Thursday, February 11, 2016

56. Bike and Biking

When Nancy and I were fifteen growing up in Gettysburg in the early Forties, we were too young to obtain a Driver’s License or even a Learner’s Permit. Our primary way to get around Gettysburg was to walk or ride our single-speed bikes. We never heard of or saw a 3-speed, 5-speed or any other speed bike.

Every business or home in the Borough of Gettysburg was and still is easily accessible by bike. For a leisurely ride, we headed to the Battlefield. Nancy  would ride out Hancock Avenue toward the Pennsylvania Monument, and I would take East Confederate Avenue toward Spangler’s Spring.

On a hot summer day, a popular destination was The Battlefield Swimming Pool south of Gettysburg on the Baltimore Pike. Informally known as Jack’s Pool, it was not very big and only six-foot deep. It didn’t take many teenagers before the pool was quite full.

Bikes in the forties had some distinct features you don’t see today. The frame was heavier, we had fenders and our tires were much fatter than those on road bikes today. To customize our bikes, we added accessories like mud guards, a headlight and speedometer, a horn, rear view mirror and Texas handlebars, so called because they resembled the horns on a Texas Longhorn.

Nancy’s favorite accessory was a wire basket mounted in front of her handlebars. The basket is where she put the groceries, but it was a lot more fun to put her small dog Daisy in the basket and take her for a ride.

One accessory that we never had and never saw was a helmet. We never saw a bicycle lock either. There was no need for a bicycle lock, one of the many advantages to growing up in a small town in the Forties.  

Looking back at biking when we were growing up in Gettysburg is just one of many fond memories we have of our lives there in the Forties.

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