They say that fame is fleeting. And for one international champion, it unfortunately was. For seven times international dirt track motorcycle champion Ray Tauscher, it seems that the efforts of documentarian Ned Thanhouser and his son Michael are resurrecting his well-earned fame.
Ray Tauscher early years
If you’ve never heard of Ray Tauscher, you are not alone. Ray was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1905. He grew up on Portland’s local streets. In high school, he was a multi-sport athlete. Ray competed in weightlifting, wrestling, and golf, ultimately becoming a weightlifting champion.
As an early 20th-century “thrill seeker,” Ray and his brother Jack enjoyed attention from the media for stunts like skydiving and motorcycle polo. But in 1920, Ray began riding motorcycles in earnest. Inspired by the racing at a local 1/2-mile dirt track called the Gresham Speed Bowl, by 1923, Ray was entering local speedway races. That year, he went on to win the regional championship.
International racing championships
With that title under his belt, Ray was recruited in 1929 by the London Star newspaper to travel and race motorcycles in England. Once there, Ray set a new one-lap speed record at Wembley stadium of 36.81 mph.
In December of 1930, Ray won the World Dirt Track Derby in Brisbane, Australia, at the Davies Park Speedway. Then, in 1931, Ray went on a winning tear.
On February 14, 1931, he entered and won the Australian Solo Championship at the Wayville Showground in Adelaide, Australia. Returning to England, he stunned the speedway racing world by winning the Star Speedway Rider’s Cup at Wembley stadium in front of 80,000 cheering fans.
Not to be stopped, Ray continued racing against Europe’s best riders. That year he won the German, French, Danish, and Italian championships. By this time, Ray’s accomplishments become well known. His skills are noted throughout the European press, which credits him with four international championship titles in a 12-month period.
As the world’s top rider of the time, Ray consistently drew huge crowds. His wins brought him the respect of sportswriters, often being called a well-rounded sportsman.
Tauscher – Entertainer?
But not too much later, Ray’s English racing career was snatched from him. Unfortunately, English laws pertaining to “entertainers” banned him from the U.K. Not to be stopped, Ray raced on the European racing circuit and won additional championships across the continent.
By 1934, injuries had taken their toll, and Ray was forced to return to America. Upon returning to the U.S., Ray met with several successes, but nothing like what he had accomplished overseas. In 1938, Ray retired from motorcycle racing.
Although he retired from motorcycle racing himself, he still loved the sport. Wanting to stay within racing, Ray managed racetracks in California, New Jersey, and Toronto. In 1947, Ray took over the management of the local Portland, Oregon Jantzen Beach Area racetrack. While there, he supported new racers, promoted racing events, and hosted racers from Australia to the delight of local crowds. For 28 years, he was also a line supervisor at the Portland Meadows racetrack.
But racing and racing management didn’t pay all the bills. So in 1934, Ray began working for the U.S. Postal Service as Chief Financial Examiner. He officially retired 38 years later.
Ray also excelled at golf and was a championship golfer carrying a six handicap. Although he had been a celebrity, it did not dim his view of helping others. He was a member of the Waverly Masonic Lodge, Portland Elks Club and represented Portland at Toastmaster events. In 1981, Ray passed away in his hometown of Portland, Oregon, at the age of 74 from brain cancer.
Ray’s accomplishments not forgotten
Ray’s accomplishments may have remained forgotten except for the efforts of Ned and Michael Thanhouser. The duo has unearthed a box of memorabilia passed down through the local motorcycle club, “The Flying Fifteen.”
Also, in 2020, the pair set about thoroughly researching Ray’s racing career. Through their efforts, they were able to locate two of Ray’s surviving family members from his second marriage, step-grandchildren Danita Hunter and Doug Stone. Both of whom to this day live in Gresham, Oregon.
Doug had inherited a box full of Ray’s memorabilia containing Ray’s personal scrapbook, photo album, race jerseys, and other items. Also uncovered were two original sheet music titles: My Speedway Hero and Speedway Racing For Me.
Weaving all this information together, the Thanhousers have created a 17-minute film of Ray’s world-wide travel, racing career, loves, and exploits titled America’s Forgotten World Champion Motorcycle Racer. Also of note are the two sets of sheet music about speedway racing that Ray saved. Thanks to the Thanhousers, you’ll hear both pieces. The film is a wonderful homage to an international racing champion who time had once forgotten but is now remembered.
Drubbed by the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame
Unfortunately, while this film beautifully gives Ray his due, apparently, the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame doesn’t think he deserves recognition. According to the film, Ray has twice been submitted for recognition by the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame. Once in 1997 and once in 2020. As of this writing, the organization still refuses to recognize Ray’s accomplishments and give him the place of honor he deserves.
The fact that the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame has no motorcycle athletes speaks volumes about this particular Hall of Fame. While broadcasters, coaches, equestrians, officials, and table tennis all have inductees, the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame doesn’t see the accomplishments of a 7-time international champion as fit for entry. And that’s a shame.
If you believe that Ray should have a place, you can contact the museum using their contact page. Please keep your messages on point, polite and respectful, and tell the Hall why you think Ray should be given a place with other Oregon sports greats.
In closing, thank you, Ned and Michael Thanhouser, for giving Ray his due in an artfully and well-made film.