I'm counting down the days until the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.
I'm not a race fan in the fanatic sense. I've only been to the Indy 500 a handful of times. My memories center around listening to the race on the radio in the backyard while filling out the leading laps grid from the Indianapolis Star.
I do love Indianapolis, tradition, and most of all a theme! Each day I will share a memory or tidbit of history.
Betty Rutherford helped end the taboo of women in the pit area. She was there for Johnny's first Indy 500 win in 1974 and was a fixture at side for his whole racing career, working as the team timer and other activities in the pits.
They met during Johnny's rookie year in 1963. Betty Hoyer was in her third year as a volunteer with the track nurse corps. She caught the racing bug after attending her Indy 500 as a nursing student in 1960.
Betty and a few classmates found standing space near the third turn fence. At that time private individuals would build bootleg viewing stations. Some of the structures were 30 feet tall made of scaffolding and anchored with vehicles and such.
During the parade lap the 125 people on a platform on Turn Three started leaning towards the track and waving, causing the platform to sway. The people on the platform either jumped or fell to the ground and more people were crushed underneath. Two people were killed and another 80 were injured - 20 seriously.
Betty and her fellow nursing students were the first medical people on the scene and they jumped in to triage the injured and administer first aid, putting into action the disaster drills they'd practiced.
Betty graduated two weeks later and started working as a surgical nurse at Methodist, and started volunteering at IMS that next May. She was standing at the fence when Johnny walked by on his way to his rookie test and they waved at each other.
After he finished his run, he walked by the nurse's station on Gasoline Alley, saw Betty and flirted, asking her to dinner. She said yes, but her friend would be coming with them. Dinner was a success - they were engaged that June 2, and married five weeks later and they're still going strong!
What a grand Indy 500 romance!