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Spike Rhiando - updated


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#1 Romayne Lewis

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Posted 28 May 2010 - 08:36

There are quite a few of you who have helped me in trying to find out about the origins of my grandfather, Alvin James 'Spike' Rhiando, over the years. All comments, thoughts and ideas have been greatly appreciated.

I am extremely happy to say that I am about 85% there, and thought I would share my findings with you:

Spike Rhiando was born on 6th April 1910 in Berlin, Germany. His birth name was Albert J Stevens.

His father was called Albert John Stevens (the juggler Rebla) who performed in various theatres and was born in Highbury, London..

His mother was Elizabeth Albrecht who was German and born in Leipzig, Germany. She came from a circus background.

When young Albert was 1 year old, he was living with his parents in Highbury/Islington area of London - then went to live in Lewisham, London. Elizabeth lived in London until she died in the 1950s. Rebla emmigrated on his own to Melbourne, Australia in 1940 (and died there in 1963).

Rebla was a very naughty boy and had an affair and in 1927 Elizabeth divorced Rebla. The Divorce Petition States that Elizabeth and her son were living at 38 Lewisham Park, Lewisham. Young Albert was 17 year's old at this time.

So that covers upto 1927. So from 1927/8 young Albert Stevens completely disappeared and in 1932/3 Spike Rhiando appeared!!
So there is a missing piece in the jigsaw for the years between 1928-1933.

Between these years there was speedway racing in Norwich. There were two mysterious riders who appeared during this time - and disappeared again soon afterwards. They are Alvin James Franchetti and/or Spike Antonio Riando. Has anyone got any information or any photos of these riders to confirm if they all the same person?
Help with this final missing piece would be great to know.

For those of us, including me, who thought Spike was born and travelled the world, was completely wrong (save for the fact that he spent the first few month's of his life in Germany!). In fact I have traced his paternal family further back and they all came from Chertsey in Surrey in the 1800s!!

Spike died 9th November 1975 in Marylebone, London. His name entered on the Death Cert was Alvin Maxwell Rhiando.

All the best, Romayne :-).



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#2 Doug Nye

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Posted 28 May 2010 - 08:55

Congratulations Romayne - so much of the jigsaw now resolved. Glad to have been able to help just a tiny bit. Albert Stevens, eh? Who would have thought it...

Interestingly, both juggling and racing motorcycles and cars demand fine coordination. Take a look at Rebla's capabilities here - http://www.britishpa...rd.php?id=36937 - perhaps 'Spike' inherited the gene?

DCN

Edited by Doug Nye, 28 May 2010 - 09:00.


#3 Paul Parker

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Posted 28 May 2010 - 17:17

Congratulations Romayne - so much of the jigsaw now resolved. Glad to have been able to help just a tiny bit. Albert Stevens, eh? Who would have thought it...

Interestingly, both juggling and racing motorcycles and cars demand fine coordination. Take a look at Rebla's capabilities here - http://www.britishpa...rd.php?id=36937 - perhaps 'Spike' inherited the gene?

DCN


People with this standard of timing, co-ordination, spatial awareness and anticipation are quite remarkable. How do they do it? I could not do something like this if I lived to be a thousand years old. Juggling is rather taken for granted but done to this standard it is something special. Even more pertinently in this age of CGI where the unbelievable is created onscreen here we have the real thing without any camera tricks performed by a middle aged man on a stage with no other assistance. What a fascinating thread and thank you Doug for turning up something so redolent of the period.

#4 Simon Thomas

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Posted 28 May 2010 - 17:27

People with this standard of timing, co-ordination, spatial awareness and anticipation are quite remarkable. How do they do it? I could not do something like this if I lived to be a thousand years old. Juggling is rather taken for granted but done to this standard it is something special. Even more pertinently in this age of CGI where the unbelievable is created onscreen here we have the real thing without any camera tricks performed by a middle aged man on a stage with no other assistance. What a fascinating thread and thank you Doug for turning up something so redolent of the period.

Spike was heavily involved with the Shamrock car in Ireland in the late 1950s/early 1960s. Will post more details later.
Simon

#5 Michael Ferner

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Posted 28 May 2010 - 17:27

Rather wonderful! :)

#6 ReWind

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Posted 28 May 2010 - 17:52

@Romayne: Considering the time gap you mention (1928 – 1933) what makes you sure that A.J. Stevens is identical to your grandfather?

Did you find out anything about how the name change from Stevens to Rhiando happened? Being such an unusual name there must be a story behind it, I assume.

And is there an explanation for Alvin Rhiando’s middle name changing from James to Maxwell?

PS. Why not stick to your former thread?

#7 tsrwright

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Posted 10 June 2012 - 12:49

Mainly in the interests of keeping this topic alive, I might mention that April 2012 Classic and Sportscar p49 recycles the Spike-Rhiando-colourful-American-born-of-high-wire-artists story. Don't know who the author is - there is no byline on the cutting I have seen.

Any reliable updates to the story so far would be good. I can contribute that his Skirrow (identified by signwriting under the paint) turned up a year or two ago on eBay and is now in very good hands.

#8 bradbury west

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Posted 10 June 2012 - 13:32

Just to add to the thread, in the April 2012 issue of the excellent, IMHO, Vintage Racecar Ed McDonough does a detailed piece on the Trimax; story so far, history, restoration, track impressions etc. with some useful period photographs.
Those not familiar with Vintage Racecar might find it a very good read, especially as it has a stron US and Australian content as well as the usual European stuff. It has just started a new feature as separate item, if you flip the issue there is a parallel publication Vintage Roadcar, which stars off with pieces on Art Deco cars and also the Pegaso Z102B. Neither part has any "fluff" items, but do come up with sundry "oddball" makes etc, although, like many magazines, it features cars for sale or up for auction, but at least we get a detailed article.
Usual disclaimers
Roger Lund

#9 Geoff E

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Posted 10 June 2012 - 14:20

Another piece of this jigsaw puzzle perhaps ... the birth in Lewisham 1938 of Maxwell E Rhiando - but I suspect he was Romayne's father. :)

Edited by Geoff E, 10 June 2012 - 14:25.


#10 Vitesse2

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Posted 10 June 2012 - 14:39

Some items gleaned from Ancestry.

Alwin Rhiando of 10 Church Terrace, Lewisham, SE13 appears on the electoral roll for the years 1935-37 inclusive.

Alvin Rhiando of "Lingwood", Byfleet Rd, Cobham (telephone number Cobham 3344) appears in phone books from 1950-54 inclusive.

An Alvin Rhiando also flew Pan Am from London to Shannon on October 9th 1952.

#11 Vitesse2

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Posted 10 June 2012 - 15:50

Curiouser and curiouser ...

Elizabeth Stevens is on the electoral roll at 38 Lewisham Park from 1928 onwards. From 1929 there is a Herbert Lawrence at the same address. I didn't check before 1928, as there didn't seem any point.

In 1933, they are joined by Alvert [sic] John Stevens and Walter Scott. As the voting age was then 21, this pretty much coincides with Albert Stevens (ie Spike) being born in 1910.

In 1934 Herbert Lawrence disappears. Elizabeth Stevens, Albert John Stevens and Walter Scott remain.

In 1935 38 Lewisham Park was occupied by a family called Chalk.

#12 David Birchall

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Posted 10 June 2012 - 20:02

Fascinating as this story is, the two parts don't seem to fit with a serious problem around 1934--Having read Vitesses posts above I suggest now reading this extract from the original thread (And I agree these two threads should be combined):

Begin quote:

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Yesterday I was doing some research at the British Library Newspaper archive at Colindale. While working my way through some Light Car & Cycle Car Magazines I came across several references to Spike Riando.

In March 1934 Sports Jottings by "The Blower" (who I think was Rodney Walkerley) 'Spike Rhiando arrived from the States a few moths ago with ideas of starting Car Dirt-Track racing on American lines. He has made Greenford his headquarters and contacted the LC&CC to tell us things were nearly ready for the first meeting on 24 March. The races are for cars with no capacity limit and he has gathered Vernon Balls, the Conan Doyle brothers and R.G.J. Nash. Spkike's own 1.5 litre Miller is due in a few weeks, the Conan Doyles are to run a Dusenberg and Nash has a Fronty Ford. More anon.' There was more: On 16 March 'Met Spike and a few of his supporters at Greenford among them Miss Cynthia Sedgwick, Adrian and Dennis Conan Doyle and John Eason Gibson. I gather the opening meeting will be on 30 March and Spike's Miller arrives next week.' The next week on 23 March entries were invited for the event at Greenford.

Then on 30 March 1934 ' the RAC intervened to stop the Dirt-Track Race Meeting. Practice alone will now be allowed at the Greenford Track which has been converted into a replica of Ascot Speedway, California.'

While all this was going on Car Dirt-Track racing was happening at Crystal Palace organised by Mr Jean Reville for modified fwd BSA four-wheeled cars. Offering races over four laps totalling 1796 yards with "apprecialbly banked" bends. And on Good Friday the meeting took place with three teams of three drivers contesting the 20 races. Crystal Palace Captained by Jean Reville used Palmer Specials (fwd BSA) Wembley Park led by Victor Gillow used Rileys and Wimbledon Park captained by Tommy Sulman (the "New South Wales Champion") drove the Sulman Special. A field of three cars began each race (it maybe only 3 cars raced with different drivers) and the Riley proved to lap fastest at 38.48mph. Dick Nash brought along his supercharged Frazer Nash Special "The Spook" and in a demonstration set a 1500cc record at 45sec an average speed of 40.81mph.

On 11 May 1934 there was an account of the meeting at Greeenford held by the Speedway Racing Club. Five 5 lap races took place, the first two won by Arthur Baron (Bugatti) with a best average of 56mph). The next race was won by V.W. Derrington in his supercharged Salmson at 52.66mph and AJ Mazengarb (Lea Francis) took the third at 53.78 and R.C. Clerk (Austin 7) won the last at 50.34mph. Dick Nash again made demonstration laps (with no time recorded) after which Baron, Mazengarb and Conan Doyle (Mercedes Benz) had a go at the lap record with the Lea Francis coming out on top with a 35 4/5sec lap at a speed of 59.28mph. Next a 30 lap race took place and was won by T.P. Cholmondley-Tapper (Bugatti 1.5litre) at 55.31mph and the last ten lap race was won by J.F. (that's what it said) Sulman in the Sulman Special at 52.16mph. 'Spike Rhiando came over specially from the states and closed the meeting with a dashing lap in Hodge's Singer.'

I stopped taking notes on Dirt Track stuff after that, but it's another thread in the Rhiando story.

End of quote.

Edited by David Birchall, 10 June 2012 - 20:04.


#13 David Birchall

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Posted 10 June 2012 - 20:39

Are we to assume that Spike Rhiando "created" his persona in early 1934?
One imagines a couple of visits to the cinema to watch Tom Mix movies, a visit to a Army & Navy type store for a couple of check shirts and Voila! A new personality very different from the East end kid.

#14 Vitesse2

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Posted 10 June 2012 - 20:44

I don't see much of a problem, David. A 1934 electoral roll would have been compiled in the autumn of 1933, so my hypothesis would be that Elizabeth Stevens and her son moved out of 38 Lewisham Park at the end of 1933 or early in 1934. Albert Stevens then becomes "Spike Rhiando" and moves into a flat at 10 Church Terrace, Lewisham with a lady who is apparently "Mrs Spike Rhiando", but - as I suspect Geoff may also have discovered - that's another mystery. However, I wouldn't want to go into that without Romayne's okay, since they are her grandparents.

I don't think anyone has ever provided evidence that Rhiando was ever in America: self-penned articles by a renowned self-publicist in a boys' comic more usually associated with football are hardly proof positive and as Doug pointed out "At least one motor racing authority always confided to me that 'Rhiando has never been further west than Greenford Stadium' - in west London, doubting he was from the Americas at all!"

#15 David Birchall

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Posted 10 June 2012 - 20:53

This has a sense of de'ja vu:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey_Owl

#16 Vitesse2

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Posted 10 June 2012 - 21:03

This has a sense of de'ja vu:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey_Owl

Or even: http://en.wikipedia....i/Lobsang_Rampa

He was another one who ended up in Canada :lol: I was always particularly impressed by "Living With The Lama" as dictated by his cat Mrs Fifi Greywhiskers :rolleyes:

#17 David Birchall

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Posted 10 June 2012 - 21:13

I'm another one who ended up in Canada and I am sure it is better than Greenford Stadium! :)

#18 Geoff E

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Posted 10 June 2012 - 21:54

An Alvin Rhiando also flew Pan Am from London to Shannon on October 9th 1952.


Is that the same journey (mis)mentioned here? http://www.ten-tenth...amp;postcount=6


#19 Vitesse2

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Posted 10 June 2012 - 22:22

Is that the same journey (mis)mentioned here? http://www.ten-tenth...amp;postcount=6

Presumably. But definitely a Pan Am plane from London to New York. Rhiando was one of several passengers who only travelled to Shannon: essentially a domestic flight so no passport details either. :well:

No sign on Ancestry's database of any UK incoming passengers under the name Rhiando either

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#20 tsrwright

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 02:51

Great to see a valuable revival of this topic. Here's a couple of recent photos of Spike's Mk1 Skirrow, probably 1937 build. The photo on the grille is clearly of the same car and was taken post-war at Brafield, Northants, the track built by Dave Hughes specifically for midget racing which he revived, to a degree, post WW2.

Posted Image


Posted Image

Edited by tsrwright, 11 June 2012 - 03:09.


#21 tsrwright

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 03:56

I don't see much of a problem, David. A 1934 electoral roll would have been compiled in the autumn of 1933, so my hypothesis would be that Elizabeth Stevens and her son moved out of 38 Lewisham Park at the end of 1933 or early in 1934. Albert Stevens then becomes "Spike Rhiando" and moves into a flat at 10 Church Terrace, Lewisham with a lady who is apparently "Mrs Spike Rhiando", but - as I suspect Geoff may also have discovered - that's another mystery. However, I wouldn't want to go into that without Romayne's okay, since they are her grandparents.

...


Spike's apparent adoption of an American origin seems neatly to coincide with his involvement with the Greenford dirt-track race(s) in 1934 (see earlier post). There are at least two programmes surviving for this/these but they do not have date(s). One has results pencilled in so presumably records actual racing. In both Spike is credited with being 'Technical Adviser' to the Auto Racing Club and there is a brief article which describes AAA big oval racing but definitely not the midget racing which had started in Southern California in 1933. The opposite page in one has a studio portrait of Spike (credited 'Motor Sport Photograph') and states he is a "well known American dirt-track driver [who] has for the past 12 months been endeavouring [sic] to control Auto Dirt Track Racing in this country and has been very instrumental in inaugurating this sport.'

In 1934 midget racing promoted on motorcycle speedway lines i.e. short races on short tracks usually under lights started up on the east coast of the USA, Australia and the UK at Crystal Palace (speedway). Clearly Spike was involved in one of several efforts to get commercial car dirt-track going and probably his being described as a 'well known American driver' was a story he or others cooked up to add credibility to that venture.

Edited by tsrwright, 11 June 2012 - 04:16.


#22 taylov

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 07:56

Posted Image

Picked up this autograph album page a couple of years ago from an on-line auction. Dated July 1939, but I note that "Spike" is described on the page as "South American" :)

Tony

Edited by taylov, 11 June 2012 - 15:05.


#23 Vitesse2

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 08:50

From The Times, June 15th 1934:

Posted Image

#24 terry mcgrath

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 10:58

I would love to get more information and photos of the SS100 owned and raced by Spike Rhiando
terry

#25 Geoff E

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 11:22

From The Times, June 15th 1934:

Posted Image


Immediately underneath these adverts were adverts for rodeo performances at White City.

Apparently a Leon Marett had rodeo connections http://news.google.c...p;pg=428,600192 so perhaps he was connected with the White City rodeo as well as the midget racing.


#26 Vitesse2

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 12:02

According to this article about Jean Reville (scroll to "Spoiled by mishap" page 12) Marett was "of Wimbledon", not that that necessarily means anything apart from perhaps representing the Wimbledon club:

http://www.mertonhis...ry/BULL170X.pdf

This appears to be "rodeo" Marett: http://wc.rootsweb.a...g...98&id=I1317

However, there is also a Leonard Sidney Marett, also born in 1911, in Lambeth - married Mabel A Barnes in Weymouth 1935 and died there in 1974.

Edited by Vitesse2, 11 June 2012 - 12:14.


#27 Geoff E

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 12:29

Thanks V2 for clearing up the Marett business. :)

#28 tsrwright

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 13:31

...

http://www.mertonhis...ry/BULL170X.pdf


More good stuff on Reville at same link as above but substitute '171'.

Reville seems to have been a replica of Rhiando - showman and fantasy merchant. He managed to get his photo in newspapers all over the world lying alongside the "worlds smallest racing car" or similar words.

#29 Vitesse2

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 14:25

Came across this while searching for something completely different (as usual!)

Posted Image

As the watermark shows, it's © Mary Evans Picture Library and is described as taken in 1934: "Car race of the Speedway Racing Driver's Club. England." Picture is credited to "Mary Evans/IMAGNO/Austrian Archives".

Interesting to note that they're travelling clockwise. But given the name of the club (see post #12), it's presumably Greenford? The trees in the background look rather bare - so is this actually a practice picture from the abandoned March meeting? There's certainly not much of a crowd!

#30 taylov

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 15:03

Came across this while searching for something completely different (as usual!)

Interesting to note that they're travelling clockwise. But given the name of the club (see post #12), it's presumably Greenford? The trees in the background look rather bare - so is this actually a practice picture from the abandoned March meeting? There's certainly not much of a crowd!


Checked my Crystal Palace archive and there's a photo on page 26 of Phillip Parfitt's book "Racing at Crystal Palace" (1991) showing a pre-war speedway race. It is of interest because the outer fence and supports are exactly as the photo above, even down to the low white wall.

In contrast Greenford had a inner fence to the track, absent in the photo posted here.

Check out this aerial view of the Greenford track http://www.britainfr...image/epw031779

Crystal Palace or Greenford :confused: .

Tony

Edited by taylov, 21 January 2013 - 15:48.


#31 Vitesse2

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 16:16

Checked my Crystal Palace archive and there's a photo on page 26 of Phillip Parfitt's book "Racing at Crystal Palace" (1991) showing a pre-war speedway race. It is of interest because the outer fence and supports are exactly as the photo above, even down to the low white wall.

In contrast Greenford had a inner fence to the track, absent in the photo posted here.

Check out this aerial view of the Greenford track http://www.britainfr...image/epw031779

Crystal Palace or Greenford :confused: .

Tony

I see what you mean about the fencing and wall, Tony, but the Palace track also looks to have had substantial spectator banking, which is not evident in the one I posted. Perhaps there was a standard construction specified? Or maybe they were simply built by the same company?

Just to add further confusion, there also seem to be two possible venues at Greenford, since there is also the Greenford Trotting Track:

http://www.britainfr...image/epw034577

#32 taylov

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 22:36

Found this photo on google Images under Greenford Speedway - note the inside fence I mentioned above....

http://www.flickr.co...N06/6241040853/

...and here's one of the trotting track. The buildings confirm that the speedway and trotting track were one and the same location.

http://www.flickr.co...in/photostream/


Tony

#33 Cappo

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Posted 05 February 2013 - 21:51

Spike was heavily involved with the Shamrock car in Ireland in the late 1950s/early 1960s. Will post more details later.
Simon



Just curious — any update on the connection with the "Shamrock' car?