In 1957 my father had just finished building our new house. The Big Bend Dam would necessitate the acquisition of our old house down by the banks of the Missouri River where I had spent my childhood. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers paid our family enough money to purchase a lot straight up the hill on which to build a new house.
Fisher Brothers Construction had all the work they could handle during the waning years of the Eisenhower Administration. Dad and his brother worked all day building houses around town and then continued after dark building ours.
Life was good and small town America was prosperous. President Ike started the interstate system that would soon connect the entire United States with brand new four-lane freeways. But the only highway that drew my interest was the street that took me from my house to Greig Athletic field, the home of the minor league Chamberlain Chiefs. Hall-of-famer Bob Gibson pitched for us that summer on the same field where I spent my afternoons playing Little League baseball.
The most memorable part of the summer I turned 10 was the fact that I finally learned to ride a bicycle. Damon, the older kid next door, came to my rescue that summer after watching me still riding a three-wheeled tricycle; and this was before the cool “Hot Wheels” had been invented.
He must have felt my humiliation at being the only 10-year old in town unable to ride a two-wheeled bicycle. He brought over his bike, along with a set of training wheels, and sent me up and down the street, swerving and crashing, skinning up elbows and knees, until I finally got the hang of it. In a matter of days the training wheels were discarded and I was on my way to a new found freedom. All I needed was a bike of my own.
My first bike was a brand new red and white 1957 Schwinn. Those of you who remember those days realize that all Schwinn bikes were red and white. As a matter of fact, you can still purchase a used Schwinn today on the Internet for around $100.
That 1957 Schwinn opened up a whole new world for me. So did the one I bought last Friday (actually two). My wife also got a brand new electric Schwinn. The bikes were 2011models that sat in a warehouse until the local bike shop in Eagan picked them up at a basement bargain rate and put them up for sale. We virtually got a pair of unused Schwinns for less than the normal retail cost of one in 2011.
Today’s Schwinn’s are no longer limited to the traditional red and white colors, but that was not the biggest change that came to this famous brand of bike. These particular models came equipped with a small battery-powered motor that gave a much needed boost to old-timers like me who can no longer climb the hill back home.
They operate something like this: When you press a button, a battery will give an added boost while pedaling, allowing you to go much faster and climb inclines with ease. However, the battery does not totally replace the need for exertion. It actually only works while you are pedaling so one can still get the much needed exercise the bike was purchased for in the first place.
The extra weight on the rear of the bike takes some getting used to. When you set your foot on the ground, you better be prepared for the uneven weight distribution that comes with the bicycle. I’ve tipped over a couple times already while coming to a stop. Besides a bruised ego, fortunately neither the bike nor I got hurt. Another huge difference, the traffic is just a little different than what I grew up with in 1957 South Dakota.