Jungle Park Racing Company was incorporated on July 22, 1929, and its last annual report was sent to the Secretary of State of Indiana in 1938. This sprint car race track, which was within the Jungle Park Resort, was located in Parke County, Indiana, near Bloomingdale, Indiana, and ten miles north of Rockville, Indiana. It was close to Sugar Creek and Turkey Run State Park.
Some short documentaries and descriptions of the Jungle Park race track can be found on the internet, and they state that its founder and owner was Albert Padgett. He was listed on the Federal Census as an electrical engineer. But, there are some differences between the online descriptions and what was stated on the Jungle Park Raceway incorporation papers.
One of the most entertaining differences is the description of the object of the race track’s incorporation. Remember, this track was a sprint car race track in the middle of the woods, with midget race cars speeding around it. “The purpose or purposes for which it is formed are as follows: [to operate] a racing track and/or tracks, racing plant and/or plants and/or racing establishment and/or establishments, including concessions, fields, grandstands, bleachers and/or other seating facilities for spectators adjacent to and/or in connection with said track and/or tracks, plant and/or plants and/or establishment and/or establishments, for automobile, aeroplane, horse, mule, dog and/or human and any and all kinds, types and/or forms of racing and do and perform any and all other acts and things necessary, convenient or expedient thereto.” Well, that just about covers it doesn’t it, but for a sprint car track in the middle of the woods?
According to the online descriptions of the track, it opened in 1926. But the the original incorporation was in 1929. Maybe the Jungle Park Resort was planned and the buildings were built in it starting in 1926. And then, the original incorporator of Jungle Park Racing was not Walter Padgett. The names and signatures on the 1929 incorporation papers and the 1930 incorporation report were Moad Copner (President), Emma Copner (Vice-President), Harrison Holaday and Opal Holaday (Secretary and Treasurer). Who were these two married couples? According to the Federal Census Moad Copner had been a farmer laborer and did odd jobs; Harrison Holaday had been a farmer and coal mine operator; their wives had no stated employment. Maybe these two couples were employed at the Jungle Park Resort, but I don’t think they would have had the financial means to build the race track. Were they “ghost directors”, and why?
Albert E. Padgett showed up on the 1931 company’s corporate annual report as its President and treasurer, his wife Bertha A. Padgett as Vice-President, and his son Charles K. Padgett (also an electrician) as secretary. Also, Frank Punk, who had supervised the building of the Jungle Park quarter-mile race track, signed as a director. Frank Punk was the owner and promoter of the Winchester sprint car race track, as well as other sprint car tracks, and later was voted a member of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame. The company’s 1932 directors stayed the same, except Mr. Funk was not a director.
No corporate annual reports for the company were filed in 1933 and 1934. According to a letter written by the legal firm of McFaddin & McFaddin of Rockville, Indiana, to the state’s Secretary of State, on March 25, 1935, “for the past few years no races had been held there”. Six months earlier Bertha filed for divorce from Albert and took the corporate records with her. The attorneys wrote another letter to the Secretary of State on May 21, 1935, advising that Bertha still had not given up the records. There must have been some sort of agreement made by the divorce proceedings on June 11, 1935, for Albert, Charles, and Bertha were listed as the company’s directors on the company’s annual reports of 1935 and 1936. Bertha was dropped as a director in 1937 and Ellen C. Padgett (a cousin?) was added. The company’s last annual report in 1938 showed that the Jungle Park Raceway was now “not operating”.
I related the history of the company’s different directors to show that the rocky relationship and marriage between Albert and Bertha Padgett was possibly a reason for the use of the “shadow directors” of the Copners and Holadays. Maybe Albert just did not trust the strength of his marriage?
According to the descriptions of the Jungle Park Raceway (or Speedway), the straightaways were paved, but the curves were gravel. This made the track particularly dangerous, for the track was literally bounded by woods and the nearby Sugar Creek on the back straightaway causing many crashes and some deaths. But, despite these hazards, or maybe because of risks, well-known drivers such as Mauri Rose, Wilbur Shaw, Bill Holland, Tony Bettenhausen and many others raced there as young men.
According to a video documentary, the track closed in 1941, reopened in 1945, and stayed in operation till 1955 when it was closed down due to a death of a fan. It was reopened for just one year in 1960. Also a historical marker in front of the remains of the park states that Ralph Jordan and Lawrence reopened the park in 1945, and that the Sentman family bought the rundown property in 1971 and are preserving what is left of the bleachers and track. There is now an annual get-together of enthusiasts of restored sprint cars at the old Jungle Park Raceway.
by Robert F. Gilyeat, an Indiana State Archives volunteer