There are days we just need to slow down and enjoy the moment, yesterday, December 14, 2017 was one of those days for me. My plans were to finish Christmas Shopping, complete a couple of Snake Saturday issues, attend a Christmas dinner with some of my air traffic control buddies, none of it involving racing. Here is the thing though, life provides opportunities to stop and take the time to enjoy some memories and hear some stories. When Clyde Ellis was alive those times occurred at Seeburg Muffler, yesterday though they occurred a couple of blocks down Armour Road at Chappell’s Restaurant and Sports Museum.
You know Ernie and Ramo and Don and Gordon, you know Ron and Dick and Jerry and Jim, but do you recall the most famous Keokuk native of all. In the annals of racing you mention Keokuk Iowa which famous driver(s) pop into your head? Ernie Derr, Ramo Stott, Don White, Gordon Blankenship, Ron and Dick Hutcherson, Jerry McCredie, Jim Washburn, Mick McMahan, all hailed from this racing mecca. But you know who else hailed from Keokuk, Iowa, similar to Rudolph, he has his own place in history, Jim Chappell.
Jim started Chappell’s Restaurant and Sports Museum in 1986 as a political/sports bar. When you first enter, more often than not, you will be greeted by Jim himself. Yesterday though I had his attention for a little over an hour in a meeting he called during the lunch hour. I answered the phone and it was Jim on the other line, “JD, I got spies all over town watching you, I know you are in town, I know you have to go see Rose (our Northland Festivals accountant), but when you get done come see me”.
When you first enter Jim’s restaurant for the very first time it might shock you. The ceiling is lined with over 1,000 football helmets. The walls are covered with sports memorabilia, Len Dawson’s autographed Dallas Texan warm-up jersey, Rocky’s boxing gloves, baseballs signed by Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Ty Cobb, and we could go on and on and on and yes, he has a racing corner, some of these items from his Keokuk Iowa roots. His Sports Museum has been rated as one of the Top 10 in the nation by Sports Illustrated.
The reason for the meeting invite was to discuss nominations for the 2018 Snake Saturday Grand Marshal, as we are in the nominating phase, at this time. Jim was the 2003 Grand Marshal. We had a great discussion on the process which led to a short discussion on how the C.A.R.B. Hall of Fame does the current selection process. Jim favors more the way the selection process was done by Mickey Finn and Bill Grigsby and similar to the way the selection process was done by C.A.R.B the first eleven years. It was a great discussion, by the way congratulations to the 2018 C.A.R.B. Hall of Fame inductees.
Turning back to racing, Jim plans to visit I-35 Speedway this next summer. When I told him about the bar and grill overlooking turn one, he was definitely interested especially when I mentioned all the antiques the track owner has in the upstairs suite section. Our discussion ended with Jim giving me a copy of his Conversations at Chappell’s book. Yes, it is great to just slow down and converse once in a while, telling stories because we all have one, reminded me of Clyde!