December 18, 2017
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Golden Age

Evansville native circled track during Golden Age of Indianapolis 500
Evansville native Edwin Aleon — who raced under the name Wilbur D’Alene

Walking through Oak Hill Cemetery, one would be hard pressed to find a connection to the Memorial Day extravaganza we know as the Indianapolis 500. Even standing in front of the grave of Edwin Aleon, there still is little to connect with the “Golden Age” of racing at the iconic speedway.

But Edwin Aleon, racing under the name of Wilbur D’Alene, not only drove at the speedway, but also was a nationally known driver between 1916 and 1922.

Born in 1884, probably along Bergdolt Road, Edwin became a Center Township farmer. Around 1913, Ed took off, purportedly for South America, and disappeared. While working as a lumberjack in the northwest, he acquired the name Wilbur “Wild Bill” D’Alene, the last name coming from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Soon after, he became an auto racer, racing across the country for Marmon and Duesenberg. By 1916, locals discovered Wilbur D’Alene was in fact Ed Aleon of Evansville. In that year, D’Alene finished second at the shortened race at Indianapolis. Both the 1917 and 1918 Indianapolis races were cancelled because of World War I. After recovering from an accident, which left him injured and his ride-along mechanic dead, Edwin Aleon joined the army in January 1918. He served as an aviation instructor at Kelly Field in Texas.

In 1919, Wilbur D’Alene returned to Indianapolis driving a Duesenberg. He finished 17th, forced out of the race after 120 laps with mechanical trouble. Although Wilbur continued to race, he also became a race promoter and worked with several auto companies. In 1922, he drove the Monroe Special at Indianapolis, finishing 15th after completing 160 laps. The following year, he officially retired from racing and returned to Evansville. Late in life, he moved to Fort Myers, Florida, where he died in 1966.

Ed Aleon, as Wilbur D’Alene, professionally raced across the country for about seven years, surviving several major crashes and participating in three Memorial Day races at Indianapolis.

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