Tom, Phyllis and the Mongrel
As we look back on the history of stock car racing in the Niagara District, there are many individuals who contributed to the sport, but one family who started back in 1952 and who continues to race today are the Mallorys. Tom Mallory got his start in the 1950's before Merrittville Speedway opened helping local racers prepare cars for either Ascot, or Atherton tracks.
This was in an era when charging admission for a sporting event on a Sunday was considered illegal. As a result the people attending the races purchased a bottle of Coca Cola for .50 and as a result entry was legal, instead of purchasing an admission ticket. Tom's interest really peaked when he began helping out on stock cars at Murray Stricker's gas station and followed Stricker's exploits into stock car racing.
As a result, Tom Mallory's entrance to stock car racing as a car owner and driver happened quite by accident in 1955. At that time, Tom had a nice white 1939 Chevrolet family car, however one day upon meeting up with good friend Sandy MacPherson near Bill Willard's garage, Sandy mentioned to Tom how great a stock car the "39 Chevrolet would make. And with that-Sandy threw a hammer through the window and next thing you know they were stripping down and cutting up and welding the pristine body.
Once the car was complete, Tom had to get a ride home, since his family car had been transformed into a racer, still white with #20 painted on its doors. I don't know how Tom explained this to Phyllis but the Mallorys like it or not, were now in racing. This six cylinder Chevrolet performed well enough for Tom, but this was in an era where the majority of cars were Flathead Ford V8 coupes. Right from the beginning, Phyllis Mallory has been an integral part of the exploits of the Mallory-#20 Mongrel racing team. When the jalopy class opened up in 1957, Tom raced with much success in this class and when the stock car class became the sportsman class, the bright red Mallory-Mongrel #20 coupes made their presence known.
Tom was a good driver and both he and Terry Edwards ran two cars. Tom's familiar #20 red coupe and Terry ran the familiar #77 red coupe. At one point in 1962 Tom not only ran opening night at Speedway Park, but won eight straight features. With all this success the #20 coupe was sold and Tom concentrated on preparing the Terry Edwards #77, now re-numbered the familiar #20. Tom Mallory and Terry Edwards made a successful combination and won many invitational races during the early 1960's.
In 1965 one of Tom Mallory's creations emerged. It was a short wheelbase sportsman, with a small block engine, sporting a Ford Falcon body. This was only a two year old body style and this was during an era of coupes and coaches from the 1930's. The Mongrel #20 was now a modern race car sporting its bright red paint scheme and with Terry Edwards behind the wheel, this Falcon really flew. However, all good things come to an end and such was the case late in the season when it was totaled at Lancaster Speedway.
As a result, Tom and Terry had to start again from scratch. Having had an eye on a coupe, there was a 1937 Plymouth sitting in Welland and so Tom and Terry drove there picked up the car and in three days fabricated a race car. This was done so quickly not even the owner of the Plymouth coupe noticed it was gone.
The Mongrel was now a Plymouth coupe, sporting the familiar red paint job with the yellow #20 painted on its sides and the familiar Mongrel painted on its trunk. At first this car was raced with a small block engine, but in 1968 the big block engines were appearing and the #20 was no exception. Saturday nights at Merrittville Speedway were a familiar home for Tom and Phyllis, but the boys Lee, Jay and Randy were home on Townline Road East in Thorold. Not knowing at the time, my wife Michelle baby sat the boys, while I as a teenager was working at Merrittville Speedway. As the boys grew, they were able to attend the races with Mom, while Tom toiled in the pits. During the early 1970's Terry Edwards continued to drive the Mongrel #20, at Merrittville, Ransomville, Waterloo, Speedway Park, as well as winning the opening day feature at Rolling Wheels. At this time, the Mongrel raced against some of the best drivers including Bobby Bottcher and Will Cagle. During 1973 and 1974 the Mallory Edwards combination split up and Tom fielded the big block modified for only his second driver in 14 years with Don Deagle at the wheel.
During the late 1970's the Gremlins started to appear and with his own sons old enough, the boys, first Lee, took their turn in a new Gremlin style Mongrel, a former Brian Stevens modified. In 1981 Jay tried his luck and fielded a new limited sportsman, a 1933 red and gold Chevrolet, and now some 16 years later Jay is still taking his turn, behind the wheel of the #20 Mongrel.
For 28 years the Mallorys have been living at the same location off of Hartzell Road where he keeps fabricating the family race cars. With the high cost of racing, the whole family pitches in. Tom, Lee, Randy and Jay work on the car, while Phyllis is in charge of washing, waxing and organizing race nights. Even the family's pet pooch spends his Saturdays in the pits. Guy McKee builds the potent engines that power the Mongrel. When asked who he would like to thank for the most support in racing, it was a quick answer.
I would like to thank my wife, Phyllis, for all her support, raising the fmily and putting up with all the traveling on weekends. If Phyllis wasn't a fan of stock car racing, none of this would have been possible. When asked Jay's most memorable win was winning the "All Canadian" back in 1993, but you could tell that every race night is a special night for the Mallorys. Its very special in our sport, for a whole family to enjoy racing, but for some 46 years and counting the Mallorys and the Mongrel #20 have done so. Even though in 1999 Tom will retire from his job at Aldo-Muratori Building Supplies in Thorold after 32 years, don't expect this racer to retire. Tom and Phyllis plan to travel and see a few NASCAR races, cheering for their driver Dale Earnhardt.
Do me one favour Tom, paint the Mongrel red, one more time with the #20 in yellow, with the Mongrel in the rear racing towards your 50th Anniversary in racing in 2001. Thanks for the memories
Sincerely, Rick Kavanagh