Since Gary's story in November '09, Chuck's patch collection
in size. Above is a photo taken in April '10.
Patching Up a Collection
By: Gary Gasper
Dyer, IN (November 2, 2009) - It's an old saying that if you save two of a specific item, you have a collection. I know of a person who's collected over 900 items and isn't done yet. His name is Chuck Alm and he collects auto racing patches and decals. Just about all of his collection is displayed meticulously on the walls of his garage in Dyer, Indiana. At first glance, one can't believe that there are that many on the walls. But there are so many that they do add up if you stand there long enough and look at them. And you can stand there for a long time and actually not even see them all! I know it sounds goofy but it happened to me. I saw patches the second time I was there that I didn't see the first time!
So how did Chuck collect so many, you might ask? It's just like anyone who collects stuff and thinks they have to have them all. Except in this case Chuck doesn't know how many patches are out there.
He bought his first couple of patches in the early 70's while attending a race at Rockford Speedway in Illinois. The patches were displayed under glass on a bar in Chuck's house in Park Forest, Illinois. Then, as the collection grew, Chuck and his wife Nancy mounted the patches on corkboards and displayed them in their family room. After moving to Dyer, the garage walls became the shrine.
They represent stock car racing, indy cars, midgets, sprints, motorcycles, go-karts, drag racing, grand prix and power boats. All are itemized and documented in a ledger that Chuck and Nancy keep track of. (No pun intended!).
Before the advent of eBay, Chuck would send postcards to every track he could find in National Speedway Directory, an annual guide to every racetrack in the U.S. and Canada. His request to purchase a patch would often be rewarded by a reply with a free patch. Chuck's been in touch with Allan Brown, the editor of National Speedway Directory, about the possibility of doing a cover shot of his collection on a future Directory.
A gentleman from Charlotte, N.C. contacted Chuck about a sale of his collection that was displayed in the Joe Weatherly Museum. That collection totaled 230 different patches. It is part of Chuck's collection now! The most he's paid for a patch was $25.00 and lately has kept his eye on certain patches up for bids on eBay. He's been lucky in acquiring certain patches that he knows are very rare.
Chuck was pretty lucky driving a stock car back in 1961 too! (click HERE for photo detail) His driving ability netted him 23 feature wins at Raceway Park in Blue Island, Illinois. He tried the dirt at Broadway Speedway (Southlake, Crown Point) also in '61 and was very proud of finishing third in a feature won by Larry Cope. He laughingly mentions that Cope lapped him 3 times during that race! 1962 came along and Chuck drove again until one night getting "accidentally" taken out by Ray Freeman and wrecking pretty bad. Wife Nancy, who was pregnant at the time with their first child, darn near jumped out of the grandstands, and to make a long story short, Chuck called it quits. He did some driving on Wednesday nights at Raceway in Jerry Kemperman's car to "get points" for Jerry.
Lately, Chuck who is a retired regional manager for Hillman Fasteners, takes in all of the racing he can. When he was on the road for his company on business he would occasionally run into a racetrack that was running that night. He was once in Las Vegas for business and wandered into a casino lounge out of curiosity. Do you remember how I said Chuck was lucky? Well, he dropped a few bucks into a slot machine and it dumped out a thousand dollars! After pocketing the money, and walking away, he thought he'd try one more time. Guess what? Three hundred bucks came down the chute! He celebrated by having a beverage at the bar and who was he standing next to? A.J. Foyt. Go figure. This was his day. Chuck is a giant Foyt fan. They talked for some time and Chuck said A.J. was very gracious. Then, Chuck was seated on his flight home, in first class! The plane was delayed in leaving the terminal because of a late boarder. Chuck noticed the only empty seat in first class was next to him. Who could they be holding the plane for? Suddenly, the first class section became very quiet as the late boarder entered the plane and sat down next to Chuck. No, it wasn't A.J. It was a different champion from another sport. He was none other than Muhammad Ali. Chuck said he looked for the hidden cameras to see if he was being filmed for a Twilight Zone episode!! They chatted back to Chicago and Chuck still says today how unbelievable the whole story seems.
So now, Chuck has an incredible collection that is first class! He has had many neighbors and friends and members of the racing community over to see his "hobby". He was offered five thousand dollars for it once and turned that down. Everyone has a price they say, but something tells me Chuck's going to hold on to his prize because he's worked for it for so long. A true labor of love!
Some of Chuck's favorite patches are the" LA to NY Great American Race", the" Nashville Speedway" guitar patch, the" Long Beach Grand Prix", and also the oldest one he has now," Shaheen Promotions" from 1939. (pictured at right)
There are some larger patches that were taken off of the backs of jackets. He especially gets a kick out of the soiled ones he's gotten from racing people who probably had a patch on their hat or uniform they had worn. He says the oily dirt on the patch adds ambience!! He hasn't tried to clean any of them for fear of the patch disintegrating. As of this writing, Chuck has over 900 and is for certain to go well over a thousand.
If you have any patches or decals that you think Chuck would be interested in purchasing, he would be happy to hear from you. You can reach him at 219-322-4867 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This collection speaks eloquently to the legacy and diversity of the auto racing world, and who is better than Chuck Alm as the definitive proprietor of this legacy!