The Last Chapter
Yesterday’s Memories, Tomorrow’s Dreams. I sure have plenty of both to write about.
Growing up on a farm in South Dakota, selling motorcycles for 40 years, many years in the Sign Business, working in the shoe repair and making all those handmade logging boots, riding my many motorcycles; both dirt bikes, racing and road bikes for over 58 years, driving those LCM’s (Landing Crafts) during World War II and in the South Pacific and China (I was discharged in ‘46), I sure would agree that I do have plenty of memories to write about. I’d like to share some with you.
At 79 years, I still ride. Unable to ride my big Harley this past year, my legs are too weak to hold up a heavy motorcycle. Plus, I am unable to throw my legs over a bike. In April of 2004, I purchased a big Suzuki 400cc Motor Scooter. It is easy to get on and off. It has all hand controls, so I don’t need the use of my legs. I managed to ride this scooter 8,000 miles from April to October; not to bad? I know a lot of big bike riders that don’t ride that many miles in that time span.
I was down to the Harley store (in Seattle) the other day and met an old customer who I hadn’t seen for many years. He reminded me that I had sold him a Triumph in the 1960’s and a Harley in the 80’s. It was nice to hear he was still riding and had purchased a couple new Harleys from my son Russ. We had a wonderful visit. I try to go down to Russ’ Harley store each for a couple of hours. It’s surprising how many old customers I meet. I like going to other cycle stores and one would be surprised at who you may run into. Not all riders own Harleys; so many have dirt bikes, etc.
Having spent 50 years in the Jolly Rogers Motorcycle Club, I have many memories from all the rides, races and hill climbs. I am also a member of the V.M.E. I get to see a lot of riders and their old motorcycles. This is a wonderful club. Over 600 members and they all own and ride old motorcycles.
Being in the motorcycle business for over 40 years, I met and got to know many dealers and distributors. I think of Johnny Coffee. I bought hundreds of JAWAS and CZ’s from him in the late 50’s and early 60’s. We became very good friends. He loved special built cars. He would drive up from L.A. just to show me some car he’d just bought. We’d have dinner that night and he’d drive back to L.A. One summer his son Leonard rode his 250cc JAWA up from L.A. just to see me. Wonderful memories.
How could I forget Frank Cooper? I bought Maicos and Royal Enfields from his company. He would drive up in his pick-up and pull into our driveway and blast his horn. He’d say he just drove up to show me this special bike and what a good price he had for me. If you buy 6 for cash, you could make a good profit. Frank spent many years both in retail and wholesale. He even built his own motorcycle, “The Cooper”. It is a collection bike now.
Floyd Clymen, a wonderful and very interesting man. He sold cars, motorcycles and books. His books are still being printed. He built motorcycles. Some were called Clymer Specials. I bought lots of them. I still have in my collection a 500cc Indian. It’s been in my barn since the 1960;s. I had a 750 Twin I bought from Floyd and like a dummy, I sold it years ago. I can only imagine what it is worth today. I have owned so many wonderful motorcycles in the last 60 years, it’s hard to remember them all. I owned some old German built bikes that would be worth a fortune today. Some were Italian, Japanese, English, etc. It’s hard to imagine their worth. I owned a Japanese built Harley I bought in Japan. I sold it to the Harley Davidson Company. They now have it in their museum. One can see it if you go to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My son Russ has a great collection of old dirt bikes and Mini bikes, all restored. Some are over 40 years old. You can see many of these at his store, Downtown Harley Davidson in Tukwila, Washington.
Speaking of small motorcycles, in the late 50’s and early 60’s, small bikes were popular. Riders rode them all over the USA. I would have rides from our store. On one ride we went to Eastern Washington. We rode to Grand Coulee Dam into Idaho and then across into Montana. I rode a 4-speed Mustang Thoroughbred. We could cruise along at 60-65 mph. We’d stop at all small towns. What wonderful memories.
In the early 90’s I sold a doctor a new FLST-C. He would ride down to our store quite often as he had just retired. One day he noticed I had a hard time walking. My lower back was killing me. He told me I should not have to suffer like that. He said he would make a call to a doctor whom he had worked with for years. I got to see this doctor the next day. He gave me two big shots in my back. He said, “Do you realize you got to see me in one day? It usually takes 5 to 6 weeks to get and appointment.” It’s nice to know the right people at the right times.
I have so many good friends (riders) the last 60 years, most of them gone, some for many years. I remember Lii Al. I rode and drove with Alto races all over the West. He kept the Seattle Motorcycle Club together for a long time. I remember one time we drove to Boise, Idaho. A big yearly race. Seemed as though everyone went to the races at Boise. We had spent a few days there. Al said he had left his pillow at the motel. I told him I would buy him a new pillow and he said, “You don’t understand. I’ve had this pillow for 40 years.” So I turned around and went to the motel. Al ran in and came back with his pillow, happy as a baby. He couldn’t thank me enough.
Vic Ebbutt was the best motorcycle photographer on the West Coast. For many years he rode to the races everywhere. We rode together for years. We rode back to Sturgis, S.D. in the 80’s, to the big race in Boise, Idaho, the Sacramento race, San Jose, and so many other places. Always having such a good time. But cancer got him a few years ago.
I have so many more stories to tell, but I will close for now and get this to my publisher. You ride down to the Harley store some day in Tukwila and I’ll buy you a cup of coffee and we can shoot the bull.