“The Flying Dutchman”

 

William Kunrod “Billy” Adolph

1889 - 1966

 

 

ABOVE:  Vicky and W. K. “Billy” Adolph

BELOW:  Vicky Adolph at the W. K. Adolph & Codona Company, the family auto repair shop in Walteria, California where celebrities were catered to when their luxury automobiles were in need of repair in the late 1930s

Photos from the Sallie Jones collection

 

 

Billy Adolph

El Paso Times newspaper

El Paso, Texas

September 7, 1913 – page 27

 

Billy Adolph was born June 29, 1889 in Wyandotte, Michigan, a son of German immigrants Carl and Margaret Adolph von Stuben.  Their surname was later shortened to just Adolph.  Growing up, his family was constantly on the move and Billy only attended formal schooling through the second grade.

He opened his own automobile agency to sell Clark 30 Touring cars in Des Moines, Iowa in the spring of 1910.  Later that same year, he went to work as a salesman for the Strong Motor Company in Des Moines.  It was while working there that he became friends with a customer named Peter C. McMartin (1889-1924) who was from a prominent Des Moines family and who purchased 14 new automobiles from Billy.  When McMartin learned that Adolph wanted to go to New York City to search for a job there, McMartin offered to take him there and take care of him until he could find a position there.  McMartin wrote a check to Adolph’s employer, C. S. Strong, for $1,800 cash so they would have money for their travel expenses and they left for New York.  As it turned out, the check bounced leading to McMartin and Adolph being arrested in New York City for fraud.  The charges were eventually dropped when McMartin’s family stepped in and covered the debts that had been incurred, but not before the pair had spent a few days in a New York City jail.

Adolph had moved to El Paso, Texas by the spring of 1912, took up residence at the Angelus hotel and opened a Studebaker agency.  He also began entering an underslung Regal 30 automobile in races in the southwest.  He moved to Globe, Arizona in 1913 and founded the “W.K. Adolph Auto Stage” which was an auto livery business that made daily runs between Phoenix and Globe, Arizona via Roosevelt, Arizona.  A one-way ticket cost $15 while a round trip ticket went for $25.  Later that same year, Adoloph and a partner, M. J. Roseboro, opened a Studebaker agency in El Paso, Texas.

In 1914, Adolph became the territorial sales manager for the Metz “22” automobile for the states of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.  He also became an agent for the Patterson automobile in El Paso that year.

Adolph worked for a time as a mechanic for the Barnum & Bailey Circus and it was while working there that he met his future wife.  He was married in El Paso, Texas in 1914 to Victoria C. “Vicky” Codona of El Paso and they had two sons: Dr. William Edward “Billy” Adolph (1916-1995) and Alfredo Victor “Al” Adolph (1926-1975).  Vicky Adolph (1891-1983) was born in Vera Cruz, Mexico, and was one of 14 children and a member of the fourth generation of the high-wire and trapeze performing Codona family.  She had worked in the family’s circus act ever since performing with her mother in 1897.  She was recruited from a Mexican circus in 1909 by the Barnum & Bailey Circus where she performed until 1918.  Her specialty was that of a slack-wire dancer and she continued to work the high-wire with the Sells-Floto Circus while Billy Adolph served with the military during World War I.  She retired from circus life at the end of 1920 to become a fulltime housewife.

On Monday, March 15, 1915, the El Paso (Texas) Herald newspaper decided to track the path of a single dollar bill just to see where it would wind up after six days.  The editor of the Herald spent the dollar for hosiery in the “Popular Dry Goods Store” in El Paso that Monday morning.  That same morning, the proprietor of the “Success Café” in El Paso received the dollar in payment for lunch.  The proprietor gave the dollar to Billy Adolph for a ticket good for a ride in a taxi that Billy owned.  Thus, Adolph become the fifth person to have the dollar after the editor of the Herald had spent it.  Adolph spent the dollar for insurance from D. G. Heineman in El Paso.  At the end of the sixth day, the dollar bill belonged to the Globe Mills Company having been received by them on account.  The dollar bill was still in El Paso and had passed through the hands of 117 people, or businesses, in those six days, including being taken back in twice in business transacted by the El Paso Herald.

In June of 1915, Adolph made a sales trip to Torreon, Mexico only to return home violently ill “with a fever and intestinal trouble as a result of the poor water and unwholesome food.”  Not wanting to go through that again, he left the Buquor Motor Company and assumed operation of the Reo Service Center in El Paso.  In October of that year, he went to work for the El Paso Auto Sales Company selling and servicing Mitchell automobiles.

During the U. S. Army’s ”Punitive Expedition into Mexico” in 1916 and 1917, Adolph served in the Quartermaster Corps of the U.S. Army where he was a civilian foreman in the government motor truck repair shops at Columbus, New Mexico as well as in the same capacity in the motor truck shop on Fort Bliss, Texas.

In 1920, Billy Adolph took a job with the Canton Auto Parts Company and relocated his family to Salina, Kansas.  Shortly after his arrival, he was hospitalized for an emergency appendectomy.  The following year, he opened a general auto repair shop on north seventh street in Salina and an article on the February 19, 1921 issue of the “Salina Evening Journal” reported that the walls of his repair shop were covered with “papers issued in several cities” telling about many of the auto races that Adolph had participated in over the years.

The following is an incomplete list of automobile races that Billy Adolph is known to have participated in:

 

August 23, 1910 – 8½ mile road course – Elgin Auto Course at Elgin, Illinois

Car:  Apperson Jack Rabbit

Finish:  Adolph claimed that he was among the 19 entries in this 1-lap race but his name does not appear among the 1st four finishers in the only results of these races that have been located to date.

Feature race winner:  Harry F. Grant of Cambridge, Massachusetts in an Alco

 

October 23, 1912 – 1 mile dirt oval – Washington Park at El Paso, Texas

            Car:  Adolph’s own Studebaker 20

Finish:  Easily won the 3-car, 10-mile feature race to wind up the afternoon’s activities.  L. Raymond finished 2nd in this race in an American Underslung.

Feature race winner:  William K. “Billy” Adolph of El Paso, Texas in his own Studebaker 20

 

April 20, 1913 – 1⅛ mile dirt oval – Juarez Speedway in Juarez, Mexico

            Car:  Adolph’s own Studebaker 30 that he named “Old Betsy”

Finish:  2nd in the 44-lap, 50-mile feature race finishing behind Boyce Cromer in an American Underslung.

Feature race winner:  Boyce Cromer in an American Underslung.

 

May 25, 1913 – 1⅛ mile dirt oval – Juarez Speedway in Juarez, Mexico

Car:  Adolph’s own Studebaker 30 that he named “Old Betsy”

              Attendance:  6,335

Finish:  Cameraman Homer Scott filmed this entire program with a motion picture camera, taking several reels of film in the process.  [Note:  Wouldn’t be wonderful if that film could be located?]

  Adolph drove each of the races this day without any mechanican riding with him.

  Won the 2nd 5-lap heat race in 6:37.0.  Horace Stevens finished 2nd in this race in a Hupmobile, 15.0 seconds behind Adolph.

              Won the 4-car Australian Pursuit, finishing in front of Johnnie Hutchins of El Paso, Texas in a Packard 30 owned by Lew Gasser of El Paso, Texas.

 2nd in the 6-car, 44-lap, 50-mile feature race finishing 1-lap behind Johnnie Hutchins of El Paso, Texas in a Packard 30 owned by Lew Gasser.  Nick Depeder of El Paso, Texas filed a protest against Adolph after this race, for cutting the corners too close to his Hupmobile but his protest was disallowed.

Feature race winner:  Johnnie Hutchins of El Paso, Texas in a Packard 30 owned by Lew Gasser of El Paso, Texas.

 

September 1, 1913 – ½ mile dirt oval – Traction Park at Albuquerque, New Mexico

Car:  Adolph’s own Studebaker 30 that he named “Old Betsy”

              Finish:  Results of these races have yet to be located.

 

November 5, 1913 – 517-mile road race known as the Borderland Race from El Paso, Texas to Phoenix, Arizona – Sanctioned by the American Automobile Association (A.A.A)

Car:  Chalmers 40 #9 owned by William J. “Billy” Rand of El Paso, Texas.  Some reports say that Billy Rand’s son, Clarence Rand, rode with Adolph in this race while others say the mechanican was Ben Rogers.  The Chalmers had a sign on the gas tank that read, “Old Texas”.

              Total Purse:  $6,400 for the round trip.  The winner received $3,500 with lesser amounts paid down through sixth place which received $500.

The Odds:  Adolph was the favorite to win this race among bookies but, due to his reckless driving style, the odds given that he would win were even with the odds that he would be fatally injured in the event.

Finish:  Started 9th in the field of 19 cars but suffered two broken ribs and some internal injuries when the Chalmers hit a sand wash, careened into a ditch and summersaulting at least twice before landing upside down on top of Adolph, 8 miles (one report says 10 miles} east of Lordsburg, New Mexico.  The mechanican was thrown clear and was not injured but the car suffered extensive damage.  Three competing cars passed by Adolph’s accident before Oliver Creech finally saw that the driver of the Chalmers was in trouble.  Creech and his mechanican, Roland Norris, pulled Adolph from underneath his overturned car and took him to Lordsburg for treatment of his injuries, thus, sacrificing any chance they had of winning the race.  For their unselfish actions, Creech and Norris were each awarded a gold Good Samaritan humanity medal at a luncheon at the Hotel Adams in Phoenix, Arizona by the Arizona State Attorney General, George Purdy Ballard, on January 2, 1914 on behalf of the American Automobile Association and the El Paso Automobile Club.  The precedent was set and future cross-country races to this day, require participants to stop and render aid to their competitors who might be in dire need of it.

Feature race winner:  Jed J. Newkirk from Illinois who was driving a 1907 Simplex #8 owned by Donald B. Gillies of Chihuahua, Mexico.

 

August 16, 1914 – 1⅛ mile dirt oval – Juarez Speedway in Juarez, Mexico

            Car:  Adolph’s own Fiat “90”

Finish:  2nd in a match race behind Johnnie Hutchins of Alamogordo, New Mexico in a Fiat “90”.

                  Dropped out of the 50-mile feature race after the 30th lap with engine trouble

Feature race winner:  Frank A. Hartwell in a Buick #9 owned by Jack Smith of Phoenix, Arizona.

 

September 7, 1914 – 1⅛ mile dirt oval – Juarez Speedway in Juarez, Mexico

            Car:  Adolph’s own Fiat “90”

Finish:  2nd in a 5-lap match race behind “Frenchy” in a yellow Palmer-Singer.  [Note: “Frenchy” was the only name given in the various newspaper accounts of this race.]                 

Won the 4-car, 14-lap feature race in 15:29.8, finishing in front of 2nd place Lew Gasser of El Paso, Texas in a Mercer.

Feature race winner:  William K. “Billy” Adolph of El Paso, Texas in his Fiat “90”.

 

November 9, 1914 – 533-mile road race known as the Borderland Race from El Paso, Texas to Phoenix, Arizona – Sanctioned by the American Automobile Association (A.A.A)

Car:  Adolph entered this race at the last minute, after assuring his wife that he would not do so.  He then signed to drive the only car that was still available at that late hour. That was the Fiat #8 owned by F. Ballard of Los Angeles, California with mechanican J. Benetto.

Finish:  Adolph was given an ovation when he left the starting line for deciding to participate in this race after all, but he experienced engine trouble for most of this race and only had the 11th best running time over all when he finally dropped out of the 28-car race due to engine failure about 15 miles from Vail, Arizona, near the Empire Ranch, in Pima County, Arizona.

Feature race winner:  Hugh B. Miller of Phoenix, Arizona in his own Pope-Hartford

 

           Adolph agreed to excepted a sales position with the Buquor Motor Company in El Paso, Texas in April of 1915 that required him to thereafter represent Maxwell cars as long as the company made a powerful, factory-built Maxwell racing car available for him to drive, should the annual Phoenix – El Paso road race become a certainty.

 

July 4, 1915 – 1 mile dirt oval – Washington Park at El Paso, Texas

Car:  Adolph entered “a new speed car”.

Finish:  4th in the 25-mile feature race behind Walter S. Smith of El Paso in a Buick “Four”, Andrew Ott of El Paso in a Stutz Bearcat and J. D. McPike of El Paso in a Ford.  At least seven cars started in this race and the newspaper reported that all but the winning car “experienced much trouble.”

Feature race winner:  Walter S. Smith of El Paso, Texas in a Buick “Four”

 

Late in 1917, Adolph built a new underslung Studebaker racing car in El Paso, Texas but it has yet to be learned if he ever raced that car, or whatever became of it.

 

July 26, 1919 – ½ mile dirt oval Brandon Exhibition Grounds at Brandon, Manitoba, Canada – Sanctioned by the International Motor Contest Association (I.M.C.A.)

Car:  Nothing is currently known about this car but it was probably owned by J. Alex Sloan of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Finish:  4th in the 2nd heat race behind Dave Koetzla of Detroit, Michigan, Bill Endicott of Kansas City, Missouri and Jules Ellingboe of Crookston, Minnesota in a Briscoe owned by J. Alex Sloan of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

  DNF the 14-lap feature race.

Feature race winner:  Jules Ellingboe of Crookston, Minnesota in a Briscoe owned by J. Alex Sloan of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 

August 1, 1919 – afternoon racing program – ½ mile dirt oval Regina Exhibition Grounds at Regina. Saskatchewan, Canada – Sanctioned by the International Motor Contest Association (I.M.C.A.)

Car:  Nothing is currently known about this car but it was probably owned by J. Alex Sloan of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Finish:  4th in the 4-lap heat race for light cars behind Irwin “Putty” Hoffman of Racine, Wisconsin; Spencer Willard and Jules Ellingboe of Crookston, Minnesota in a Briscoe owned by J. Alex Sloan of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

  4th in the 6-lap heat race for medium cars behind Dave Koetzla of Detroit, Michigan, Bill Endicott of Kansas City, Missouri and Jules Ellingboe of Crookston, Minnesota in a Briscoe owned by J. Alex Sloan of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

             DNF in the 15-lap Western Canadian Sweepstakes race won by Jules Ellingboe of Crookston, Minnesota in a Briscoe owned by J. Alex Sloan of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Feature race winner:  Jules Ellingboe of Crookston, Minnesota in a Briscoe owned by J. Alex Sloan of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 

August 1, 1919 – evening racing program – ½ mile dirt oval Regina Exhibition Grounds at Regina. Saskatchewan, Canada – Sanctioned by the International Motor Contest Association (I.M.C.A.)

Car:  Nothing is currently known about this car but it was probably owned by J. Alex Sloan of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Finish:  4th in the 4-lap heat race for medium cars behind Jules Ellingboe of Crookston, Minnesota in a Briscoe owned by J. Alex Sloan of Minneapolis, Minnesota; Bill Endicott of Kansas City, Missouri and Dave Koetzla of Detroit, Michigan.

             DNF in the 10-lap Western Canadian Sweepstakes race won by Jules Ellingboe of Crookston, Minnesota in a Briscoe owned by J. Alex Sloan of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Feature race winner:  Jules Ellingboe of Crookston, Minnesota in a Briscoe owned by J. Alex Sloan of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 

 

      

“It’s much easier to impress the neighbors than to impress the man who makes the loans at the bank.”

                    William K. “Billy” Adolph

 

August 2, 1919 –  ½ mile dirt oval Regina Exhibition Grounds at Regina. Saskatchewan, Canada – Sanctioned by the International Motor Contest Association (I.M.C.A.)

Car:  Nothing is currently known about this car but it was probably owned by J. Alex Sloan of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Finish:  4th in the 6-lap heat race behind Dave Koetzla of Detroit, Michigan; Bill Endicott of Kansas City, Missouri and Irwin “Putty” Hoffman of Racine, Wisconsin.

  2nd in the 10-lap Australian Pursuit handicap race behind Jules Ellingboe of Crookston, Minnesota in a Briscoe owned by J. Alex Sloan of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

             2nd in the 10-lap Western Canadian Sweepstakes race won by Dave Koetzla of Detroit, Michigan.

Feature race winner:  Dave Koetzla of Detroit, Michigan.

 

August 5, 1919 –  dirt oval Weyburn Fairgrounds at Weyburn. Saskatchewan, Canada – Sanctioned by the International Motor Contest Association (I.M.C.A.)

Car:  Nothing is currently known about this car but it was probably owned by J. Alex Sloan of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Finish:  DNF in the Australian Pursuit handicap race won by Irwin “Putty” Hoffman of Racine, Wisconsin.

Feature race winner:  Bill Endicott of Kansas City, Missouri

 

From page 9 of the July 7, 1922 issue of the Salina (Kansas) Evening Journal where he was quoted after having received a standing ovation from the fans for winning a 10-mile “free-for-all” auto race at Kenwood Park at Salina, Kansas on July 4, 1922

 

 

Billy Adolph served as the official starter for the races run on August 31, 1921 at the 2-mile Dodge City Speedway northeast of Dodge City, Kansas.

 

September 5, 1921 – 1 mile dirt oval – Kenwood Park Speedway at Salina, Kansas

Car:  16-valve Dodge-powered “J.H.L. special” owned by Johnny Lee.  Adolph had originally agreed to be the official starter for these races before the opportunity to drive the “JHL special” came along.

Attendance:  8,000

Finish:  Adolph drove these races “daringly, to the point of recklessly”.

4th fastest lap in time trials behind Leonard Kerbs of Otis, Kansas in a Ford special; Harold Roller of Abilene, Kansas in a Roof Ford special and Harold Peterson in the Lassen Dodge special.

Adolph took the lead on the 5th lap of the 50-mile feature race and led the remainder of the event, winning in 50:21.0.  He drove the last 45-laps at better than a-mile-a-minute and pulled away from the rest of the completion.  In doing so, he received an “immense silver loving cup” from the City of Salina, which went to the winner of that event.  He also received a hearty round of applause from the spectators when the cup was presented to Adolph by race promoter, Johnny Mais.

Feature race winner:  W. K. “Billy” Adolph of Salina, Kansas who was driving the 16-vlave Dodge-powered “J.H.L. special” built and owned by Johnny Lee.

                                                                                                                                             

July 3-4, 1922 – 1 mile dirt oval – Kenwood Park Speedway at Salina, Kansas

            Car:  A 16-valve Dodge powered “Salina special” owned by Johnny Mais, although some newspapers reported that the car belonged to Johnny’s wife, Elfrieda, Mais

Attendance:  4,200

Finish:  3rd fastest time in time trials of 57.2 which was slower than the times run by Johnny Lee and W. W. Brown in a Duesenberg.

                Won the 10-mile “free-for-all” race in 9:32.6.  W. W. Brown finished in 2nd place in a Duesenberg.

 4th in the 50-mile “free-for-all” race behind W. W. Brown of Kansas City, Missouri in a Duesenberg; Harold Roller of Abilene, Kansas in a Dodge special and Leonard Kerbs of Otis, Kansas in a Ford special.   Adolph had stopped in the pits for two laps during the race to repair a faulty magneto.

Feature race winner:  W. W. Brown of Kansas City, Missouri who was driving a Duesenberg owned by George L. Wade of Kansas City, Missouri

 

September 4, 1922 – 1 mile dirt oval – Kenwood Park Speedway at Salina, Kansas

Car:  A 16-valve Dodge special owned by Johnny Mais

Finish:  1st in time trials with a 1-lap time of 56.2.  The 2nd fastest time in time trials was Harold Roller of Abilene, Kansas who drove a Dodge special to a 1-lap time of 58.6.

 1st in the 1st 10-mile “free-for-all” in 10:21.0.  2nd place in that race was Albert “Al” Koepke of Topeka, Kansas who was driving a Dodge special.

1st in the 2nd 10-mile race for small cars in a time of 10:06.0.  2nd place in that race was also Albert “Al” Koepke of Topeka, Kansas who was driving a Dodge special.

1st in the 5-mile “free-for-all” race in 5:02.4.  2nd place in that race was Harold Roller who was driving a Dodge special.

2nd in the 50-mile “free-for-all” race behind Harold Roller of Abilene, Kansas in a Dodge special owned by Johnny Mais Adolph led the 1st 10-miles of this race before being overtaken by Roller.  Adolph stayed close behind Roller and made a charge to take the lead on the final lap but his engine went sour and he had to settle for 2nd place.

Feature race winner:  Harold Roller of Abilene, Kansas in a Dodge special owned by Johnny Mais.

  

September 8, 1922 - ½ mile dirt oval Forest Park in Ottawa, Kansas

Car:  Adolph drove a 16-valve Dodge special owned by Johnny Mais.  [Note:  According to the story about these races published in the Ottawa (Kansas) Herald, Johnny Mais won each of these races however, a story about these races in the Salina (Kansas) Daily Union, indicates that the reporter for the Ottawa Herald just saw that the car that won was Mais’ Dodge special and incorrectly assumed that it was Mais driving it.]

Finish:  Fastest time of the 13 cars that took time trials with a 1-lap run of 33 seconds and he ran the 11th mile in the 15-mile “Free-for-All” race unofficially in 1 minute, 3.0 seconds.

                         Led every lap in winning this 11-car, 5-mile “Free-for-All” race in 5 minutes, 51.75 seconds over John Boling of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

                        Led every lap in winning this 6-car, 7-mile “Free-for-All” race in 8 minutes, 8.0 seconds over John Boling of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

                        Led every lap in winning this 5-car, 10-mile “Free-for-All” race in 10 minutes, 32.0 seconds over John Boling of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Won the 7-car, 15-mile “Free-for-All” race in 17 minutes, 16.5 seconds over John Boling of Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Boling lead the 1st 2 laps before Mais passed him for the lead and went on to win the race.  Verne Ellis of Kansas City, Missouri was hospitalized in serious condition after his “Chevrolet plowed through the back-turn fence, jumped a ditch and turned over early in this event.”

            Feature race winner:  W. K. “Billy” Adolph of Salina, Kansas who was driving the 16-vlave Dodge special owned by Johnny Mais

 

September 9, 1922 – ½ mile dirt oval – Chase County Fairgrounds at Cottonwood Falls, Kansas

            Car:  A 16-valve Dodge special owned by Johnny Mais.

Finish:  These races were canceled due to rain.

 

September 28, 1922 – ½mile dirt oval – City Park  (probably at the fairgrounds) in Abilene, Kansas

Finish:  Adolph entered these races but his name does not appear in the published results.

Feature race winner:  Harold Roller of Abilene, Kansas in his own Dodge special.

 

Never ones to be content staying in one place, Billy and Vicky Adolph moved their family to Long Beach, California in 1924.  Sometime before 1930, they were residing in Torrance, California.  In 1934, they were living in Walteria, California and in Inglewood, California in 1935.  In 1936, they were residing back in Torrance.  Shortly after that, Adolph’s brother-in-law, Alfredo Codona (1893-1937), purchased an auto repair garage in Walteria, California for Billy Adolph to help him operate and where they catered to many Hollywood stars including Al Jolson and Harold Lloyd.  Alfredo took his own life in 1937 though, leaving Adolph to run the garage by himself.  In 1939, Adolph purchased a gas station in Walteria, California where he continued to cater to his celebrity clients.  In 1940, the Adolphs were residing on Hawthorne Boulevard in Inglewood, California.  In 1941, the Adolphs were living in Cathedral City, California and are remembered for keeping a small bear as a household pet.  The bear was native to Mexico and resembled an anteater in its appearance.  In 1944, the Adolphs sold their home in Cathedral City to Edgar Bergen and moved to Rancho Park on the west side of Los Angeles.  Early in 1946, the Adolph family relocated to an adobe home they called “Casa La Victoria,” on 3-acres of ground on San Jacinto Drive in Palm Springs, California, which was near the Mirage Air Park where son, Al Adolph, kept his Stearman airplane.

Billy Adolph spent his retirement years of the 1950s and early ‘60s playing tennis at the Palm Springs Tennis Club and yacht racing off of the coasts of California and Mexico.

William K. “Billy” Adolph passed away on March 4, 1966 in Los Angeles, California.  After his death, Vicky moved back to Palm Springs, California.

If you know anything more about Billy Adolph or his involvement in auto racing, please contact the Webmaster at: sprintguy @ cox.net

 

 

 

 

Autograph signed in 1917

Autograph signed in 1942