HAROLD Howden loved life in the fast lane in between working and tinkering with cars and motorbikes.
Curly, as he was known to family and friends, helped form Warrnambool’s first speedway club after he and a few mates cemented the floor of an old stable behind the Howden house to convert to a workshop.
That was only a few months after he married Ruth, who initially protested before relenting and eventually joining Harold and his mates as a speedway enthusiast.
“I realised if you can’t beat them you may as well join them,” she said while recalling their 55 years of happy marriage which ended with his recent death at the age of 86.
“We had a wonderful life together.” Harold departed a bit like his racing style — quickly. He had been diagnosed with a tumour in his bladder only about a week earlier.
Harold Frederick Howden was born on January 25, 1926, at Southern Cross, the third child of Harry and Daisy Howden who were involved in running the local general store.
After attending Illowa State School and Warrnambool Technical College, Harold took on a fitter and turner apprenticeship with Raglan Motors making nuts and bolts for the war effort.
He was retrenched when soldiers returned from the war, but fortunately he gained employment with Morses where he specialised in wheel alignment and car and truck repairs for the next 30 years and fell in love with Ruth who worked in the office.
Following Morses he started his own mechanical business in Banyan Street, less than a block from where he started his first job.
He retired with the introduction of GST in 2000, saying he was too old to learn to use computers.
The business is continuing under his sons Alan and Stuart.
Ruth said the family home was frequented by many friends who shared a love of motor racing.
From his first 1937 sidevalve Ford hotrod, the Howden family expanded their race fleet to four vehicles with Harold continuing his racing feats until he was 50.
Warrnambool enthusiasts travelled to Mount Gambier and Portland and ran events on part of the Warrnambool racecourse grounds until the hotrod club bought Allansford land which is now Premier Speedway. Harold and other club members spent hundreds of hours converting a farm paddock into a world-class racing venue.
“They spent most of 1970 building the track,” Ruth said. “Harold would disappear for hours working out there, but it was all good fun and I became involved with the canteen.”
In latter years he restored a pair of old Douglas motorcycles and his wife’s first car, a Triumph Mayflower.
He also restored a 1929 Chev truck rescued from under a cypress pine hedge and converted a Bedford truck into a motorhome in which they travelled more than 130,000 kilometres during two decades to Outback destinations.
Harold is also survived by his older siblings Mabel and Ruth, daughter Helen and 10 grandchildren.