J.B. Day: A True Friend To Georgia’s Racing History

J.B. Day and wife Willavene at the Greenville-Pickens Speedway. Photo by Eddie Samples

By Eddie Samples
Posted in Feature Stories 6/4/10

At the commencement of World War II, Jimmie (James Bolt) Day found himself in the predicament of either staying home and helping his family through tough times or getting a job.

Choosing the latter, he would leave his Cadillac LaSalle every morning at it’s usual spot, walk the short distance to the workshop, and begin rebuilding Model A water pumps for Smith’s Auto Parts in Greenville, South Carolina.

“During that time,” he told Mike Bell and myself recently, “you couldn’t build enough pumps for customers.  Half the cars on the street were Model As.  New parts couldn’t be found.  I got to where I could put ‘em together blindfolded.  (I would) clean ‘em, install a couple of bushings, add some anti-leak packing, brush paint ‘em black and they’re ready to go.  I could assemble about 12 a day.”

But Jimmie’s boss, Noah Smith, had to hire extra help, telling him a good man should be able to do twice that many.

Unfortunately for Mr. Smith, Jimmie was only seven years old.

And the Cadillac LaSalle was on blocks.

“Mr. Smith had a junk yard with pig stalls beside it,” Jimmie said.  “Knowing my situation at home, he told me I could stay in that old LaSalle.  I thought he meant I could stay with that old sow.  But there was no place to lay down without getting mud all over you.  I told him I wasn’t going to do it.  He laughed and led me to the car where I arranged the inside and made a nice place to live.  If anybody ever wanted to buy parts off it, Noah wouldn’t hear of such.  He told ‘em that was Jimmie’s Hotel.  And for the next several years that junkyard was my home.”

And that was where Jimmie Day fell in love with stock car racing.

Today his home is not far away from Smith’s old place, but the amenities are somewhat better.  Since 1955, he and his wife Willavene have lived here, overlooking the Saluda River on land once owned by Jimmie’s ancestors dating back to 1751.  He converted his 1960s hog farm into a modern banquet center at the river’s edge.  This facility plays host to the yearly Greenville-Pickens Speedway banquet and home of the annual Raymond Parks Birthday Party, or, as GARHOFA’s Jack Mullins said, “a reason for 500 racing fans and drivers to get together for some good times.”

This story is also about the good times of Jimmie Day, who plays a prominent part in promoting our efforts involving Georgia racing history, and to feed the curiosity about the flavor of someone who has had racing fever since the day he ran away to live at a junkyard.

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