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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Boyhood memories of bicycling

Barry Evans
Barry Evans

Cycling seems to be all the rage today. When I was young, it was something that you did, only it was called bicycling.  Words get shorter all the time. One of these days they will probably retire some of the letters of the alphabet as nobody will be using them. One word that I remember vividly was oleomargarine. I knew that it would be shortened, but I thought it would become oleo not margarine.  However, oleo has nothing to do with bicycling which is my subject for the day.

Therefore, I will proceed to that and not mention doughnut to donut – if I can control my typing fingers which sometimes leads me to heavens knows what!

As a youngster, a bicycle was a supreme gift.  I received my first one when I was six – probably for my birthday. I rode it all over the place including across what some would consider dangerous Rt. 19 outside of Pittsburgh – but hey the ice cream store was on the other side. That bicycle was a 20 incher which was just right for my size. However, I didn’t stay small.  We moved to a country town and my friends and I would ride our bikes everywhere including to a town 14 miles away.

My friends had 26-inch bikes and I had a heck of a time keeping up with them.  I mentioned this to my parents who somehow found some funds and bought me a 24-inch Roadmaster bike. 

A 24-inch bike was still smaller, but I found out that the Roadmaster would go faster than my friends 26” bikes, especially coasting down hills. Just after being presented this bike World War II came along.  During the war you could not get a new bike, but when it ended, I went to my parents again. My Dad was reluctant as before the war a bike had cost only $24, but after the war they had shot up to $35.  However, I did receive a 26-inch Schwinn bicycle. It was nice, but I should have kept my Roadmaster as it was better. You live and learn. My most traumatic bicycle story involved what was supposed to have been my first date.

I received word through the grape vine that a young lady (blonde naturally) wanted to go out with me.  It seemed that a friend of hers was going to meet one of my classmates in Grove City, which was about seven miles away. It was suggested that a double date would be nice. I agreed!  The girls’ parents were going to drive them to the theater. The other fellow and I were going to hitchhike to Grove City.  I rode my bike down to meet him. I was cruising along when a car behind me apparently thought I was going to veer in front of him and he honked his horn. That startled me, and I fell off my bike and landed on my shoulder. The result was that I had to cancel. I never did date that young lady, which is OK as I have a better blonde at home.

That was the old days of bicycling. Today, you see lines of folks zooming around while cycling in clothes that cost more than my bicycles did. They use bikes that have gears on them.  We had one gear that was attuned to our leg strength. They do look better than we did, and they can go many more miles. I do miss my old 24-inch Roadmaster though!

Barry Evans is a columnist for Villages-News.com


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