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Saturday, June 04, 2016


First Bike

I’m sure everybody can remember their first bike. It was a magical time of your life, when you left the confines of gravity and sailed along with the wind. My first bike was a 24” balloon tire bike that my Day bought used for $20. He painted it maroon and put a basket on the handlebars. Since I was 10 years old and this was my first bike, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Of course, I was not allowed to leave our block but that was O.K. with me. The speed it generated thoroughly amazed me.

The traffic back in 1953 was nothing like it is now and I quickly gravitated to maneuvering the streets of our neighborhood with my mother’s permission and admonition that I “be careful”. Mothers always tell you that even though if you got hurt, you would be the one who suffered.

I had that bike for three years when my grandfather bought me a new one. This was the bike to die for – a Schwinn Phantom. This bike was the red model (they only made four colors –red, blue, green and black). It had a light mounted on the front fender, a huge saddle seat, a horn in the tank between the cross bars, two baskets hanging over the rear fender and a suspension system that moved up and down and allowed you to go faster. I rode that bike all over town. In those days, you could go anywhere, leave your bike outside and be assured that it would be there when you returned. I went to St. Francis, on the other side of town, but Mom let me my bike every Thursday. This was my “sub day”. I rode to Sid’s Subs over on Division Street and had a cold cut sub and an orange drink with the dollar Mom had given me.

One night, coming home from Pony League, I was racing my friend’s father down Truitt Street when I didn’t see the flat green painted pick-up truck parked by the curb. Luckily, I didn’t get hurt, but I can’t say the same for my front fender or the streamlined light on it. I sure didn’t want to tell my parents so I hid it in my grandfather’s garage until the weekend. I still had the old 24” bike and my friend rode that and I rode my Schwinn to Messick’s, a bicycle shop on Old Fruitland Road. I then rode both of us home, with him on the handlebars. Seven miles of hard pedaling was made even harder knowing that I would have to carry him back the same way to pick my bike up. I didn’t mention the bike all week and thought I had pulled it off. When I picked the bike up, the light was all wrong and it was mounted on a fender that was not as large as the original one. That has always been a mystery to me. Did my parents know? I can’t imagine my father not noticing the difference. But they never mentioned it and neither did I.

I wonder how many of us have done a similar thing in their youth and their parents just look the other way. I know later on in my youth, when I tore up a car, my Dad would only say one thing, “Are you O.K.?” He said they made cars every day and I was only depriving myself of the use of it. Why do we get smart only with age?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A cold cut sub and an orange drink for one dad always gave my brother and I bikes on Christmas morning,hence causing us to nearly break our necks to get down the stairs to see what Santa had brought.It was always a Western Flyer bike until the 60's when he switched to Sears.When we each got one with headlights built in we thought that was the cats meow.I nearly got killed on a bike,but that's another story.