Two Wheels and a Bucket of Paint

Richard Beck - Conyers, GA

In 1958 I was often riding a 26 x 1.75 ballon tired Columbia single speed bike 8 miles round trip on the road from Beaver Park, Ohio to Lorain.  A close neighbor friend, Gerald "Butch" Dewitt, told me about the English racer three-speed lightweight bicycle on display at Sears and Roebuck in downtown Lorain on Broadway. I went there in the spring to take a look at this revolutionary machine. Fabled skinny tires (26 x 1.25), pin striped steel fenders, cottered cranks, hand brakes, a frame mounted steel tire pump, and the venerable Sturmey Archer three speed hub made my head spin.  However, the price discouraged me; I didn't have $28. In fact, I didn't have a dollar and I didn't have the courage to ask my parents to buy it.  It was a lot of money for a kid. One could buy a used car for $50 back then.

My dad employed me that summer as a painter's helper for 25 cents per hour. We were painting the interior of a chain of Washing Well laundromats owned by Al Alverez.  The Kingston Trio's Tom Dooley was the number one song on the new and innovative portable transistor radios.  Aunty Mame and later South Pacific were playing at the Ohio Theater for 50 cents a ticket.

I worked 72 hours total while diligently saving every penny and ordered the black (no other choice) J.C. Higgins from Sears on July 3.  The salesman promised me it would be ready for pick up in two weeks.  Alas it took six very long weeks and so I kept painting and the summer day kept passing quickly. I stopped in there every day, it was really nerve wracking as the days were getting closer to school starting. I still refuse to patronize Sears.

Finally it was there and I rode it home in record time.  Whenever a traffic light turned red I would first back pedal to apply the brake only to find no pedal resistance.  That took some practice.

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