Carl Simpson Climbing the

 Flagpole at 77 Speedway

Gary Virden photo from the

Bobby Jack Walker collection

The Steeplejack and the Flagpole


          Race car owner Joe Collins noticed that the flagpole in the infield of the 77 Speedway south of Arkansas City, Kansas was rusted through just above the ground, the metal completely eaten away almost all the way around the pole.  Hoping that no one else had noticed the rust, Collins thought he would have some fun.  During an intermission in the racing program, Collins announced that he would pay $5 to the man who could climb that flagpole all the way to the top.

          Driver Carl Simpson accepted Collins’ challenge and successfully climbed the pole.  When Simpson returned to the ground, Collins gave him the money and then pointed to the base of the rusty flagpole and told Carl he was a lucky man.  Simpson though, was an experienced steeplejack who made his living climbing such things.  Simpson told Collins that he had seen the rust but also noticed that there was just enough good metal in one particular spot to support his weight.  All he had to do was stay on that side of the flagpole and climb right above that bit of good metal.

          You can see the whole flagpole in the photo below.

          Driving racecars ran in Simpson’s family with two of his nephews being Rick and Roger Mears.


The #6 Ford sedan was driven by Max Naden of Arkansas City, Kansas and the #89 was a 1934 Ford sedan owned by Rocky Rockhold and driven by Dick Walker both of Arkansas City, Kansas.  Note the flagpole on the infield at right in this photograph taken in 1955- Gary Virden photo from the Larry Brooks Collection