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A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Like A Moth To A Flame

Like a lot of families in 1966 my family and I went to church every Sunday no matter what.  Not just to church, either, but to Sunday School too, and Sunday evening services and youth group meetings before those.  It is a fact that unless the Russians dropped The Bomb on us we'd be in church.  For my dad, nuclear war or obviously communicable diseases where the only acceptable excuses for not being in church.

Sunday morning for me was all well and good until I discovered motorcycles or at least the allure and want of them.   It turned out that motorcycle temptation lay close; the Devil often places temptation so conveniently.  In this case, across the street and just around the corner from our church, perhaps just 200 feet away there lay a den of sin and iniquity: a BSA dealer.

The shop was closed on Sundays, of course, but the front windows of the small shop let in enough light to illuminate the metal wickedness inside.  The glint of chrome in dim light can be a powerful thing to an impressionable young male mind and if you looked into the darkness long enough, you could make out all the curves and promises of those motorcycles.  Red painted gas tanks glistening like a Bathsheba's lips and chrome that shined like the Golden Calf itself, those things beckoned this innocent, small town boy.  If ever there were a door to temptation placed close to a church, it was Cecil's Cycle Center.

Not long after I turned 15 years old I was feeling rebellious enough to decide that peering through the window of the BSA shop would be more fun than sitting in a Sunday School class so one Sunday after my family got out of our car in front of the church, off I walked around the corner of the church building toward the Sunday School classroom and waited a couple of minutes.  I had sweaty palms.  My heart was beating fast.  Temptation was at full throttle.  Peering around the corner towards the main church building I ascertained that my parents had gone off to their own class.

With malice aforethought I made my break for the closed motorcycle shop.  I tried to walk casually as if I had every right to go there against my parent's wishes and knowing full well it would be bad, very bad, if I was caught.  I was at that age where I was feeling the first pangs of independence and wrongly thinking I had what it took to stand up to my dad should I get caught or that I was at least smart enough to not get caught.

For the next 45 minutes I stared through the window of the BSA shop eying the BSA 650 Lightning, 441 Shooting Star, and 250 Starfire.  The 650 BSA was too big and too grand, I thought.  At time when a 450 Honda was considered a big bike the 650 BSA was huge.  But the 441 Shooting Star, or especially the glistening blue 250 Starfire, those were something to dream about, to imagine riding, and to which I could aspire to own after I finally got a job when I turned 16.  I could image riding the 250 Starfire to school as soon as I got my drivers license.  Nothing could ever be cooler than that.

Every Sunday for the next few Sundays I'd slip away from the church and walk over and stare through the window and study the Beezers while my family and friends studied the Good Book.   I soaked up the bikes and the look of their many parts.  I tried to divine the purpose of their less obvious levers and controls and I even plotted to visit the shop one day when it was open.

And then one fine Sunday morn as I stood engaging in my secret, weekly bout of moto-lust, my dad walked up and surprised me.  It was not a happy moment.  "What do you think you're doing??"  He glowered at me.  I was properly scared.  No doubt the ancient Israelites felt the same fear when when Moses came down from visiting with God on Mt. Sinai and found them having a real blow out of a party in front of that Golden Calf.  Like the Children of Israel I could not think of a single excuse that didn't sound pretty lame.  I'd really done it this time, nothing I'd ever done was as bad as ditching Sunday School to look at motorcycles.  I got yelled at, threatened, yelled at some more, and then grounded for every Sunday for the rest of my natural life.   It was worth it.

I did feel bad about disappointing my dad.  Funny thing but parents never want to disappoint their children and children never want to disappoint their parents but somehow we always manage to disappoint each other in some way, first as children and later as parents.

I have to admit I never really regretted those first days of motorcycle awakening, of staring though the dirty window of that bike shop and dreaming of what motorcycle riding would be like, of buying motorcycle magazines and hiding them under the mattress of my bed.

Less than a year later Dad would let me buy my first motorcycle although it wasn't the gloriously blue BSA 250.   I guess he forgave me for my youthful errors and in turn I tried to do a better job of hiding my motorcycle related wickedness from him.

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This post is featured on my blog’s page at Motorcycle Blogs.

13 comments:

FLHX_Dave said...

Doug! I loved reading this! Great writing. I laughed through most of it because I can put myself right where you were at.

I went to church a few hours in the morning and a couple in the evening every Sunday. I would go for an hour during the week. I got caught on a Sunday, at the age of 13, riding a yamaha 175 around my friends back yard on a Sunday. It never happened again. Dad made sure of that.

At 16 he drove me down to the Yamaha shop, co-signed for a 1800.00 loan and just left me standing next to a red Seca 550, which I proceeded to dump on the front lawn an hour later in front of my mom...who proceeded to yell at my father. Good times.

I really enjoyed this story.

Geoff James said...

I was there too Doug, although I was allowed to elect out of Sunday School when I first started high school.

I used to wander down to the local cafe bar where guys would put a record on the juke box, then race their Triumphs, BSA's and Notons to the town centre and back before the record stopped. I was hooked!

A couple of years later, my grandparents bought me a bike for passing some national school exams. I rode it to school and felt like a king, even if it was a Suzuki 50 and everyone else thought I was a jerk.

Seeing those photos you posted reminded me of Ann-Margaret riding a Triumph in an Elvis movie. Talk about hormonal overload for a teenager!

Anonymous said...

Great story.

For me, it was the BSA Gold Star... chrome tank, if I remember correctly, that had me entranced.

jb44

Webster World said...

Had a 441 once. Is that not but an ankle buster or what:(

bobskoot said...

Doug: Unlike you I was told I could not have a bike as long as I lived at home. So one of the first things I did when I moved out was to acquire a Yamaha 80cc 2-stroke, 4 speed. I traded a tape recorder for it. I had a friend who had a Suzuki X6 Hustler which I thought was a fast bike, back then a 250cc was considered BIG.

bob
Wet Coast Scootin

bikerted said...

Weel written Doug. I'm sure anyone that has owned a motorcycle can remember their first encounter with the dealers window. For Ian it was a Yamaha RS100. Nothing exciting. A price tag of £299 draped over the handlebars and looking great with a blue tank and side panels shinning in the shops front window.
After Ian announced to his father that he wanted a bike an agreement was reached. Father would sign the HP agreement but would not bale him out if he got into arrears. Also Ian must attend a training course that his father would pay for.

Jac Brown said...

Great Story!. And aren't Beezers pretty to photograph.

If you still want a BSA 250, I know of one that's been sitting in boxes for at least 22 years. But then again, the dream lives on and my friend probably wouldn't give it up. It was his first bike when he was 15 and his dad took an assignment in Australia for a few years. He claims to have ridden that BSA everywhere he could reach in southern Australia.

Again, great story. Very evocative. Keep it up.

Doug said...

Seems like I hit upon a fairly common thread in the life of long time motorcycle riders. No doubt there are young men and maybe young women today living the same sort of experience with forbidden desires. Glad you guys enjoyed the shared memory.

Jac, I've often thought of still buying BSA 250 Starfire and have even run across them before but the condition was always too far gone. Restoring a bike is costly and the cost doesn't change much whether the bike is popular like the BSA 650 or a largely forgotten item like the little 250. Still, the right 250 for the right price could persuade me to raid the piggy bank one more time just for old times sake.

Anonymous said...

Doug,
Well written and it did hit home. LOL ! Like you said 450 Honda's at that time were huge. Started out on an M-65 Harley import by Aremacchi. The "older" guys had Honda 90's then someone rode into town on a 160 Dream. Huge ! I started reading your blog religously after your Back of the Shop - January 2005. I now have a 441 about 90% restored and picked up some future BSA 650 projects and hopefully won't lose intrest, or go broke ! Thanks for the reads.

Well_Ridden

WooleyBugger said...

This was a real fine trip down memory lane. I'm one of the lucky ones I guess, my Pop had pretty much given in about fast cars and motorcycles, I have four older brothers who tired him out on that fight by the time I was ten or so. Plus he had a brother who road and friends who owned H-D Dealerships back when dealerships actually sold bikes and did repair work that worked.
I don't know if it's still there But one of Pop's friends, Jeff Ferell and wife Jean, owned Harley Davidson of Glendale, 3643 San Fernando Rd back in 1971.

Anonymous said...

Doug,
When I was 15 everybody in our neighborhood had us figured to be Catholic because we have French sounding name and NEVER missed a Sunday service. I wasn’t tempted like you though. The nearest dealer was Irv Seaver in Santa Ana, five miles away. Also, I had a go kart and some of my friends had mini bikes. But my dad made very clear that I could have a motorcycle when I didn’t live in his house and was of “legal age”. So when I said I wanted to drop out of college after two years he offered to get me job at the warehouse in Honolulu rum by the company for which he was the V.P. of manufacturing. I believe he figured he was safe from a motorcycle purchase since I was only 20 and, therefore, not “legal aged”.
However, in Hawaii in those days the legal age was 20 and the day after I arrived, my boss, Bob Montgomery (who reported to my dad) took me over to the Yamaha dealer four blocks from the warehouse and helped pick out my bike. A 100cc twin two stroke road bike, I forget the exact nomenclature. Only when my dad protested my lack of legal status did Bob explain the Hawaiian statute and off I went $175 in debt to Bob.
I sold the bike 2 ½ months later and didn’t get another until 6 weeks ago. This time is was my wife who went ballistic. She was genuinely surprised that my FICO score is as good as hers and truly incensed that I would use that score without consulting her first (I tried that years ago and it didn’t go well). Things may never be the same at home. But, then again, they’re not the same on the road either.
Keep up the good work on your end and I’ll keep cruising through De Luz (you know the area, west of Temecula and north of Fallbrook) on my ’05 F650 GS, which I bought from Irv Seaver’s.


Ford

Doug said...

Well_Ridden, thanks for hanging in here for all these years. You must be tough! Send me a picture of your 441 when it's finished and I'll post it here.

Wooley, H-D of Glendale would have been one of my customers long, long ago when I worked for Uni-Fliter. I'm sure I was in there back then, doubt that they wanted foam air filters and plastic levers, though.

Ford, congrats on the new ride. Glad you made your dream come true and didn't let the naysayers stop you forever. For my part, you're in one of the best areas of the country for motorcycle riding.

Timothy Frazier said...

Wow! Great story and it did make me wax nostalgic. I think even Peter Egan would admire this article. I believe a pointer from 4Fraziers is in order...this is just the sort of thing my readers go for.

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