Although I had relocated to Garden Grove
while still in elementary school, it wasn't until sometime later
that I truly appreciated its geographic value. While in high
school, along with my fellow junior-hot rodders, I realized we
were just a 30, or so, minute drive trom Lions Drag Strip in
Long Beach. We were also less than an using back roads) from
the L.A County Fairgrounds in Pomona where drag races were held
on various Sunday afternoons. An added bonus was that the fairground's
drag strip was also the location of the National Hot Rod Association's
began doing photography while on the staff of the student newspaper
One day the instructor handed me a camera and said, "go
out and shoot some pictures so the girls can get some work done
instead of talking with you." After graduating high school
I began taking photographs of the drag races, since that combined
two of my interests at the time. Fortunately, I displayed some
level of talent and I was able to get hooked up with the right
people to obtain the necessary passes to shoot from the starting
line. Another piece of good fortune was that about a mile, or
so, from my parents house was the old downtown section of Garden
Grove. Located in an alley and parking lot behind the town's
old shopping area stood a modest two-car garage. I believe the
garage had a previous life as some type of auto repair or body
shop, but at this particular point in time (the early-to-mid-1960s)
it was affectionately known as "The Cave," a name bestowed
upon it by its cave-master, John "Zookeeper" Mulligan.
was the period when Adams, Wayre, and Mulligan were one of the
premiere top fuel teams and several evenings a week you could
find Mulligan, Gene Adams and various assorted drag racers at
The Cave bench racing and twisting wrenches. John Mulligan was
one of the most endearing individuals you could ever meet. He
loved to tell stories about his personal experiences and he could
find humor in almost everything.
Mulligan had moved to Garden Grove while
still in high school. One of his neighbors and classmates after
the move was Frank Fedak and the two shared an immediate interest
in cars and auto racing. As Fedak recalls, John was into circle
track racing at that time, both cars and motorcycles. Frank Fedak
was into drag racing so each introduced the other to their favorite
pastime. From that early age John Mulligan was very clear on
what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to be a racer.
He wasn't sure if it would be circle cars, motorcycles, or drag
racing, but he saw racing as his future.
John's ride at this time was a 1940 Ford
with a full-race flathead engine. In order to pay for upkeep
on the '40 Mulligan would get up early in the morning so he could
drive one of his father's milk delivery routes before attending
his high school classes. One morning John was pretty tired and
he happened to fall asleep behind the wheel of the milk truck.
Sound asleep, Mulligan fell out the open door of the truck while
climbing a freeway overpass pass. As John explained it, there
he was asleep in the street and his father was behind him in
another milk truck honking the horn trying to wake him up. His
father, Sam, was afraid that the driver-less milk truck would
start to roll backward down the overpass and run John over!
this same period of time Frank Fedak had teamed with another
high school friend, Tim Beebe, and together they had built a
steel-bodied Fiat altered in which they installed a blown Cadillac
engine. The Caddy engine was soon replaced by a blown small-block
Chevy, but after a while Tim bought out Franks interest in the
engine and installed it in a 1957 Chevy gasser while Fedak built
a dragster chassis. In 1963 John Mulligan purchased the Fiat
(his first drag strip ride) and Tim Beebe decided to join him.
The team of Beebe and Mulligan campaigned the blown-Chevy powered
Fiat for a couple of seasons running under the sponsorship
and colors of Roy Johnson's J&S Speed Center in nearby Westminster.
At this time there was a dirt track racer named John Melinga
who was making a name for himself. As it turned out his name
was so big that John's friends decided to share it with Mulligan
and started calling him "Melinga" also.
late 1964 John Mulligan had gone to work for local Garden Grove
used car dealer and drag racer, Jack Wayre.
By this time Wayre had teamed with local
barber and fellow drag racer Glen Ward, and the team of Ward
and Wayre assembled two full-bodied top fuel dragsters, one powered
by a blown Chrysler, the other, a shorter wheel-base car, featuring
a blown Chevrolet. At first, Ward drove the Chrysler, while Mulligan
drove the Chevy-car. With the added weight of its full body,
John affectionately called this dragster "The Bismark."
Wayre was not as fond of this nickname as John, so Mulligan was
careful to do this when Jack Wayre was within earshot. Within
a short time Ward and Wayre split up, and Jack Warye then teamed
with Gene Adams on a light-weight, Chrysler-powered top fueler,
driven of course by John Mulligan.
This was the time when drag racing drivers
were affectionately nicknaming themselves after various animals,
birds, reptiles and insects. First there was Tom "Mongoose"
McEwen and Don "Snake" Prudhomme followed by Steve
"Mandrill" Carbone, among others. John Mulligan decided
that the only person, place, or thing that had control over all
the animals was "The Zookeeper," so he became John
"Zookeeper" Mulligan, AKA "John the Zoo,"
or just "Zoo," just as McEwen's close friends refer
to him as "Goose."
The Adams and Wayre Woody car originally
had a shorty Hanna body painted black, but after some repair work it was taken back
to George Cerny's paint shop and stripes were placed front-to-back
in shades of blue. The paint scheme was simple, but beautiful
and the car was always a standout. Next month we will revisit
the exploits of Adams, Wayre, and John "The Zookeeper"
Mulligan and John's tragic last ride, the Beebe and Mulligan
"Fighting Irish" top fueler.
Reprinted from the Goodguys