April 26, 2014

Motorsports roots stretch back in time

Last week’s article covered Dalton’s early flat track and road racers, but it’s been brought to my attention that I didn’t know about some earlier riders.

It is believed that Guite Reddix opened the first motorcycle repair shop in Dalton in 1954. In 1958, he got the dealership for the BSA brand and operated as Reddix Motorcycle Sales on Ben Hill Road off or Airport Road. Interestingly, it’s almost always been the east/southeast part of Dalton that was the home for most of the dealerships, riders, racers, and tracks.

Guite put on a hill-climb competition right behind his shop that brought in some big crowds and plenty of competitors from Chattanooga and beyond. Guite’s son, Jerry Reddix, age 73 today — not to be confused with “Little” Jerry Reddix, who was also a successful motorcycle and four-wheeler racer — started racing flat track and tourist trophy (a dirt flat track with a jump and both left- and right-hand turns) as a teenager.

The elder Jerry Reddix was good enough to earn a sponsorship from Harley Davidson and won the Tri-State TT Championship races in Athens and Griffin and the Tri-State Short Track Championship in Gadsen, Ala.

He was involved in an unfortunate motorcycle/car collision as a 16-year old that resulted in the loss of his left leg. The left leg is the most important leg for a flat track racer but Jerry was fitted with a prosthetic leg and continued to race in later years, which resulted in a great story.

Reddix was racing at a short track in Cleveland, Tenn., when he got out of control and did a high side crash over the handlebars. In the process, his prosthetic leg came loose and was flailing around in unnatural positions. Women and children in the stands were screaming hysterically, thinking that a man had just ruined his leg!

Luckily, he was not seriously hurt in the incident, although it made him consider the consequences of any further injuries and he retired from racing after that.

Ralph Manley and Ray Ridley are two more of the earliest flat track racers in Dalton. Ray was the owner of Ray’s Harley Davidson dealership in Dalton, which opened in the early 1960s. His first shop was at the corner of East Morris Street and Glenwood Avenue, where Helton Tire is now located.

He later moved the shop to North Glenwood Avenue, where Performance Cycle is now located. His son is Eddie Ridley, who now promotes the Southern Off-Road Championship Series of hare scrambles racing in Georgia and Tennessee.

Manley was the brother-in-law of the elder Jerry Reddix. After Ralph retired from racing, he was the head mechanic for Rodney Adam’s race bikes and the Yamaha/Triumph dealership of Dalton Cycle, which was on East Morris Street, west of the intersection with Walnut Avenue.

“Little” Jerry Reddix wasn’t mentioned in the previous article because he came along a few years after Roger Crump, Ed Salley and some of the other early flat trackers, but he was also a very successful short-tracker at the time when Tammy Kirk was starting out — David Redwine was another — and Reddix was probably even better known for racing four-wheelers when that sport became popular in the 1980s and 1990s.

Please keep in mind that these articles have been written mainly to document Dalton’s earliest motorcycling history, and due to limited space it’s impossible to list the accomplishments and name all of the participants. For that reason, there hasn’t been much written about the 1980s and later.

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