BY LARRY WEATHERFORD email@example.com
---- — DANVILLE — Pam Shaw loves the “Young and the Restless” so much she records the soap opera every day and watches it every night without fail.
“I started watching that show when it first started 40 years ago, and I have rarely missed an episode,” she said.
She also loves music. That love affair started with Elvis, like it did for so many young girls who grew up with his music and movies.
She loves the more traditional sound of country music, too, and Conway Twitty, in particular. In the split second of silence after Twitty’s introduction and before he started his first song on stage in Danville a couple of decades ago, Shaw yelled from the front row, “I love you Conway!” He looked down and said, “I love you, too, darlin’!” He then went on to start his show.
During the years she’s been in several fan clubs, including Conway’s, the Oak Ridge Boys, and K.T. Oslin. She has pictures, autographs and memorabilia from each of them and other stars she’s seen perform and met.
When it comes to being a fan of someone or something, there’s one who stands out.
Shaw said she had always loved stock car racing, but in the late 1970s her attention focused on Ralph Dale Earnhardt.
“There was just something about him — the way he carried himself, the way he always loved his fans, the tough competitor that he was on the track. Dale Earnhardt just made you want to watch him drive, and watch him win,” she said.
“It just seemed like NASCAR became more exciting and came alive when he got involved. It was like he made the other drivers try harder, too.”
Friends and family knew not to call when NASCAR was on TV. If they forgot, they would get a quick, “I’ll call ya back when the race is over!” Traveling to the track was always a treat for her, too.
She recalled standing in line for an autograph at Indianapolis a couple of days before the Brickyard 400. Earnhardt was busy greeting his fans and signing autographs. He saw people gathering near another driver’s camper. That NASCAR star had decided it was too hot to be out there. She said Earnhardt excused himself for a minute and went over and beat on the door, and said, “These are your fans. You need to get out here and meet ‘em. They’re the ones who make you!”
“That really made you appreciate Dale more, and showed how much he cared about the people who supported him,” she said.
As his son, Dale Jr., joined the chase, Shaw said, “Since Earnhardt fans felt like family, you had to be for his boy, too. He’s good, but not as good as his Dad.”
The No. 3 decal on Shaw’s car lets you know that she is a fan of “The Intimidator.” But that’s only the beginning of her collection of Dale Earnhardt Sr. memorabilia. That collection has grown and grown over the years as she would find something she just had to have, or as friends and family would find gifts for her.
When she started showing her collection, a visitor expected to see the T-shirts, key chains, calendars, pictures and the plastic and die-cast cars. But then, she brought out the lighters, flashlights, Christmas ornaments, blankets, throws, soft drink bottles playing cards, night light, wall plate, back pack, tennis shoes, shoe strings and even the “Number 3” earrings that a friend gave her one Christmas.
“That’s only the beginning,” she chuckled, as she saw the amazed look in a visitor’s eyes as she piled even more Dale Earnhardt “stuff” on the throw she’d laid out for the display.
She said the day Earnhardt died plays like a video in her mind. Not just the race itself, but the entire day. Like millions of others, she was watching the Daytona 500 on television on Feb. 18, 2001, when the fabled No. 3 car crashed into the wall on the last lap. After his death, she set up a Dale Earnhardt memorabilia display for a month in her home.
“It was like losing a very close personal friend. NASCAR just hasn’t been the same since. The excitement is gone. And don’t get me started on how much I despise the points system,” she said.
Her daughter Dana and her son Shane share her love for racing and Dale Earnhardt. She said her son called tearfully from Tupelo, Miss., on that February day to say, “Mama, Dale Earnhardt is dead! Can you believe it?”
Dana also is a fan of the “Young and the Restless.” Like her mom, she also records every show. Plus both say that traditional country music is their favorite, based on growing up with “that kind of music.”
Since she’s been a fan of so many people during the years, is she past the stage of that type of attachment? Would she possibly join someone else’s fan club?
“I wouldn’t rule it out!” she said.
This is part of a series of periodic stories about people who are "Super Fans." If you know someone who is passionate about something -- such as a celebrity, a sport, a hobby -- let us know. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-5161.