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The Greatest Bike in the World!

(Just in my opinion, of course)

  Hi!  My name is Bob and I was born in 1930, just outside the City limits of St. Louis, Missouri, in an unincorporated area called Wellston.  This story is not about me, but about a used bike that I purchased in 1943, during WWII. I was about 13, trying to be 14.

 

No "new " bicycles were being manufactured in those days, so most bikes were used or custom built from scratch with some new parts. This bikes parts came from a girl's bike and a delivery or transport bike frame.  The delivery bikes had a smaller front wheel, to allow for a large front basket or box.  The shop that made this bike used this configuration to make a rare tandem bike that could be steered from the rear.  This was the best of all worlds. The gentleman steers, and the lady rides in front. The fellow in the back sits higher, sees further and does the steering. Most tandems steer from the front.   On long and steep hills, you get off and push the bike. Normally with two pedaling, you could go faster or ride easier for greater distances.  "The greatest bike in the world"!  ( Now, sixty-four years later, I still feel that way.)

 

 My mother was a single parent, with three children still living at home and she really needed to be convinced of all the features of the bike built for two, and the benefits it would bring into our world.  I had made up a bunch or these reasons, but really got her with the first one:  "Darlene, would no longer cry and complain that I was always using her bike, since I would have a bike of my own! 

 

For a boy of 13 to spend fifty dollars of his own earned money for a used bike was an emotional decision.  In two more years, I will buy a drivable used Model T ford for just ninety-nine dollars, and a few weeks after that purchase an additional Model T for twenty two dollars in good condition.   To earn fifty spendable dollars, this was about  five weeks of work at the corner service station.
 

One day several my class mates with bikes decided to window shop used cars, someone suggested we go to South Kingshighway in St.Louis to see the "Used car row" of dealers there.(A round trip was nearly sixteen miles through city streets.)

 

  We planned to take Skinker Boulevard south along the west side of Forest Park, and then get on the "Red Feather" Express Highway at Clayton and Skinker, go east to  Kingshighway and turn off the highway and head south.   During WWII the speed limit was 35 miles per hour to conserve gasoline.  The minimum AND the maximum speed on the Express Highway was thirty five miles an hour. Posted signs indicated no bicycles or pedestrians allowed on the highway.  A  few of us had speedometers on our bikes and we knew we could just make that speed on a downgrade, maybe we could be off the highway before a cop saw us.  That was the plan; get on, pedal as fast we could for five minutes or less and get off.  Great idea!  Bad idea!  One thing we did not notice was a police car in a gas station watching all those kids with bicycles get on the highway.  From where we started it was downhill at first and we were rolling along along at about thirty miles an hour, single file, fastest in the front.  After we had travelled as fast as we could about a quarter mile we heard a siren behind us  and we pulled over on the the very small shoulder.  We were in serious trouble with the law. Much listening took place on our part.  The policeman seemed quite upset.  After a while he stopped his rant,  and he smiled and said, "Do not ever let me catch you again".   Now that was good news. He allowed us to continue east for the rest of the distance and get off at Kingshighway.  (He followed our parade with his red light on to protect us from following traffic.)  We gathered our wits, and continued south on Kingshighway to a couple of used car dealers. I do not remember much else, except we took a different route back home. We learned some big things that day.

 

There were many other adventures with the bike, some worth writing about in the future.

 

Going on the bike with guys again to see a new 1947 MG-TC (my favorite little British car) at Clayton and Big Bend, that's a good memory.  The Parkmoor was across the street. The Parkmoor is another story.

 

Another time, the girl I would someday marry, and I went on a short trip from her home in Wellston to nearby Heman Park on the wonder bike. That was a good memory.

 

For my age group then, (and this may hold true for all age groups), it seemed to me that a lot of girls wanted to ride on a bicycle built for two.  In the summer at Forest park, when I watched the dance practice at the Muny, the dancers watched the boy with the bike built for two.  Some dancers convinced the young fellow that riding the bike on lunch break would be a good idea. I did my best to make sure that the bike and driver was at practice that summer.   Good harmless fun, all because I had a bicycle built for two.

 

Another trip with the bike pack to overgrown woods area at the west end of Heman Park, and wandering around the abandoned concrete stadium or grandstand there.  No spray cans in those days, but this old monument from the past had it's fair share of raunchy graffiti.  After sixty plus years, I have researched this old grandstand, because it was a mist of mystery in my mind. I knew where it was, but not the history of the place.  I now know the rest of the story. The story of the short-lived and abandoned theater is in production now.

 

All of the above would have been possible on an ordinary bike, but to me it was more fun because I had "The Bicycle Built For Two".


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If I had a better picture, I would not have used this one.

 

 



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1946 My sister Darlene on my bike!

 


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(It was fun at the time)


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Tandem Bicycles are
twice the fun!

Click photo to enlarge
If I had a better picture,
I would not have
used this old Coke advertisement.

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