake, he said, "There were a whole bunch of hotshoes on my tail and if I was lost, why Should I TELL them?" If he was lost, so shall they be.

Remember when Steve McQueen slipped and fell when he stepped in some oil and broke his wrist at Bud Ekins' shop? Well it actually happened at the Moose Run at El Mirage.

Oh, one more, did ya ever hear about "Wrong Way Ewing"? I think he was a So. Cal member. He rode the second loop backwards and was the first guy in. "Didnít you see that you were going the wrong way?" "Yes, but I didn't want to lose time by going back. I was leading." Bob is the first name of Ewing, and yes he was disqualified.

It would be interesting to see the runs today if they ran the checks as they did in 1950. The rider signed his name as he passed through the check. The checker didnít have tank cards to mark. Also the lime was 3 marks for a turn and 1 after, danger was marked with 3 stripes and road crossings were marked with 6 stripes.

For every hare and hound across country there was a trailer race to the gas check and then to the finish. The Moose Run was one of the first runs where the race was made into loops for the convenience of the pit people. Now it is straight line races that are a novelty.

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