The recent transatlantic air race between New York and London involved a great deal more dashing about on the ground than in the air. It was, in fact, part air race, part track meet, part broken-field run and it included a miscalled play or two. Many entrants were grimly serious about the entire venture, but a race of this sort is sure to draw the lunatic fringe—such as the members of the Sixth Avenue Racing Team, a fringe group if ever we saw one. The story of how two of its three members lost the race is related by Bob Ottum this week on page 90.
This is an article from the June 9, 1969 issue
The team, headed by Ottum and Photographer Jerry Cooke, was saved by a bubble of a 17-year-old girl named Susi Scribner, whose father, Kimball J. Scribner, was the Pan American pilot who jetted the team to London. In his story Ottum has a lot to say about Susi but he doesn't let her talk back much. So we thought we'd ask Susi what she thought of her teammates.
"Bob was wearing a yellow wind-breaker, white turtleneck and Levi's, or something," Susi said. "He's the one who told me I had to get tennis shoes. That wrecked my whole outfit! There were things we talked about doing—but we really only just thought about it. Things like pushing the buttons for every floor on the Empire State Building elevators to slow the next contestants and running the motorcyclists we'd used off the road when we saw them taking other racers someplace. Jerry practiced operating the Empire State elevator, but I didn't practice anything—it was more exciting that way. Jerry's a great runner. He really ran through the airport.
"When we got off the launch in London, I jumped on the back of the only motorcycle left—the other two with Bob and Jerry were already out of sight. [This lapse in their customary gallantry proved expensive for Ottum and Cooke as you will see.] I couldn't reach around the driver and could only hold onto the leather of his jacket. He'd turn around every so often and say, 'Are you quite all right?' That was the only time aside from the ambulance ride that I was afraid. I'd never been in an ambulance before. Climbing into the plane didn't scare me. How could it—my father was driving! Anyhow, the other motorcycles went the wrong way, and my driver was a nut. So I got there first and I won because the others had to wait for the elevator to come back down. At first they told me I'd won and then I hadn't and I thought—easy come, easy go. And then they decided I had. They had me mixed up with the military." [They what?]
What Susi won was a lot of money ($6,000) and a lot of notoriety, plus a chance to meet Prince Philip at the victory party at London's Royal Garden Hotel. "I wasn't sure if I was supposed to curtsy or anything," Susi said, "or what I was supposed to call him, but he talked to me just like anybody." Part of Susi's prize money has already gone on a minidress ("real bright blue") and a blue and gold "spongy" jumper from one of London's mod shops. The rest is being saved for secretarial school, though when Susi reaches 21 she'll become an airline stewardess. Pan Am, of course.