“Yesterday’s Memories Tomorrow’s Dreams” by Carmen Tom – 50 Years and the Jolly Roger Motorcycle Club

50 Years and the Jolly Roger Motorcycle Club

Vern Pugh from Tacoma riding our 520 ft. hill in the early 1060's

It was in May 1946 when I first went out to the Jolly club grounds, at the bottom of the hill they had a scrambler’s track. Often held T. T. races on the same track. While the most popular event was their hill climbs, twice a year, usually May and September. Their hill was over 510 feet high, in those years few riders ever made it to the top. I watched that Sunday, and made my first hill climb, I was so excited. I went to a few meetings the next few months, I was determined to become a member.

In July I rode my 37 Harley 45cc back to South Dakota. I didn’t return to Seattle again until 1951. In 1951 I was riding a Harley 74cc I had bought this from Polk’s Cycle in Seattle. I traded my 49 Indian scoot in on a Harley. Poke’s Cycle was a well- known shop. Larry Poipras’ shop, but everyone called him Poke, we became good friends. Poke at the time was a member of the Jolly Rogers Club. He invited me to ride out to the club grounds for a big race one Sunday, it was in early spring. In those years, riders would gather at the motorcycle shops and ride out together. We would have 50 to 200 riders. We all parked our cycles in big parking spaces set up for motorcycles only. We would walk through the rows of bikes, looking at all makes and models. The English bikes were beginning to be very popular. I believe it was in 1952, that I joined the Jollies. At this time the club had a large membership, around 100, the club was so large that we had riders from many phases of the sport. We had the dirt bike riders, hill climbers, the Enduro riders, and best of all we had our drill team. We all rode Harley’s, all white, our uniforms were beautiful, black with a lot of white striping! We rode in almost all the parades in the Northwest, like the Sea Fair parade. We also had a big float. It was really beautiful, we would change it each year. We had this one member Shorty Deters, that really loved working on the float.

Our most well known members in the early years were Kenny and Lila Bulen, they kept the club going for years. Kenny died in October 1997. At this writing, Lila is 89, she dropped out of the club in 1998. Lila was our best publicity director we ever have. She worked with the newspapers, which got a lot of good publicity. She was a good friend of the Governor of our state. Each year we would have a large banquet too. I forgot what year but Gov. Rossalini was our guest speaker. We always held our banquets in some large hotel in Seattle. We all really enjoyed that banquets, we got a lot of good publicity for our banquets.

Jolly Rogers Drill Team. We had a wonderful drill team in the early 1950's. WE all rode beautiful while Harleys.

I rode in the drill team until the early 1960’s, I also rode all the Endudos our club put on, and in many other endures other clubs put on. I remember I had just bought this new Triumph Tiger Cub. I used it to help lay out our Enduros, one was the Treasure Chest Enduro, it was very popular. One rider I just have to tell you about who rode our Treasure Chest Enduro is Don Dorsey. I have known Don and Lyle for 50 years. Don was a club member in the early 1960’s. I had sold Don this new Jawa 175cc, now that’s a small bike. Don is over 6 feet tall, and weighs at least 225. He and his wife Nancy rode this little 175cc double to California and back. He got home just in time to enter the Enduro. He rode this Jawa, riding double the entire run. At the end of the run, the clutch was burned up. Very few would believe he rode double the entire run on this small bike. But I saw him do it. Nancy would help push over the steep hills. Both Don and his brother still ride street bikes all over the west.

The first day I rode the cub, laying out the Enduros I tried going up a very steep hill, I got about three-quarters up the hill and the cub came over backwards and broke my headlight. I felt bad at the time, I rode that cub for a few years, I rode it in many scrambles. The Tiger Cub was one of the best at that time, the clutch would get very hot you just could not shift it and it was famous for throwing rods. Down in Dallas Texas they made roller bearing lower ends and big board kits 250cc the cub was only 200cc from the factories, some of the better riders and the ones with the money would ride the 250cc cubs. We always had 100 or more riders in those years, this was really good! The Enduro usually ran 100 to 125 miles. We started at the club grounds, go down river across the railroad tracks, work our way through the Kent Valley up over the east hill of Kent. In the early years these areas were very thinly populated, one could ride on trails almost everywhere. Today you cannot go 1 mile, the Puget Sound area has just grown too large. In those years you could ride on pipe lines and under the big power lines and we would use lots of pipelines and power lines for our Enduros. It would go east down across old highway 169, work our way all the way to Issaquah and then work our way on trails to North Bend. Then, work our way back to the club grounds on trails. We’d start early Sunday morning and be back at the grounds by 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon. At the end of the run, we always had a big feed, some of the men and auxiliary women would work this feed. The run had many hills so rough and steep, riders would have to help each other over the hills. We had this one spot called devils, it was really something! If it was raining, no one could make it to the top without help from other riders. We had this one rider always rode a big 500cc, Matchless or AJS machine, his wife Lois rode on the back with him. When he came to the steep hills he made her get off and push the bike to the top. We always kidded him that the reason he took her along was to push him over the steep hills.

Our scramble races were really popular, we would have a race 2 to 3 times a month. The races would draw riders from all over the west. The Tacoma riders were really tough riders to beat, they also had their own grounds with tracks and hill climbs. We had some of the best riders to have ever come out of the northwest ride our races. Such as Bob Budshot, Gordy Oaks, Jack Anderson, John Deacon, and so many more I just can’t name them all. I sponsored Gordy in his early years in fact, I took him out to our club grounds to ride his first dirt bike, a small BSA, he moved up fast to Bultacos, CZ Triumphs and others. He still rides dirt bikes and big Harley bikes.

Donna and I have four wonderful boys and they all got started riding on the Jolly grounds. John was really good for a number of years, then he got more interested in girls than racing. He was a very good rider and I remember one race he was probably 13 or 14 years old when his bike blew up! A good customer and rider who rode out of our store, Dale Smith, he was a city firemen, a wonderful man. Dale said John, ride my Beltaco today, John had not raced a 250cc bike before, he rode the main event the A enduro. I never forgot that, the starter flag went down and John took off like a raged ape. He was small and light weight, he shot to the front at once. He led the entire race, even lapping the other riders. He won that race! I was really proud of him. Our sons Rick and Russ raced for many years too. Both are very good, Rick won the 250cc championship in 1985. He is too old for motor cross so he quit racing a year or so later, still has his 250cc Honda. Russ was and still is a very good rider. He won many races on the Jolly Rogers track. Russ has his own Harley-Davidson store now, but still races occasionally. He rides and collects his first love, Honda 50cc. Only these days they have big kits as large as 124cc, special forks, and rear bore suspension, they are beautiful small racers. Russ has over 30 minis in his collection. Rick rode in many big races, California, Florida, Kansas and in so many other states. He was hard to beat. Rick and Russ still race on our own track, still go like hell, each one trying to out do the other. Back to the Jolly’s, our hill climbs were one of the best promotional events for our club. Our hill at 520 ft. was world-famous, expert riders from all over the West would try their skills on our hill. In the early years, Harleys and Indians would dominate but a few years went by and Triumphs and BSA could really fly up that hill. Triumphs were hard to beat, super fast the engine would rev up fast. Much higher R.P.M.s than the Harleys and Indians. Now days the fast Japanese bikes, with their modern engines that go up to 9,000 to 10,0000 R.P.M.s are hard to beat.

The Jolly Rogers kept going but like so many clubs, changed. We had to quit having the Treasure Chest Enduro, no longer any place to have it. The so-called progress, had taken over. We did have a good event for years held over Labor Day weekend. The event was held in Eastern Washington, northeast of Cle Elum. We all camped out near the river, a few had trailers, can’t remember anyone having a motor home. This was a wonderful event, everyone looked forward to it. We had a series of events, hill climb, all classes, all kinds of races, at the end the day, came night we’d have a big bon fire by the river, drink beer, pop, sing and tell big stories till the wee hours. Our club would put on 2 good meals a day. Our boys and so many other kids would ride their trail bikes for hours on end, one could ride trails for endless miles. John, Rick and Mike all had small Suzukis, I rode a super fast Bultaco 200cc. At the end of the day the club would add up all the points each rider had. On the third day we added up all the points and that night, by the big bon fire would announce the winners. I was lucky, I won first place one year. John came in second place, we both got big trophies, I never forgot that win! At the end of the three days we would really put on a good feed, big party night, and everyone loved it! Next day, early in the morning we would all pack up and head for home. All of us looking forward to next year.I remember when we were coming home, we had our small 1600cc Simca pickup loaded with 4 bikes and all our camping gear. We were going through Cle Elum and the police pulled me over, said I was speeding, I said how? Our little truck would not go over 45 to 50 M.P.H. with that big load, the cop could see how loaded down we were. But he said the city needed the money, I got to do my job and give you a ticket. He made it as small as he dared. We made it home in good shape. This event lasted for 10-15 years, with motorcycles becoming more popular each year and growing in large numbers. The state closed the area for camping and riding, another big event came to an end. As the years went by the drill team came to an end too, the floats were beginning to get super big and costly so our nonprofit club could not afford to build what the city wanted. So that event ended, one event after another would die off and the club went downhill. We leased our track out to the Seattle Motorcycle Club, they had lost their grounds to so called progress. The Seattle Motorcycle Club put on some really good races. We continued to put on hill climbs, but one year that ended also.

Our TT and scarambes track.

Houses were beginning to pop-up close to our club grounds. Soon events were limited to just a few events each year. We were down to a handful of members like all the great clubs of the Northwest, our years were numbered. Our oldest member Kenny died, the next year Arvid died, and we were down to a few old-timers. Developers started hounding us, our grounds were now in a city where the laws changed fast. One day a big developer told us, sell or get pushed out. We spent some money on an attorney to no avail. The day came when we had to stop racing, we sold the property and gave all the money away, some to good causes. The club came to a standstill. But one day, one member, Bob said, let’s get the club going again! We met at his house and got on the Internet, soon we had 10 to 12 members, too big for Bob’s house. We asked Russ at Downtown Harley if we could use his big conference room, so we started meeting once a month. Not long after we had 20 members I believe, we have 25 to 30 now. We have no club grounds to put on events, the land is too costly and you have to get so far away from cities, and insurance is too high. I don’t think we will ever see the club began putting on races etc., as it was years ago. Like most of the clubs in the Northwest, our days of putting on races, hill climbs, etc. have come to an end. We will continue as a road club, and with God’s help we will remain a club for years to come. So called progress has killed so many good things in life, there are those that would like to see motorcycles disappear.

I also belong to 2 other clubs, the V. M. E., a wonderful club made up of riders loving old motorcycles. We put on a number of events each year. One is on Vashon Island, about 30 minutes from Seattle also each April we put on an enduro called the Bonehead. It runs 90 to 100 miles. We start at a motorcycle shop in a small city outside of Seattle called Snoqualmie. One is supposed to ride vintage bikes, any bike below 1975. The run goes on a few logging roads, gravel roads, one river to cross, in order to get one bone. There are checkpoints along the run, you must pick up a bone at each checkpoint. The run goes high into the mountains. One has to ride in snow, sometimes quite deep, through deep mud too. At the end of the run, in order to win you must have all the bones and finish the run. I won it in 2001, I rode an old 175 cc Harley. In 2002 my son Russ was riding a 1937 Harley with a sidecar, he has two daughters he took along, Emma 7 and Alex 10, they had a wonderful time riding in the sidecar. The night before the run we had a real rainstorm, the rivers overflowed their banks and to top it off it was really cold and raining out, we almost froze. I rode and Tony, my grandson rode his Honda 200, he got so cold and my bike would hardly run, so we had to give up. At the end of the run the club has a good meal served at the VFW hall. I intend to ride this coming April, pray the weather will be good. Russ won first place in 2002, I’m sure he will ride again this year. One year he rode my 1942 Harley 45cc Army bike. I’d just paid $10,000 to have restored, I was afraid he would damage the bike but he did not, it just needed a good wash.

Ed Marshall, 87 at Downtown Harley on Saturday morning. He is Jolly's oldest member with me comin in next at 79.

The other club I belong to is called the H.O.G. Club, it is world wide, there’s over 600,000 members and each Harley store must have a branch. Russ’s Downtown Harley store has a wonderful club. Big meetings each month at that store, a lots of runs throughout the year and big parties.

I admit, I’m not very active but I try to go on some runs and to some of their parties. At 77 years old, parties no longer do much for me, but the young riders really have fun. It’s one good club!

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