Memories are still stirred when one mentions the go-kart track that used to occupy the lot where Barker Street Apartments stands today, in Hawley, Pa. The once popular recreational spot opened in 1961 and was owned and operated by Charles Matzo.
HAWLEY - Memories are still stirred when one mentions the go-kart track that used to occupy the lot where Barker Street Apartments stands today, in Hawley, Pa. The once popular recreational spot opened in 1961 and was owned and operated by Charles Matzo.
“I recall it well, even though I was only a little tyke, probably about 5 or 6 years old. I recall my late brother Jimmy taking me on the go-cart rides a couple times!,” said John Nichols. “I believe there were small bails of hay all around the track, and there was lighting also, as most of the go-carting that I remember was after dark.”
Nichols maintains the closed group Facebook site, “You know you are from Hawley.” A posting on that site requesting information on the go-kart track kindled many responses.
Nichols said there was a small set of bleachers. An old bus was converted for a small snack bar.
John Mowatt said he thinks the price was 50 cents for five laps. “At 25 cents allowance I didn’t ride very often,” Mowatt added. “…We thought we were Indy car racers- for a few short minutes!”
The race course was a fifth of a mile.
Crash helmets and goggles were used.
Charles Matzo, of Hawley, opened the track on Tuesday, May 30, 1961.
Mayor Michael Perrige (Pierce) cut the ceremonial ribbon.
The Pike-Wayne Eagle, forerunner to The News Eagle and published by J. Vance Hunt, commented that go-kart racing was fast becoming one of the more popular sports in the county, especially among teenagers. “The installation is another added attraction not only for our own youth but for our summer guests and should go a long way towards bringing summer people to our area and providing additional amusement for them while they are here,” the front page article in the June 1, 1961 edition stated.
The group ribbon cutting picture in the newspaper showed boys on four go-karts in front of the group of adults.
The first race was announced for Sunday, June 25, 1961 at 3 p.m. sponsored by DeAngelo’s Diner in Hawley. Four teenage girls (names not given) were sponsoring the second race. There were seven units altogether, and units in each race.
Jumping to the summer of 1963, the race track by that time had been named in honor of Charles and Marie Matzo’s two daughters, Bonnie and Nan. A race was announced for Sunday, July 15 at the “Bonnie and Nan G-Kart Track.” Proceeds that day were in memory of Mrs. Nellie P. Martin, Charles Matzo’s mother in law. Proceeds were to benefit the Hawley Fire Company No. 1 ambulance and the Hawley Fire Company No. 2 truck (Hawley Fire Department had two separate companies at that time).
Donna Kimble Ludwig commented, “I remember the go-kart track very well; as a young female on the hill (Snufftown) I had to be better then the fellas riding on the track. Before Charlie put a governer on the carts, he offered a $5.00 bonus to any winners, and that was me, in many races. My brothers and I skated on the rink along with Charlie’s daughters, Bonnie and Nan. We had wonderful times.”
Mowat added that on Sundays Matzo took the governors off so they went faster.
“We lived a block away and I remember going there to watch the go cart races.” recalled Jeanne Genzlinger. “I think some locally famous Beach Lake folks would race there.”
In the winter, John Nichols said, the track would get filled with water and a lot of kids ice skated there. “I didn't know how to skate but we would just slide around on our shoes. I remember it naturally being very cold, and it was great to take a break from skating or sliding, and getting a cup of hot chocolate from the little refreshment bus.”
Salim Rose and Debbie Murray also said they remembered the ice skating rink.
The man behind the go-kart track was Charles Matzo. He was born in Dunmore, June 15, 1915 to Michael and Ann (Solanich) Matzo.
He is listed in the 1940 census as being a lodger in Nellie P. Martin’s home at 519 Spruce St., Hawley, Charles was 25. Also living there was Nellie’s daughter Marie W. Martin, age 20.
He and Marie would become husband and wife.
The same census listed his occupation as “miner.”
His World War II draft card described him as ruddy, with black eyes and brown hair, 5’10” tall.
Charles served in the U.S. Army during the war, with Company M, 104th Infantry. He served from March 29, 1944 to June 11, 1945 and received a Bronze Star.
He was living at 315 River Street when he entered the service.
Charles and Marie Matzo made their home at 443 Woodland Ave., Hawley. Marie operated a beauty shop at that location, and Charles had his own business, “Matzo Mower Service.”
An ad from 1963 stated that he worked on Briggs & Stratton engines an Toro engines.
Gene Krause said that Matzo ran his business in the garage at the house. Krause noted that this fit in with Matzo’s go cart operation.
Charles Matzo attended the Baptist church in Hawley.
In 1969, Matzo ran for Hawley Council, as a Democrat.
He served as chief of the ambulance company in the 1960’s, when it was attached to Hawley Fire Department.
This has not been confirmed, but a couple people on the Facebook site recalled that Charles Matzo was known as a local hero for saving someone during one of the Hawley floods.
Others recalled his skill for finding four leaf clovers.
John Mowatt Caveat asked, “Wasn’t Charlie also the man that could go over to Hawley Park and always find a handful of four leaf clovers?” Lani Arnold Sambuca replied, “My dad has a framed collection of four leaf clovers from Charlie.” Donna Kimble Ludwig added, “Yes, no matter where he went he could find a couple.”
AFTER THE GO CARTS
It’s not clear just when Matzo closed the go-kart race track, but it was well before 1980, when Barker Street Apartments opened on that site.
David Frisbie recalled, “After the go-kart track closed we use to race our bicycles around it.”.
Tim Frisbie shared, “I remember the go-kart track real good, although it was vacant in my time it was paved with asphalt and was pretty nice at one time. The in-field had an old flagpole with high grass and weeds. It was still in half way decent shape when the Barker Apartments took it's place. There was a big-top circus at this location in its final years. Not many people seem to remember the circus, but I do.”
John Nichols also reminisced about playing golf in that area. “One of our nine-hole golf course holes was in the center of the go-cart track, by the flag pole,” he said.
Fireworks used to be set off from the dike area at the end of River Street, near the go cart track, Gene Krause recalled. The fireworks were held on the last night of the annual VFW Carnival in August. The carnival was on the VFW grounds before the veterans’ post (currently the Hawley Robert Drake Memorial Senior Center).
“There was always a huge crowd on Saturday night for the fireworks, it was almost elbow to elbow on the lower grounds of the VFW, big difference from today’s carnival crowds,” Krause added.
Michael Kurtz recalled, “I met Charlie as he was my customer on my paper route. What a cool old guy.”
“Charlie had this phrase he always used when trying to make his point in conversation, ‘Understand Gentlemen, …’,” Jeff Sidle recollected. “I can still hear him as if it were back in the early 70’s.”
Charles Matzo died June 17, 1993 at the age of 78.
“You know you are from Hawley” Facebook page
Pike-Wayne Eagle/ Wallenpaupack Historical Society
Census and other records from Ancestry.com/ Hawley Public Library