Growing up, money or really the lack of it, were always at the forefront of any decision. Paper route
dollars afforded me to live beyond the means my mother could or would afford us.After finding the
freedom that a bicycle would provide, I began squirreling away my precious income to finance my wheeled purchase..
At that time, the ten speed was in favor, and the Schwinn Varsity was the more prevalent on the street.
The solid colors and heavy duty frame were pretty attractive, and the price around $80.00 was something within my grasp I would go to Dennis's Sport Shop, the local Schwinn franchise and look them over, and
wonder what made the Continental worth the extra $25.
I wanted a ten speed and when I asked for permission to spend the $80 on the Schwinn Varsity, orange I think, I was more than gently persuaded to reconsider spending "that much" on a bicycle. After all, Shopko had some nice bikes for a lot less. "Why would you need 10 whole gears, when a 3 speed would work just fine" I was told. And it came with fenders and had a really soft seat. I bit on that argument, and was given a ride to the store. pulled my hard earned money out, made the purchase, wheeled the bike from the store.
When asked about loading into the trunk for the ride back home I balked. This was my freedom and I declined the offer and took off on my bicycle odyssey - with a couple earlier adventures detailed in other postings.
The direct route home would have taken no more than 10 minutes, and my route took well beyond an hour, closer to two.After all, this was my first bike with large wheels(26 x 1 3/8's) and the gears, I was in bicycle nirvana.
I would spend a lot of time exploring Green Bay on that green Huffy Sportsman, decked out with its fenders and spring saddle. I could get anywhere, and did. When the tires grew soft, I learned to check the pressure,
When it started slipping gears, I was challenged to figure out how to adjust the shift cable by turning the adjusting barrel and aligning the indicators. When the brakes felt spongy, I adjusted them as well. I wanted this bike to last, and decided to learn as much as I could. As a consequence of our family situation, paying someone to repair my bicycle would never happen, and my paper route money didn't really allow for that either.
Rounding a corner one afternoon, distracted by something or another, I failed to see the car parked in my path. By the time I realized the obstacle, it was too late. I hit the bumper pretty hard and sailed into the
open trunk. Fortunately, the space contained some pieces of carpet, providing a soft landing. I disengaged
myself and emerged with nary a scratch or bruise.
My beloved Huffy Sportsman did not enjoy the same result. At first glance, everything seemed fine.
I spun the front wheel and it ran pretty true, grabbed the brake levers and they seemed fine. I thought
that I had avoided serious problems.
When I climbed aboard and tried to ride, I was introduced to the real result of the impact. I couldn't turn the handlebars beyond a certain point as the front fender kept hitting the frame. That's when I saw the buckled paint and slight bend to fork. No amount of pushing or pulling on the fork or fender would allow it to pass under the frame and allow me to ride home.
It was a very long walk home, both physically and emotionally, especially when I had to keep the front wheel elevated to even walk the thing home. I recall being pretty devastated, my bike wasn't going to be the same ever again.
After trying to bend things back into position didn't work. I realized that by removing the front fender completely, I could gain enough clearance to allow me to turn the bars in the same arc as before. As one can imagine, riding "no hands" wasn't an option any longer, and my trusty bicycle didn't really have the same curb appeal, with only one fender in place and the buckled paint on the fork, and big nicks and scratches in the frame from trying to get the fender to slide by.
After a few weeks of riding this way, I wanted to again explore the 10 speed route. All the people I was around had them, and I wanted one, too. I needed to sell the Huffy for whatever I could get, as my limited bank account would need all the help I could muster to afford me any of the models I had discerned from the Buyers Guide I had purchased.
The local paper, the Green Bay Press Gazette, my paper route paper at that time, ran free ads for teens. As long as the item were legal to sell, apporpriate for youth and under $50, the listing was free for a week or so. This was my chance, and I ran an ad. In anticipation I stripped off the rear fender, tuned up the mechanics and waited.
Jeff Tomcheck, a kid I knew from junior high school answered the ad. We agreed to meet and after a test
ride he offered me the $40 he had with him. I balked, because I had listed the price as $45. Jeff said that he would pay me the remainder in school soon. Deal done.
Now, what to get as s the replacement?. I analyzed that buyers guide, the various models and prices. Knowing that there was no way my stepfather, who controlled the car, would ever provide any help in traveling the 60 miles or so to get the Falcon model I coveted from the store in Door County, I decided on the next best thing - the Dawes Galaxy, available from Ves Hockers and the reincarnation of Bents Bicycle shop, walking distance from my home.. He sold the imported bikes which were definitely a step up in component quality and considerably lighter weight than any of the similarly priced Schwinn bikes I could afford.
Not having all the money to buy this bike, I put one on layaway. $160 dollars was a lot of money for a paperboy, but I knew what I wanted. The model I picked out had chrome chainstays and fork blades,
a Wrights leather saddle and engraved GB bars. It was stunning..
When I made the final payment, the bike which was presented to me had neither the engraved bars, or the chrome chainstays. The model year had changed, and Ves said he had just sold the older model, my older model to someone else, and was offering me this newer "updated and more expensive" version for the same money. I saw my original purchase on a hook in the service area, a sold ticket hang from the bars. It was still there, with a copy of my layaway tag attached and I demanded that he give me that bike, the one I had originally purchased. I didn't want the one he was offering.
I felt betrayed by this adult trying to pull a fast on me. Ves was a schnook, and I wasn't buying the story he told. I think I threatened to bring in a parent or call the police or some such thing if he did not deliver the bicycle we had made the deal upon. Perhaps another customer came in or I had just worn him down to a point when he finally relented. He pulled the bike from the hook, aired the times and handed it over to me.
At last, I had my brown, English Dawes bicycle, the one with all the chrome and engraved bars.
I was part of the 10 speed crowd at last!.
One last note, Jeff never did pay me the $5.00 to finalize the Huffy transaction. I chalk that up to a
fairly inexpensive lesson in commerce.