COBWEB CORNERS: Remember the chug races?
By Mel McFarland
This is an interesting part of Colorado City history that caught on, and is largely unknown.
So what is a chug? In the late 1920s, some enterprising young men got an idea: With so many hills in the area, let's have some fun. They built miniature cars, gravity-powered. Basically the car was a board, with a board or metal front and rear axles, and wheels from all sorts of places. There is a wonderful old Bill Cosby story of the Philadelphia versions.
The cars had a basic seat, and what looked like a car hood. Some lads actually built small versions of the radiators of their favorite cars! Some of the boys built their own race courses with twists and turns. Fortunately, one of these families included the Current boys, and Ira was really good with a movie camera! A few of his treasured movies have survived. The next move for the boys was a bit smoother, but more dangerous. The city streets, such as those on Pikes Peak, Kiowa and Bijou, were great spots to run. The local parents and police recognized the hazards of the use of these streets.
Something had to be done. A few automobile drivers almost ran over several chugs. The Westside newspaper, the Colorado City Independent, stepped in. They held a few meetings and agreed to sponsor organized races. Many of the businesses in Colorado City stepped up and offered to sponsor some of the cars. A basic set of operating and safety rules were drawn up. Adult supervisors and volunteers arranged to have a series of races every Saturday on 25th street, near Fairview Cemetery. It would end before school started with one big race, followed by a big dinner for the racers, sponsors and parents.
The races were held several years in Colorado City. Through the newspaper, word got around. The Chevrolet Division of General Motors heard of the various cities across the country who had come up with similar races and organized its Soap Box Derby, which is still being run, although quite different.
Here in Colorado City, some of the racers went on to run in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, at Pike's Peak Speedway, but most just grew out of it. Maybe we have a few chug racers as readers. I recognize many of the racers' names from a list of Midland employees.