Doug Daugherty: Bike Gangs Of Brainerd, Circa 1960

  • Tuesday, July 9, 2024
  • Doug Daugherty

BOYS ON BIKES was the breath I breathed in the late 1950s in the Brainerd/East Ridge area.

Harry Daugherty, my Dad taught me to ride when I was about six years old. He would push me through the front yard, holding the bike and handlebars steady at 4061 Wiley Avenue. Yes, I fell. Yes, I was afraid. But I didn’t get hurt and I learned a new freedom that is delightful to recall.

One evening, my Dad with tie and rolled up sleeves, was pushing me on my brother’s bike and saying loudly, “Peddle, Peddle.” I did. Inertia took over. I was peddling unaided around the yard in invigorating, scary loops.

I was hooked.

From then on, it was up and down the street and around the neighborhood. Up hills on Brookfield Avenue, we would turn serpentine crisscrossing ascents. Down the same hills, we would fly. Over the next few years, I rode my bike almost daily to OLPH grammar school some six blocks away. We pedaled to the Quickie on at the corner of Ringgold and Belvoir purchasing chocolate shakes. We rode out the dirt beginning of I-24 to the new Eastgate Mall to shop for nick-nacks at G.C. Murphy.

Freedom. Freedom. Freedom.

Had you asked me what I wanted to be those many years ago, I would have quickly answered, “An Inventor.” For whatever reason I LOVED taking apart my own and others’ bikes and reassembling them in new configurations. My older brother, Stephen, called me “Shifty.” I called him “Pipes.” Bikes would leave the garage with traded handlebars, different-sized wheels, creative homemade seats, paint, and ANYTHING I could attach to create noise.

Dogs would chase us, so I became a secret agent with a water gun hidden in a special box that I could shoot them square in the eyes as I pushed them away with my foot. We played like knights and jousted one another with old mops. What was really fun was barreling down the driveway, taking your hands off the handle bars and going under my mother, O.T Daugherty’s clothesline crossbars, grabbing them and swinging out to jump off as the riderless bike crashed into the bushes.

It was not all roses. Once, at about eight years, I played chicken with three young girls walking up the street. I lost. I landed on my face, blood everywhere, unconscious, upper front teeth broken off and busted my chin. (I still have the scar!) A wonderful man who worked in our yard, Rufus, scooped me up and carried me home. Dr. Stewart Smith on Brainerd Road sewed me up with seven stitches.

Another time we were at the top of the hill at Brookfield and South Terrace and my best friend, Denny Hennen, went down the hill without a chain. Surprise! No brakes! He quickly jumped off and flew elegantly like a swan through the air and landed on his face in a vacant lot.

We often made jumps, using pieces of plywood and bricks laid out in the road. Nothing was more fun than getting up a full head of steam and sailing off the wooden incline plane.

I remember when the new models came out in about 1960 with banana seats, smaller wheels, and butterfly handlebars! I was the purest though and asked for a Schwinn three-speed. Nothing was more fun than a trip to the Bike Shop downtown with a greasy-aproned Mr. Silberman, knowing all things bicycle. That was where I found my dream bicycle, a black Schwinn.

But as much as I loved bikes, anything with wheels fascinated me. I built a wooden soap box derby-like contraption, straight from the Little Rascals that I steered with a rope. Later when skateboards appeared, there was more excitement. I recall spending the night with “Ollie” whose Dad was a doctor. They lived on Missionary Ridge. One morning, we flew down South Crest Road and turned on Shallowford into Shepherd Hills. I was going so fast the board began to shake and I lost control, bailing out in someone’s sodded yard. I wish I could say that I learned my lesson.

Several years later, I discovered motorcycles. But that is another story.

The wheels of time have turned. Now I am a grandpa and just bought my grandson, Everett Malone Daugherty, a new bike from Owen’s Cyclery, another old Wiley Avenue neighbor. I hope he has as much fun as I had and never breaks a bone.

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Doug Daugherty can be emailed at dedsr1952@gmail.com

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