Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My First

I was thinking about my first bicycle the other day. I don’t remember my age at the time, but I think I was a late starter. I was probably seven years old when I learned to ride on my brother’s bike. As I remember his bike was a black bare-bones utility thing. It had no charm; just function.

As I kid I was good at saving money. Any birthday money or coins that came my way got socked away. I’d count it every day and I was so proud to have saved up $53.96, a figure I remember to this day; nearly fifty years later.

The only bicycle shop in town was on the other side of the tracks. By this I don’t mean to infer a social condition of the neighborhood, but rather an actual physical divide of our town of which there are only three ways to cross under.

This bike shop was called, “Young World.” Besides bicycles they sold cribs and baby furniture, toys and games. Half of the store was dedicated to bicycles.

The store was owned by two brothers. One was tall and thin and had a bald head, and an eye lid on one eye that only opened half way. The brother looked like Shemp from the Three Stooges. They were nice enough and tolerated unaccompanied children in their store who constantly flooded in to buy gum or sparklers or ogle at the shinny new Schwinns on the sales floor.

I was in the store with my mother one day. She was buying a gift for someone and I as usual went to look at the bikes. One of the brothers was rolling out a new bike they had just assembled in the back room. It was a beautiful two toned, brown and white Rudge 3-speed English Racer. It was magnificent, so much so that I nearly fell to my knees when it was parked right before me. I looked at the tag in hopes that the price tag would be within my $53.96 price limit. It was $68.00 and that was $14 more than I had. It would take me a month or two to dig up that sort of cash back then. A seven year old could only do so many chores and cash in so many deposit bottles.

I was never one to ask my parents for financial assistance. Even at seven years of age I knew their financial situation with four children didn’t leave much for luxury. In my mind I knew that this bike was a luxury.

I guess I behaved differently than all the other times I had gone in that shop with my mother. It must have been evident that I was struck with the beauty of this machine. She asked me what I thought about it. I earnestly said, “I wonder if they will put it on lay away for me?”

My earnestness paid off. My mother pulled four crisp twenty-dollar bills from her purse and told me to go buy it. I was thrilled. I told her I would ride it home and that I would give her my savings when I got there, which I did.

I’ll never forget my first ride on that bike, going under the railroad trestle and up the hill on the long straight-away home. The freedom, the wind in my hair and burning in my legs from pumping the peddles up the small hills. I was now a cyclist.

This was my first major purchase. I took good care of that bicycle until I outgrew it. I eventually traded it in when I was in the seventh grade for a purple Schwinn Ten-Speed. Since then I’ve had two Peugeot racing bikes that I moved out here with. I quickly found the roads out here eat half inch racing tires and I gave those bikes away. I now have a Mongoose mountain bike which I don’t ride or clean often enough, but I’m still in the game.

I relive my first bike when ever I see a young kid peddling with joy and living in the moment on their best friend in transportation. May their memories be as fond as mine.


Blogger Auntie said...

I love your nostalgia stories, Guy. I hope you keep them coming from time to time and also I hope you get to ride your bike once in awhile.

6:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I learned to ride my first bike in our back yard on a soft summer eve. My dad captured the moment on his 8mm kodak movie camera. A family friend steadied me on the bike and pushed me along by holding onto the rack over the rear fender. Suddenly I had my balance and was peddling on my on my own. Around and around the yard I went in gleeful triumphant victory laps. Somehow that reel of film got rewound in the camera and other events recorded on top of it. That made it a double exposer so suddenly I am riding along the beach, in the waves, through a heard of elk and finally a sledding party. It was always a hit at the old home movie partys.
Given the price of gas today I would expect bikes to be quite popular this summer.

10:00 AM  
Blogger Mom of Three said...

That was a very sweet story, and I can practically see Little Guy, in a striped t-shirt and jeans, white-soled canvas tennies, grinning from ear to ear as the wind lifted his hair.

A story like that can't help but make anyone smile.

12:56 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Guy, I still have my first bike, a Schwinn Stingray, that I got for my 7th birthday. It still has the original slick back tire. When my parents moved a few years ago, we found the original paperwork and sales receipt from when they bought it! Mom was known for never throwing away any receipts. I thank her for it as it increases the value of the bike.

4:58 PM  
Blogger Hahn at Home said...

I bought my first non-borrowed bike when I was 8 for $42.52 at Coast-to-Coast Hardware on Main Street. It had a fin, baskets, double lamps and a bell (the bell courtesy of my mom).

6:31 PM  
Blogger Auntie said...

Oh yeah....now I remember....I was 6 and my parents bought me this really cool white huffy with purple seat and handle bar grips. I remember being pushed down sandridge road (there was never ANY traffic back then) and he did it over and over again until....I looked back and I had been pedalling all by myself for quite aways. Upon turning around, I fell. One of many falls in the years to come. Many occured flying down our gravel driveway to see how fast we could go downhill. When we went crying into the house holding our knee or elbow, my Mom would turn green and call for my Dad to come and look at the wound as she could not bear to. It was never that bad, in retrospect anyway.

To this day I still have little bits of gravel in my knees from some of those falls. My badges of a carefree childhood.

7:01 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Thanks, L.

Anonymous, that sounds like a good project for Youtube. I'd love to see it.

Mo3, I was one sweet kid. I wonder how I turned that all around.

Jeff, I kind of had you pegged for a Stingray kid, bababa seat and a sissy bar. Isn't it funny the things we required in order to be cool back then?

Lori, ahha another kid who remembered the exact price. Interesting how that stuff is burned into our brains.

Auntie, I too have sand and gravel in my knees. Just think what it would be like for future archaelogists who find our mumified remains and wonder what sort of cult we were in that had us putting gravel in our knees.

7:57 AM  

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