The many bikes of summer remembered

Photo courtesy Karen Wils An old-time bike, all decorated for a parade in Gladstone, is shown circa 1932. The children are Phyllis Rose (O’Donnell), James Rose, and Marie Rose (Piazza).

ESCANABA — Shiny and sturdy, balloon tires, handle grips and a little “ring-e, ring-e” bell — do you remember your first bicycle?

Oh, the excitement of swinging your leg over that new bike and taking it for a stroll.

Independent, free, one with the sunshine, wind and bugs, the bike made us feel all grown up. We could zip over to our best friend’s house, cruise to the park and pedal down to the river or lake for some fishing.

When I was a kid, almost every family had a half-a-dozen bicycles in their garage, because almost everybody had six or seven kids. The bikes were often bought second-hand and passed down from kid to kid. My dad had a never ending job of airing up tires, lowering seats, straightening handle bars and maintaining all those bikes.

From the little red one with the training wheels on to Jim’s skinny-tired ten-speed that he bought with his paper route money, a small fleet of bikes resided at the Roses’.

As my brothers got older, they began tinkering with their bikes, fixing them up and swapping parts. Back then, they often biked to school, football practice, and the beach all in one day.

I got my first real girls, totally mine, bicycle when I was in fifth grade. My dad worked at Harnischfeger back then, and they were on strike. One of his co-workers had a bike that he recently purchased for his wife, but his wife did not like the bike.

With money being short, he gave my dad a real good deal on the beautiful, blue bike. Dad gave me the “blue beauty,” and I rode that bike until I was married. To Holy Name School, to Esky High School, to the library and to the mouth of the Escanaba River, I sure put the miles on that bike! Dad would often say, “I sure got my money’s worth out of that bike.”

My husband grew up in Perkins, so biking down the county roads were always a great adventure. He and his brothers would bike several miles to the store just to buy bubble gum and charge it to their dad’s account. Bike rides and bubble gum — summer time doesn’t get much better than that.

Back in 1974, the Rapid River School held a bike race for grade school students. They raced from the school to the Tacoosh River. A young whipper snapper, named David Wils, on a banana bike, won the race. The trophy still decorates our mantle.

Bikers are reminded of safety rules and motorists are reminded to watch for bikers.

Today more than ever people are trying to be “earth friendly.”

Biking is being “green,” and it’s fun too. You’d be amazed at how much more sunrises, bird songs and wildlife you’ll enjoy, riding your bicycle instead of the car.

In the near future, Escanaba needs to create biking access along Lincoln Road north to Bay College, the YMCA and Wells. The train track and viaduct is a real deterrent for bikers. A bike path along 3rd Avenue North is also necessary for families to safely pedal to Ludington Park, the library and “The U” (Escanaba Upper Elementary).

Somewhere in the back of your mind, you might recall going with your dad to the Firestone store and picking out that shiny, red bicycle. For years you cherished it, rode it and took care of it.

Want to feel young again? Hop on a bike, but easy does it at our age.


Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.


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