The Fall of 1953,the second week of September, a time and date I will never soon forget as it was the week of my older brothers “B” Day. Now I was under the weather and kinda out of commission for a while and both my little sister and my big brother were a good foot to a foot and a half taller than me at this time in my life. Now I’m not complaining but having to eat lunch with the third graders and not with my buddy’s in the fifth grade was a bit hard to explain but I guess size was everything back then. Because of the fall weather my Mom and Dad had planned a very special birthday outing for my brother and as it turned out it included me also. My birthday is just 86 days later than brothers and it’s already winter by then and it was not uncommon for snow to be falling in eastern Washington by December. So as a giant super big surprise for our “B” days my parents rewarded both my brother and myself with brand spanking new Hawthorne Deluxe Bicycles complete with chrome suspension shocks, a big sealbeam light upfront, a deluxe horn and a set of hand brakes that really brought this new ride together in style. Now I was only twelve years old at the time and my dad in his wisdom suggested that maybe I should just ride my new wheels in the immediate neighborhood for a while until I got used to those new brakes plus see if we could make that seat go a little lower so as to accommodate my somewhat shorter than normal one foot long legs. This was a full size fancy super-duper “Schwinn” wanta be, a Hawthorne Deluxe big guys bike direct from the shelf at Montgomery Wards.
The Fall of 1953, The fourth week of September and hadn’t I cruzed the immediate neighborhood enough? The seat was as low as it could go, I was getting somewhat comfortable with the braking system on this thing and the light and the horn worked fantastic. Now two of my buddies suggested we go and sell some of those fundraising cookies for our schools tumbling program and why didn’t we see how that new Hawthorne deluxe handled on the open highway. As luck would have it I knew my aunt would love to support our school program as she loved cookies and would probably buy several boxes or maybe even a whole case. Now the only problem was she lived on the other side of the tracks in a little town called Millwood. It was a bit of a push out of the neighborhood but a dare is a dare and never being one to use much common sense when it came to a good old fashion dare we each hoped on our rides and we were off. Wow! This new Hawthorne Deluxe was a sweetheart of a bike. Of course I had to let each of my buddies get a free ride on it to try it out, plus ride it over that one big up-hill climb to the top of the Pines Road, then it was time for me to take it back and on to Millwood and Aunties house. Well this bike really was a racing kids dream, I was so far ahead of those guys they said later they could hardly see me I was so far ahead. We passed the Drive-In Movie theatre on Trent Ave. and were just a few short blocks away and as I looked back those guys were a good three blocks behind so I thought why don’t I slow down and give those guys a chance to catch up . I proceeded to turn some circles in the middle of the road, even stood up on the peddles and was giving a good show as I was being applauded by my buddies as they were yelling and waving their arms with delight. Just then as I was turning around to see my aunt’s house coming up on the right, the man who lived across the street was pulling out of his driveway. I guess he didn’t bother looking for kids on brand new racing bikes as he smacked right into me and my beautiful Hawthorne Deluxe. I caught that 1938 Dodge 4 door sedan just about the middle of the running board and I went flying right on over that worn out old pile of sheet metal and landed about twenty feet away face down right on my Aunties front lawn. No broken bones, but had a little trouble getting up and walking. My brand new two week old birthday bike was a wipe out. The total front end was smashed, my beautiful chrome suspension springs were of no use anymore, the handlebars were now in a circle, the headlight was gone, the horn didn’t work and forget those crazy hand-brakes. As it turned out my buddies weren’t applauding my theatrical performance on my new bike they were trying to warn me of the guy pulling out. My aunt and uncle came to my rescue as we picked up the remains of my bike and they gave me a ride home. As it turned out the operator of the 1938 Dodge didn’t have a driver’s license and shouldn’t have been driving that old beater anyway. He reimbursed me for the loss of the bike a cool $39.95.
My brother Richard being a super guy didn’t tell dad about my mishap and took it upon himself to come to my rescue and got his friend Mr. Larsen to customize my Hawthorne Deluxe Bike. They installed a smaller wheel on the front creating a super dago rake, added conventional brakes, a fantastic new Schwinn seat complete with name and gave it a new paint job to match the seat. Best of all they replaced the handlebars with a Steering wheel out of an old 1926 Ford Model “T”. I almost forgot my Aunt Haddy, God Bless Her Soul, she did buy a whole case of cookies. All and All that birthday in 1953 was one of the best ever.
PS: It was several months later and well into the Spring of 1954 before my Dad made the connection that there wasn’t two fancy new Hawthorne bikes in the shed at his last check and where was the other ride? #@&?? I had him somewhat fooled as I would borrow brother Richards spotless, always clean and shiny new Hawthorne whenever Dad was in the yard and ride it like a pro, just like it was my own pride and joy “B” Day gift. The game was over when brother came riding in one day when Dad was home on that Dago-Raked, Steering Wheeled, no seal-beam headlight, no-horn, no fancy hand-brakes. What and where was the other bike my Dad inquired with some extra spirit in his voice? As I recall I let brother Richard try and talk his way out of this one as wasn’t it his buddy Mr. Larson who did the custom work on the other bike and wasn’t it Richard who was in proud possession of the other said bike in question as he rode it into the yard steering wheel in hand with his fancy paint job to match the fancy Schwinn seat and wasn’t he the purchaser of said Schwinn seat? Case closed! Dad always loved me best, I was always his go to, “Yes Sir PoP Your Right” kind of kid but Richard was still my favorite buddy brother of all time and still is today… End of story.