Friday, September 13, 2019

The Delmar Raceway and George Bower

above 1950

On March 25th 1950 the Delmar Raceway opened.  It was a half mile dirt track located west of Delmar Maryland.    It had bleachers for 1,200 people and parking for 2,000.  The admission fee varied but usually it was $1.25 to $1.50 per person. 

In 1951 it was NASCAR Sanctioned and the seating was expanded to 2,500.  By 1951 it was filling all the seats in the bleachers and creating traffic jams in Delmar.  Between the Railroad which still had multiple tracks and trains in town and people going to the raceway, Sunday afternoons in Delmar was a problem if you wanted to go anywhere.  The races were only held a few months a year and since they were open air seating they did not run them in the summer due to the heat. 

above 1954

By 1954 George Bower was leasing the racetrack out to other promoters and by 1958 it went bankrupted and ceased operation.  A good writeup of the racetrack was done by John Nelson and can be found here;

an aerial view of the track - from the Walter Thurston collection Nabb Research Center  photo 2016-096-10246

While developing the Delmar Raceway George Bower was running another racetrack south of Fruitland on the Tull farm in Somerset County.   In partnership with J D Jones and J r Jones from Tennessee,  George Bower had the B &J Racetrack.  It only lasted a year but by then the Delmar Raceway was open. 

George Washington Bower was born in 1912 in Williamsport Pennsylvania (based on obituary, other sources will say Delaware) to Ammon W. Bower (Bauer) and Eva Bowling. In 1929 his parents and family were living in Sharptown.  By 1930 he was in the Fruitland Maryland area running a farm, junk yard, garage and salvage operation with his parents and his many brother and sisters. 

In 1933 he married Iris Geraldine  “Gerry” Pope.  In 1935 George Ronald Bower was born in PGH in Salisbury. In 1941 Eugene Bruce Bower was born.
George Bower was business man who had a number of ventures.  He had a strong work ethic.  His main business was scrap and selling used vehicle parts. 

He made a lot of money in the scrap business during WW2. But the scrap business is mainly a cash business and taking shortcuts to make more cash is always a temptation.  In 1947 he was charged with tax evasion for the years 1943 and 1944.  He had reported $15,945 for income but really made $53,109 ($611,000 in 2019 dollars).  He was fined $10,000 plus costs and given a suspended prison sentence.  The government had said any scrap delivered to them should not have usable parts removed from the vehicles.  He had removed the usable parts and sold them and then sold the vehicle to the government as scrap.  Gerry Bower, who was her husband bookkeeper, said they were afraid they would be caught if they reported the income and they “just lived in dread of being poor like we were before.”

In 1947 The Bowers opened the George Washington Restaurant south of Fruitland. 

He owned the 4.5 acres of land that jutted out into Tony Tank from RT13 between Salisbury and Fruitland and he called it Bower’s Island. 

Later he would be involved in the Canal Park swim and Tennis Club.

He would die in 2002 and his wife would die in 2006.  Both are buried in Wicomico Memorial Park in Salisbury.

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