Throwback: The Drag-Ons of Winona | News

Shirley Beal



It was an offhand remark that I made in a story I was creating about the ’50s.

I referenced a younger girl walking down the streets of Winona with the absence of stoplights of the time and the occasional motor vehicle coming by. A single of the autos remembered was a modern, souped-up cruiser with a modest aluminum “Drag-Ons” indication attached to the reduced rear bumper by chromed, welded backlinks from the regional Peerless Chain Co., pushed by a scrawny kid.

These shiny, “cool” Drag-Ons automobiles of fellow young people were the envy of all. Their vehicles had been powerful, “chopped” and trimmed — and elegantly actual with paint and trim. We were being thrilled just to be up near to a single.

I made the decision to dig a little further to find that the Drag-Ons was a Winona team of 10 boys banded collectively in 1954 into a automobile club. They centered on old deuce coupes and extravagant two-doorways of the 1930s and ’40s — to be reduced and chopped and boosted with loads of power by their teenage homeowners/motorists/engineers. 

Some of the primary club users had been President Don Wanek (’49 and more recent Ford), Gary Schmidt (’49 Ford), Don Angst (’50 Olds), Dick Sulack (’54 Ford), Victor Gottschalk, Terry Schultz (’30 Model A Ford), Bruce Eckert (’53 Lincoln), Henry Walch and Dale Eckert (’32 Ford). They have been silent, studious high college and higher education learners on their way to engineering and instructing degrees.

Club President Fred “Butch” Prudoehl presented to the “Casual Observer” of the Winona Each day Information in March 1960 that some of the Drag-Ons and their customized-constructed roadsters would be at a community motor vehicle wash fundraiser. Butch’s car, a 1953 Ford with a 1956 Oldsmobile engine roared to lifestyle with a “stick change, 6 carburetors and a decreased system only 1½ inches over the ground.”

Schmidt a short while ago available a remembrance of the vehicles and the club’s beginnings. “Every member created a motivation to security, with member cars and trucks inspected frequently at club meetings by Winona Law enforcement Sgt. Jim McCabe or club officers,” he claimed. Schmidt recalls the great interactions between the club and the law enforcement section, which includes law enforcement help to generate a drag strip in the local community. Mrs. McCabe often attended their conferences.


A potent supporter

Unusually, Vassar-educated and superior-brow earth traveler Gretchen (Leicht) Lamberton, the “Casual Observer” of the Winona Everyday News for several decades, was a sturdy supporter of the team, trying to keep track of their gatherings and routines into the 1960s. 

She was there to fulfill with Angst, Sulack and Schmidt as they explained the new club of 10 15- to 23-calendar year-olds in 1957:

“I reported, ‘Hm, to a single, ‘hotrod’ signifies young children in ‘souped-up’ previous jalopies roaring down East Third Street or zooming around the corner of the Varsity Inn on two wheels.’”

“Indignant, they responded: ‘That’s what a great deal of people today believe. We have got no time for those people squirrels. We are dedicated to rebuilding to ideal mechanically, to streamlining, simplifying and obtaining a good, hand-rubbed paint all the even though working with club advisor Sgt. McCabe of the Winona Police Section.’” 

“We want to set an illustration in protection and targeted traffic observance,” Angst reported. Schmidt included, “No Drag-On has been arrested for any going violation.” 

Just before Xmas in 1957, Gretchen claimed that the club gathered offers and 4 Drag-Ons autos loaded with 900 items were being taken to the “forgotten people” of the Rochester Point out Clinic psychological care establishment. The clinic director reported to her, “These high-quality young lads are to be hugely commended for their noble solutions.”

Some of the 25 members’ automobiles were being featured in the April 1959 countrywide journal Vehicles and Clubs, and their rumbling V-8 engines and hand-waxed chassis were found in the course of the town, often showcased in Tailor made Cars and trucks Reveals at the Armory. They had been waving and smiling in their autos and from their Club Basic safety Device in the Steamboat Times parades of 1955 and 1960, commonly just forward of the Hiawatha Bike Club users. Drag-Ons ended up also off to Waterloo and Des Moines, Iowa, New Brighton, Minn., and Elkhart Lake, Wis., for races and demonstrates. 

On situation, they stopped by Emil’s Root Beer Stand on Sarnia Street or the Varsity Inn at Fourth and Johnson streets for a mug of root beer or a Coke for a nickel. They took their convert at Howie’s “juke box” or pinball equipment at “the Vars” for a different nickel.

For a $5 initiation charge, each club member obtained a Drag-Ons plaque and a provide of “Courtesy Cards” imprinted with the club concept “Courtesy and Protection is Our Purpose.” Playing cards were to be handed out to motorists whom club members aided with flat tires, automobile setting up and the like.

Other golf equipment of the place normally cooperated in joint events: the Lake Metropolis Cam Jammers, the Rochester Cavaliers and the La Crosse RamRods. In 1956 the Drag-Ons sponsored a Driving Contest and Road-E-O with the teenage car or truck team Highway Runners at Prairie Island. A penned test, discussion and demonstration of risk-free driving procedures and law enforcement-administered driving exams had been provided to decide winners.

Gretchen described in 1958 that the Drag-Ons were “holding thriving meetings every single other Wednesday at the Lake Park Lodge.” A most recent activity was “planning a gala Carnival Skate at St. Matthew’s Church Roller Rink ahead of the beginning of Lent.” The community was invited to all meetings.


Relocating on

Gary said the club lasted for a longer period than any in the condition – “into the ’80s.” They ended up succeeded by a host of sporting activities motor vehicle races and exhibits, gymkhanas and rallies, usually less than the sponsorship of Twin Towns traditional motor vehicle and sporting activities car clubs. 

Gary joined the Military. Many others were off to school. Sgt. Don stayed with the Nationwide Guard and his automotive restore business. Butch began Fred’s Entire body Store and moved on to a inventory car racing occupation at Tri-Oval, River Raceways, Eau Claire and other place venues. He raced in the Late Product Aspect group with occasional wins and tons of sweat and grime to extend his really like for autos. He remarked in 1971 after a race right before 3,500 lovers “Darn! For just a minute there I believed it was going to be a far better weekend than expected” – but then the motor froze up and he was out $400.

Fred took up bowling and sponsored the Fred’s Automobile Body team, with recurrent doubles lover and fellow Drag-On member Skip Ellings. Fred’s bowling profession was as distinguished as his racing profession. He stayed in the auto system area, with his business enterprise working however today in east Winona. 

After Gary’s Army hitch in 1960 at Fort Knox, Ky., he returned to Winona and a Winona Condition School schooling – “Class of 1971 – graduate at age 31.” Angst went off to the new IBM at Rochester, Minn., and continued to work in automobile mend for the years to occur, serving clients with his uncovered techniques and his Drag-Ons “courtesy and safety.” 

More than the several years, club members’ ’32 Ford “Little Deuce Coupe,” ’48 Mercury vintage coupe with the raccoon tail on the radio antenna and the chopped and lowered Chrysler were all retired to the tiny garages of the West Close of town, taken out by associates for Sunday rides as they aged jointly. Some of these users get collectively still these days, some 60 several years afterwards, with strong leadership from Skip Ellings. Their 60th birthday cake featured an original Drag-Ons plaque that had been graciously connected to the rear bumper by the chromed and welded Peerless Chain holder. Even now in evidence is the club motto — “Courtesy and Protection is Our Aim.”    

Gretchen had the last say on the club in May 1957 when she lauded the club and users in print with “… if you see a tailored auto with an aluminum indication ‘Drag-Ons’ on the back again, you are going to know it belongs to a extremely liable, legislation-abiding younger motorist.”


Kent Stever, a recurrent contributor to the Winona Write-up and writer of 6 Winona-centered books, drove his dad’s 1936 two-door Chevrolet a bit, moved on to his have 1950 and 1953 Nash two-doors, but didn’t have the energy to “go all-around the corner at the Vars on two wheels” as Gretchen explained. Alternatively, he drove his sedan in a sedate, non-rumbling manner that satisfied police, his foreseeable future mother-in-law and quickly-to-be wife of above 60 yrs.

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