From D-Day on the beaches of Normandy in WWII to the Leader of the Band
From D-Day on the beaches of Normandy in WWII to the Leader of the Band
TOLEDO, Ohio (March 21, 2017) -- The Morse Code message that came from the finger tips of Douglas Fordyce in May of 1945 was exactly what so many in the world had so fervently yearned to hear. Germany had finally surrendered. World War II was almost over.
If the war had an ending, it also had a beginning for Fordyce who, along with the 49th British Infantry, landed at Gold Beach in Normandy, France on D-Day June 6, 1944. Gold Beach was just 15 miles east of where the Americans landed on Omaha Beach. Among so many young soldiers who didn't make it home, Fordyce survived the landing, fought his way through Germany before reaching Holland, from where the message of surrender ultimately came nearly a year after the landing.
"My father and his infantry division stayed in northwest Germany and Holland after the unconditional surrender on May 4, to help rebuild," said Graham Fordyce.
"The infantry division was known as the Polar Bears, so it was fitting that the name of the jazz band would be the Polar Stars."
Hold the phone...from World War II to a jazz band?
"My dad played alto sax and clarinet. He started his own band toward the end of World War II. He was the band leader of the Polar Stars. His discharge papers from WWII even made mention of him leading the best British dance band in all of Germany. He stayed for another year in Holland after the war."
Image: Douglas Fordyce, clarinet in hands, is standing with his jazz band at the close of WWII
From there, Douglas Fordyce took his band to the high seas, performing on the famous Queen Mary from 1950 through '53 as it crisscrossed back and forth over the Atlantic.
"My father's band at that time was Geraldo and His Orchestra which was under contract with Cunard Ocean Liners, in which my father played on the Queen Mary."
Ironically, Fordyce's mother, Beryl, also found her way onto the Queen Mary.
"My mother came over on the Queen Mary in '56. She moved here when she was 25 years old. She worked for the British Tourist Office in London and they were opening an office in Los Angeles."
So Beryl Fordyce bought passage on the Queen Mary and casted off on an adventure to America.
"She had four weeks to get to California. She decided to go to New York and took a train and zigzagged across the United States. She wanted to take her time getting there to decide if she wanted to stay or not. She took two weeks traveling across America. She liked it...it was an adventure for her. The weather was nice...the people were nice. She decided to stay."
Image: Douglas and Beryl Fordyce chat with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1990s at the British consulate in Los Angeles.
If you hadn't noticed by now, Fordyce's parents are straightaway from England.
And while Beryl was making a go of it in LA, Douglas was on the other side of the country in New York where he had decided to take his band from the Queen Mary to the Big Apple (NYC).
"After they got hungry he disbanded and decided to get a real job. My dad found a job in the tourist industry in New York and transferred to California. My parents met at a convention in L.A."
And that's how Graham Fordyce came into the world on November 25, 1963.
"I lived in Pasadena (Calif.) for the first eight years, then we moved to San Dimas, Calif. When I was very little in Pasadena, the guy living across the street from me, Dave Butner...he worked for Blair's Speed Shop. He had a Super Stock Camaro. I was 5 years old...I'd walk over and watch him work on his car.
"I left San Dimas when I was 21 and moved to northern Nevada to work for Mallory."
From northern Nevada, Fordyce moved to Cleveland, Ohio in 2007 where he's been stationed ever since. Even though it probably wasn't the culture shock his parents must have experienced, Fordyce had no issues transforming from his southern California roots to America's Midwest.
"Because my parents were British, every other year we'd go to England. Moving around in different cultures wasn't foreign to us."
Since first signing on with Mallory, Fordyce has seen his share of changes among several ownership groups.
"In 1998, Mr. Gasket bought Mallory. In 2008, Mr. Gasket closed the facility in Carson City, Nevada and transferred everything to Cleveland. In 2015, all the brands I work with were purchased by MSD. Then in September of 2015, Holley bought MSD, which included ACCEL, Mr. Gasket and all the other brands. And that's how they got me."
On that note, Fordyce has become a frequent flyer at all the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards events. Fordyce's title is Circle Track Sales Manager for Holley Performance Products. To be sure though, he wears a lot of different hats.
"Basically I inspect all the cars' fuel injection and ignition systems. I check all the components, making sure everything is installed properly. I have to make sure no one is doing anything improperly, and I also provide support for Ilmor."
In addition to his at-track duties, Fordyce does a lot of traveling in between.
"The last two years, the only ARCA races I didn't go to was Berlin. Sometimes the travel can get a little tedious but I love being involved in motorsports, working with the sanctioning bodies and the race teams...doing what I can do to help the sport survive."
Outside of a little fishing every now and then, Fordyce says it's all about the industry that keeps him afloat.
"For me, it's mainly about motorsports. It's my passion...it's my career. I'm just lucky that Holley provides me the opportunity to do all this. I like building relationships with the teams. When they need me, they know they can call me and I'll get it done."
When Fordyce isn't on the road or at the track, he's able to work out of his home in North Olmstead, Ohio, just east of Cleveland.
"I work out of my house doing sales calls which I manage for all of Holley and MSD. Anything to do with sales and sponsorship agreements, that's me. I'm the guy that works with all the sanctioning bodies for all of our brands."
For ARCA members that witness just how busy Fordyce is at the track servicing the brands and customers alike, keep in mind that he's also responsible for several other sanctioning bodies outside of ARCA. Some of the other sanctioning bodies that he services include NASCAR, IMCA, WoO. AMT, ACT, USRA, USMTS, CARS and more.
And it's not just working with all the different sanctions, Fordyce has held several different positions over the decades as the company changed hands, including...
Circle Track Sales Manager (Holley Performance)
Racing Services Manager
R&D Manager (Ignition; ACCEL, Mallory, Pro Connect)
Product Manager (Ignition; ACCEL, Mallory, Mr. Gasket, Pro Connect)
Senior Product Engineer/Field Engineer
Engineering and R&D Manager (Cleveland, OH and Guangzhou, China)
Production Supervisor, Industrial Engineer/Manufacturing Engineer
Industrial Engineer/Continuous Improvement Manager
Design Engineer (Mallory, ERSON, Mr. Gasket)
Designer (Super Shops, Mallory, ERSON)
Draftsman (Super Shops, Mallory, ERSON)
Sales and Customer Service/Tech (Super Shops, Mallory, ERSON)
As we mentioned, he's worn a lot of hats over a career that reaches back more than 30 years.
"I love what I do and it makes all the difference. I don't think I'd do very well if I had to go to an office for your 8-5 routine. I love working out of my home. I can get started as early as I want and work as late as I want. I can get so much more work done at home than if I was confined to an office. It's not like work because I enjoy doing it."
NOTES: Douglas Fordyce passed away at the age of 82 in 2007. Beryl Fordyce is 84 and still lives in southern California. They were married for 47 years, right up till the day Douglas died. Graham also has one sister who lives in Colorado.