Eureka!!! I Found It

I feel a little bit like Madame Curie…but without all that pesky radiation sickness.

I discovered something today, or rather rediscovered something.  After years of an exhaustive search to rekindle a small but important part of my childhood, I finally found ‘it”.   An object so profound to my youth it made me emotional.

I’m talking about my first NEW bike.

Picture this, if you will…  

DATELINE:  April 22, 1969, Karnes City, Texas   

I had just turned 10 years old and felt as though that was old enough to have my own bicyle.  A new one…not one handed down from two older sisters, as had been the case for me since birth.  It made sense, to me.  I was ready.  I was ten and I’d been riding this hand-me-down-clunker from circa 1959.   It was an archaic two wheeler;  a  green Western Flyer number complete with a light for nightime riding, which I remember working infrequently and when it did, the light was dim and distorted.   

It was the big 1950’s bike, obviously one for girls that I would imagine Jane of “Dick and Jane” fame would have ridden. 

Remember those early first grade primers that represented the quintessence of sight reading??  They centered around this homogenized Anglo family whose sterilized antics taught generations of Americans how to read.    Who could forget Jane, her brother Dick, Mother and Father, Baby Sally….the family dog, Spot (who we all witnessed running alot, to the amusement of his simple minded, bi-peds,”See Spot run!” and always in the present tense) and Puff the Cat.  

I can remember my first exposure to Dick and Jane in Mrs. Garner’s first grade class.  By the way, she was a large woman who always smelled like pickle juice for some reason AND taught my mother and father first grade, plus most of my aunts, uncles and cousins.   This is quite common for small towns with large families.  My mother was one of nine kids.  

Anyway, when it came time for the reading segment of our class, we would read out loud and I can remember doing well in this subject, but being completely vexed by the word “something”.  It was long and try as I might to sound it out, that damned silent ‘e’ confounded me.    

Then, from Dick and Jane to these exercises that came in a box and you progressed to the next advanced level via color coding.  Anyone remember the SRA reading program?   

 Teacher, Donald Henry Parker was the brains behind this program.  The idea for a self-paced system came to him in 1957.  It was one of the first intended for remediation and encouraging students to learn at their own speed…to ensure comfort in the act and comprehension of it all.

It was a system of  folders, workbooks and glossy laminated cards designed to help students master one level before moving to the next.   I seem to remember orange being the lowest…where everyone started…and that reaching silver and then the gold level was the ultimate goal.    I can remember being introduced to the SRA  in third grade.  All the materials were kept in a box in the back of the room. 

Sorry, got off on a rant.

But as I was saying, I was ready for something sporty…wild…groovy…something that was representative of the changing times in which we were living.  This was 1969, after all.

So, it’s my birthday, right?  And my father announces that there’s a huge mess on the back porch and I need to come clean it up, NOW, LITTLE MISSY!    Expecting a mound of dog shit piled high from Friskie our beloved, but old and incontinent Cocker Spaniel, I instead laid eyes on the coolest bike ever made.

It was a Western Auto bike (in the Muscle Bike genre, patterned after an Easy Rider Chopper motorcycle).    The back tire was bigger than the front one.   It had  butterfly handle bars, a banana seat (black with vertical silver threading all the way across).  It had coaster brakes and yes, one handle bar brake and a double pipe cross bar (sure it was a boys bike, but I didn’t care.  Besides, you could stand up on the cross bar when you rode it, if you dared, which I did..often.   Balance and this ridiculous, unflinching sense of immortality were my friends!!) and it had the COOLEST DAMN PAINT JOB ON THE PLANET!!!!

It was called a lemon/lime fade and once you see the bike, you’ll understand. 

I’d been looking for this bike or a photo of it for I don’t know how long and finally…FINALLY found it this morning.  Apparently, a collector from the Northeast had one just like mine.    As you can see, it’s in mint condition.  I almost cried when I first saw it.

Okay, you’ve been in suspense long enough.  Here’s the damn bike. 

BEAUTIFUL….

This bike was replaced in three years later in 1972, with a candy apple red, Columbia Men’s 10 Speed Cruiser complete with an attached air pump and plastic water bottle (with holder under the seat) that made every liquid it contained taste like ass.    I have no idea what happened to my Western Auto lemon/lime fade Wild One and hated to see it go, but with pre-teen development  and boy insanity,  comes the need for a more adult bike.   You see,  when I transformed from a concave titted sappling, to a convex boobed young woman, I needed something seriously mature so I could immaturely ride by boys’ houses.     

What about you?  Remember your bike or bikes form childhood?  Tell me about it.  Better yet, include a photo in your comments.  I’d LOVE to see it.

,

8 comments

  1. That squeeking the the background is the sound of my recollection cells digging through the back garage of memory cells…trying to remember…oh, our grade school readers were the awesome adventures of Mary, Mike and Jeff, and their little dog…oh, whats-his-name. They also enjoyed running and watching others run.
    My first bike (very, very used) was rusty blue and pedal brakes, which took several skinned knees to master. Dad or my brothers would be patching the tires every couple months or so.
    Sorry, no pics.

  2. SRA Program 3rd grade in Kansas too … self advancement … Honer was getting to those gold levels! Yup you have struck nostalgic gold

  3. I got *mine* in 1967, if you please, and I’m younger than you, AND it had a white banana seat. Nyah. It didn’t have the cool paint job, though, it was just solid dark green metallic.

  4. I’m so “J word” of your bike. Mine was a purple Western Auto “Schwinn Stingray” knockoff. It was HEAVY! I got ot for my 10th birthday and had it ’till I was 15… I suspect it’s now part of someone’s chain link fence..

  5. Pulled my old Wild One out of my shed recently and found it still in pretty good condition. Did a little polishing and need to change the tires. My 11 years old son can’t wait. It’s still the coolest looking thing I have ever owned.

  6. I just found you by Googling on the SRA. LOVED that program! Glad I read your bike stories too–you’re a very engaging writer!

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