Harold Stanley "Doc" Roller

 

Lincoln County Historical Musum, North Platte, Nebraska

 

 

  

Harold Roller was born on March 27, 1893 at Brookville, Ohio, the youngest child of Gustav Adolph Frederich Roller (1848-1920) and his wife, Sarah Jane (Fox) Roller (1853-1922).  Adolph was a first generation German immigrant to America.  By early 1895, the family had moved to Logan, Kansas and by 1900, the family had moved to Lecompton, Kansas.  Adolph had worked as a harness maker and buggy salesman but he and Sarah separated not long after they arrived at Lecompton.  Adolph went back to Ohio while Sarah moved to Topeka, Kansas with the children and found work there as a seamstress.

Harold Roller and Ethel Pauline (Baker) Knox were married on August 10, 1914 at Savannah, Missouri and were the parents of three children:  Richard Henry Knox (1907-1991) who changed his surname to Roller after Harold and Ethel were married; Gilbert Raymond Roller, (1917-1929); and Ruth Arlene (Roller) Bracewell (1934-2004).

Roller began to participate in area automobile races early in 1917.  About all that is known about his early bobtail racing cars is that they had 4-cylinder Ford engines equipped with 16-valve Roof heads and that they were known to be reliably fast.  The following is an incomplete listing of some of the races that Roller entered:

 

August 23, 1917

˝ mile dirt oval – Central Kansas Fairgrounds Racetrack at Abilene, Kansas

Roller drove his 16-valve Roof Ford special.

Harold Roller and owner / driver Glenn Breed (1880-1960) of Chanute, Kansas in his 1916 Hudson “Super-Six” special #1 were fighting for the lead when “one machine hooked the rear of the other”.  Both cars crashed through a board fence with Breed’s Hudson breaking off an 8-inch pole.  Breed’s gas tank exploded in flames but, miraculously, neither driver was injured.  The veteran Breed was a top driver on the local racetracks at the time so it was unexpected to see him challenged for the victory by a rookie.

 

October 2, 1917

 ˝ mile dirt oval – Cloud County Fairgrounds Racetrack at Concordia, Kansas

Roller drove his 16-valve Roof Ford special.

A $500 purse was posted for these races but no results of these races have been located to date.

 

Harold Roller and his bride had moved to Lincoln Center, Kansas (later known as just Lincoln, Kansas) by the end of the 1917 and found lodging with the family of August O. Bahls (1884-1974).  Harold took a job as an automobile mechanic at the local Ford garage owned by John S. Stover (1870-1942).

It is unknown just who challenged who, or who put up the money, but a rematch (grudge race?) of the race at Abilene, Kansas on August 23rd between Harold Roller and Glenn Breed was arranged complete with a substantial side bet.

 

Topeka Daily Capital

October 17, 1917 – Page 3

 

 

October 20, 1917

˝ mile dirt oval – Lincoln Fairgrounds Racetrack at Lincoln, Kansas

Roller drove his 16-valve Roof Ford special.

Glenn Breed drove his black and white 1916 Hudson “Super-Six” special #1 and collected $1,000 for winning the first two of a best two-out-of-three series of match races over Roller.  Both had been required to post $1,000 in cash with a local bank in case of forfeiture.

 

Early in 1918, Abilene, Kansas Ford agent Charles D. Cruse (1889-1965) traveled to Lincoln, Kansas and made Roller a flattering offer to move to Abilene and work as a mechanic in Cruse’s garage.  Roller accepted the offer and the Rollers were residents of Abilene by June of that year.

 

August 23, 1918

˝ mile dirt oval – North Central Kansas Fairgrounds Racetrack in Belleville, Kansas

Roller drove his 16-valve Roof Ford special.

This race consisted of three 10-lap heat races with the finishing places in each counting toward the overall standings for the day.  A $500 purse was paid out to the overall winner.  Roller, driving a 16-valve Ford special, won all three heat races with his best time of 6 minutes, 9 seconds coming in the first heat.

 

July 4, 1919

˝ mile dirt oval Lincoln County Fairgrounds Racetrack at North Platte, Nebraska

Roller’s name does not appear in the published results of these races.

 

 

Harold Roller and his Ford

Abilene Daily Chronicle

June 20, 1918 – Page 2

 

 

September 1, 1919

˝ mile dirt oval Lincoln County Fairgrounds Racetrack at North Platte, Nebraska

Roller’s name does not appear in the published results of these races.

 

September 3, 1919

1-mile dirt oval – Kenwood Park Speedway at Salina, Kansas

Roller drove a “Double Engine” Ford special.

15,000 people saw Roller win the 26-mile sweepstakes race in 29 minutes, 39.2 seconds.  Note:  The car that Roller drove in this two-day program of races featured two Model T Ford engines welded together end-to-end.  An error in the scoring cause the race to run one mile farther than the scheduled 25-mile distance.

 

September 4, 1919

1-mile dirt oval – Kenwood Park Speedway at Salina, Kansas

Roller drove a “Double Engine” Ford special.

Roller was the overall winner of the two-day contest which paid him $1,000 in prize money for winning the 25-mile long final event on this, the second day.

 

September 27, 1919

˝ mile dirt oval Lincoln County Fairgrounds Racetrack at North Platte, Nebraska

Roller’s name does not appear in the published results of these races.

 

January 16, 1920

Beach oval course "between Pass-a-Grille and the Casino" on St. Petersburg Beach, Florida

Roller drove his 16-valve Roof Ford special.

            A field of thirteen cars was entered.  Roller "got off to a flying start", led the entire distance, and was declared to be the overall winner which was touted as the biggest victory of his racing career.  For the feat, Roller collected $2,500 as his share of the purse.  Little more is known of these races though.  Brief newspapers accounts do say that Harold Roller was able to average 105 m.p.h. for two miles on the beach course.  That same source also states that Roller was able to reach a speed of 115 m.p.h. later that same year on a six-mile straight stretch of that same beach.

 

North Platte Tribune

July 1, 1919 – Page 4

 

 

April 23-24, 1920

˝ mile dirt oval – Garfield County Fairgrounds Racetrack at Enid, Oklahoma

            Roller entered his 16-valve Roof Ford special

No results of these races have been located to date.

 

May 15 – 16, 1920

˝ mile dirt oval – Colcord Track in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Roller drove his 16-valve Roof Ford special.

There was a $2,000 total purse posted for these races but they were canceled due to flooding in the area.

 

June 15, 1920

˝ mile dirt oval – Great Bend Fairgrounds Track at Great Bend, Kansas

Roller drove his 16-valve Roof Ford special.

            No results of these races have been located to date.

 

July 4, 1920

˝ mile dirt oval – Lincoln County Fairgrounds Racetrack at North Platte, Nebraska

Roller finished second to King Rhiley of Oshkosh, Nebraska in the first heat race.  Rhiley went on the win the feature race this day but there is no further mention of Roller in the published race results.

 

September 4, 1920

1-mile dirt oval – Galesburg District Fairgrounds Racetrack at Galesburg, Illinois

 

Hutchinson News

August 19, 1919 – Page 8

 

Roller drove his 16-valve Roof Ford special.

There was $1,900 in total purse posted for these races put on by the Tri-State Racing Association of Keokuk, Iowa.  Roller competed in one of the two 25-mile heat races and in the 50-mile feature race that was won by Cliff Woodbury of Chicago, Illinois but Roller did not win the heat race and did not place in the first four in the feature race.  Where he did finish does not appear in the published results.

 

September 6, 1920

˝ mile dirt oval – Des Moines County Fairgrounds Racetrack at Burlington, Iowa

Roller drove his 16-valve Roof Ford special.

There was a $1,500 total purse posted for these races put on by the Tri-State Racing Association of Keokuk, Iowa.  Roller turned in the second fastest time of 1:09.2 in the one-mile time trials, just .4 seconds behind Cliff Woodbury of Chicago, Illinois.  Roller then won the 10-mile race for Fords in a time of 13:09.4.  Next, Roller started in the 30-lap race for cars that were rated under 30 h.p. but dropped out after 9 laps with broken driveshaft housing.  That race was won by Gus Schrader of Newhall, Iowa.

 

September 10 – 11, 1920

˝ mile dirt oval – Cedar Valley Fairgrounds Racetrack at Cedar Falls, Iowa

Roller was the overall winner of the two-day contest.

 

October 8, 1920

˝ mile dirt ovalKansas State Fairgrounds Racetrack  in Hutchinson, Kansas

Roller drove his 16-valve Roof Ford special.

Roller turned in the fastest time of the day in time trials turning one mile in 1 minute, 6.2 seconds.  For that feat, he received $50 for having the quickest time trial of the day and an additional $100 for breaking the track record for that distance.  He was also given his choice of starting places in each of the races run that day.  He won the 20-lap “Sweepstakes” race for the six fastest qualifiers turning the 10-mile distance in 11 minutes, 56.2 seconds.

 

 

1920 Newspaper ads

 

October 9, 1920

˝ mile dirt ovalKansas State Fairgrounds Racetrack in Hutchinson, Kansas

           Roller drove his 16-valve Roof Ford special.

Roller won the “Free-for-All” 30-lap “Sweepstakes” in 17 minutes, 47.4 seconds to collect $300 from the day’s posted purse.  His only real competition was Johnny Mais of Dodge City, Kansas and then Johnny Lee of Wichita, Kansas who pressed Roller after Mais dropped out with a flat tire.  Roller lapped all of the other competitors twice.

 

November 11, 1920

˝ mile dirt ovalMid-America Fairgrounds Racetrack in Topeka, Kansas

           Roller drove his 16-valve Roof Ford special

Poor weather made for a small crown but Roller turned in the fastest time in time trials.  His time was 1 minute, 6.2 seconds for two laps which was 6.0 seconds quicker than the second fastest time of the day turned in by Leonard Kerbs of Otis, Kansas.

Roller then won the first race which was a five-mile “Free-for-All” event.  His time for that race was 6 minutes, 13.0 seconds.

 

October 7, 1921

˝ mile dirt ovalCity Park Racetrack in Council Grove, Kansas

            Roller drove a Dodge with an experiential flathead aluminum cylinder head of his own construction

Roller turned in the second fastest time of the day in time trials behind John Mais.  Roller then finished second to Mais all three races that they competed in that day: a ten-mile sprint, three-mile race, and another ten-mile event.  In the final race of the day, a Buick driven by E. C. Miller tangled wheels with Roller’s Dodge leading to Miller’s losing control of his mount.  It sailed through a fence throwing its driver out onto a road outside the racetrack.  Miller received numerous injuries and the crash tore both rear wheels from the Buick.

 

October, 1921 (exact date unknown)

˝ mile dirt ovalMid-America Fairgrounds Racetrack in Topeka, Kansas

            Roller drove a Dodge with an experiential flathead aluminum cylinder head of his own construction

                        It is unknown how Roller finished in these races but we do know he had trouble getting the cylinder head to work properly.

 

July 4, 1922

1-mile dirt oval – Kenwood Park Speedway at Salina, Kansas

Roller drove a Dodge in these races that paid a total purse of $2,000

5,000 spectators watched Roller finish in third place among the fifteen entries in the first 10–mile “Free-for-All” race.  W. K. Adolph of Salina, Kansas won that race followed by W. W. Brown of Kansas City, Missouri.

Roller finished second to Johnny Lee of Wichita, Kansas in the second 10-mile race.  Thirteen cars started that event.

Roller finished third in the five-mile race.  That race was won by John Lee who was followed by Albert “Al” Koepka of Topeka, Kansas.

Roller finished second to W. W. Brown in the 50–mile race.

 

September 4, 1922

1-mile dirt oval – Kenwood Park Speedway at Salina, Kansas

Roller drove a Dodge in these races that paid a total purse of $2,000

Almost 4,000 spectators watched Roller run the second fastest time of 20 entries in time trials of 58.6 for two-laps.  Only Billy Adolph of Salina ram the distance in a faster time.

Roller finished third behind Billy Adolph and Albert “Al” Koepka of Topeka, Kansas in a 10-mile race for cars of 230 c.i.d. or under.

Roller finished second behind Billy Adolph in the 5-mile “Free-for-All” race.

Roller won the 50-mile “Free-for-All” race in 53:28.2 over Billy Adolph.  Adolph led the first ten 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 second place.

 

October 13, 1922

˝ mile dirt ovalPhelps County Fairgrounds Racetrack at Holdrege, Nebraska

          Roller drove a Dodge

A crowd of 3,000 braved a “cold, chilly wind” to watch a field of 25 cars.  Roller turned in the best time in time trials with a lap of 34.0 seconds.  The second fastest time was that of “John B. Gerber of Rock Creek, Kansas”.

 

October 14, 1922

˝ mile dirt ovalPhelps County Fairgrounds Racetrack at Holdrege, Nebraska

          Roller drove a Dodge

A crowd of 6,000 watched Roller finish second to Noel Bullock of North Platte, Nebraska.

 

October 28, 1922

˝ mile dirt ovalMid-America Fairgrounds Racetrack in Topeka, Kansas

            Roller drove a Dodge

Seven cars, all from Kansas, were entered in these races.  Roller had the best time for two laps in time trials with 1 minute, 8.2 seconds which was .8 seconds faster that the time turned in by John Gerber of Meriden, Kansas.

Roller won the five mile race for cars with less than 230 cubic inches of engine displacement.  His time for that was 6 minutes, 10.4 seconds and his prize was $50.

Roller also won the ten-mile “Free-for-All” race in 11 minutes, 54.4 seconds to collect another $100 from the purse.

Roller and Albert “Al” Koepke, also in a Dodge, swapped the lead several times during the first ten miles of the 25-mile championship race but Roller dropped out before the event had reached the half-way point.  Late in the race, Koepke was passed by Glenn Royer of Council Grove, Kansas who was driving a Buick.  Royer held on for the victory and received $300 for his effort while Koepke came in second.  Note:  Al Koepke’s wife was a sister to Harold’s wife, Ethel Roller.

 

August 14, 1924

1-mile dirt ovalFranklin County Fairgrounds Racetrack at Franklin, Nebraska

Roller finished second to Walter Higley of Coffeyville, Kansas in the first heat race.  Higley went on the win the feature race this day but there is no further mention of Roller in the published race results.

 

August 24, 1924

˝ mile dirt ovalPhelps County Fairgrounds Racetrack at Holdrege, Nebraska

“A large crowd” saw Roller finish second to Bob Maze of Topeka, Kansas in the fourth heat race.  Noel Bullock of North Platte, Nebraska won the “Grand Sweepstakes” race.  Note:  Roller’s brother-in-law, Albert “Al” Koepke, was seriously injured when his car locked wheels with another and then overturned in one of these races.

 

August 25. 1924

˝ mile dirt ovalBuffalo County Fairgrounds Racetrack at Kearney, Nebraska

Roller finished third in the 10-lap feature race behind Walter Higley and Guy Deulen of Bridgeport, Nebraska.

 

October 18, 1924

˝ mile dirt ovalCity Park Racetrack in Council Grove, Kansas

Roller finished second behind a Chevrolet driven by John Gerber of Meriden, Kansas in each of the four races they competed in.

 

November 6, 1924 

˝ mile dirt oval – North Central Kansas Fairgrounds Racetrack in Belleville, Kansas

Roller won the “Class A” 5-mile “Professional” race in a time of 5 minutes, 45 seconds.  He then finished second to Lou Reynolds of St. Joseph, Missouri in the “Professional” 20-lap final.

 

Belleville Telescope

September 10, 1925 – Page 3

 

 

May 30, 1925

˝ mile dirt oval – Marion Fairgrounds Racetrack at Marion, Iowa

Roller drove his Ford to a second place finish in the third 10-lap heat race behind Bert Ficken of Omaha, Nebraska who was driving a Dodge.  Much of this program, including the feature race, was canceled due to rain.

 

August 5, 1925

˝ mile dirt ovalMeade County Fairgrounds Racetrack at Sturgis, South Dakota

Roller won a consolation race for non-money winners at the annual “Black Hills Auto Classic.”

 

1925 (exact date unknown)

˝ mile dirt ovalRed Willow County Fairgrounds Racetrack at McCook, Nebraska

            Roller drove a Fronty Ford

Roller turned in the third quickest time in time trials of 34.75 seconds behind Guy Deulen and Walter Higley.  He then finished third in the first heat race behind Higley and Deulen.  Roller rounded out the day by finishing second to Higley in the 20-lap feature race.

 

September 16 – 17, 1925

˝ mile dirt oval – Cloud County Fairgrounds Racetrack  at Concordia, Kansas

There was a $1,550 purse posted for these races but no results of these races have been located to date.

 

July 4, 1929

1-mile dirt oval Pompano Beach Speedway  at Pompano Beach, Florida

Roller entered a Laurel special in these races but he is believed to have been retired from racing by 1929 and his name does not appear in the published race results.  The race promoter probably just used his name in publicizing these races.

Joe Johnson of Fort Lauderdale, Florida won the 12-mile feature race.

  

            Sports writers had referred to Harold as "Doc" Roller ever since his beginning in the sport.  He was given the moniker because of a well-known professional wrestler of that time who was also known as "Doc Roller".

            Harold Roller retired from racing in the late 1920s and moved to Tampa, Florida where he founded the Roller Spring & Brake Company.  He passed away on October 5, 1964 and is buried in Myrtle Hill Memorial Park Cemetery in Tampa.  Ethel Roller moved to Tennessee where she passed away in 1976.  She is buried beside him.

 

 

 

Findagrave.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you

Bob Mays and James Taggart