Memory Lane Museum in Mooresville, North Carolina is a treasure-trove of early Americana. One corner of the museum is filled with vintage toys, another section contains 1950 and earlier bikes and scooters, and one wall is devoted entirely to peddle cars. There's an impressive collection of antique cars, some of which are more than 100 years old. Several of them have been loaned out for supporting roles in movies, such as Leatherheads, starring George Clooney and Renée Zellweger. Of course, since the museum is predominantly a celebration of NASCAR, and the history of its beginnings, it wouldn't be complete without a Moonshine Still, representing the heritage of stock car racing. Here are just some of the interesting discoveries you'll find on your walk down memory lane.
Soft Drinks or Pop
Remember the days before pull-tops or twist-off caps, when you needed a bottle opener for your Nehi, Teem, Big Red, or Bubble Up? It's rare to find soft drinks in glass bottles these days, but Memory Lane Museum has racks of old-fashioned soft drink bottles, some brands still being made, and others that have been discontinued.
Bobby Alison's Driving Suit
The winner of the 1979 Daytona 500 was Richard Petty, but the competition that is most memorable, much to Petty's dismay, was the post-race fight between Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough. A much-repeated anecdote, particularly by Bobby Allison fans, is one in which Allison refers to Yarlborough as "…beating on my fist with his nose." Commemorating this moment in history, you'll find Allison's blue and white striped racing suit proudly displayed next to the Moonshine Still.
Lee Petty's Airborne Car
Among the brightly-colored, historically-significant stock cars at Memory Lane, there are also several badly abused chassis, a clear reminder that cars making contact at high speeds can result in horrific car crashes. One such example is a car Lee Petty drove at a qualifying race in 1961 at Daytona. Going into Turn 4, his car became entangled with fellow driver Johnny Beauchamp's, both cars slid up the banked curve, through the guard rail, and flew out of the track. After the crash, which surprisingly both drivers survived, Petty's car was unceremoniously parked in his family's backyard. Years later, it was uncovered, and the remains were moved to the museum, as a reminder of the image of Petty's #42 Plymouth sailing out of the speedway. Also, don't miss the rusted Oldsmobile convertible just two cars away. That's Richard Petty's first race car in 1958.
As examples of the museum's broad appeal, there are a variety of pre-electronic age toys that many baby boomers can appreciate. Since I grew up in rural America, some of my personal favorites are the Peddle Tractors. The museum has over 20 of these special riding toys, including John Deere, Farmall, Case, and Massey Ferguson.
Dale Earnhardt 1982 Thunderbird
It's hard to imagine Dale Earnhardt Sr. without his signature black Chevy #3 racecar, but during his early NASCAR career, Dale actually drove a Ford. In the 1982 season, Dale raced to victory in his #15 Wrangler Thunderbird at the Darlington Rebel 500. This T-Bird is prominently displayed at the museum, alongside his more recognized winning racecar, the Intimidator Goodwrench Chevy.