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Christmas memories from the Schwinn shop in the 1960s

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Christmas memories from the Schwinn shop in the 1960s

Old 01-16-12, 09:28 AM
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Hoss Cartright
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Christmas memories from the Schwinn shop in the 1960s

Another long post as usual..

As mentioned in a previous post we were a 1000 Club dealer in 1968 (more than 1000 bikes sold that year)

But I can attest that perhaps one third of the yearly sales (or for sure at least 25%) was done in the month before Christmas.

As we were only 100 miles South of Chicago and a big-ten college town, we had a big business and getting more inventory from Schwinn seemed not to be a problem. What was a problem was that the store was 1880s brick and a winding stair-well to the upstairs warehouse and no freight elevator. When a truck-load of bikes came they were hauled up there one by one. Then brought back down to be set-up as they were sold. As a kid I remember standing there looking at all those boxes and doing this manual labor. I vividly remember opening the boxes and unpacking the bike to hand it off to my Grandfather for him to place into the repair stand for set-up. Then dragging all those boxes out to the dumpster, picking-up all those plastic fork-spreaders and the round plastic axle end caps etc.. I also did jobs like turning the seat post into position, setting-up the handlebars, airing tires etc.

I vividly remember that Gramps would spit into the grip to lubricate it to slide it on the bar. His spit was some kind of glue I think.. As my experience was that the grips never came loose.
He also showed me how to use the compressed-air blow gun to take off a grip. I remember him explaining the danger of this tool and how there was a risk of "air-injection" and explained very seriously how if I put it to my skin an air bubble could enter my blood-stream and cause an aneurism to my heart and "kill me in ten seconds." Believe me, I never put that blow-gun to my skin!
He would put his thumb over the grip and blow air into the opposite side of the handlebar through the grip center hole. The grip in his hand would come right off the bar. On particularly stubborn grips he would place a screw-driver under the front edge of the grip and insert the blow-gun and wiggle the grip as he shot the air, the grip then would slide off as well. (To this day, I have a respect for that danger and always tell users this danger before I let them use it. I still use this proven and super-easy technique of grip installation and removal with off-road racing motorcycles. Which is my primary business for twenty years now)

Anyhoo, about Christmas -


At Christmas time, I would be on vacation from grade school. In the evenings after the store was closed for the day, I would go there and help my grandfather who was working a bunch of overtime to assemble the hundreds of new Schwinns due to be delivered in the week prior to the holiday. (A labor-law violation for sure even in those days so this is why only after hours. I was eleven years old at that time. The owners also had a son exactly my age and we grew-up together in the business doing these chores. He went to Catholic school so we weren't classmates)
We had the finished ones lined-up everywhere in the shop! With the paper tags hanging from the handlebars with specific instructions about date and location of delivery. Many people picked-up the bikes but we also delivered a bunch of them. In the few days prior to Christmas, I would ride with Gramps in the afternoons and evenings until way after dark. We would drive around the Lafayette Indiana area in the Mulhaupt's long wheelbase Ford van. One of those with the six cylinder in the middle of the seats, with a three-on-the-tree shifter. We were delivering new Schwinns to the designated secret hiding places at the homes of Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, friends and neighbors. An intricate plan to prevent the children from finding out that a new Schwinn awaited them on Christmas morning. Gramps always had his shirt pocket full of those index cards with the instructions for each bike to be delivered. I can remember stopping at pay-phones and he would call to see if "the coast was clear" then off we would go and meet the parents. Sometimes at the parent's work place, in the back alley, down the street, or a grocery store parking lot etc.. Gramps would help them load it into the trunk of their Oldsmobile or wheel the bike into the garage, carry it up a ladder to hide it in the garage attic. Whatever it took to "deliver" the bike. Or we would park way down the street and meet the parents there and they would wheel the bike away to an unknown hiding place. Then back to the pay-phone we would go. When the van was empty, back to the shop for another load, being very careful to not put a scratch on the bikes, placing bike-box cardboard insulators between each one as we loaded them into the correct order for the next delivery route.

I remember sitting there in the van "SWORN TO SECRECY" as many were going to be gifts for school classmates. I remember seeing the excitement on parents faces as they received the bike. Knowing this was going to be the ultimate gift for their child. I remember the pride in the fact that it was my Grandfather who helped to bring this freedom and "new bike" joy to my friends at school. These were the best times of my childhood and I was a very lucky kid.

Sorry if I killed your Santa Clause memories.. But you didn't really believe that he got all those Schwinn bikes in that sleigh did you? We were Santa's helpers
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Old 01-16-12, 10:19 AM
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And another good post. I remember my own Christmas Schwinn Stingray in 1967. That was the beginning of my adultivity.
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Old 01-16-12, 11:40 AM
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Great post, Hoss. Thanks for your beautifully written account of what were really great times!
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Old 01-16-12, 12:15 PM
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Thanks for sharing this!
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Old 01-16-12, 12:18 PM
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Great story.
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Old 01-16-12, 12:30 PM
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Did one of those index cards in your Grandfather's pocket ever have the name Hoss Cartright on it?
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Old 01-16-12, 12:36 PM
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Took some pics at a old Schwinn bike shop in Lakeland, FL. I am thinking these over the counter display/shelves were 1960s +/-. Anyway, Hoss, any pics from your old bike shop? 2012 is going to be the year of the workshop build, and I am thinking of recreating a few of these signs. I couldn't get the second display all in one pic.







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Old 01-16-12, 01:00 PM
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Originally Posted by wrk101 View Post
Took some pics at a old Schwinn bike shop in Lakeland, FL. I am thinking these over the counter display/shelves were 1960s +/-. Anyway, Hoss, any pics from your old bike shop? 2012 is going to be the year of the workshop build, and I am thinking of recreating a few of these signs. I couldn't get the second display all in one pic.
Weird that I never Google image searched the shop. Unfortunately we were not into cameras much in those days. So I have absolutely nothing but memories. (I have been photo-documenting my business life for almost 30 years as I realized this past error in my early 20s)
And it appears that even though they were in the Schwinn business for over 100 years and were the second oldest shop in the country, they must not have been into the internet at all, because there seems to be only two small recent images related to them. They went out of the bike business in November of 2009. They still have the lock, safe and key business as well as being the local overhead door distributor.
But I did the Google image search and my Schwinn related web site images own 90% of page one! I had no idea.
Here is the Google image search for that shop in Lafayette Indiana.
Google image search

This was my Grandfather's boss and family friend, Harold Mulhaupt

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Old 01-16-12, 06:07 PM
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Great story, and very well written. We all can relate to it. Thank you very much.
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Old 01-16-12, 06:26 PM
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Hauling boxes with heavy Schwinns upstairs? No thanks!

Great story, I remember the Schwinn shops of my youth being overstocked with bikes for Christmas, than being nearly empty after.
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