Baseball Cards And Bikes

Posted: Friday, July 31, 2009 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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Well, it’s come down to this.
My creativity lapse has led me to stealing ideas from other writers.
At least I’m swiping from one of the best; James Lileks.
One of his recent columns in the Star Tribune featured a kid named Adam who had come up with, what he thought was, the coolest new idea for making his bicycle sound like a motorcycle. He’d used a clothes pin to attach a playing card onto the front fork so when the wheel turned, the spokes would cause it to make a flapping noise like (if you use your imagination) a motor.
Mr. Lileks didn’t have the heart to tell Adam that kids have been doing that for nearly a century.
 
Most of us who grew up in the fifties, and are now 21st century geezers, like to tell stories of how we used  baseball cards to get that motorbike effect; cards that now might be worth a fortune to collectors if we’d only known.
I doubt that.
Even back then we knew a great card when we got one. We wouldn’t think of destroying a  Mickey Mantle, Duke Snider or Hank Aaron if we were lucky enough to get one in a pack. But most of the time, the ones that showed up were guys like Art Ditmar, Jerry Lumpe or Danny Kravitz.  Perfectly good candidates for spoke work.             
They weren’t much good for that either. They’d give a pretty nice crisp “fwapping” sound for about a block before they turned soft and silent. We might have had better luck using those flat, pink square pieces of crumbly dry bubble gum, that came with the cards.
Playing cards worked better but the ones in my folks dresser drawer were for canasta games..and don’t you forget it!
 
It’s funny..I can’t even remember what kind of bicycle I had back then or even what it looked like.  I think it was my older brother’s hand-me-down because I do recall he got a brand new bike from Montgomery Wards. It was a 26 inch model in a sort of greenish yellow color. It had an enclosed cross bar, one of those thumb-operated bells on the handle bar and a headlight on the front fender for night riding. It was powered by a generator on the wheel so the faster you went, the brighter the light. Unfortunately, if you peddled down you were back in the dangerous darkness. It was like this one from "Monkey" Wards only in chartruse instead of orange. I also remember my little brother’s bike; a 20 inch red model with no bells, lights or whistles.
 
I suppose the reason I don’t have any memories of my own bike is because at age 13 I didn’t need to stick cards in the spokes to get a motorcycle sound… My dad bought me the REAL deal!
It was a 1949 red and black Harley Davidson 125..one cylinder beauty that belonged to an older cousin who was going into the service.
I’ve written before here about what a thrill it was to ride up and down the streets of Volga on that thing; the envy of all those kids on their expensive Schwinns.Me on my magnificent red Harley..surrounded by admiring friends and cousins.
But my Marlon Brando days as the “Brookings County Wild One” were short lived. The cycle would sit idle for months at a time because it needed a part or repair that I couldn’t afford.
Plus I came close to getting killed..or at least neutered..on the thing when I slammed into a car at an intersection. It sent me somersaulting over the handlebars catching my crotch on the headlight.
The accident bent the Harley’s front fork which the local welding shop managed to straighten out again..but by that time I was losing interest in both bicycles or motorcycles. I wanted something with four wheels. 
I was finally old enough to take my “Driver’s Test”…which I failed.
But that’s a story for another day.  

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