It’s art, it’s history, and after years of missing it’s back in the public eye.
History is a fascinating thing. As a species, humans have developed this incredible habit of trying to collect, keep and document everything. Even before written communication, great orators of the people would pass down generation’s worth of accumulated knowledge verbally. As time went on we started writing, painting, and carving our memories as a way to preserve them. The only problem with creating physical manifestations of our history is that humans have a really bad habit of losing things.
Back in the year 1990, a special tapestry paying tribute to the great Big Willie Robinson was commissioned by the publisher of the LA Times, Otis Chandler. Having founded the Brotherhood of Street Racers, Big Willie is an iconic member of the drag racing community and truly remarkable figure in Los Angeles’s history who used street racing to try and end gang violence in the city. The tapestry was crafted from chunks of carpet sewn together to depict a street racing scene. The 20-foot-wide image shows a ‘Cuda racing against a Camaro, while Big Willie stands in the background cheering.
In 2006 after Otis Chandler died, the piece of art was auctioned off. After the auction the artwork’s location became unknown and it became a bit of a lost legend. Now, years after the auction a current member of Big Willie’s Brotherhood stumbled across the tapestry hanging in a shop in Orange County, California.
The entire story has been documented by the LA times in a short video we’ve posted for you here. Like so much of our history, it’s equal parts history, serendipity and wonder. And if you’re curious about the legacy of Big Willie Robinson, the LA Times has an entire podcast mini-series dedicated to the legend himself. The story of using cars to help resolve conflict and build a community which has lasted well past the life of its founding farther is a remarkable one.
Just don’t let the stories get into your head. We don’t need a bunch of you guys out drag racing your classic cars in celebration of this automotive icon. Street racing is bad and illegal so please don’t try this at home.