Dirt track film premieres Thursday
by BRIAN GRAVES Banner Staff Writer
Apr 16, 2014 | 938 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Harold Fryar takes a bow and accepts applause after winning a race in the 1960s. Fryar is one of the legendary dirt track drivers featured in the documentary “It’s A Dirt Track Life.” Submitted photo
Harold Fryar takes a bow and accepts applause after winning a race in the 1960s. Fryar is one of the legendary dirt track drivers featured in the documentary “It’s A Dirt Track Life.” Submitted photo
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Ron and Debbie Moore are best known for their Saturday morning local history talk show.

They have also long resided within a car engine’s roar of the now-empty Cleveland Speedway.

“The silence is deafening,” Debbie said.

It was the absence of an iconic part of local life that led the duo to produce a documentary that brings back the old cars, the atmosphere and the characters that were as recognizable to area residents as any Hollywood celebrity.

“It’s a Dirty Track Life” will make its premiere Thursday night at the Museum Center at Five Points.

The screening will begin at 6 p.m.

Hassan Najjar, museum executive director, said the center expects a large crowd for the event.

“I would recommend getting there early,” Najjar said.

The 80-minute video chronicles the personal stories behind the men who lived their lives on the numerous dirt tracks which once dotted parts of North Georgia and Southeast Tennessee.

Debbie said they began filming for the documentary last spring and began post-production earlier this year.

“It was like trying to eat an elephant,” she said of the task of fitting the hours of interviews and scrapbook photographs into a limited time period.

The Moores were also able to get permission to use home movies from the collections of Georgia racing historian Mike Bell and the family of Jack Cunningham.

“There are actually movies of the first race held at Cleveland Speedway in 1954,” Debbie said.

More than 20 drivers and historians shared their intimate memories on screen. Those words are matched with over 200 vintage photographs of cars and drivers.

“There will be cars at the museum for the premiere,” Debbie said.

Among the drivers telling their stories are Red Farmer, Morgan Shepherd, and Charlie Mincey.

Those memories are spiced with reminisces of drivers such as Harold Fryar, Tootle Estes, Jack Smith and Joe Lee Johnson.

“There were some who did not want to share photos or movies, because they were afraid they would be lost,” Debbie said. “I told them it would be worse if no one ever saw them.”

That is when she found herself with more pictures and video than could possibly be used.

She also said it was amazing to her just how personal the storytellers on the screen were when the cameras were running.

“It was a time when everyone was friends,” Debbie said. “If one guy needed a part, his competitor would lend him one so they could keep racing against each other.”

She said copies of the documentary would be available on DVD at the premiere to help with the cost of production.

Admission is free to Museum members and $5 for the general public.