My Bicycling, Part I

Can I start out by telling you about my Harleys, Vincent HRD, Kawaski and Honda Gold Wing? No? Alright, how about my Caterpillar career? How about my other careers like Melles Griot and Tri City hospital? No on all? How about my Jag restorations into show cars? No? For the last time John, this is about bicycles so get on it.

OK. My first bike (our, I shared it with my twin brother) was a 1932 (est) brand unknown, with 20 inch wheels with one piece tires. The punctures were fixed by inserting rubber glue soaked rubber bands into the tire with a special gun. The excess bunch of rubber bands sticking out of the tire was then burned off. The combination of melted rubber /rubber cement did an adequate job until the next puncture which followed closely. We lived in the congested city so there was plenty of debris on the streets.

My next biking adventure was exposure into the intricate wheel construction with its many, many spokes. After school one day, I asked a school buddy “hey, can I take a spin on your bike?” It had a tire driven siren driven on the front wheel. He was especially proud of it and said “give it a try.” Not owning a bike at the time and thinking the siren was cool, off I went. The trouble was, when I pulled the lever to engage the siren, I found that the siren was incorrectly mounted. Instead of the drive wheel contacting the tire, it went into the spokes. My buddy became an ex buddy since I broke his bike. I was somewhat bloody having done an end over. I got no sympathy there. So, I walked home, no sympathy there, walked to the bike store, a little sympathy there and scraped together the minimum possible coins to pay the bill. Then I walked back to my ex buddies house to return the wheel.

Our next bike was a Schwinn, reasonably new. It made my brother and I notorious, at least memorable. This was during our first year at high school. Being usually late for school and in a hurry, we resorted to one sitting on the rear fender then using four feet on the pedals. With four legs and knees going up and down in synchrony we gained notoriety being known as “that’s just the Wellwood twins.”

Next we added another Schwinn to the stable. Our bikes became beasts of burden. We became paper boys, uh,deliverers. I never saw a paper girl. We each mounted huge oversized baskets to the steer-horn type handlebars and a support to the front axle. We delivered the Chicago Daily News. We tightly rolled the papers and stuffed them into the basket.

My route had 98 papers delivered to individual residents on both sides of Kenilworth and Woodbine Avenues from Chicago Ave to North Avenue (one mile). These upper middle income customers were extremely forgiving. I was the worst paper boy uh, person, imaginable. My MO was, while riding the sidewalk, pull out a paper, sling it up the home walk towards the front porch. This was repeated for most of 4 mile route, both sides of the street. If the paper did not reach the porch, tough luck. I wasn’t stopping. Putting the paper behind the front porch door was not my thing. More than once, the paper would land on top of the porch roof. I would see it there for a week or two. Amazingly I never received a reprimand. Christmas season was the best. This was the time to actually stop, walk up to the house and sweetly announce that I am your paper boy. Nickels, dimes and even quarters would be forthcoming. I was rich.

There were exceptions to riding and slinging. One was snow. Six inches of it, or so. That meant hoofing it. Combined with Chicago winter wind and cold we braved the elements. We discovered that the single most important item was socks. Our aunt in Scotland had knitted us some beautiful argyle ones that should have done the job. Problem was they didn’t. We both suffered frostbite and spent the remainder of the winter recovering from chilblains. Well, this part is not about cycling but it is part of our story.