By Chuck Wiser, I write the words to share what my eyes see and my heart feels
It is not my intent to make this a weekly column reporting the sad news of people’s passing as that would be the job of an obituary publication. But, I do undertake the privilege of telling the stories about people that many of us know but you may not see or hear elsewhere.
There are many local race car drivers, some of whom I’ve mentioned before, and I’ve even included mention of the iconic “flag man” Whitey Gorsuch. But, unless you read Bill Greene’s Allegany County Historical Society articles, or were a part of 50’s and 60’s local stock car racing, you likely haven’t seen or heard much about another local racing legend who passed away recently.
Much of what I write herein is gleaned from two sources primarily. First, was the book, Stock Car Racing in the 50’s, written by Ford Easton a former Friendship, NY resident and fellow “Track Rat”. The second was from one of Bill Greene’s articles. Lawrence “Larry” Dye is most likely better known these days as the owner of Lawrence Dye Insurance Inc. Back in the 50’s and 60’s he was better known as the “Voice” announcing race activities at nearly all the local tracks at one time or another.
Stock Car racing was introduced to Allegany and Steuben Counties back in the early 50’s with Wellsville having opened the door with their fairgrounds race track. In 1954 Cuba Raceway opened and a young gentleman by the name of Larry Dye gave racing a try. In 1955 he suffered a crash injury and decided that it was safer in the broadcast booth overlooking the track, so he became the track announcer. The job of the announcer was to list the race entrants for each race and then do “Play by Play” or maybe better dubbed “Turn by Turn” racing action, followed by the final race results. Larry had a golden voice and smoothly called the action while transmitting some of his excitement to the audience. As Cuba Lake Raceway was the first track that my stepdad Paul Miles (8Jr) drove, that is where I became familiar with Larry Dye and his announcing acumen.
In 1959 Paul Amidon decided to bring racing to Hornell, NY and began building a track. One of his first moves as he commenced to build his team was to hire Larry Dye as his announcer. The staff also added Rex Ward from Addison and the aforementioned Whitey Gorsuch from Andover as his starters. Typically, at an oval racetrack of the variety found in this area, the announcer is in a booth elevated above the track while the starter is closer to the track nearer to track level. At the Hornell Raceway Larry inherited a secondary role as a spotter for the starter as he could see down over the track banking from his elevated position and the starter couldn’t. If a car went over the bank off the track Larry would signal the starter with a red flag as to whether to stop the race or let it continue. Unlike NASCAR, they did not stop the race if a driver hiccuped.
Over the years Larry was the announcer at tracks in Angelica, Cuba, Holland, Hornell, Hunt and Perry, and likely more.
Larry’s golden voice, as Bill Greene noted, greeted fans and announced the track action anywhere from 3 to 5 days a week, and also at special Holiday races, for over 25 years. Upon leaving the local racing scene, Larry worked another 20 years first as a NASCAR camera spotter for CBS, NBC and TNN and later in the same capacity for NBC, ESPN and FOX.
Each year in March, local radio personality Rod Bieler inducts racing individuals into the Legends of Racing Hall of Fame at the Olean Mall Stock Car show. Larry has been inducted into that society.
In 2003 Ford Easton organized the first Cuba Lake Raceway Reunion, fittingly held each summer at Moonwink’s in Cuba, NY. This became a popular venue for drivers, families, and fans alike to meet and discuss racing in the 50’s and beyond. I attended the inaugural event and what a treat it was for me to meet those legendary drivers, seen by me only previously with a racing helmet on as they whizzed by on mostly dirt tracks in the area. Many of these drivers who traveled significant miles to go from track to track in the area, had also driven on nationally famous tracks such as Daytona. This reunion turned into an annual event and, since there was no other logical choice, Larry was the MC each year from 2003 to 2016.
RIP Larry! Your voice, calling the cars “out of turn number four and crossing the finish line” is indelibly etched into my memory.
In the 50’s Cuba Lake Raceway photo below Larry’s car is the number 90 car in the pole position.
Much of the local racetrack lore can be found in the book Stock Car Racing in the 50’s compiled and written by Ford Easton and can be purchased thru Amazon at a price of $15 plus S&H. Search Amazon by the book title to locate and order if interested.
Before his recent passing Dave Dunbar had Written and arranged several other songs using my lyrics. If all goes as planned one of those songs is attached to this column. Dave and the main subject of this column, Larry Dye are safely “In His Hands.”
The song was recorded by the Cuba Baptist Church directed by Nettie White. It is only fitting as Larry Dye was a resident, town leader, and his business Lawrence Dye Insurance was headquartered in Cuba New York.