This is an occasional series spotlighting men and women who work at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Nearly everyone who has purchased a ticket for an event over the last four decades at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has a connection with Linda Price and Carol Denton.
Lifelong Hoosiers, Price and Denton have worked in the IMS Ticket Office for a combined 71 years and have seen an amazing variety of changes in ticketing procedures at The Racing Capital of the World.
Price, who was born and raised in Richmond and is married with three sons, and Denton, a married mother of two with two grandchildren who grew up two blocks from the Speedway and lives near Danville, have directly and indirectly touched the lives of countless fans who have attended racing events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Price and Denton recently participated in a conversation where they discussed their many interesting experiences working at IMS.
Q: What were your impressions of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway before you started working here?
PRICE: “My first race was when I was 17 and I came over on the back of my boyfriend’s motorcycle – I believe in 1966 — and if my parents would’ve known about that they would have killed me. I thought, ‘What a cool place,’ and prior to that I used to listen to the race on the radio with my dad, so we’d listen and get excited for the winners.”
DENTON: “I remember my brother-in-law – who was a lot older than me — would bring us to the track during the month of May and watch the cars and we named them Smokey or Shaky depending on whatever they did or sounded like when they came by. Lying in bed at night, they’d work on their cars all night long in the garage area and you’d have the window open and hear the engines and stuff like that, so the family has always come to the race and been a part of it. I can’t remember the first race that I ever really went to, though I was probably a teenager, maybe in 1966 or so.”
Q: How did you get hired to work at IMS?
PRICE: “I really built an affinity for this place when I came to work here straight out of college (Ball State) when I moved to Speedway and needed a job immediately. I interviewed for a job with Clarence Cagel (IMS superintendent, 1948-78) and Gladys (Cagel’s wife and secretary) and she was afraid that I’d find a teaching job and that I wouldn’t want to stay. She introduced me to Frances Derr (then IMS tickets director) and Fran hired me in 1972, and I have been in tickets since day one.”
DENTON: “The way I got to work here was that everybody in Speedway were race fans and a lot of the people I knew, their parents worked here and that’s kind of how I got in from knowing Kay Eddleman, who was a friend of the family and the manager of the gift shop in the old museum. I started working here in the gift shop as a teenager in 1968 and I worked there part-time while I was in high school beginning in 1971 — lots of good times back then. I worked full-time until my first son was born, and then I took off for a while and then came back. I came to the ticket office in 1985.”
Q: What was it like working in the ticket office when you were hired?
PRICE: “I had a desk and Mr. Hulman’s (IMS owner Tony Hulman) office was right across from me and I sat next to Al Bloemker, who was vice president of public relations at that point. We were all in this little office together with accounting, tickets and Mr. Hulman, and we existed in this little building all together and the other half of the building was the museum with the gift shop. The ticket office had a big glassed-in window area that we called the fish bowl and that’s where people would come and buy tickets.
At that time it was mail order only throughout the year until race weekend or until that race period, and then you could come to the counter and actually physically purchase tickets. Back then we did not sell out and you worked all night the night before the race and stayed up all the next day and all the day before working to sell the tickets. It was just six of us at that time and everything was done by hand from typing to the ticket assignments to filing to mailing. There were no electric typewriters and no computers. Everything was done and recorded on card files.”
DENTON: “When I first started in the ticket office we did have electric typewriters and we did have a computer, but all it did was help us keep track of things and it mainly did some of the typing for you that used to all be done by hand. When I got there, every order was on a form on an 8 1/2-by-11 piece of paper and each customer’s history was on a card. All the orders were filed numerically and cards were filed alphabetically, so if you wanted to know what somebody had or how long they’ve been here or when their tickets were mailed or anything like that, you had to go find their card.”
Q: What type of a map or diagram was used to illustrate which customers were assigned to what seats?
PRICE: “The way we kept track of who was sitting where back then was on scrolls, and we called them the Dead Sea Scrolls. Each stand had its own scroll and you very cautiously in pen wrote very lightly in the squares who you assigned the tickets to. Then the next year, if you reassigned them to someone else you erased that out and filled it in, and that’s how you could see who was sitting where. We called them the scrolls and you had one for A Penthouse and one for each individual stand with the rows and the sections and all. Then we went to what we called the black books with squares that were a quarter of an inch by a quarter of an inch, and each seat was plotted out that way.”
DENTON: “The first computer system we had – not the one we have right now – it replaced the black book because everything was on graphics and it replaced the cards because all the history is stored in the computer now and it’s much easier.”
Q: How have the methods of payment changed over the years?
PRICE: “We did not take checks at first — money orders and cash only.”
DENTON: “At one point we started taking personal checks and the people who called and said ‘I got this note with my tickets saying you guys are taking personal checks, and is that true?’ They couldn’t believe it and you wouldn’t believe the calls we got, and then it was years and years before we started taking credit cards around 1996.”
Q: What was it like in the ticketing department when all of a sudden the Brickyard 400 started at IMS in 1994?
PRICE: “We returned over 40,000 orders for that the first year and everyone got a letter as to why we couldn’t fill their orders. (The race was sold out.) And then shortly after that there were monumental leaps in technology in going from having one or two computers to everyone having access, and eventually we were taking phone orders and doing things that you had formerly done just by mail or at the counter.”
Q: Do you have any examples of interesting experiences you’ve had with IMS ticket customers?
DENTON: “The F1 people were a fun crowd (the Formula One United States Grand Prix was held at IMS from 2000-07). There was one gentleman who was German who lived on the east coast and he called the ticket office about something, and he was so impressed that somebody actually answered the phone and talked to him that when he came to the race he brought us bagels every year. He and his group stayed in Crawfordsville, so he would get up early and bring the bagels to us and then go back to Crawfordsville to get the rest of his group and then bring them to the race. He did that every year he came to the race and all because somebody answered the phone.”
PRICE: “We have customers that remember us that bring us candy, or write thank-you notes every year telling us they’re so glad they could be here and how much they cherish this place.”
Q: What are some of the aspects of your job that you enjoy the most?
PRICE: “My favorite thing is people. I love touching people from all over the world. I think that even we who work here forget that this is an international event. It isn’t just Indiana or Ohio or the surrounding states, it’s international. I love working with people and putting those puzzle pieces together when it comes time to help people out to improve on their location.
I always felt it was different working for a company that was not what I would call broad-based, that was family-owned, because you all were considered family. Mr. Hulman would come in from Terre Haute and sit down right next to me and he’d ask me how my day was and what I was doing. He was always interested in knowing and to me I’m glad I stayed here. This has meant a lot to me.”
DENTON: “I like all the different people you meet from all over, and generally speaking, they’re here to have a good time and they’re in a good mood and everybody’s happy. You meet a lot of interesting people and just the energy of the place on race day — and I go to the race and I love all of it — and you look around and say ‘Wow, we all had something to do with all of that.’”