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ROB WALKER, rest his soul, was a grand prix team owner and a contributing editor of Road & Track (he called Dottie Clendenin his “editoress”). Because people may ask, I should also mention that he was a multi-great-grandson of Johnnie Walker, of Scotch whisky fame. And, most telling of Rob, in the Occupation category of his passport, it said simply “Gentleman.”
The Rob Walker Racing Team competed internationally from the mid-1950s into the early 1970s. His cars, typically acquired from Lotus, were always painted in Scottish racing livery, blue with a white stripe across the nose, rather than the traditional British Racing Green.
Famous drivers on the team—employed on a simple handshake—included Stirling Moss, Maurice Trintignant, Jo Bonnier, Jo Siffert and Graham Hill.
During the time when he was an R&T grand prix correspondent—and when Detroit Grand Prix was a Formula 1 race—several of us were enjoying Rob’s company in what was then a revolving restaurant atop the Renaissance Center.
Suddenly Rob got thoughtful. Then keeping his eyes averted, he rushed out, saying he’d be back momentarily.
He returned in about 15 minutes and told us he’d gone outside—that is, 72 floors down and then outside—to look at the new moon.
It was bad luck, Rob told us, to see the new moon through glass. Not ordinarily a superstitious man, he was entirely serious about this first look at a new moon.
I’ve since learned that English folklore varies on this. For some, like Rob, a first glass-free viewing of the new moon suffices. For others, through-glass viewing is always eschewed, otherwise bad fortune—such as broken glass—was sure to follow.
In Devonshire, it’s said that, upon seeing the first new moon of the year, you should remove a stocking and run across a field. Then, between your big toe and the next, you’ll find a hair that’ll reveal the color of your true love’s hair.
Rather a change of pace in this context: After his retirement from team ownership, Rob kindly gave me several of his team driving-suit patches, a £5 note—and a handshake.
He and I would joke about my being his last paid driver. I still have the fiver. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2012