Wednesday, September 9, 2009

viva via bikes

Bikes once carried us everywhere. I got my first bike second hand as a birthday present. Dad bought it from a guy that had advertised it on a local AM radio program. Dad, Brook and I drove out in our station-wagon to some guys home and loaded it up. It really wasn't much to look at - especially as a birthday present. We took the rusty frame home and sanded it off. High handle bars and a banana seats were the in thing back then. We ordered the new handle bar and a black banana seat from J.C. Penney. Penney's was located Broad Street - downtown Gadsden. If you couldn't find an item in a store, you could usually find it through the J.C. Penney or Sears & Roebuck Catalog. It took two to three weeks to get it in. Oh the anticipation!

In the mean time, dad painted the old frame silver and put black racing stripes along the top bar. Mud tires and a new chain replaced the old one. For a previously used bike, It started looking pretty good. It seems to me that Dad would have made off cheaper if he had purchased a new bike. Once finished, my bike didn't look new, but looked like it could take on all the roads and mountain trails a boy could throw at it.

With only one speed, I slowly and surely worked up my strength and endurance to take on almost every hill in my neighborhood. There were lots of challenging hills in my old neighborhood.

One adventure that the Finlayson kids would enjoy together on a Saturday afternoon was riding down to Pearly and Ben's. It was a nice trek for kids on a bike, Pearly & Ben's little grocery store was located at the corner of Agricola Drive and Fairview Road. We'd pedal up Scenic Hwy and turn sharp right onto Agricola where Tuckahoe Golf Course used to be located. It was downhill from there on a long straight dirt road.

Pearly and Ben must have been on first name basis with every kid on Noccalula Mountain. We'd buy our Orange Nehi's, Merita Micky Cakes, Banana Flips, candy bars with what change our pockets had in them. Pocket change seemed to be like gold in those days - buy so much more than what it does today.

Cartee's was on down Fairview Road. Virgil and Velma Cartee were sweet folks and had cooler kids stuff like model planes, firecrackers and comic books. We'd usually have to go by car to Cartee's due to the traffic along Fairview. I'd attempt it on bike on many occasions, but the road then was narrow and kid spent most of his time walking his bike and ever looking back. Cartee's, Pearly's and Ben's are long gone now.


Most of my bike riding as a kid was along side Dan Parrish until he moved away. After Dan, I befriended Mark Condra. Mark lived down on Red Oak Road. I had my little mutt 'Emma', and Mark had his German Shepard 'Tony'. We pedaled our bikes all over the mountain. We put our bikes to the test on all the mountain trails. Our faithful dogs tagged along everywhere we went.

Mark eventually got a motorcycle and that was something I wasn't allowed to have. I guess you could say I got left in the dust. I remember approaching my dad about buying me a trail bike. I would have gladly settled for one of those second hand bikes. Dad, being a lawyer, gave me a lecture about all the paraplegics and deaths caused by those death-'cycles. I knew even then that his concerns were legitimate. I didn't pursue the issue beyond that point, but never stopped me from wanting one.

I stuck to riding my bike until I grew too big for it. The mountain neighborhood became smaller than when I was a kid. I hitched rides with older sibs if I needed to go anywhere. Driving a car wasn't really that far in the future. The next thing I knew, I was driving my younger sibs here and there. The bike sat beneath the eave of the house for years until it again resemble the original rusty frame dad had bought for me as a birthday present a decade earlier.
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