And from my checkered past…

Oct 15, 2011 | 0 comments

Among My Souvenirs

       I was barely nineteen.  I was a sophomore at Stanford.  I was in love.  All of which must be the reasons I ended up in Hollister, California, on Memorial Day Weekend 1955 on the back of a Triumph motorcycle.  The occasion was Hollister’s ninth annual Motorcycle Rally, suddenly made hugely popular by the movie “The Wild One” which had come out the year before.
     My memories of that weekend are pretty dim.  We must have taken sleeping bags with us because I remember spending the night in a farmer’s field near a haystack.  The farmer, himself, came out early in the morning and asked us if we’d like to come in and “wash up” and I remember that his wife offered us breakfast.  I don’t know if we accepted.  I only remember feeling vaguely embarrassed at the entire situation.
     I also remember the noise.  Like us, many (most?) of the bikers were young – too young to go into the bars which seemed to be the main hangouts when the races weren’t going on.  So we milled around the streets, everyone revving up their engines and talking ‘machines.’  I think I was probably bored to tears but, of course, trying to look sophisticated and knowledgeable.  And I think I was vaguely fearful.
      Hollister, after all, had been the real-life basis for the plot of “The Wild One.”   In 1947, the first year of the races, two rival motorcycle gangs had been involved in a “street incident” which had become the plot of a short story and then the film.  My memory is of a lot of young men in leather jackets trying to look like surly Marlon Brandos.  It was a bit unsettling.
     It was the only time we ever went to the Hollister rally.  By the following year, we were married and our son, Charles, was born on May 30th.  Motorcycles were part of our life for several more years, but more as affordable transportation than anything else.
     I can’t really imagine why I kept that souvenir program, but running across it during my last rainy-day cleanout frenzy provided a pleasant few moments of remembering, as well as a shudder or two about my ‘checkered past.’  And I was left feeling a little more hopeful and a little more kindly toward some of the pierced and tattooed teens of the present.

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