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Old 12-07-11, 02:17 PM   #1
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I asked my Dad about bicycles when he was young...

My Dad's been gone about a year now, and I recently found this email from him....

In his last year (he knew he had a year to live), I asked him a lot of questions, in an attempt to get to know him better.

One day I simply asked; "Dad, did you ride bicycles as a kid?" (keep in mind he grew up poor in a coal mining region of Pennsylvania. I wasn't sure he had a bike)

here's his reply (when he refers to "Paul", that is my grandfather):

Of course we rode bicycles. For a long time I borrowed one of my sisters, until I became the proud owner of my own at around 10 or 11 years of age. I remember it well. The handle bars were pitted, the paint cracked and, as for the brand, the emblem was missing. I guess it was kind of a mongrel. I think the chain guard was missing, so had to roll my pant leg up. There was something wrong with the chain, as well: It kept missing or jumping when I peddled and sometimes the brake didn’t work when I back peddled. But the worst part was the steering; the bearings in the main shaft were shot and at times the handlebar would just stick in place, leaving me unable to steer and avoid obstacles. This was a particular disadvantage when “us guys” gathered at night to race. There was a long maintenance/supply shed, about 200 feet long and maybe 30 feet wide around which we raced on warm summer evenings. The night watchman enjoyed having us there and would sit outside his office and watch us race like crazy round and round while he listened to The Ted Mack Amateur Hour. There was always some hopeful playing “Lady of Spain” on the accordion on that show. I guess it was kind of an “American Idol” of the time. Anyway, many were the times I would get to the end of the straight-away, going like a bat out of hell, the handle bar would stick in place and I would end up in some ash pile or bramble bush. But there was a plus side to this new acquisition. Sensing my disappointment, Paul informed me that this was a PRE-WAR bike. I faintly understood what that meant. This was special. All the other kids had new or newer bikes. But those were made AFTER the war. My pre-war bike was made before they took all the good steel and iron and rubber for tanks and ships and planes, and other implements of destruction. I don’t know what the post-war bikes were supposed to be made of, but somehow they were not as good as my PRE-WAR BIKE. I don’t think I fully subscribed to the notion that my PR-WAR bike was superior to the newer ones. I didn’t brag about it too much. After I retired and moved to Sun City , at age 69, I bought my first NEW, POST-POST-POST-WAR bike. It’s brand spanking new, silver, 21-speed, caliper brakes. The steering works. I hardly ever use it. End of story.

I hope this is as interesting and touching as I think it is. Thanks for letting me share.
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Old 12-07-11, 02:27 PM   #2
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Made me smile, thank you for sharing.
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Old 12-07-11, 02:51 PM   #3
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Old 12-08-11, 12:33 AM   #4
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loved the story. I could picture the whole thing from the summer evening, to the crash into the bushes to the condition of the prewar bike.

Maybe Paul was familiar with prewar Martin guitars and was just drawing a hopeful parallel to them!
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Old 12-08-11, 01:08 AM   #5
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Fitting Story on Pearl Harbor Day
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Old 12-08-11, 06:09 AM   #6
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That was very cool. Thank you so much for sharing that.
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Old 12-08-11, 07:38 AM   #7
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thank you all. I appreciate your sentiment, and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

cheers
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Old 12-08-11, 09:13 AM   #8
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Cool story. My dad never learned to ride a bike.
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Old 12-08-11, 09:20 PM   #9
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It is as interesting and touching as you think it is. Thanks for posting it.
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Old 12-09-11, 06:54 AM   #10
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Thanks for the posting!

Fortunately my father is still with us at the ripe old age of 79. He cycled a lot when he was younger and then again while in the Navy and after getting out. We still have a couple of his bicycles around that are getting some use, one being a 1970's Motobecane. His Raleigh and his Poplar Special both got stolen, but we have similar bikes. He no longer rides due to balance issues and really doesn't want a trike.

Aaron
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Old 12-09-11, 11:02 AM   #11
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glad your pops is still around Aaron - you're fortunate. Mine passed away at 74 from cancer. A shame really, cuz he was still hittin' 'em good (big tennis player).
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Old 12-09-11, 11:23 AM   #12
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The only thing that my father mentioned about his only bike was it having chrome fenders and a springer front end. Back in his early days, people mostly walked around town, with very few people owning bicycles or cars. Bicycles then were more expensive to purchase than today. My mom's prewar bike was 42 dollars new, equaling to 1300 dollars today.
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Old 12-09-11, 02:12 PM   #13
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I'm envious of some of the father son relationships expressed here. My father sexually abused me and the memories didn't surface until a few years ago - repressing memories is a childhood means of survival. What's left about my father are feelings of hate and anger
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Old 12-09-11, 04:13 PM   #14
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My Dad has been gone for a few years now, but the seat from his bike is on my buddy's '49 Schwinn with an original Whizzer kit on it.
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Old 12-09-11, 04:41 PM   #15
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I'm envious of some of the father son relationships expressed here. My father sexually abused me and the memories didn't surface until a few years ago - repressing memories is a childhood means of survival. What's left about my father are feelings of hate and anger
priceless story above! i wish.....well, never mind.

i had abusive parents, too. it took until i was 35 or so to forgive them. that is not saying i want anything to do with mom (dad dead).
the only positive thing that came from all that is i know how NOT to treat a child.
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Old 12-10-11, 12:05 AM   #16
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I'm envious of some of the father son relationships expressed here. My father sexually abused me and the memories didn't surface until a few years ago - repressing memories is a childhood means of survival. What's left about my father are feelings of hate and anger
That's about the worst that a parent can do.
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Old 12-10-11, 12:40 AM   #17
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I grew up without my natural father in my life and only got to know him when I was older and my step father taught me everything I ever needed to know about how to fix anything although he never rode a bicycle as a child as his family could not afford one and if they could his father never would have paid for one.

He taught me about abuse in that, on many an occasion his father came close to killing him with the beatings he delivered and he carried the physical scars of that abuse the rest of his life as he had been horse whipped but never would this giant of a man, with inhuman strength, ever raise his hand to any of his children or his step children.

I saw him dead lift and toss 500 pound drums into the backs of trucks and he swung a 30 pound sledge hammer like most would swing a normal hammer and these are not tall tales... my grandfather said that they had worked together and that he had never met anyone this physically strong on the outside.

He had no issue with grown men who wanted to prove how tough they were or dealing with those who had wronged others... his presence was usually sufficient to put most people in their place but I heard some stories from his friends about some of the fights they had gotten into and how thankful they were to be on his side.

On the inside my step father struggled his whole life and although he sobered up in his early fifties and was never a mean drinker, ended up dying of alcohol induced liver failure at 59 when he was looking forwrd to retiring and enjoying his children many grandchildren who were the most important things in his life. He helped raise 11 of them with two blended families.

My natural father died of the same causes at the same age... he carried the burden of abandoning his family when I was just a toddler with baby brother and two older siblings. His second wife said this caused him no end of grief and he could never forgive himself although there was some reconciliation between him and I as well as with my older brother.

My older sister and younger brother refused to have anything to do with him.

My real father was he guy who showed me how to throw a baseball, fix my bicycle and my car, how to do carpentry work, and how to be a decent father to my own children... he always made sure we never lacked for anything as he had also known abject poverty and hunger in his youth (starvation was some of the abuse he suffered).

It does not matter that he never rode a bicycle although it is nice to think that maybe, we could have taken a ride together when I was a kid... but he could only watch.
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Old 12-13-11, 01:09 PM   #18
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I live next to Sun City and will often ride through the retirement city. Many of the senior citizens will smile and wave as I ride past them. Perhaps one of those people were your Dad. One time as I was riding along one of the streets an older man came up next to me in his car and paced me. After a few minutes he smiled and waved and then drove off. I like to think he was once a cyclist and was fondly remembering the wind in his face on a nice summer day. I have no problem with the seniors. They always give me plenty of room as I ride down their streets and always have a welcome smile and wave available.
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Old 12-13-11, 01:18 PM   #19
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^^that's neat that you know the area my Dad retired in. He enjoyed it immensely. And the people there are so nice, and so happy. Imagine growing up in a "patch" with a coal mine right next door to your "house" (more like a shack) and ending up living in Sun City. He was very grateful for it.

here's a picture of me and the old man driving his golf cart on the streets in Sun City. This was shortly after his first chemo treatment. I went down there and got him back on his feet, walking laps in the pool.



and here he is holding me just weeks (months?) after my birth:

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Old 12-17-11, 06:48 AM   #20
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my dad is 82,showed him my new Caad 10 Thursday and he told me he
had a bike with wooden wheels, and you had to glue on the tubless tire! Wish i had that bike!
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Old 12-18-11, 02:47 PM   #21
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I don't think my dad has been on a bicycle since he was a teenager.
However, my grandparents told the story of when he was 12, he and his younger brother opened a bike repair shop in the barn. It didn't last long. They could take the bikes apart but couldn't get them back together.
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Old 12-18-11, 07:28 PM   #22
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Im 73. I dont think my dad ever knew how to ride a bike. But he saw to it that I had a 24", and then a 26" bike to ride to school. It was a mile and 3/4 to grade school and then highschool. I was little for my age, thats why my first regular bike was the 24". In those days the 40s 24" indicated the size of the wheels.
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Old 12-18-11, 07:28 PM   #23
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My father had a great bicycle adventure, back when he was 16 years old and the US was just getting into WW II. Along with a brother and a friend, he rode his bicycle from Lansing to the Straits of Mackinaw. Nowadays, you can take the freeway 250 miles north to get there, but back then there was only dirt roads, none of which went straight north; and they did it on balloon-tired single speeds. They spent most of the summer, camping as they went, visiting cousins along the way, and even rode the ferry across the straits to the Upper Peninsula. Back then, the Mackinaw Bridge hadn't yet been built.

He's gone now, but I think of him and his adventure every year when I ride DALMAC.
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Old 12-19-11, 11:34 AM   #24
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what an adventure that must have been BlazingP.
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Old 01-15-12, 07:35 PM   #25
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For all you young whippersnappers the bikes we rode just after the war were heavy iron pipe suckers. My 26' wheel bike probably approached 50 pounds. It came with a huge light on the front fender, a tank between the two top bars, and an carrier on the back. The tires were huge and heavy also. Those bikes make a Walmart bike of today look like a TDF racing bike.
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