Author: Jim Ober Photos: Trackside Photo
It was August of 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada, and John Calvin, editor and publisher of Dusty Times, was making his rounds visiting with every driver who was passing through race contingency at the Best In The Desert Vegas to Reno race. For three decades, his magazine had made every effort to cover every off-road race with a story and photos. Whether it was a 20-car race in south Texas or the Baja 1000, Dusty Times was there.
At the same time, John served as crew chief and main pit person for his wife Jean’s many entries in SCORE, SNORE and HDRA events in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. “He did everything for Jean and the race team,” said the well-known Judy Smith, teammate and co-driver on the Hillside Racing team. “He supported us financially and worked long, long hours to keep our buggy running and to get us to the finish line. He was on the gruff side at times, but he was really a love,” noted Judy.
John had become the editor by default when his wife, Jean, passed away in 1997. Jean had been the editor since Dusty Times’ inception, but when she died unexpectedly, John, dedicated to keeping Jean’s dream alive, took over. Although he had always been involved in the business end of the magazine, John was new to the editorial side of things. As was typical of John, he plunged into the job and learned most of it as he went. Whether it was one of his companies that he founded, being crew chief of Jean’s race team or spending late hours on his typewriter writing stories, John went at everything whole hog.
He was a Korean War era veteran and served as an on-board crew chief on B-36 bombers that flew over North Korea. Jean and John met in Europe while she was in Special Services in the Army, running ski tours for soldiers on leave. It was also in Europe where they took an interest in sports car racing, transferring that interest to the USA where they were involved in SCCA club racing at Riverside Raceway. John spent a majority of his time rounding up stories and photos from freelancers and hunting down information for photo captions. Additionally, he kept track of the money, advertising and, despite a very tight economy, kept the publication going.
“John would bring us the copies of Dusty Times that we would take down to Baja to the SCORE races, and along the way, John would always stop and buy us bagels,” recalls Smith from her Pinon Hills, California, home. “Then, with my husband John, we would all sit at the table and have coffee and bagels and reminisce about the old days of off-road racing. It was a special time which I will miss.”
EPILOGUE: John was active with the magazine until a couple weeks before he died. He had just turned 83 and suddenly a number of his cronic ailments all converged at once. John died in his sleep in August at his and his current wife Pat’s home in Palm Springs.
Upon John’s passing his assistant Becky Wikel has assumed the helm at Dusty Times, and together with graphic designer Larry Worsham, has moved the magazine into the digital age. However, it is only being presented in digital format over the Internet at present to save printing costs and be more relevant to a changing market.
Vaya Con Dios from the Staff of Dirt Sports