I couldn’t tell you what else I received that Christmas in 1965, but I’ll never forget my glee when my parents told us to go downstairs into the garage to receive our present….the big present. As a kid, we always had presents…but one big present that was suppossed to be the granddaddy of them all. And..as usual…that present always came last, building to an excitement crescendo second to none for a grammer school kid. And what a crescendo it was: there sitting in the middle of the garage were not one, but two shiny new Schwinn 3 speed bikes. It had to be a big deal because my dad left the red 1964 Chevy Malibu station wagon with 3 on the three and rear seat that faced backwards (remember when?) parked in front of our house that night. To this day, that may have been the only time my father’s car was left outside over night. We couldn’t wait to get on them and take them for a test ride all over the neighborhood.
What we discovered almost immediately is that those wheels could take us places our feet couldn’t. More importantly, we didn’t need a ride from my dad any longer and could manuver in our graphical territory without the use of a bus pass. Life was good…very good. Of course, no sooner did we have the bikes in our hands then we wanted to modify them as much as our technical abilities and paper route earnings would let us. I remember disassembling the 3 speed shifter on the handlebar because Iwanted to put 3 speed shifter, like that on the floorboard of a car, on the top tube of my bike. And darn if I didn’t do it, much to the chagrin of my father. I thought the old man was going to kill me, but deep down inside, I think he was proud of the fact that I managed to do it myself and get it to work. At least that is what I thought then and so that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!!
Once summer rolled around, we had graduated from grammer school. We were ready to roll into high school that fall and feeling our oats, we decided to explore the city on our bikes. Of course, my parents were not going to be privy to this plan. We would feign staying in bed until we heard the garage door close, dress as quickly as we could, dismiss all thoughts of eating breakfast and head out on our daily adventure. Time was of the essence because we knew that my parents would be home at 5:30 and we needed them to see our smiling faces when they got home from work. (I’ll make this pitch now…having both parents work did not ruin the family institution as some would make you think today. We knew we had to be home to have dinner with the family…not because we had such a huge sense of family, but rather because my father had a huge sense of leather belt).
For us back then, life really was a beach. No worries, just getting up in the morning and loving life. Those were the days. Remember when?