Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

May 6, 2013

Racing and quilting

Princeton man relives drag car races with T-shirt quilt

by JAMIE PARSELL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— PRINCETON — By JAMIE PARSELL

Bluefield Daily Telegraph



PRINCETON — Before 78-year-old William Dalton, also known as Junior, started working on drag racing cars, he tinkered with a different type of machine — a sewing machine.

His mom, 95-year-old Ethel Dalton, was a former Maidenform employee and had not one, but five different sewing machines. One day when he was a child, Dalton decided to fix the hole in his sock. He sewed it straight across, making it unwearable, but fixed, he said.

In the late 60s, the Princeton resident, along with his brother and family, formed Dalton Gang Racing and Dalton turned his attention to drag cars, not sewing machines.

“We had a shop on Wickam Avenue and we built race car motors and did other types of mechanical work on cars,” he said. “I started to get into racing then.”

He bought a 1968 yellow Camero, his favorite color and tore the inside out.

“I turned it into a drag car and we raced it until 2001. It was a brand new car when I bought it. When you just run it on the weekend, you run it on the track,” he said. “We didn’t hardly put any miles on it. It was fast.”

Dalton raced up until the late ’90s until an accident at the Buchanan Mine injured his back. He was loading an electric motor when the crane accidentally threw the motor against him and knocked him into the bed of the truck.

“Over a period of time from 1997-2000, I have had four back surgeries, a total knee replacement, both shoulders and an elbow. I had to give up racing. My heart is still running and I go, but I have to watch my son now,” Dalton said.

Racing is still in his blood, and a part of his life. When his wife commented on his collection of race T-shirts, he knew he had to find a way to preserve some of his favorites.

“I had collected 140 T-shirts,” he said.

The Dalton Gang started making T-shirts in ’68 for races and different events. They sold the shirts as well. His favorite shirt has a picture of him and his brother Beetle on the front.

While he would like nothing more than to get in his yellow Camero — now upgraded to a 2000 model — he spends a majority of his day with his mom. An avid quilter, Ethel Dalton has made several quilts. One winter, Dalton began helping her and together they made a quilt. Then a second quilt.

“One day, in one of her quilting books, I saw how to make a T-shirt quilt,” he said.

He went to his collection and picked out his favorite T-shirts; 30 of them made the quilt. Dalton needed help with the project so he took his idea to The Sewing Gallery in Princeton.

Marie Bailey, a volunteer at the shop, said Dalton was pleasant to work with and really enthusiast about the project.

“He would talk to us about racing,” Bailey said.

Bailey and others in the shop showed Dalton how to stabilize the T-shirts for the quilt and then helped him pick out the backing and strips. A few designs and images were created on fabric sheets using a computer and printer.

“We have helped quilt a lot of T-shirts, but never racing shirts,” Bailey added.

The quilt took about three weeks to finish. The Sewing Gallery plans to hang the quilt in their shop for a class and then Dalton will hang the quilt at  Mitchem’s Valley Country Restaurant in Green Valley.

His racing buddies want to see the quilt.

The yellow Camero sits about 50 yards outside Dalton’s home. He has dozens of more T-shirts and plenty of race car memories. His son Howie Dalton races the Camero from time to time. The 42-year-old also works for the International Hot Rod Association and for the Monster Truck series.

As for Dalton, he plans to make another quilt with his mother. She tells you when you don’t do it right, he said.

“She wants to give the quilts to family,” he added. “You can see the history in those shirts but I still want to get in that car and hold the gas pedal wide open.”

During his career, Dalton broke 13 world records and raced across the East Coast at tracks such as Darlington, S.C.,  Richmond, Va., Bristol, Va., and more.