Two Wheeler Peter

Having progressed from crawling to walking to being regally conveyed in a carriage to riding a tricycle to running, I began to have to address new and more relevant ways of personal transportation as I grew older. I was able to occasionally borrow, however briefly, a bicycle from an understanding friend. Late in August one year, I was riding on the sidewalk in front of Robertson’s house, when I lost my balance and fell to my right. I threw my right arm out to “break” my fall.

I broke my fall alright, … and a bone in my right elbow. My full cast was removed in October. a) The following summer I hung out with a couple of boys a little older than me. They liked my sense of humour. We would go places and one of them would let me ride side saddle on the crossbar of their bike, so we all arrived at our destination at roughly the same time. I came home for lunch one day and my dad told me that they were going to buy me a bicycle. b)

Dad and I walked uptown together, talking about everything and nothing. There was a tacit agreement that although I would nominally be the “owner”, the bicycle would be available for any of my siblings who needed to borrow it. I didn’t care, I was just happy to be getting a bike. At length, we arrived at Simpson’s Bicycle Shop on Main Street. (Mrs Simpson had been and still was, a friend and bridgeplaying crony of my mother’s), and Dad handed over the “long green”. I remember the smell of rubber and fresh paint and grease and the joy I felt when Dad told me to pick one out. I ran my eyes across the phalanx of two wheelers….. and the fresh crowned hero fell without firing a shot c) There she was, lurking in the corner, a CCM “juvenile”. Her chromed fenders contrasted with her “electric blue” painted frame and her white wall tires. Dad produced another buck and a half for a kickstand and “out the door we went”.

While I wanted to jump on the bike and fly home, I knew that it was more important to acknowledge the tremendous gesture that my parents had just demonstrated. Again, as we walked home, Dad and I talked of everything, yet nothing, d) After a week, or so it seemed, we finally arrived at Franklin Street. Dad installed the kickstand as soon as we got home, hugged me, told me to be careful and went in to update his life partner while I “hit the road”.

I named her “Matilda”, not after the tank, but because I had recently read a book in which a guy had a bike which he had so named. e) She was my “magic carpet”. For about a week, I basked in “Nice bike, Montreuil!” “Matilda” was quite the status symbol, not to mention useful transportation. Many times I rode her to “The Narrows“, where we would rent a canoe from Harris Boat Livery and lark about for an hour.

One time we rented a rowboat and didn’t get out of sight of the dock in our allotted hour, just rowed around in circles, frustrated.

Interestingly, on Franklin Street, there were 3 boys who resembled each other so much that they could be mistaken for one another at first glance. One of them even had an identical bike to “Matilda”. This, on one occasion, led to a rather uncomfortable couple of hours as I was wrongly accused of something. It all worked out in the end, however.

During our time together, “Matilda” had a number of flat tires. She was heavily used from April to November by the kids of a large family, so that was to be expected, I guess. One time, a young man who had designs on my sister Mary volunteered to fix a flat. He took the inner tube, put model airplane glue on the puncture, put a lit match to it to seal it, used a handpump to replenish the air, reinstalled the tube and tire on the rim, put the (rear) wheel back on and handed it to me for an FCF. f) As I wheeled her out, the “patch” gave up the ghost with a loud sigh 😉  ! Mortified, he went home.

I did have two incidents with her. Once, at a baseball game, my friend Gary Larson g) hit a line drive foul ball which took out one of the spokes in her front wheel.

On June 25th, 1967 h), I was riding “Matilda” to go play baseball. I rode down Franklin Street and made a left turn onto James Street. I swung wide and was going to cut across the front lawn of David H Church School i) I threw my head back and laughed, happy to be young and alive.

Jimi Hendrix “kissed the sky”? Next thing I knew, I was kissing the grass as I went “arse over teakettle”. “Matilda” landed behind me, but was unharmed, albeit reluctant to let me back aboard.

There was a steel pipe fence, about a foot high, painted green. Completely invisible against the lawn, at least to a joyous youth on a bike. (To my credit, I never hit that fence again.)

She was heavily used, from April to the end of October. She had a number of mishaps, including being run into a tree by one of my siblings. (Note, it is always unsettling to see your bike being wheeled home, rather than ridden home!) She and I were inseparable for a number of years in the good weather.

Alas, she went the way of “Puff the Magic Dragon”. The same raging hormones which made pimples pop up like dandelions, made my voice crack and made me reconsider my position that girls were just put on Earth to be annoying made my CCM electric blue juvenile bike go from “tres cool” to “pas cool”, from “magic carpet” to “door mat”, from “royal barge” to “garbage scow”. “Matilda” was eventually traded back to Simpson’s as part of a transaction to get a newer bike for one of my younger siblings. Even at the end of her time with me, she still found a way to serve.

If you think I’m over emoting about a bike, it made me later realize that once “Matilda” had no further use for me, she lost any value to me. Thinking about it more deeply, I swore that I would never treat a human being that way.

Two more little stories about her. The first time I heard “My Little Town” by Simon and Garfunkel, I really got the line “…flying my bike past the gates of the factory…”. I had been there, thanks to “Matilda”.

Secondly, once I was lucky enough to see the look on a little girl’s face when she realized that she was balancing herself on her two wheeler. She knew that her life would never be the same.

Let’s finish off with some empowering music this week. My very good friends “Mushy Callahan” come from a very musical family. Their father Jeff plays regularly and has released a CD. He also released this wonderful song, “Bully Proof Vest”. ( Why isn’t this song more widely known?) It has a great message and a nice poppy melody, custom built for singing along with, and a realistic message.

Finally, several years ago, I met Brandon Gregory, front man for “Drop Top Alibi”. He gave me one of their CDs, and my 18 year old self throws “devil horns” whenever I play “Heavy Metal Baby”. They have a new video out, “Take It All In Stride”. I love the tune, I love the video, I love the lyrics. The singer is facing the end of a relationship. He’s acknowledging it and he doesn’t want advice from anyone about it, because he will figure out where he is. He may not figure things out right away, but he realizes that speed isn’t as important as finding your own way. Great tune, Brandon!

See you soon

  1. a) Twice I broke my arm growing up. Both times it was my right arm. I am lefthanded.
  2. b) Don’t forget that there were 6 children in the house in our house at this time, so this represented a significant gesture on Mum and Dad’s part.
  3. c) Thank you, Mark Twain.
  4. d) And what would I give to be able to do that again, to just bask in my Dad’s wisdom as we walked along.
  5. e) This gave impetus to my creativity, as I knew I could do much better on my own.
  6. f) Functional Check Flight, post maintenance procedure in the U.S. Air Force.
  7. g) We were in 4th Orillia Cubs together.
  8. h) I remember the date well. Trudeaumania swept the nation that day.
  9. i) Not the world’s first multipurpose facility, but a school named after David H Church

2 Responses to “Two Wheeler Peter”

  1. Bettie Whipple Says:

    That was a fun read, Peter. I always enjoy your columns. My first bike at age 11 was my joy-red and black with stripes-wartime-WW11 and I know my parents had to sacrifice to get it one for
    X’mas—-hugs, Bettie

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