More History of the Old Kentucky Home Tour
by Jim Tretter
My first involvement was in 1985, when I agreed to sell T-shirts. T-shirts were first sold in 1984 when Gil Morris (of Highland Cycles) took the brochure logo and had Randy Oates (Oates Flag) print up 100 orange shirts, they quickly sold out. (Pat Goodman still wears her 1984 shirt every now and then.) Jerseys were first introduced in 1992 (the white one).
In 1986, Stewart and Deborah Prather indicated they were ready to turn the ride over to someone else. Aloyce Black (then president of the Louisville Wheelmen) and I discussed the transition with them and I became director. I was the ride’s director through 1992. Norm Minnick took over in 1993 when I ran for President of the club.
The ride was pretty simple the first 10 years, there was no money to spend. As the ride became more financially successful, we were able to provide more... port-o-lets in 1990 (in response to complaints from the women... can’t say I really blame them since we told them to just run into the wood like the men do). Prior to 1989, we did this ride without liability insurance. I notified Kenny Yates (then-president) in 1990 that if he didn’t get insurance, there wouldn’t be a ride. Kenny got the insurance, the OKHT ride paid for the insurance for the whole club that year and the Executive Committee raised the dues $2.00 to cover furture insurance costs.
The ride generally makes money every year and the club has acquired tables, water jugs, tents, etc. with the proceeds. Additionally since 1990, over $5000 has been given to the Club from the ride to pay for other club activities.
Some of the changes and highlight during my 1986-1992 turn at the helm:
- The registration process was improved and computerized.
- About 1990, we considered changing the venue of the ride. Rather than going from Louisville to Bardstown, spending the night, then returning to Louisville the next day, we toyed with the idea of running the ride out of Nelson County High School undefined similar to the way the Hilly Hundred is run. This would simplify the administration and eliminate the need to move twice. We seeked feedback from club members, most folks didn’t care how the ride was run, but those who opposed this proposed change were very vocal. We decided to retain the format but added the shuttle bus the following year so people wouldn’t have to ride their bikes in the dark back to the hotels at 9:30 after the slideshow.
- The committee decided to spend significantly more of the budget on SAG stops about 1988. Budget grew from about $500 to $2000. That was when Brenda Palmer joined the group.
- When Deborah and Stewart had the ride, they’d have all the volunteer workers over for a pasta dinner which they prepared. I never did this but opted for the Pizza Party. This always served me well since not only did it thank the workers, it provided a means to close out all the billing and I always like to collect the feedback (goods, improvements) from the workers.
- We tried several forms of entertainment at the high school in the afternoons but this never seemed to be popular. We’ve had bands, acrobats, jugglers, etc. but it never went anywhere.
Some interesting incidents:
- in 1986, the Louisville Wheelmen hosted the Kodak Liberty Ride Festival in Louisville, sponsored by Kodak. It was a big flop, they planned for 6000 riders, we had about 100 since there was no advertising. Kodak gave us a lot of the supplies for that ride. We had 400 flags on four-foot sticks to get rid of. We gave these away as door prizes in 1987. Almost everyone left with a flag.
- I’ll never forget the year the 10-year old red-headed kid got lost. His dad came in the school early on Saturday afternoon and proclaimed, “my kid’s lost somewhere Kentucky and you’d better find him.” We called the state police and everything. On Saturday morning, the kid rode ahead of his dad and when he got to Bloomfield by himself, where the Saturday and Sunday routes cross, he picked up the Sunday markings (which is why we now code the “K” as yellow on one day and white on the other).
- Fortunately, Chick Lanham, who was a regular, experienced member of the club, decided to do the 60-mile route down, then return to Louisville by the 50-mile route Saturday afternoon. As Chick approached the Country Pantry store late Saturday afternoon, he saw this red-headed kid on the side of the road crying. Fortunately, they both had on ride t-shirts, so they recognized each other as belonging to the ride. Chick stopped, realized the kid was lost and phoned the school. By the time we drove back to the Country Pantry, Chick had fed the kid $20 in candy and soft drinks.
- Chris Cakes pancake was added about 1992 or so. The second year, he indicated he’d only come back if we could guarantee him 500 breakfasts. That’s when we increased the registration fee $4 and gave breakfast to everyone. The big story was the year Chris Cakes called at 4:00 am to say he couldn’t be there, I think it was 1994 when Norm Minnick was ride director. Rosie Turner woke up her breakfast team, called and opened the Bardstown Kroger’s, told Norm to bring the checkbook, then just barked out orders like a drill sargeant. All 600 riders got breakfast at 7:00 am undefined not hotcakes but cereal, fruit, breads, pastries, etc.
- When Mike Schneider was active in the club and the ride, he used to take all the photos and develop them in the school darkroom for the slideshow that evening. About 1988, Mike lost interest and I asked Dave Runge if he could do this. I’m not sure what happened, but the morning of the ride, Dave rode in about 9:00 am with his family and I asked him why no one was taking pictures. He informed me he decided to cancel the slideshow and the development wouldn’t work. Needless to say I was furious. For the slide show that year, we showed the slides from the previous year. Everyone knew the slides didn’t look right, but no one said a word. The following year, we worked out the arrangement we now have with Edwards Photo. (Note... this is the “Jim Tretter version” of this story, I’m sure the “Dave Runge version” will be different.)
- One year about 1990, for whatever reason, I didn’t ride the ride. I ran around tending to all the details and just worried about everything. I drove the committee nuts. I recall Tommy Keenan telling me, in a laid-back way only Tommy can do, to “chill out.” At the post-ride pizza meeting, the committee overruled the director (me) and made a rule that in the future the director had to ride the ride to keep him calmed down. I guess they don’t have that same problem with Brenda, who always seems to be in control.
- Crashes and accidents are every director’s worst nightmares. It’s what I always worried about the most because you can’t prepare or take precautions. (This is why we bought those Burma Shave safety signs about 1992). There have been some real memorable crashes... two come to mind. Bill Forman was a runner, worked with me at GE and had just qualified for the Boston Marathon in 1992. At the time, he was a novice rider and I convinced him to do OKHT. He crashed, broke three ribs and a collarbone. He missed Boston that year.
- Probably the biggest crash was Bill Burchill’s and Cathy Kupper’s in 1992 on a tandem. They were coming down the hill on KY 458 toward the Chaplin River at about 35 mph when they hit a rock spewed into their path by another rider. Cathy told me she just laid there after the crash, knowing she was hurt bad. Fortunately, John Larson and Victor Shpillberg, both physicians, were there right away to tend to their needs and provide them some comfort. Bill and Cathy made it to the high school that night after spending all afternoon at the hospital following their ambulance ride. I still have a picture of them all bandaged up with me in front of the school.