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suggested I write something about “women in antique cycle circles”.
I’m sure this isn’t exactly what he had in mind. I hope everyone
will take what I wrote in the good-natured way it was meant to be. So,
During World War II, many of the young men of the motorcycle clubs went off to serve in the Armed Forces. The Motorcyclist magazine of that time printed letters from “The Gang Back Home”.
In one of the issues, the editor of the Motorcyclist gave the service men a little scolding, “Wasn’t it a trifle amusing to find some of the men here grumbling about ‘sissy stuff and letters from girls we’ve never heard of?’ Wonder how many feel that way? They oughtn’t begrudge these two pages when women used to rate a whole issue. What do you think?”
The Motorcyclist: April 1944 – “From The Gang Back at Home”:
P-s-s-t! Would you like to hear
from another girl rider? I am one of the twenty-two members of the Stockton
Girls’ Motorcycle Club and I own my second cycle. As I love to tinker around
mechanical things, most of my work of today consists in repairing and testing
generators, starters and distributors for Hansel & Ortman here in Stockton.
In September of 1942, I bought my present 1937 Forty-Five Scout and now get along fine with it, even on mud runs. My husband now has a 1941 four cylinder Indian which I can handle a little but it is too heavy for me in traffic and anyway he is afraid I’ll go back to spilling again, so the Forty-Five is my favorite model.
Last month we went on a little run to Tracy, California, and that was my first attempt at hillclimbing. I only went up a small hill. It was long enough but not steep. No – no spills and it was fun.
I would like to write to any of you
boys who like to receive mail.
First, what is the deal with black leather? My daughters and I have discussed the fashion aspect of biking, and agree that the sight of a biker with his black leather jacket, flowing hair, boots and dark glasses is more likely to raise our eyebrows than cause our hearts to trill with delight. Couldn’t someone design something midway between black leather and racing stripes when it comes to leathers? Brown, Carhart Tan, Burgandy, or even a beautiful Eggplant would be great. Perhaps more fashionable riding outfits might bring more women back into the sport. (See picture from 1944).
Second, what about that clutch? In my opinion, there are two things that a women should never admit knowledge of: How to change oil and how to drive a stick. The statement “Ignorance is Bliss” was never truer than in these cases. And the sad part is that the technology to make a motorcycle “clutch-free” has been known since 1934! (See letter below.)
Questions and Answers by the Shop Foreman – the Motorcyclist, November 1946:
Question: I have just purchased a 1941 Bonneville Sport Scout. . . . A lot has been said about foot-shift, shaft-drive, etc. Why not go further? How about fluid drive on cycles? Just imagine no clutch or gear shifting?
Answer: The BSA Co. of England
marketed a motorcycle in 1934 featuring a fluid drive with automatic gear
selection. The machine was successful, but due to high production cost
and the popularity of the positive foot gear change, the model wasn’t sold
in large enough numbers to justify keeping it in production. . . . Your
progressive thinking leaves me with this afterthought: Undoubtedly the
greatest check-rein on the mechanical development of motorcycles is the
very conservativeness of the motorcycle riders.
The Motorcyclist -- “From The Gang Back Home”:
I’m another new Junior Scout rider.
At present this town has five girl cycle owners and it is quite an honor
to have so many girl drivers in one small town. I decided I’d like to own
and drive a motor when I first saw Emma Mehan and Betty Jeremey on their
Juniors one Sunday. I didn’t think a girl could actually drive a motorcycle
until then. I had always had the opinion it was just a hobby for men alone.
But now since I’ve made a purchase and mastered the art of driving a bit,
I discover it is loads of fun and quite a thrill to be able to operate
the machine all by myself. My husband has a HD 61 but I don’t think I would
like a larger machine as I have my troubles now pushing a smaller model
around. My husband has a governor on my motor for he believes I shouldn’t
have too much speed while I am learning and I think he is right. At present,
my machine is being sprayed white and I can hardly wait until it is all
finished. Carolyn Pearse
What club in Southern California is being dubbed the “yoo hoo” club, and why?
It is a club that has always prided itself upon being thoroughly masculine. They refused to admit lady members to their roll, and would have no part of an auxiliary. They were purely hard riding, hard talking, and rough playing he-knights of the iron steed and many are the demonstrations of their masculinity over a period of the last few years. Recently one of their members darted forth from a store driveway. Because of a package hung on the handlebars he failed to negotiate a sharp right turn, and smacked the side of a streetcar in a most hardboiled manner. The Streetcar was hard if not boiled and this rider rode off to the hospital in an ambulance to be patched up.
A fellow member and chum called at the hospital to leave some cigarettes. The injured friend did not seem to be listed. There was much insistence back and forth and finally as a compromise the visitor and the hospital attendant decided to check a party in the feminine ward of the same last name but with a different first name.
Low and behold. There lay the injured club member, carrying on vociferously in strong masculine language, but definitely accorded to the ladies ward by the attending emergency physicians.
Since this member had been with the
club constantly for two years the members are a little flabbergasted.
About all I know of modern Indian riders is from the Road Weasels. Last summer we road to the Muskegon Shoreline Spectacular, which included a motorcycle show (all makes, all models, all years) put on by the Muskegon Motorcycle Club. Well, the weasels rode away with first place trophies in every category they entered. As we left Muskegon we were traveling 4 abreast, with Vince & I next to Bob, the king of Weaseldom. Bob had his trophy bungee-corded to his handlebars, a’la Marlon Brando in the Wild One. Bob looked at Vince, Vince looked at Bob. They grinned.
Front over Indian News May 1941
"Girl Rider" Betty Jeremy on her Scout