The Blue Racer
This seems to be the initial occurance of the seemingly lifelong triangle of work, women and wheels
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The origin of this ongoing triangle of work, women and wheels can be traced as far back as the summer of 1950 when I was almost 9-years old and wanted to earn money to buy a baseball bat and glove, and maybe some candy for my little girl friend from school.
We were a lower middle class family and my Dad was attending the Michigan State University in Lansing , Michigan , studying Electrical Engineering, while working nights and supporting my mother and 3 of us kids. He was considerate but firm in explaining that we were not able to have all the things other folks around us had, and that there was nothing wrong with the way we were, but as a family we had to share what we did have among us, and that often left little to spend on toys, candy and some of the other things I was desirous of.
I heard that a paper route was coming available and I asked if I could ask for the job, and again my dad was caring enough to take the time to explain to me the responsibilities that a job entailed and said he would go out of his way to not let me quit, until I had figured out all the situations and issues that were sure to come up. I wasn't sure about all that he was trying to explain, but I really wanted to do this. He took me down to the newspaper building and helped me understand what was being asked of me.
Even thought I was pretty young, the folks at the paper seemed to be used to a young person on this job, and just wanted to make sure my dad understood what time I was going to have to get up in the morning in time to sort and fold the papers for their delivery. I was never difficult to get up in the morning, so that caused him little concern, and added to the fact that the route was limited to an area just off campus that held housing for students with families, and consisted of four apartments side by side everyone seemed OK with my overtaking the route.
The alarm woke me 6 days later at 5:00 AM , and eager to earn money, I jumped out and actually beat the paper delivery truck to the corner at the end of the block. I had to walk to the corner and make 4 trips carrying the paper to the house to fold them into position that tossing them would be easier. After folding was complete, I filled two heavy duty shoulder bags to the brim with my newly folded papers but still needed to carry 6-8 papers in my arms.
Tucking my delivery address book in my back pocket, and hoisting up one bag on each shoulder, I embarked on my very first job, full of pride and memorizing the way to the sporting goods store the following Monday evening.
I had barely delivered one fourth of my papers, and my legs were getting wobbly and it was getting harder to carry all that weight. I would shift papers from one bag to the other to try to balance out the load, but too many papers in the right side bag affected my aim in throwing the papers. I had also discovered that dogs are just as awake at 5:30 in the morning as they are in the afternoon. I'm sure I presented an image unfamiliar too them, and I was completely unable to generate any form of exit maneuver that didn't involve waddling. It was an exiting first day on the job.
On that first morning, I was already beginning to wonder about this work thing. I had envisioned a calm working tour in the neighborhood during the weekday mornings, collecting the cash on Saturdays, then and heading for the stores. As the early morning wore on, it became clearer that I had not made an accurate assessment of the situation, and this job thing was taking on a whole new meaning.
There were no mailboxes at the street and I was to toss the papers up towards the door, but the darkness required that I approach some of the houses to determine the address, further enticing the dogs to more clearly explain their boundary lines to me. I knew the streets pretty well from playing in the neighborhood, but determining the addresses was not as easy in the darkness of these Michigan mornings. By the time daylight decided to show up, I had been approached by at least a dozen dogs, had my left pant leg torn twice, both paper carrying bags had teeth marks on them, one shoelace had become untied and I was getting hungry.
The entire delivery time this morning was almost an hour and a half, but not having to go to school only meant the I might not be included in the warm breakfast that generally awaited me on a normal morning.
As the days progressed, I got more familiar with the houses that received the paper, minimizing the dog adventures, but and increase in circulation coupled with the repeated carrying of the two heavy paper carrying bags was taking it's toll even on my young legs. Dad had strongly suggested that I save my money until I had a better understanding of my working situation. He reasoned that something more important than a bat or glove might become apparent. I was puzzled at the time, but he was now suggesting that I might be better served to invest the money I had saved into my current ‘business', by buying a bicycle.
Wow, what a great idea. I had wanted a bike for a long time as most of my friends had them and I was often left home from some excursions for lack of appropriate transportation. I had not considered that a bike could serve two purposes at the same time, and of course, I was overcome with joy, only to be brought back to earth once I found out how much a bike would cost. Much, much more than a baseball glove or a football.
It was at this precise moment that Dad instituted his ‘kid's actual want list' idea. I expect it was a normal thing for kids to ask parents to buy them this, or buy them that. He sat my two sisters and I down at the table and laid out the following plan: We could make a list of all the things we wanted to have and put the price required to buy it next to it on the list, then post it on the side of the kitchen door jamb. He would then be made aware of what we REALLY wanted by stating that he would pay one half of whatever we wanted to acquire, if we saved our half of the money first.
That immediately shortened all our lists. The smaller of my two younger sisters really took a hit on this one, as she had limited sources of income, but for the older brother with a paper route it was a blessing, and it became immediately clear that there was a distinct possibility that I could end up with a bicycle of my very own. I began asking for a ride down to price the bike of my dreams, and the more days that passed by with me hauling those heavy bags, the thought of a bike to help me deliver papers was becoming more and more appealing.
The trip to town, and visits to three hardware stores only discouraged me, as the cost of a new bicycle was quite a bit more than I had imagined, but Dad encouraged me by saying that I should consider getting a used bike and ‘fixing it up' to suit me, and that he ‘just happened to know where one was'. We took a small detour on the way home and stopped by a class mates of his that ‘just happened' to have a very nice boys bike that was the correct size for my use. The only problem was that he wanted $35 for it. It seemed well worth it, as it had the required handle grips, larger kickstand, and most important of all, it had ‘luggage rack' on the back that would lend itself to mounting the heavy newspaper bags to it. The problem however, was that I only had $15 for my half of the purchase. In hindsight, I am sure that even this $20 expenditure was hard for my Dad to cover, but he made a deal with me to go ahead and get the bike as long as I agreed to pay him the entire additional $5 from my next weeks collections.
I was excited as I ever remember being at that point, and upon arriving at home, began touring the neighborhood to show off my ‘new' bike. After an hour or so, I returned home and began my first ever ‘restoration' project. The bike was black with silver fenders, but I wanted to make it suite me to my own tastes and needs, so I made a plan, including a list of the changes and the money required to complete the transformation, and began saving for the required items including enough paint to paint the entire bike my favorite color. Blue!
I knew enough that I had to buy sandpaper in addition to the paint and I began there. The first week I had enough to buy paint and sandpaper, so I took the bike out onto the back porch and started tearing it apart, but our household collection of tools did not include every tool I needed and the first part of Saturday afternoon was used to seek and borrow the tools needed to complete the disassembly, the most important tool lacking was the items needed to take apart the chain and reassemble it. I was able to acquire all that I needed and began to tear it completely apart. Disassembly went rather quickly, and after supper I started to do the sanding, that actually only included the frame and both fenders. I completed that part of the rebuild and wanted to start on the painting, but was told the night would bring high humidity and accumulate wetness on the fresh paint. I was told it would be better to wait until morning. Wait? Why? There had to be a better way.
I lay awake, trying to think of a way to have that bike ready to ride the next day, and then an idea hit me. I took several of my leftover newspapers and spread them over the kitchen table and brought the fenders and frame in from my bedroom and arrayed them on the table and began to paint them with the can of blue spray paint. I thought I did a great job, and knew the paint would be dry in the morning, and I would just get up early and take the pieces out onto the back porch, and gather up the old newspapers.
All went well, or so I thought, until Dad woke up and smelling the leftover paint fumes, called me to the kitchen and pointed out that the kitchen was not a paint booth, and how did I plan to clean the overspray off the kitchen chairs? Shit! I was in deep trouble. Not only with my Mom, but my middle sister never let me forget the things I screwed up on for as long as she could remember them.
Trying to still appear angry, Dad had some thinner of some type that he said would remove the paint and that Mom would still not be happy with the odor that most likely would linger for several days. He sent me to get the thinner, instructed me to get started cleaning it and to return the thinner to him when I was done. He, of course was correct, and I caught a ration of crap from Mom and sister, but I went back out onto the back porch and started assembly of my now new ‘Blue Racer” as I had christened it.
I had it all back together before lunch. I had used one of Moms Brillo pads to polish as many items as I could, including that sturdy luggage rack over the rear fender, and that set them apart from the blue items quite nicely, I thought. The plastic handle grips were already blue in color and they looked pretty sporty when they were put on. Now, for the finishing touch. I asked Mom for two of her clothes pins and Dad for the two Jokers from the deck of cards and went back out on to the back porch to install the final part that would be sure to display not only my presence, but my degree of coolness as well.
When we had gone downtown to price bicycles, I heard a loud, flapping noise, and when I turned to see what was causing it two boys on their bikes pulled up to the bike shop and the noise quit. I looked down to discover that they had fastened playing card to the front fork and the upper arm at the rear with clothes pins, and as the wheels turned, the playing cards would strike the spokes in the wheel and make a very loud chattering noise. Very Cool!
So, gathering the last items to complete my own custom ride, I attached the playing cards to my own ‘ride' and headed out to the neighborhood to show off to the other guys, strut for the little girls and scare the shit out of those damned dogs that would chase me on the paper route.