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  1. #1
    Senior Member GeezerGeek's Avatar
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    Childhood stories

    It may be interesting to some of the younger bikers to read stories from our youth.

    For example, after I biked home from school I would call my best friend. To do so I picked up the heavy black handset from the phone on the wall. There was no dial or buttons on the phone. I had to wait for the operator to pick up. In the mean time I would pace in the small circle that the 3 foot (1meter) cord allowed. Eventually a lady would come on and say "operator". I would say "1341 please" and then she would connect us by plugging my wire into my neighbors jack on her large council. My home number was 422W. Things have certainly changed since then.

  2. #2
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    One of my memories from my youth is the summer holidays of 1960 to 63. I belonged to a youth club and one of the things we used to arrange was daytime group activities. We decided that we would arrange bike trips out to regional landmarks just to keep ourselves amused. The people involved would be aged from around 13 to 17, boys and girls and the bikes were nothing special. Generrally single speed touring bikes, and if you were lucky you had 3 speed Sturmey Archer gears. One bloke actually had a Racing bike with 5 speed gears and drop handlebars.

    What surprises me now is the distance covered in a day by these youngsters, with the condition and type of bikes we had. One of our typical trips was to Rochester Castle, a round trip of around 70miles. One of the more lengthy ones was to Canterbury Cathedral, a trip in excess of 120 miles. As I say, If you asked me now to just jump on a bike and do 70 miles, I would prepare for it, Make certain I was Fit, overhaul the bike, Carbo load for a week beforehand. 40 odd years ago, we just jumped on our bikes and went. The joys of being a youngster, but more importantly a youngster of 40 years ago and not the whimps that seem to predomoinate our society Today.

    Please remember that we were just normal kids, on normal bikes with just the average fitness that all youngster had then.

  3. #3
    Around now and then DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeezerGeek

    To do so I picked up the heavy black handset from the phone on the wall. There was no dial or buttons on the phone. I had to wait for the operator to pick up. In the mean time I would pace in the small circle that the 3 foot (1meter) cord allowed. Eventually a lady would come on and say "operator".
    Fun idea. I doubt that anyone will read them or care, but it was fun for me to write a bit. I would love to read other's stories!

    We had a party line "crank phone." You would lift the receiver to hear if anyone was using the phone, and if not, you would turn a crank operating a magneto. You could turn the crank the appropriate number of times for someone else on the party line - for example, our "number" was Cuyamaca #3, and our ring was two longs and two shorts. So you might ring one long and one short to call a neighbor a few miles up the road. However, the operator did not like this and would try to interrupt so she could charge for the call. If you wanted to get to the "outside" world, you cranked one really long ring, and prayed that the operator was awake! You were then connected to the number you wanted, such as "San Diego, Jackson 4678."

    The "line" was a single wire with no insulation that went from tree to tree on glass insulators. Of course, any limb falling during a snow or wind storm would ground out or break the line.

    Whenever there were rings on the line from someone else's magneto, of course everyone else would pick up their phone receiver to hear what was going on, causing a noticeable loss in volume! It was powered by two huge dry cells, as we had no "commercial" electricity, only our own generator.

    The generator was only operated for a few hours a day, and we had an "old fashioned" oak ice box, and drove 9 miles to Descanso over a very winding road to the local grocery to get ice every few days. After awhile we got "commercial" electricity, and my dad took all of us to town where he spent $700 cold cash and bought a washer, a drier and a refrigerator at an appliance store named "Rodin's." I still vividly remember those 7 $100 bills. I can't imagine what that ice box might be worth today as an antique.

    We first had single speed bikes, but eventually, after several years, I got a 3 speed Hercules with Sturmey Archer internals. My friend up the hill had a 10-speed bike from France. Who would ever need 10 speeds? I played mtn biker with my single and 3 speed. HAving grown up on a single speed, I don't get very excited about the "single" and "fixed" speeds that seem to be getting so popular today.

    I learned to drive when I was 12, on a 1946 "Willys" civilian model Jeep with a wooden "kit" with windows for a top. I drove out in the dry river bed, going up and down little mesas in 4 wheel drive, which was not common then. One day the ranger came to our door, and asked my mom who was making all the tire tracks on the mesas. My mom, bless her, totally defended me. But, she never knew what I was doing. I just kept quiet!
    Last edited by DnvrFox; 11-27-04 at 07:09 AM.
    DnvrFox - still bicycling, swimming, walking and weight lifting at 74yo is participating a bit in BFN 50+.

  4. #4
    Around now and then DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stapfam

    What surprises me now is the distance covered in a day by these youngsters, with the condition and type of bikes we had.
    They had a wonderful hour-long TV special about the history of local biking in the Denver area near the turn of the century.

    These guys and girls would ride some pretty primitive bikes regularly on centuries, over rutted roads, some of the girls in their "female attire." There was a bicycle path from Denver to Colorado Springs - 60 miles. Of course, it was paved over and turned into an auto road! NOw they are building a new bike path.

    They thought nothing of it. There were local bicycle clubs, with their own "club houses" which were frequented by the rich, and had sleeping rooms, like a hotel. Bicycling was an upper class activity.

    This all went out with the increasing use of motorized vehicles, and it seems to have been downhill ever since!
    DnvrFox - still bicycling, swimming, walking and weight lifting at 74yo is participating a bit in BFN 50+.

  5. #5
    Senior Member GeezerGeek's Avatar
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    I am amazed at this 50+ group not because we still bike but by how computer literate we all are. Here is another story.

    In the mid 1950's my father, a door to door Fuller Brush salesman, took me on a drive in the country to show me something. It was mid winter, the snow was knee deep, and the temperature was a little below zero F (-15 to -20 C). He pulled into a driveway that led to a boxy looking 2 story building. It was dusk outside so a the intense light coming from all of the windows and doors grabbed my attention. They were all open, every single door and window!

    "Who in their right mind would leave all of the doors and windows open in the middle of winter on a cold night?" I thought.

    “This building is owned by the government”, my father said, “let's go inside”

    While walking to the building I noticed a loud hum coming from inside. Looking up I saw electrical transmission lines going into the building. These were not the little lines that go to one's house, these were the big distribution lines that carried power throughout the local countryside.

    As we walked into the building the reason for all of the open windows became obvious. It was bright and hot in there. As my eyes slowly got used to the intense light I could see that it was not a two story building but a one story building two stories high. All of the walls were lined with large electrical cabinets as well as the center of the room. The placement of the cabinets formed two isles running the length of the one room building. All of the cabinets were studded with electronic tubes like the ones in our TVs and radios. There were thousands of them, some red while others glowed white hot.

    “Do you know what this place is?” my father asked.

    “Is it some kind of TV station or radio station?” I replied mystified by the surroundings.

    “No”, he went on, “It is a calculating machine.”

    “You mean this is an adding machine?” I said not believing that anyone would build such an elaborate adding machine.

    “It's more than that”, he said, “It can multiply and divide too.”

    It wasn't until many years later that I finally understood what it was that he showed me that night. It was one of the first computers.

  6. #6
    Around now and then DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Well, since no one else except Stapfam is contributing, I will second your thoughts about computers!

    When I was in high school in 1956, I had a summer internship with what was then Convair, a major military airplane builder (think F102 and F106). I worked in the radome testing station. In another location, there was a big room as you describe, with folks running around changing tubes and doing something called "programming."

    You had to have a high priority to get "computer time" and the thing was running 24 hours per day.

    We were doing testing of radomes to chart the deflection of the electronic radar signal through the different dielectric materials and shapes being tested. All of the graphs were done by hand (by me), showing the deflections.

    At times we were able to get computer time to avoid the long, long hand calculations. I had a Friden square root calculator, as square roots were a part of the formula used. It was great getting the computer run of the calculations, instead of calculating by a slow whirling mechanical machine that took several seconds for each square root calculated.

    There was also a device called an "analog" computer, in addition to the "digital" computer. I don't quite know what the analog was used for, but it had rheostats, capacitors and resistors, etc. to mimic actual objects.

    This was a "cost-plus" contract, and I quickly learned just how wasteful folks can be with government money. There were two testing shacks for the radomes on the top of the building, and the guys had wired the first two steps with pressure switches to ring an alarm in the cab. That way they could sleep most of the time, with the alarm waking them up as someone approached.

    A program that was designed to turn an honors student into an engineer instead showed me the waste and inefficiencies of government, and I pursued other fields of study.
    Last edited by DnvrFox; 11-28-04 at 12:04 PM.
    DnvrFox - still bicycling, swimming, walking and weight lifting at 74yo is participating a bit in BFN 50+.

  7. #7
    Recovering Retro-grouch CRUM's Avatar
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    As a youngster, I lived in and around DC at different times when my dad was stationed at the Pentagon. I used to ride everywhere. Taking my bike and heading down Wisconsin Ave from Bethesda or battling traffic on the Anacostia bridge coming in from Oxon Hill to end up in the Federal triangle. This was one of my favorite things to do in the Summer. I'd head out around 7 Am and get back about dark. I would hang at the National Zoo, or scope out the Smithsonian, or maybe just be a pain in the butt riding my bike around all the monuments and getting chased out by the DC cops. Occaisionally a friend would go along. He always wanted to have a footrace up the Washington Monument. He was a sick puppy. And while all the times were good, what I remember most is my bike. It allowed me the freedom to explore and explore I did.
    Keep it 'tween the ditches

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  8. #8
    Fixer
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    I remember being a cop in DC and chasing all those bike riding hooligans out from the monument grounds. Occasionally we would catch one of them and they usually cried, "but my Daddy works in the Pentagon".

    Hey Crum!!! How ya doing pal? LOL!

  9. #9
    Forum Admin lotek's Avatar
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    Ok, Computer story.

    In the late 40's (yes thats right 40's) my father took a job with IBM as an
    electrical engineer, In 1955 we moved to Poughkeepsie NY so Dad could work
    in IBMs main computer lab.
    I remember walking down the aisle between rows and rows of cabinets
    much like GeezerGeek describes, holding my fathers hand and gawking
    at everything that was around me. Someone from IBM public relations
    took a photo of that from behind, and it hung in IBM's main hallway for a long
    time (for all I know its still there). This was when IBM had 1 building in poughkeepsie. My house was always filled with people who worked with my father,
    a few names that are synonymous with early computing, Grace Hopper, Ed De Salvo,
    Ross Perot, Yourdan, De Marco etc. I never understood what they were talking about.
    Later after my Father left IBM, for a competitor, he came home with this little
    plastic envelope with this tiny washer in it. He told me "that's computer memory" and I looked at him like he was speaking greek. Only later (in college) did I learn that
    what he showed me that day was experimental CORE.
    Is it any wonder that I'm in the computer field, working with big IBM Iron ?
    Oh yeah, I learned to ride a bike back then too (bike content).
    Marty
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    Odio la gente, tutti.

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  10. #10
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Because of developmental problems affecting my coordination, I did not learn to ride a bicycle until I was 12. I rode my fat-tyred 2-speed coaster brake Schwinn middleweight for a few months, then requested a 10-speed. Since I lived near the top of a 2-mile-long canyon with a 6 percent average grade, I had found the big jump between the low (50) and high (66) gears on my "paper boy special" to be problematic. My father bought me a bottom-of-the-line Bianchi Corsa for Christmas 1962, and I was hooked! What do I ride now? A fat-tyred Schwinn and a Bianchi road bike.

    As a UCLA undergrad, I became very interested in bicycling for transportation. My wife and I were married 3 years before we bought our first car, in late 1976.

    Bicycling is the only sport I have ever truly loved. I enjoy the aesthetics, the mechanics, the exercise, the freedom, the self-reliance, the camaraderie, etc.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
    Capo [dschaw'-poe]: 1959 Modell Campagnolo, S/N 40324; 1960 Sieger, S/N 42624
    Peugeot: 1970 UO-8, S/N 0010468
    Bianchi: 1981 Campione d'Italia, S/N 1.M9914
    Schwinn: 1988 Project KOM-10, S/N F804069

  11. #11
    Senior Member Prisoner's Avatar
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    I was the first kid on my block to own this.

    It was my first bike. The color was metallic purple. After school I would spend hours on it and I road it all year round. I also put "snow tires" on it one year.

  12. #12
    Recovering Retro-grouch CRUM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prisoner
    I was the first kid on my block to own this.

    It was my first bike. The color was metallic purple. After school I would spend hours on it and I road it all year round. I also put "snow tires" on it one year.
    Yeah, well my buddies and I helped create that. We used to take our 26" balloon tire bikes and customize them in the early 60's. I had a red Murray with the front fender mounted on the rear, Butter fly bars, a two speed Bendix hub, a red Banana seat, and red tires. I was cool. Way cool. I could never understand why they transferred that idea to 20" bikes. Of all the things I wish I had saved, the 2 speed Bendix hub is tops on the list.
    Keep it 'tween the ditches

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  13. #13
    Senior Member Prisoner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CRUM
    Yeah, well my buddies and I helped create that. We used to take our 26" balloon tire bikes and customize them in the early 60's. I had a red Murray with the front fender mounted on the rear, Butter fly bars, a two speed Bendix hub, a red Banana seat, and red tires. I was cool. Way cool. I could never understand why they transferred that idea to 20" bikes. Of all the things I wish I had saved, the 2 speed Bendix hub is tops on the list.
    My thanks to you and your buddies. I would have saved mine if it were not for a less than honorable person in my neighborhood who also wanted it.

  14. #14
    Recovering Retro-grouch CRUM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prisoner
    My thanks to you and your buddies. I would have saved mine if it were not for a less than honorable person in my neighborhood who also wanted it.
    My Red Murray met an ignoble end also. Some kind citizen ran it over in a parking lot when I was inside Ben Franklin checking out comic books. I will always remember coming out of the store and there my best friend was, mangled, trashed, and obviously in severe pain. I never got over it. I miss that bike. The only thing I saved was the Bendix 2 speed hub. Matter of fact, lacing it into another rim and spokes was my first attempted wheel build. I was sure I knew how. I didn't. And it ended up in the trash like the rest of the bike. In retrospect, throwing it out was the first of many stupid things I was destined to do in the following 15 years.
    Keep it 'tween the ditches

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  15. #15
    Sophomoric Member UncaStuart's Avatar
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    In the mid-fifties my brother and I got Raleigh 3-speeds as Christmas gifts. My dad was general manager at a Chevy dealership at the time, and after the bikes had gotten a few scuffs on them, he let us pick some colors from the Corvette paint swatch book and then had the bikes painted at the dealership's paint shop. My brother had his in a racy red-orange, and mine was done in a rich metallic burgundy.

    Which in not the point of this anecdote, however. In fifth grade, my school had some sort of festival in the Spring, part of which was a bike decorating contest and a stunt bike riding contest. Since this was a gazillion years before BMX, the bikes used were regular "English" bikes like the Raleighs and fat tire cruisers. I don't recall all of my so-called "stunts," but I do remember making a pass by the teacher-judges with my bike way over at an angle as I pedaled with my right leg through the triangle to get to the right pedal, and the grand finale was getting up enough speed to climb up and stand on the saddle, then crouch down and "hang ten" on the saddle with my arms out to the side as I passed the judges.

    I can't imagine a school allowing any such thing now. Of course, I can't imagine riding a bicycle without a helmet now, either.

  16. #16
    chicharron
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    When I was about 18 yrs. old. I was riding my 10 speed Italia road bike. I was making a left turn in heavy traffic, and a car full of teenagers drove by going the other way. They began to yell obcenaties at me, and taunts. So, like a fool that I was,I reacted and flipped them off with the middle finger. Well, a few moments and about a half a block later, as i was in 10 gear, going down hill,pretty fast, the same car full of teenagers is driving next to me. As I glanced over to my left I noticed the vehicle, and at that moment the passenger opened the car door and the door struck me and I went flying over the handle bars face first into the gravel and the street.

  17. #17
    Senior Member
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    In the middle 50’s I lived on a farm 5 miles east from highway 101 north of North Bend Oregon. The road was paved 2.5 miles up to a radar station and then 2.5 miles of gravel road down from the radar station to our house. My brother and I would pedal and push old single speed coaster brake bikes to the top and ride down. Half way down we stopped at a small spring and splashed water on the red hot coaster brakes. Don’t know how we managed to live this long. What fun ride that would be now on my mountain bike.

    By the way the west side of the radar station about 2 miles down from it was where many pictures of the New Carrissa were taken when she was first aground off Coos Bay Oregon.
    Phil Lux

  18. #18
    Senior Member
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    When I was in sixth grade Bill Flowers, my best friend, and I were riding on the streets between our homes. We came upon a group of three boys a little older than we were who were right at the top of the hill at the end of Lee Avenue. I had a big old battleship grey single speed cruiser with a rear fender but no front one. My feet could harldy reach the pedals. I had just put a coon tail on a rod in the rear of the bike (Remember Davy Crockett?) . As we slowly passed them one said, "That's a pretty cooned-up bike." (Sorry, many of us were racists back then.) I promptly replied, without thinking of course, "Not as cooned-up as yours!" They quickly started off in hot pursuit. Bill and I pedaled and I remember my legs stretching magically. That was the first time I was one with my machine. We escaped capture and were very relieved and proud of ourselves.

  19. #19
    Senior Member jazzy_cyclist's Avatar
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    Great thread. Not sure this is helping my hill climbing, but...

    I grew up outside Washington, D.C. (Arlington) in the 50's. I remember riding my bike (there was a succession of them) to school pretty much every day. When I was in late Junior High/early high school (early/mid 60's), I got a 10 speed. It was a Gitane, and everyone wanted to see the "center pull" brakes. I recall one day my friends and I rode over the birdge to D.C. and then up the C&O canal and back. It was my first "century" - took me all day. Man, I couldn't bend my wrists the next day. I am planning to do my next century this spring!

    My father also worked with computers (he worked for the Post Office Department, part of the Federal Government back then - see? I'm a Postie!). I remember he would always bring home the wiring boards of those tabulating machines (I can't recall the number), but you would program them by plugging wires in the back from "inputs" to "accumulators" to "outputs". In fact, I learned how to do that in high school. Small wonder I've been a software developer for a a couple or three decades...

    -Jim

  20. #20
    Senior Member GeezerGeek's Avatar
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    Here is another one:

    When I was in 7th grade, I went outside and found that my bike was no longer leaning against the house. It was never locked up but for that matter neither was our house. We didn't even have locks on our doors. When I called the police to report it stolen, they told me to come down to the station and see if it is there.

    This was a small town with a population of about 1000 people and the police station was about a ¾ of mile hike from my house. This is the first time that I was ever in the local police station which was just a room tucked under the city hall. In the back of the room was a jail cell that was condemned several years earlier so it could not house the town drunk or any other wayward person. This day the jail was full, full of bikes. And there in the front was mine. It turns out that someone took my bike and left it in town somewhere so the policeman took it.

    “Can I have it back”, I asked?

    “Not until you buy a license for it”, the officer replied.

    “How much does that cost”, I inquired?

    “Two bits”, he said.

    I reached into my pocket and counted all of my change but it wasn't enough. I only had 17 cents. “I have to go home to get it”, I said with the saddest face I could muster.

    “Your bike will be waiting here for you”, he came back.

    While I walked home I was wondering where I was going to find the change to bail out my bike. Coming from a poor family, 25 cents was a significant amount of money. After I got home, I search for any spare change that might be laying around. A penny here a penny there but not enough. Then I headed for the couch. There was usually some change in there but indescribable surprises awaited as well. In the best of times I scratched the back of my hand when reaching deep behind the cushions. On a bad day I would stab the tip of my finger on a pin or slice the back of my hand on a bit of broken glass. That was a good day. I found a nickel and a few pennies. Finally having enough money, I walked back to the station but it was closed.

    With a broken heart, I returned to the station twice a day for the next three days before I finally found it open again. I gave the man my 25 cents and he got this little metal tag with the number 35 on it and proceeded to wire it onto my stem. He said that without a tag he didn't know who owned any of the bikes in town. Finally happy again for the first time in four days I rode my bike home.

    A month later I got a call from the police officer. He said he found my bike and then brought it to me. It seems someone borrowed it again and the policeman found it before I even knew it was missing.

  21. #21
    Bikeman mtessmer's Avatar
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    When I was a kid my dad bought five used bikes, parted them out and made three of them that worked for my sister, brother and myself. Mine was an old Firestone "twenty sixer" we called it. I think it was origanally red with white trim but when I got it it looked brown and rusty cream. It had the long horn handle bars, fenders with streamline headlight and tail light, rear rack and front coil suspension. The thing weighed a ton but I loved it. It took me everywhere. We never had to lock our bikes, I'd leave it by a tree in my front yard all the time and when I went to the drug store for a soda I'd just lean it against the front of the store and go in. Hmmmm... it sounds so simple.
    "Biking for me is like walking with twelve foot strides"
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  22. #22
    Senior Member ChiliDog's Avatar
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    When I was 7 or 8 years old, in the early sixties, we kids rode our bikes all day long. We rode all over town and out into the country and I think we probably covered more than 15 miles at a go. This was almost on a daily basis, as riding bikes was what we were about. We did it for fun, for adventure, and to get from point A to point B. Moms and dads did not drive us everywhere we wanted to go, like today. Most families only owned one car, and dad drove that car to work. If mom worked, they car-pooled. So the bike was MY transportation to anything I wanted to get to, unless I was with my parents.

    We never "hydrated", except to stop and buy a pop from a gas station dispenser or drink water from a neighbor's hose. We never "carb loaded", except maybe to stop and buy a bag of chips, if that. We did not carry water bottles, wear special clothing, or count the miles or the mph. We just rode our bikes. And I never remember being tired or tired of it. All the way through high school...

    At the end of the ride, we did not log our miles or make training notes. We went on to play outside until our mothers called us in, usually around 10pm in the summer, when the last light left the sky. On Saturdays, we got to stay out until 11pm and we played "Green Ghost" and pick-up basket ball on the only hoop on the street, dribbling under the street lights and counting the minutes until we'd be called in by mom.

    I remember my favorite childhood bike: a red and white, fat tired Huffy. It had silver chrome fenders, a "tank" top bar with an actual switch for the lights and horn, a fender where you could strap on school books or grocery bags. A white, vinyl covered seat with springs. I rode that bike from 2nd grade through about 6th grade. Rode it everywhere. Had a basket on it where my cat rode around the neighborhood. Pulled pals up and down the street with it by rope and cardboard box (until the bottom of the box wore out-ouch!) I have no idea how many miles that bike had on it...probably a few thousand, I'd guess. Did not care about such things in those days.

    About 3 years ago I toured a bike museum in New Bremen, Ohio. There was my bike on the display floor. I cannot describe the bitter-sweet feeling I had inside seeing it there. Part joy, part sorrow, part shock, part amazement. Like a deceased relative, come back from the grave. My old red and white Huffy baloon-tired cruiser bike. Man oh man!

    Life was sweet back then, wasn't it? Now everybody seems to be in such a hurry...no time to enjoy and savor the day. I think that's where we cyclists are lucky-we have discovered that "life is a journey, not a destination". We know how to savor the little moments in life that are the whole point of living...at least in my opinion.
    The bike for you is the one you will ride!

  23. #23
    Senior Member Terex's Avatar
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    Another Firestone bike here. Being from Akron, OH and both parents working for Firestone, it makes sense. When I was maybe 12, my buddy Bill and I decided to try to ride our bikes down the hill at the edge of the local church parking lot - short, steep, with a neighborhood street at the bottom. Well, I got down, but my momentum carried me across the street, straight into the ditch on the other side. My front tire hit, I flew over the handle bars, and the bike landed perfectly upside down, balancing on the handle bars and the seat, with the wheels spinning like crazy. I just layed there and laughed. Good times. But not as good as riding old beaters from Tallmadge to Kent with my future wife, when in high school.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terex
    Another Firestone bike here. Being from Akron, OH and both parents working for Firestone, it makes sense. When I was maybe 12, my buddy Bill and I decided to try to ride our bikes down the hill at the edge of the local church parking lot - short, steep, with a neighborhood street at the bottom. Well, I got down, but my momentum carried me across the street, straight into the ditch on the other side. My front tire hit, I flew over the handle bars, and the bike landed perfectly upside down, balancing on the handle bars and the seat, with the wheels spinning like crazy. I just layed there and laughed. Good times. But not as good as riding old beaters from Tallmadge to Kent with my future wife, when in high school.
    Local Firestone store has two Firestone bikes in the showroom. They need some TLC but they are all there. Tank lights and all.
    Joe
    Schwinn Super Le Tour
    Specialized Rockhopper 05

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