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210412 April 12, 2021


Two-Wheeled Sagas
Tommy Towery
LHS '64

    Like many of you I suppose, I have a plethora of stories about the adventures I had on a bicycle when I was growing up in Huntsville. Some of them are good memories, but many are not. I don’t know how many legs of my blue jeans were ripped by getting stuck in the chains of bicycles. And I know I was not along when I recall using a clothes pin and a playing card clipped to the back wheel for a memorable sound supplier. I suppose the most memorable bicycle trip I made was when I was 16 years old and a friend and I rode our bikes from his house near Maple Hill Cemetery to my girlfriend’s house near Jordan Lane. It was over a 10 mile round trip, staring in the late afternoon and returning after dark. At the time it was the longest trip I think I had taken, unless the trips up and down the mountain were longer. Only the trip up Bankhead Parkway involved peddling only one way, because we always coasted back down the mountain and sometimes at breakneck speeds.

    I think it was a Huffy bicycle I rode on that trip, which was a present from my paternal grandmother to replace an earlier one which was stolen off my front porch when I lived on East Clinton Street. That bicycle theft was only one of many I had in my lifetime, but I had many different bikes later in my life.

    One of my most haunting memories involved the theft of one of my bikes.

    I still had the 10-mile-trip bicycle when I moved to Lincoln Village before I entered the 10th grade at the emerging Lee High School. We had previously lived next door to Ray Walker on McCullough Avenue and because of my family’s financial status we finally qualified for the government assisted housing offered at the time. I really had no idea such a move actually demonstrated how poor my family really was. My parents were divorced and my grandmother was living with my now “single” mother and my brother and I at the time. To me the government housing on Webster Drive was the newest and most modern complex in which I had ever lived. I had never thought of it being “the projects” which it really was, and I have no idea what my friends thought about me living there instead of a real house like the ones in which they lived.

    Unlike other places I had previously lived, there was absolutely no outside storage facility associated with the complex in which I had moved. Previously the houses we rented all had garages and most of them had storage (coal) sheds and large screened back porches. It was in those buildings where I normally kept my bicycle, but this new modern duplex did not have any such facility. So, the best I could do was to leave my bike in the open area beside our back door. The way the project was designed there was a driveway for garbage trucks that also ran behind our house, leaving my bike open to view from the back.  That meant it was also open to view from anyone who wanted to steal it, and that was what happened shortly after we moved into the place.

    One day I went out the back door to ride my bike and it was gone. Someone had stolen it. So, if I was in the 10th grade I would have been 15 or 16 years old. Looking back at my younger days I had yet to become the warrior I would become in my later years. I was basically a wimp – although that was not a common term at the time.  Sometime later (days, weeks, months) I was out in my back yard and a boy came riding down the alley behind the house on a bicycle that looked like the missing one of mine. Now remember, I was living in Lincoln Village and it was full of rough kids back then and may still be today. I was a sheep living in a den of lions. Anyway, the boy riding the bike was known to be one of those thugs of the neighborhood. I went up to him to get a closer look at the bicycle he was riding and the closer I inspected it the more it looked like mine. One of the first things thieves did back then when they stole a bike was to paint it a different color, and his bike had been painted.

    And here is where the wimp in me took control. Rather than confront him about where he got the bike, I said nothing. I just walked away and in my mind avoided a fight in which I was not willing to endure. Even though I was 99% sure it was my bicycle I did not stand up to the tough kid and make him give it back to me. I always blamed it on the fact I did not have a male parent who raised me to stand up for myself. I think I told myself I was old enough to get my driver's license and I would not be needing my bike much longer anyway.

    Friends, that is a story which I have never shared with anyone.

    Move the timeframe forward to 1972 and I had graduated from college. I had earned a brown belt in judo and taken a class of karate in college and gone through survival training in the Air Force where I was taught how if it comes down to you or me to survive, you better believe it will be me. It gave me a whole new attitude on life.

    So, in 1972 I was sent to Guam with the B-52 buildup for the bombing campaign in Vietnam. One of the first things I did when I got there was to go to the wives’ thrift store and bought myself a $15 bicycle to get around on the base, since I was only there on temporary duty and did not have a car. It did not bother me that it was a girl’s bike. The bicycle once again became my primary means of transportation. I was living in the Bachelor Officer’s Quarters and at the end of the building there was a bicycle rack in which I kept my bike stored. 

    About two months after I was there I went out one day and my bicycle’s lock had been cut and my bicycle was gone. Of course I had no idea who had taken it, because over 8,000 of us had been crammed on the island in a very short period. Anyway, a week or so later I was walking back to my room and decided to check out the bike racks in the other buildings. Sure enough, in one rack was my bicycle. No one was around, so I just took it back and rode it back to my building. I did not have to use my warrior skills to do so, but that time I was not afraid to stand up for myself if I had been confronted. It was mine and I took it back.

    It was also the last time I ever had a bicycle stolen, even though I had other bikes after that. I have never been one of those people who take bicycling as a physical activity, but rather always looked upon bikes only as a form of transportation. I am sure that some of you have to be people who have taken bicycling much more seriously than me, and I would love to hear your personal bicycle stories, either what you did as a kid or as an adult. Please share some of your stories with me.

Bicycle Stories

        Memphis, TN - This is one of those weird weeks where a story got stuck in my head and I felt I needed to write it. I do not know how many of you can relate to the story itself, but I am sure many of you have some of your own stories about the bicycles in your lives you might be willing to share.

        I had no response to last week's story so I suppose it was neither loved or hated, but instead was just another story I shared with you. 

        Remember, I am always looking for your own stories to use each week. Whatever you want to share please send it along and if it is possible I will help you share it with your classmates.


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