Did I just miss skipping and hopscotch season? Marbles and jacks? No matter. For me, this is, and always will be, bicycle season.
I don’t test my mettle on the pedals very much these days, but I confess to having a lifelong passion for bicycles.
It began on my ninth birthday, when I received a cheque for $50 from a not-quite relative. Although my parents had ruled that I couldn’t get a two-wheeler until I was 10, I managed to cajole them into relenting, now that I was a man of means.
With that gift of half of a C-note, plus $43 saved from my paper route, I set out to purchase the best bike ever: a cherry-red Raleigh, the “All-steel Bicycle” made in Nottingham, England, with its famous heron logo on the head tube.
It was the Range model 31 (boy’s), with three separate speeds and a nifty Sturmey-Archer gear shifter. It didn’t have the Patented Dynohub and Dyno-Luxe Lighting, but it had front and back V brakes I could adjust myself, plus fenders and a shiny red chain guard.
I was ready to bend the mean streets of Windsor, Ontario to my will.
Over the next year, almost every penny I made from sorting pop bottles in the basement of Roxy Maloney’s drugstore at the corner of Tecumseh and Windermere went toward enhancing its beauty and functionality.
Bells, lights with tire-driven dynamos, saddlebags, red-and-white plastic coils to shield both brake and gear cables, matching streamers for the handle grips, a kickstand and a nifty tool kit that attached to the saddle.
I was the bike-proudest kid in town.
Alas, that love affair came to a shuddering halt on a blistering hot August day in 1953. I had ridden my pride and joy down Tecumseh to Ouellette Ave., bound for the Emancipation Day festivities.
This was an annual event that marked the abolition of slavery in Upper Canada on August 1, 1834. Windsor had also been a major terminus of the Underground Railway, so Emancipation Day drew thousands of people from Windsor, Detroit and the surrounding area.
Lured by the festive crowd and the heady aroma of the best buttered corn in the world, I wheeled into Jackson Park with a sense of elation, leaned my bike against a tree, and headed off to absorb the sights and sounds and smells and tastes of celebration.
You can guess the rest. For months afterward, I visited the police station every Saturday, to see if anyone had turned in a cherry-red Raleigh with the serial number 2244 stamped into the bottom bracket shell.
Nobody ever had. But the naïve 10-year-old in me still refuses to give up hope.