Saturday, June 24, 2006
Gravel piles and washing machine
The town roads Department was doing some major work on the street next to my house, Sherman St. Those were the days when the only paved road in town was state highway US14 and everything else was gravel. I guess that they were putting new gravel down as there were a bunch of gravel piles down the middle of the street. They weren’t gravel pile to us but they were obstacles to be conquered. We were all piloting Schwin, or Huffys or a mix thereof. LeRoy, my best friend was handling, with amazing dexterity, his sister Dorothy’s 26” girls bike but when he drove it he could never set himself on the seat so he tired real fast. LeRoy was just a little guy. He also had a boy’s 26” available but to drive it he had to ride it with one leg under the center bar, which was hazardous at best. My Schwin was a blue hand-me-down from my brother Jim but he didn’t need it anymore as he had a car and was away at college. Our challenge was to get a really good run, go up the mountain and fly down the other side hoping to make the next mountain. Somewhere along the way we would get pooped and crash. For some reason the city workers didn’t like us riding on their piles so we waited until they went home. When they went home they left all sorts of kerosene lanterns around to keep people from hitting the piles, I guess or at least to keep the cars from running over the little kids falling off the mountains of gravel. [These lanterns were a round 8” ball with a wick on top. It was a very low intensity flame but it was used for traffic control. I haven’t seen one in years.] Talk about exercise. We would ride those mountains until we couldn’t peddle anymore, so we would quit and ride off to someone’s house on the other side of town for another adventure. We all had single speed bikes with great big tires.
I remember the day one of our associates came cruising on by, on the street, making a horrible racket, on his gasoline-powered bike. To the person we were dumb struck as we had never seen anything like it. We caught up with him at the grocery store down the block. Our mouths hung in amazement as we walked around and around the bike and he picked up a loaf of bread for his mom. Mike said his Dad made it from an old wash machine motor. Mike was so proud of his bike, his father and the fact that all of us were drooling over the bike that the buttons on his overalls were about to burst. [Those of you that are inclined to remember back that far, will recall that wash machines were run by small gas motors and kept outside or on the back porch.] All of us immediately rushed home and asked our fathers for one. My Dad said if I could come up with a motor he would have his shop mechanic weld it on. I searched for weeks but any of them that still worked were costing a fortune. I told him I had found one but he had to pay for it. Not good enough so no motorized bike. It was back to riding up and down the gravel mountains for us for our excitement and that wasn’t half bad besides, Mike had forgotten to watch the oil and ruined the engine. He was now in the same boat I was, looking for a used washing machine motor.