Santa Barbara Airshow/Vintage Auto Races at Goleta

Article by Steven Tillack photos by Pete Vanlaw

Following is a Steve Tillack reminiscence, prompted by his participation in the Air Show and Commemorative Sports Car Races at Goleta Airport near Santa Barbara on October 17.

This little vignette has to begin with my dad, the electronics wizard. Now known for their computers, Packard Bell was one of the first companies to begin manufacturing televisions in the late 40's. In 1950 my dad became the head of engineering at Packard Bell. In 1951 he set up the transmitter for Santa Barbara's new Channel 3 television station and became the Packard Bell distributor for the broadcast area serviced by Channel 3. In '52, we moved to a small citrus ranch in Goleta.

He did a lot of traveling, so for as long as I can remember I have been in and out of airports and always had a passion for airplanes. But in 1953, what I thought was going to be a routine "drop dad off at the airport run" proved to be one of the most significant events of my then five and a half year old life.

That morning is as clear in my mind now, as the day it happened. We backed the new Chevy station wagon up against a row of hay bales, flopped the tail gate down and spread out a blanket in the back of the wagon. I took up position on the tailgate and much to my surprise, delight and everlasting corruption, watched my first sports car race.

Orwin Middleton a long time S.B. resident developed a plan to stage a re-creation of the Santa Barbara Road Races during the Air Show this year. When he called to ask me if I could bring a few old race cars, there was no hesitation. From the first lap I don't think I stopped grinning for the rest of the day. The only thing that could make this day better for me would have been to persuade Cy Yedor into driving one of my cars. You see, Cy won the main event in '53.

(Editors note: Steve possibly stopped grinning for a moment during a little "twilight zone" experience early in the day when he and several other drivers went out for practice. The course wasn't marked as well as it might have been, and 5 or 6 drivers got lost looking for it. As Steve looked to his left, he saw an airplane coming in for a landing on the active runway the cars were now crossing! "Ferrari Hits Plane, or Vice-Versa" was not a headline Steve and the others would have wanted to experience first hand. Thankfully no harm was done, as everyone got back and eventually found the course.)