I love Spring. It’s my favorite season. Unfortunately in Southern Oregon, Spring only lasts about 2-1/2 days. It rains off and on all winter, then sometime around March you get that perfect day when the sun comes out and the pink and white flower blossoms are covering all the fruit trees. The next day seems like another beautiful day, but a storm will arrive in the afternoon and blow all the blooms off the trees. Then in late May you’ll get one additional beautiful 70-degree day, then BAM it’s 300 degrees until September.
When I was a kid I couldn’t wait until Spring. I liked all of the seasons, but Spring meant you could ride your bike again. And let’s face it; bike riding is the best thing in the world to happen to children. I remember getting my first real bike. It was Christmas morning, and I was seven years old. We ran out into the living room and there were three beautiful bikes lined up in front of the monstrous stereo … well, two bikes for me and Tracy and a tricycle for Coleen. Melissa was still a baby, so I think there was a Baby Drowsy sitting there for her.
I couldn’t believe it — a shiny new blue Schwinn with a short sissy bar and a sparkling silver banana seat. Of course it had training wheels on it, which, big chicken that I was, got lots of use for the first few months. Once I was ready, or actually, once my Dad convinced me I was ready, he took those training wheels off and he took me and the bike across the street to the church parking lot. I remember it was a nice sunny day and my sisters and Randy, my next-door neighbor and best friend, were in tow. Dad gave me all the pointers on how to keep my balance and steer the handle bars. Then he held on to that sissy bar while I peddled and peddled all over the parking lot. Before I knew it, he had let go and I was riding on my own! Of course, once I realized he had let go, I froze and held the handle bars stiff so that I was going around and around in a circle. He kept yelling, “Turn! Turn!” And I’m pretty sure I remember lots of laughing from my audience. But I gathered up my courage and turned the handle bars just a bit until I was riding in a straight line. He had created a monster. I was hooked.
Me, Tracy and Randy would ride our bikes every chance we got. We’d ride around the church parking lot every day after school and every weekend. We’d take turns speeding down the church sidewalk so we could slam on the brakes and leave huge skid marks at the church’s entrance. Then we’d giggle quietly, yet proudly, as we walked over the skid marks on our way into Sunday school.
Sometimes we’d attach playing cards to our bikes so they’d rub on the spokes and sound cool when we rode around. It was pretty stupid. What’s more stupid is that Randy and I came up with this fancy business idea. We took our old tricycles, dismantled them, and rebuilt them in to low-rider tricycles. We thought we were on to something and would make a million dollars. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want one of these fancy machines fabricated by a seven-year-old? We made signs and sat out on my front lawn. One sign sat next to a regular tricycle that read “From This…” and the other sign sat next to a customized low-rider tricycle that said “To This!” Yeah, we sat out there all day from dawn to dusk without one customer.
Randy was a show-off because he had an AM bike radio on his handle bars. He thought he was so cool with that thing. But at least I could listen to “Knock Three Times” by Tony Orlando & Dawn and other smash hits while we were riding around. We all had cool STP stickers on our front fenders. I don’t remember where those stickers came from, but they were like gold. All the cool boys in the neighborhood had one on their bike, so it meant we were also cool. Um, well Tracy was cool; I was the runt dork who liked to ride around with her.
Speaking of stickers, there were these totally cool collectible stickers in the ‘70s with bubble gum inside. Those stickers were called “Wacky Packages.” Kids would save their tooth fairy money, turn in cola bottles or whatever it took to buy those stickers at the local five and dime. Wacky Packages were crazy trading stickers similar to baseball cards that poked fun at consumer products of the day. We couldn’t get enough of them. They were ridiculous, disgusting and awesome all at the same time. We’d stick them all over our bike fenders, books, dresser mirrors and toys. Well, I didn’t put them on my bike, cuz I didn’t want to ruin the beautifulness of my Schwinn … and the magnificence of my STP sticker.
Here’s a sampling of Wacky Package stickers:
Gotta take care of those teeth:
A little afternoon refreshment for the youngins:
And last, but certainly not least, the parody of the all-important Heinz Ketchup:
Yeah, I still have a bike. She’s a purple beach cruiser named Dottie. She’s named after Pee Wee Herman’s girlfriend in “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.” I got her in Long Beach and used to cruise her around Venice Beach and Santa Monica before we moved to Oregon. Now she gets to cruise around the neighborhood park every once in a while. And it’s still fun.