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Family shares history behind famous phrase ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – She was the silent voice behind a popular phrase, “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Alice Greene was actually a young copywriter at WIBC who came up with the saying. Indy 500 contributor Laura Steele spent time with Greene’s family to get the story.

Every year Bob Bugher, Greene’s son puts a checkered flag on her grave for Mother’s Day. He said it’s a nice way to remember his mother.

It’s been 20 years since the mother of nine passed away.

It was her daughter Ellen Miller who wrote her obituary. She worked at the then Indianapolis News.

“I thought what the heck I’m writing the obit. I’m just going to put this interesting little fact in there,” said Miller.

That fact was that her mother coined the phrase “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Ellen said “They ended up making a headline out of it.”

That’s when the call came from track historian Donald Davison.

“I’m a daughter and even though I’m a journalist, I didn’t know how to confirm it except my mother never told a lie that I know of,” Miller said.

Davidson confirmed it was in fact Alice Greene who came up with the phrase. It was then made famous by legendary Indy 500 voice, Sid Collins.

“I kind of feel proud of that and that’s one contribution I could make,” Miller said. “I was just really glad that I could bring it to this expert’s attention and he thought it was worthy of putting in history. I may be more proud of that than anything I did in journalism.”

So, how did she come up with the phrase?

According to her husband, Bill Bugher, “She said there was a meeting when they were putting together a radio network to broadcast the 500. They needed a phrase for their stations to say there was a break coming up.”

Green’s other daughter, Janet Smith thought the whole thing was pretty cool.

“We thought it was the neatest thing in the world. We were as proud as could be about it. I don’t remember her talking much about it. She was just sort of, it’s my job it was just what I had to do,” Smith said.

Steele asked the family what they thought about the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, saying they are going to use the phrase more and more.

“(It) reminds me of the joke we had in the family that we wished we got a dollar every time that phrase was used. We’d be in pretty good shape, but that was just a joke that’s all that was because to her it was just work product. That’s all it was,” said Bill Bugher.

Greene coined the phrase in 1954. Not long after she decided to get out of the business to be a mom.

Greene’s family say they are the keeper of her legacy, but they all agreed that she would say her legacy is her children.

See more legendary race moments as 24-Hour News 8 counts down to the 100th running of the Indy 500, here.