"48 Cushman -My First Bike
1948 Cushman - like the one I owned, but mine was blue
First Ride - A Crash!
The first time I ever rode a motorized vehicle, I crashed. It was on a borrowed Cushman, and if my parents had ever found out, I definitely would not have been able to get one before I was grown. I was only 14 at the time.
But let me start my tale a little before that. I had an afternoon paper route, delivering the Miami Daily News. There were a couple of dozen of us paperboys, and we all rode bicycles with wooden baskets, and/or cloth saddlebags to hold the papers. All except James Farkas.
Farkas was big and heavy (dare I say fat) and a couple of years older than most of us. And he had a Servicycle. it was a belt driven affair, as I remember, sort of like a lightweight motorcycle or a cross between a motorcycle and a bicycle. I don't remember ever seeing any more after his. Anyway, I thought that was the greatest thing I had ever seen. Imagine having the flexibility to throw your papers without having to pedal!
It wasn't long before I moved on to a Miami Herald route. That meant getting up at 4 every morning, but you could make more money - and have time for recreation in the afternoons. I soon met Fred Hurlbert, and, wonder of wonders, he had a Cushman. It was then and there that I began saving as much as I could - I had to have a Cushman.
I had almost enough for the down payment. I was going to finance the rest through Flagler Finace. But that's when I crashed. It was a Sunday morning and all the Herald Boys were to meet for a softball game after we finished our routes. But our pitcher was home sleeping.
Somebody had to go wake him up. I volunteered - if Fred would lend me his scooter. I had never been on one, but I assured him I could handle it. After all, all you had to do was use the kick starter, and turn the right hand grip up, and off you went. And don't forget the foot brake.
I got to Walt's house okay, and woke him up. Then I headed back for the Miami Annex where my teamates were waiting. I made a left turn on to Northwest 7th street, but I didn't negotiate the turn. There was no traffic, the street was dry, but somehow I lost control. I rode up into a gas station where a window with an iron frame was rolled out. I went through it and stopped against a wall.
The police came and took me to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where a doctor stitched up a gash on my right shoulder. Somehow, I convinced the hospital I would pay for their services, and I persuaded the police not to tell my parents about the accident. Imagine that happening today. I told my parents that I had been cut oversliding into third base and landing in glass. They believed me. If they had ever seen me play softball, they would have been pretty sure I was lying, because I was a lousy ballplayer and never made it to any bases.
So, my crash set me back several months in getting my scooter. I had to pay for the gas station damages. I had to pay to repair the Cushman, and I had to pay the hospital.
Finally, I had enough for the down payment. But now there was a big obstacle: My mother was dead set against it. She was sure I would be injured or killed, even though traffic in Miami in those days was not a big thing. But my dad stepped in and said he would sign for me. It was a pleasant surprise because we had never had a close relationship. But he told my mother that since I had been getting up at 4 every morning and working for my money, I deserved to get what I wanted.
So I got it, and immediately began using it to deliver my papers. I stacked the folded papers up on the floorboard in front of me, and put more in the luggage compartment behind me. Still more papers were packed between the bumper and the shell. It must have been a little awkard throwing papers since I am right handed - I don't remember now how I did it, but I got to ride the Cushman and everyone got their Miami Herald on time.
There were only a couple of other guys at the junior high school that had scooters, and one was just a Doodlebug. I felt like a big man on campus, great for my ego.
Nights were great! There was a group of teens that hung out on Northwest 34th Avenue and 4th Street most every night, and I was there with my scooter - the only one with a motorized vehicle - until some guy with a Harley Junior started coming around. The only bad thing was staying out till 10 or 11 most nights and getting up every morning at 4, but I managed. I was having too much fun to do otherwise.
Then one day, my buddy Duke Reeves and I decided to take a trip on the Cushman. We set out for Lake Wales, a little more than 200 miles up Highway 27 from Miami. We made it about half way before a Florida Highway Patrol officer stopped us. He wanted to know what two 14 year old kids were doing out in the middle of nowhere. He put Duke in the car with him and told me to follow. Well, he went faster that I should have gone, but I thought I had to stay with him, so I kept the scooter wide open, mile after mile. It burned the engine up and we had to end up shipping it home and coming back on a Greyhound.
I enjoyed it for a while after that, but then one morning I came out and it was gone. Stolen! And I didn't have theft insurance. I never got it back. And I didn't have enough money to get another one, so I settled for getting a used Whizzer, which I didn't keep long before I traded it to Duke for a worn-out, barely-running '31 Chevy. But that's another story.
If you enjoyed the story of my first bike, a 1948 Cushman, you may also like the stories in my book, OVER THE HANDLEBARS. It is a collection of 24 motorcycle stories or articles, most of which were first published in motorcycle magazines in the 1960s. You can order it from Amazon.com. I also have written two other books about motorcycling availalbe from Amazon.com. You can read all 3 of them on your computer for just $2.99 each. Go to motorcyclenostalgia.com.
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