Locomotion for Kids, Sixties Style

1958/1959 Station Wagon

I wish I could write something about this little station wagon I'm "driving," but I do not remember it. I must have been two or three here, which makes this photo circa 1958/1959. (Later note: It is a Murray Station Wagon: $19.95 in 1955.)








1959 Bike with training wheels

The back of this photo is marked "January 1960," so this bike was obviously a Christmas present in 1959, when I was three. I only remember three things about this bicycle. 1.) The red rubber part on that handlebar-mounted horn was in the shape of a beehive, and it dry rotted away pretty quickly. 2.) I liked that little shelf over the back tire. I used to give friends rides on the bike and that is where they sat. 3.) I once got into a horrendous wreck while coasting down Robinson Street on this bike. My handlebar hit the picket fence in front of our house, I lost control of the bike and found myself and the bike sprawled on the sidewalk; I was dazed and looking up at the sky. It happened so quickly I was stunned.

I liked those pyjamas. They had a red and blue antique car pattern.



My 1959 Police Cycle

This police cycle came with a cool pistol, billy club, holster and helmet (as shown). I vaguely recall that my parents used to watch Broderick Crawford in "Highway Patrol" at the time, so that was probably the inspiration for this toy. (Law authorities and members of the military were heroes back then. They didn't get called "pigs" and "baby killers" until I was a teenager.) The cards taped to the doorframe in the back indicate that this was a Christmas present, and the 1959 date on the back of the print suggests I was three and a half in this photo. Yes, I did get this cycle and the red bike in the same Christmas - an advantage of being an only child!

Those pajamas I'm wearing are far too clean - I must have gotten those for Christmas as well.

The cycle was constructed so that there was a cool storage place under the seat. I was never really sure what was supposed to go in it - diminutive criminals, maybe - so I usually threw dirt and mud in it. I don't remember why I did this, I just recall not wanting to store anything in there that I really valued.

Something tells me this police bike would be worth money today. I see tiny replicas of them in Hallmark stores, and the full size play autos, etc. are used as decoration in the kids departments of expensive stores.

I probably objected to Mom pulling me away from Christmas morning play to pose for this photo, but today I'm really glad she did.

Click here to see the police cycle shown in the 1958 Sears Christmas Wishbook, which suggests that my parents paid $24.27 for it. Note mine says "Highway Patrol," possibly to cash in on the television show of that name with Broderick Crawford (which I used to watch at about this time).

Note the Econolite lamp atop the stereo. It was only of those kind that used the heat from the bulb to make an interior shade rotate. The effect was that the antique car appeared to be rolling down a street. (There was a convertible car on the other side.) Not surprisingly, I really liked this lamp. (Another style I'm sure we had.)

My 1964 Schwinn Super Deluxe Sting-Ray

Another Christmas, five years later, when I received my first Sting-Ray. I have never since received a present with which I was as thrilled!

My Sting-Ray was a "flamboyant lime" Super Deluxe model with a front wheel-mounted shock absorber. (They also came in violet, sky blue, coppertone and red - I think the blue was the most popular color. The green color was discontinued after 1965.) That basket was embarrassing, and I quickly removed it. (Click here for an image of Kevin - supposed to be my age and correctly depicted as owning a Sting Ray - in ABC's Wonder Years. Note that his is the base level Sting-Ray, without chrome fenders.) In the Sixties, the Sting-Ray was the bike for kids, and was widely imitated. There must have been twenty of them in my neighborhood.

Since I didn't have a dog, this bicycle was my inseparable companion when I was a boy. It took me quickly to the grocery store to buy comics, hauled me over to Merv's liquor store to buy a 12 cent Butterfinger after Dad's Kraft macaroni and cheese lunch (my school was a short distance from home), and waited for me when I trudged out of class after everyone else, kept late by Miss Johnson due to my continuing "citizenship problems." (We boys always maintained that our teacher didn't like us, and preferred the girls. Years later I learned from a former classmate that Miss Johnson was a lesbian, which put to rest that puzzle.)

When Bat-mania struck in September, 1966, I obtained a cool aluminum bat insignia which I affixed to the bars under the rear reflector. I fancied the whole thing turned the bike into a sort of Batmobile, and delighted in roaring out of the passage next to the house where I stored my bike, banging my way past the gate and making a dramatic jump onto Lincoln Street in defiance of oncoming traffic, in imitation of the Batmobile's exit from the Bat-cave at the start of every episode.

Who said an eleven-year-old couldn't pick up chicks riding a bike? This pretty little girl was named Leslie. One day Mom came home from the restaurant with her, and announced that she was considering adopting her. Privately, she described her reprehensible parents, and how it was incumbent upon us to bring her into a good family. I remember fearing the preciousness of having "Wesley and Leslie" in the household, and my resentment and awkwardness swimming with her in our pool, as Mom compelled me to do. (The pool was adjacent to the deck you see here.) What was the worst, however, was posing for these photos. You may note I'm trying to not share that Schwinn banana seat with her, and keeping as much distance as possible between the two of us. (While I may have been a fan of the James Bond movies popular at the time, I had no intention of actually trying to carry out the racier scenes.)

Mom was quite taken with this little girl, and paid her her highest compliment: "She reminds me of Shirley Temple!" Well, Leslie spent the night - I think we stayed up and watched typically silly Sixties sitcoms - and the next day Mom returned her to her alleged life of misery and woe, with her own parents. For some reason Mom's adoption plans came to naught, and Dad and I breathed a sigh of relief.

I traded-up bicycles for my birthday in April '68 with a metallic sky blue 5-speed Schwinn "Ram's Horn Fastback" (so-called for the curvature of the handlebars) that was technically sophisticated and flashy. Instead of the conventional small shifter levers mounted on the handlebars it had an impressive stick shift lever on the center bar. To a twelve year-old, it was the Corvette of bicycles. The '64 I sold to Richard Springer, who painted it '67 VW "zenith blue" to match his dad's Bug. Ugh. For some reason I never took a picture of this bike, but you can click here to see a photo of someone else's.

Representing greater velocity, the 5-speed was very desirable amongst us kids. Mine had a problem in that the chain kept getting jammed during shifts. When my 5-speed was stolen in junior high (November '68, I think) I replaced it with a plain old 1-speed Sting Ray that I knew wouldn't give me any problems. (The color of this newer bike was "campus green," which was a metallic forest green. Schwinn didn't offer avocado, or my parents would have bought that.) I kept it until I got too big for it. This was mirthfully pointed out to me by the girl across the street.

My next bike was a used Schwinn "Collegiate" 3-speed, also "campus green," which my parents bought for me in 1972. I used it to get to Angela's house quickly, in time to watch the Los Angeles T-Birds skate in roller derby games. (These were "games" in the sense that professional wrestling has "matches," with the outcome foreordained.)

By the time I was 15 1/2 I got a learner's permit and the use of the family car, which pretty much spelled the end of my bicycling days until 1979, when I bought a metallic blue Collegiate with my tax refund. I rode this to work at Lockheed and had it shipped to BYU, and finally sold it just before we moved east in 1984.

NOTE: What was ubiquitous when I was a kid is a rarity now, and Schwinn Sting-Rays in good condition are worth money! I found a girl's version in blue, called a "Fair Lady," in good shape at a yard sale for $7, and got it for my daughter. Subsequent investigation using the serial number revealed that the bike was manufactured in December, 1979. I also made a call to a bicycle museum in Saint Louis which verified what I suspected: the boys' bikes are worth more because they're harder to find in good shape. (A situation no doubt caused by the difference between testosterone and estrogen.) According to my Sting-Ray book, a bike like the one in this photo, in good condition, is worth $750-$1,300, and a well-preserved Ram's Horn Fastback is worth $500-$850!

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