FAST DANCING, FINDING LOVE & SAVING LIVES – MEMORIES FROM THE ELDORA BALLROOM BLOOD DRIVE

Carolyn Kremer shares her memories at the Eldora Ballroom blood drive.

NEW WESTON, Ohio – With a relentless summer sun high over the empty grandstand and only a lone tractor dragging the dirt, half-mile oval of Eldora Speedway, you have to imagine the sound, the roar and the excitement of race nights at the “Big E.” But nearby, inside the dim Eldora Ballroom, hearts are racing over memories of a snowy, wonderful, winter night 57 years ago.

“I met my husband here 57 years ago,” says Carolyn Kremer, her smile bright as she relives the memory. “He asked to take me home, and that was it!”

Carolyn has just made her 110th lifetime donation at the Thursday, June 21 Community Blood Center (CBC) Eldora Speedway Blood Drive. The ballroom stage is empty and the dance floor is filled with donor beds, carts and equipment. CBC staff members roam the room in scrub clothes. The refreshment table in the Donor Café is laden with cookies, drinks and samples of chocolate-covered bacon. Women and girls surround Carolyn, listening and smiling, as she takes them back to the ballroom in the winter of 1956.

“There was square dancing every Sunday night,” she recalled. “We wouldn’t miss a dance. We danced our hearts out! We had lots and lots of fun here.” Eldora founder Earl Baltes knew very little about racing when he built his dirt track in 1954, but as a prominent area band leader and promoter, he knew music. He bought the ballroom two years earlier and launched the popular dances and performances.

“We called it fast dancing,” said Carolyn. “Now it’s line dancing. We didn’t know such a thing. It was all 50’s music.” There was much more than square dancing. Carolyn and her girlfriends arrived together, crammed into a borrowed vehicle, and would hit the crowded dance floor. They danced non-stop to country music, rock-a-billy, and early Elvis. “It was hard to get the guys out there,” she said, recalling the central challenge of a night at the ballroom. “You would go with the girls, and you would get a ride home with a boy – a ‘take home’ we called it – after the last dance.”

Carolyn Dues was 17 on that February night when the last dance went to 19-year-old Carl Kremer. “Can I take you home?” he asked. “Why sure!” was her quick reply. His car was waiting outside, a heavy snow falling. The ride home was an adventure. They had to stop often to get out, clear the snow from the windshield and find their way. It was the beginning of a lifetime journey together.

Their engagement lasted about three years, with Carl away for two years of military service in Germany. “My parents would say you never get married until you can sign your own (marriage) license,” she laughed. “We had to be 21.” They were married on Thanksgiving Day, 1959.

Carl and Carolyn had four children – two boys and two girls – and both sons are hemophiliacs. They benefitted greatly in their childhood years from advances in blood science, including the 1965 discovery of cryoprecipitates and its improved clotting power. But the disease was always a challenge for a farm family.

“There was a many a night trip to Children’s Hospital in Dayton (The Barney Children’s Medical Center until 1970),” she recalled, to control bleeding episodes with plasma transfusions. “It was usually me and my son,” she remembers about those long, anxious drives, “because Carl (a dairy farmer) had the cows to milk in the morning.”

She says today their sons Dan and Kevin are doing fine. The experience has made her a dedicated blood donor and a long-time member of a support group for hemophiliac families. She plans to attend a Hemophilia Foundation “Family Fest” next weekend in Indiana.

Carolyn can remember going to races at Eldora before she and Carl were married and they were long-time friends of Earl and Berniece Baltes. But farming kept them too busy to visit the track, even though they lived nearby. “Of course we heard them all the time and saw the way they lit up the sky!” she said.

The regular dances at the ballroom faded over the years as the track expanded and hosted bigger and bigger events. The torch passed when NASCAR driver Tony Stewart purchased the track in 2004.

Carl, born on Christmas Day 1936, passed away in 2010. “We were married 51 years,” says Carolyn without betraying a hint of sadness or regret. The memories are just too good. She’s also smiling because it’s her lucky day – she won a drawing for an Eldora Speedway race ticket. Luck always seems to find her on the Eldora Ballroom dance floor.

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