Portland’s Keith Preskey: Doing Good
By Albert Drake
When Keith Preskey was in Franklin High in Portland 60 years ago he drove a ’32 Ford coupe with a Model B engine equipped with dual carbs. He loved to drag race on Foster and when he had a girl with him he’d warn her that the right door sometimes flew open and that she’d better sit in the middle. That put her beside Preskey, her legs alongside that cut down shift lever and sometimes his large hand missed the lever and caught flesh.
After high school Preskey began to race motorcycles at the old Sidewinders track, and he was good, fearless, a hard charger. A guy who didn’t get out of Preskey’s way might find himself at the bottom of the hill. Preskey won a lot of races and in 1965, ten years after he began racing, he was named number one in the northwest and number four in the nation. Then he quit racing. He saw a guy break his back, and Preskey, with a wife and family, decided the fun wasn’t worth the risk of becoming incapacitated.
Instead, he did a lot of hunting and fishing and spent time with his family. His work as a longshoreman involved long hours and hard labor, but it paid the bills, with some left over. He continued to work until last year, retiring at age 74 because he needed the money to buy cars. About ten years ago, Preskey thought about his old hot rod and how happy he had been cruising around southeast Portland, and so he bought a running, finished Fad T. Before he sold it he bought another cruiser, and another. Currently he has 18 cars, ranging from a “rat rod” Model A roadster pickup to a 1937 Studebaker sedan street rod to a 1966 Mustang. Why so many? Because this is what he does in his retirement — “You can’t take it with you”. Besides, he thoroughly enjoys going to rod runs, meeting other rodders, having a hamburger, cruising. He also enjoys showing his cars, and in recent years he’s shown at least six cars per year at the Portland Roadster Show in an area that could be dubbed Preskey’s Parking.
But Preskey is a generous person with a social conscience, and believes that we were put on this earth to do good. As a result, he donates money to several worthy causes. When Preskey was in high school he played serious football and basketball; in 1952 he was an All City athlete. For the past several years he has donated $1,000 to a needy student athlete at Franklin High; one year it’s a boy, the next year a girl. The scholarship is given in memory of Preskey’s son, Tim Preskey, who played sports at Franklin. Preskey also gives a sum of money to be used to help student athletes cover the several fees charged when a student indicates a desire to play a sport. These are fees that athletes were not charged when Preskey played, and knows that lots of kids can’t afford the fees today.
Preskey also participates in the Missing in America (MIA) program in the northwest area, and is one of the main organizers working through his club, the Pharaohs Street Rodders. This group makes certain that deceased military veterans who have no family are buried with dignity. The club earns money at rod runs and Preskey matches that amount. But it’s not just the money; the club cars form a long parade and follow the hearse up Mt. Scott to Willamette National Cemetery.
When he goes to a rod run, Preskey usually donates two trophies to the host club to be given to kids under 21 who show their cars. “That’s a way to keep young people interested in rods,” Preskey said. At some rod runs a collection is made for breast cancer awareness. This year Preskey was able to present the 2010 Miss Oregon with a hefty check, a lot of it his own money.
For several years Preskey has donated a $1,000 scholarship to a deserving kid who has entered his car in the High School Challenge in the Portland Roadster Show. The student must enroll in a college that offers a program in automotive technology. On a lighter note, Preskey pays for the female models who, for a fee, will pose with a guy’s car. Profits go to a disabled veterans program. This year at the show the ladies will be in Preskey’s space along with a half dozen of his cars. Be sure to stop by and say hello.
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