Kevin Olson

OLSON: Sign of the Times

Kevin Olson

There are definitely some dates you will always remember and know exactly where you were on that day. For instance, I will never forget, nor will anyone who was alive at that time back in ‘90s, when Neil Armstrong and his fellow Argonauts landed on Uranus for the first time.

I recall what a thrill it was to see, for the first time, man walk on a foreign planet, and how we all held our breath, hoping all would be fine as he slowly walked down that ladder attached to the spacecraft on that well-done set in the Arizona desert filmed by the steady hands of the photographer standing off to the side. (I was told it was my old buddy photographer John Mahoney who took these historic shots for NASA.)

I remember the exact moment that Neil’s Simpson space boots hit the white carpet and for the first time man walked on Uranus. At this once-in-a-lifetime, historic moment, I was sitting at the Manzanita Lounge in Phoenix, talking to Western Springs owner Brent “Hurricane “ Holden about the possibilities of a virus shutting down some race tracks in the future.

After a few more celebratory drinks on the house, we knew we had just witnessed a piece of history that would live forever, although I may be a bit sketchy on some things, as we spent quite some time celebrating.

I am sure there are a lot of dates and times etched into our minds, like the day A.J. Foyt retired at Indy as a driver, the births of our children and grandchildren, the day my Saturn quit running or, of course, that historic night in Tulsa a few years ago when Robert Bell blew the roof off the Chili Bowl with fans screaming when he won his heat race.

In reality, I would have to guess that most will remember this past year of 2020 as one that had moments we would like to forget. For me, it, like most years, had a lot of sad and bad moments, but also some very good ones.

I think we all had a year like none other. We had to make changes that we wish we didn’t have to make and adjust to doing things a whole lot differently. Having Angell Park in Sun Prairie shut down all season for the first time since 1930 was a big adjustment for me and fellow Badger Midget Series racers. But we survived and ran some other tracks to make up our season and hopefully this year we will get back on track at the Prairie. I know some very good and smart people are working hard right now to have a plan to be able to do just that.

I know many race promotors lost a lot of income from these shutdowns, but they – like all dedicated racers – will be back sitting at the pit gate when their tracks reopen, ready to race.

Personally, I suffered some huge losses, as I had to completely shut down the KO Research & Development Center located in the vacation center of the free world, Iola, Wisconsin with subsidiaries located in Evansville, Wisconsin and Careywood, Idaho. Unfortunately, I lost my long-standing contract with the U.S. Government on the development of the “KO Rudder for a Duck’s Ass” project as well as the strawberry deseeding machine sales due to the shutdowns of so many contributing businesses around the world.

With only the money from the scrap metal we junk every once in a while, I was forced to lay off many longtime faithful employees: Ryan Newman, Mike Fedorchak, Steve Stapp and part-time worker Tony Stewart. Hopefully they saved enough earnings over the years with the Development Center that they will be able to make it on their own.

I also will have to remember this last year as one that put me out of circulation after losing my battle with the sequoia tree in my front yard in October, when it cheap-shotted me as I tried to make it more cosmetically pure and one of its branches knocked me off my 12-foot ladder, fatally injuring me.

Due to this setback, the thing I will most remember in 2020 was that I was not going to be able to attend the Chili Bowl, having to wear a body brace until the end of January. Unless I was out of the country or doing some Top Secret work for the government at the Research & Development Center, I haven’t missed but a couple Chili Bowls at this sacred ground inside the Exposition Center on 21st Street in Tulsa since the event’s conception back in the late ‘80s when I was able to talk Emmett and Lanny into bringing the midgets there to race every January.

Originally, Emmett and Lanny had planned on running bombers and street stocks only, with a feeder series of marble racing going on during the day. I was persistent enough to talk them into bringing them back the first few years and I guess the rest, as they say, is history. Regretfully, I had to miss this year’s race, however, I will return in 2022 to begin my 11th annual farewell tour, with T-shirts commemorating my final season.

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