The formula was simple: Merge stolen horses from Monmouth Park and a jockey who might have been a fifth grader at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School – cross your fingers and pray for hay. Throw in a publicist, three disgruntled OTB operators, a salsa dance instructor and two race fixers and you’ve got the makings of a first rate equestrian team. The league producing Cleopatra Whyte, warrior horse woman of Asbury Park legend, who, aboard the chimerical steed, Ethiopian Flicka, rode to a fourth place finish at the 1970 FEI European Show Jumping Championships.
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Paved by Beverly ‘Bev’ Bender and Denise ‘Double D’ DeVito; they led a younger, more introspective generation of archers out of the Ramapo Mountains and into Asbury city. While the ethos was forged in those Northeastern Jersey weather beaten hills, they were tempered and reborn on the streets of Asbury Park as something like a precursor to Katniss Everdeen. Where the bowling and kung fu obsessed Bender and DeVito were aiming is anyone’s guess, perhaps part put on and part hustle. The alliance was sustained by their compensation as freelance sonic alchemists, sneaking into the Howard Johnson Panorama room to utilize as their after-hours laboratory. Past members included 1971 Via Copa Merengue Championship hopefuls Vernetta Bryant and Cass Cooney.
Mix ex-Rolling Stones road manager Jo ‘Joe’ Times, Don King prison chauffeur Wentworth Otha Adams, former Con Funk Shun drummer Louis A. McCall Sr and a one-time steward of a coveted Jet Magazine delivery route. Combined they made for an Asbury Park late 60’s North Side table tennis success story. Coached by Bell Labs engineer EJ Ackerman and fueled with insurance money from a recently overturned Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham, the team participated in high stakes winner-take-all unsanctioned matches in international waters against teams from Cuba and Algeria. Rumanian General Secretary and noted ping pong enthusiast Nicolae Ceausescu was said to have attended in disguise.
Having been rejected from both the Long Branch Speedway and Wall Stadium, this fruity blend of Monte Carlo pool boys, Deal Lake lifeguards, second deck cruise ship karaoke contestants, armchair drag racers and double-dutch runner ups were led by Akron, OH transplant and 1935 Soap Box Derby champion Maurice Bale Jr. With the team assembled at the intersection of Bond and Main Streets in Asbury Park, Bale declared it the gravity racing capital of the nation, even though there was less than a 2% gradient rise. The Bond St. Boxcar Racers were a fusion of its captain’s engineering genius and their limited economic means; utilizing left over balsa from the high school wood shop, stolen rod collars and borrowed steering wheels.
By 1971, Asbury Park, NJ, once a finalist for a Tree City USA distinction by the DEA, had succumbed to despair, laissez-faire and general malaise…putting a weighty lid on a city that once cooked up world changing talent. Enter Lee ‘Fort’ Lee. Already a living legend for his work at the Garden State Parkway’s Exit 102 toll booth; Lee channeled his talents for horse rustling, mountaineering and sailboat rigging into forming and coaching Asbury’s first tug of war club. Aiming to keep the kids off the streets, out of gangs and in the school house via the centuries old sport of tug of war. Lee, along with 1966 TWIF bronze medalist Nutley Jackson, forged a sporting society from which young Asbury men and women corkscrewing downward could ride the tug of war groove onwards and upwards.