A bicycle meant freedom to a 10-year-old growing up in Groveport in the 1960s.
Once you had those two wheels under you, every street, alley, dirt path and open lot was yours to explore.
Nearly every kid had some kind of bike back then, but it was rare anyone ever had a new bicycle because bikes were an expensive luxury. Most of the kids had old hand-me-down bikes or bikes built out of a conglomeration of the spare parts of several other bikes. No one complained because all that mattered was that you had a bike.
I had a hand-me-down. It was my aunt’s old 1950s blue Schwinn. It had a big, heavy frame and fat wheels. It had a seat that would often flip out of place when you hit a bump.
I, and the neighborhood kids, called my bike “The Camel” because of the way the seat stuck up like a hump. I didn’t care that it was a “girl’s bike” because it was better than no bike at all. It also had a lot of pluses. Another kid could easily ride as a passenger on the broad, thick handlebars. I could wedge my basketball into the dip in the frame in front of the seat so I didn’t have to carry the ball when I rode to the basketball courts. The fat wheels shrugged off broken glass and could take a pounding going over curbs and splashing through muddy potholes.
Many of the town kids rode their bikes to elementary school no matter the weather – hot or cold; dry or wet. When it snowed you could see the meandering bike tracks left in the snow where the pedalers slipped and plowed through the mush.
We’d park our bikes in the metal racks behind Groveport Elementary (unlocked because no one even thought about someone stealing a bike from the racks, it just was not done). What a hodgepodge of bikes they were, too: banana bikes, ancient bikes, piecemeal bikes, rusty bikes, bikes with wobbly wheels, bikes with out of line handlebars, bikes with bald tires, bikes with no fenders and the occasional shiny new bike.
After school the Safety Patrol and teachers made you walk your bike off the school grounds. Once you were an inch off the school property you hopped on the bike and took off as fast as you could to put the rules of school behind you for the day. Sometimes a kid would break away from the sidewalk leading from the school and barrel down across the playground to Wirt Road on his bike to escape the rule enforcing authorities.
Two wheels and the road. Freedom.
- Rick Palsgrove, Southeast Editor, Dec. 27, 2011