My First Real Bike

My first real bike!

My first real bike!

I have always had a lifelong passion for riding a bicycle. I enjoy exploring new places and feeling the breeze against my face. While I am on a bike, I find it easy to pray, think and even relax.  Though people in my community may find it strange that a man of my age is always on a bicycle, but I still find the urge to ride a bike to be irresistible . Where did my passion to ride a bike begin?

When I was around five years old, I inherited my brother’s sixteen inch bike. It was a challenge to learn, but my family patiently helped me to learn. I would ride this bike on our front sidewalk or sometimes in the alley. It was a bit rusty and the rubber tires were wearing out, but it was still a bike.

My sister trying to show patience with me as I learn to ride a bike.

My sister trying to show patience with me as I learn to ride a bike.

On my ninth birthday, Dad and Mom thought I was finally big enough to ride a real bike.  The bike they bought me was a real beauty, which was made by Peerless.  It had large twenty-six inch white wall tires, chrome fenders and a very comfortable seat with springs. Dad knowing my love for keeping track of speed and distances also placed a speedometer/odometer on the bicycle. I was finally able to ride in style!

My parents gave me the boundaries in which I could ride the bike. They said that I could go around the block on the sidewalk and I could also ride in the back alley. I wasn’t allowed to cross any streets or ride on any street with it. I would accept these limitations temporarily, but as time went by I would explore other neighboring blocks while staying on the sidewalks. I still had a great respect for cars and what they could do to a child on a bicycle.

My first day, I was so excited about my new bike that I rode it around the block continually.  By the end of the day, I had ridden my bike twenty miles! I had felt a freedom that I never felt walking or even riding my sixteen inch bike. Having this new bike was like I had reached a milestone in growing up.

There was a problem that I soon discovered with my bike. The bike had to be left outside.  We had no garage to store the bike. Dad purchased a tarp to place over the bike which was placed on the side of our back porch. This helped, but my battle with rust seemed like a never-ending battle. Rust would appear on the fenders as well as the rims. I would try to use a cleanser like Ajax to take off the rust. Unfortunately, it seemed to take away the luster of the chrome as well.  This battle with the rust was very wearisome.

Like most children during our era, I also enjoyed placing a baseball card in the spokes, which would make a noise that I could pretend was my engine. I sure hope I never placed a Mickey Mantle card there!

In my preteen years, I never did ride too far from my neighborhood. I would ride around the sidewalks at Ford Park. I would also sneak off and explore the other side of Woodward Avenue, as well as an area of Detroit that was north of McNichols and west of Oakland Avenue. My first real bike would last into my early teen years.

Later in my teen years with a different bike, my urge for exploring would take me throughout the Detroit Metro area, including Windsor, Canada. Yes, in those days, one could ride a bike on the sidewalk of the Ambassador Bridge. Even when I had a driver’s license, this inner urge to ride would take a hold of me and I would ride thirty or forty miles in a day.

My first real bike is now a distant memory, but my love for riding a bike is still with me. I  enjoy exploring new roads, towns and bike trails. Maybe, I do this because it is the one thing I can do as an older adult that I did as a child. Little did my parents know what they did when they bought me my first real bicycle.

A Detroit Tiger Fan Growing Up in HP

Dreaming of Playing for the Detroit Tigers

Dreaming of Playing for the Detroit Tigers

When I was a child the baseball season was a magical time. I would grab my plastic bat and wiffle ball and go out to the back yard. I pretended that I was the Detroit Tigers and the New York Yankees.  I would throw up the ball in the air and hit it.  If it went over the fence, It was a home run.  If not, it was an out.  I had the lineups of the Tigers and the Yankess memorized.  I still remember Jake Wood (2b) Bill Bruton (CF) Al Kaline (RF) Rocky Colavito (LF) Norm Cash (1B) Chico Fernandez (SS) Dick Brown (C) Steve Boros (3b) and of course Frank Lary, the Yankee Killer was always my favorite pitcher.

1961 Detroit Tigers from Baseball Fever. Com

1961 Detroit Tigers from Baseball Fever. Com

The Detroit Tigers were in my blood already at the early age of six years old. In 1961, the only team that mattered other than the Detroit Tigers were the much hated New York Yankees.  Yes, they had Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, but the Tigers had Kaline, Colavito, and Cash.  Unfortunately, the Tigers faded in September and the Yankees went on to the 1961 World Series.

Dad started to take me to the games when I was six years old.  He always liked the $2.00 lower deck reserved seats in section 17 by third base. He also liked the special days, such as Free Ball Day, Free Bat Day, or Picture Day. One time on Picture Day, a free-lance photographer had me stand by Joe Sparma. A couple of weeks later there was my photo in the Highland Parker with Joe Sparma!

Dad had a special tradition about going to the games at Tiger Stadium. He had the idea that we needed to be the first ones there; so that we could get a good parking spot on one of the streets near Tiger Stadium. Dad never parked in one of the parking lots around Tiger Stadium because of the expense. Being early, had its advantages, we could see the grass grow, and then batting practice take place and get settled into our seats. Dad would buy me the fifteen cent program because I liked to keep score of the game.

Dad didn’t believe in spending money on the ballpark food because it was way too expensive. Occasionally, we could buy the popcorn, which came in what looked like a megaphone with the Detroit Tiger symbol on it.

My most exciting time at Tiger Stadium were the few occasions when my cousin was able to get us free tickets for the box seats at the side of the Tiger dugout!  She was Max Fisher’s secretary, and when he wasn’t using the seats, he would give the seats away. We would occasionally be the beneficiaries!  It was great to see all of my favorite players up close, such as Mickey Stanley, Norm Cash, and Bill Freehan.  For some reason, Dad had a strong dislike for Al Kaline, so I never included him as one of my favorites.

Being a Detroit Tiger fan, also meant that I would listen to the Detroit Tigers on WJR.  Ernie Harwell was the best broadcaster.  When he was announcing, it felt as though you were right next to him in the broadcast booth watching the game.  I never knew until I was an adult how he knew that a fan from Kalamazoo, or Muskegon caught the foul ball.  Even when I would spend a week or two in Pennsylvania, I would take my transistor radio to bed with me and listen to the game.  I was glad that WJR had a powerful signal.

The Ernie Harwell of my childhood.

The Ernie Harwell of my childhood.

The highlight for any Tiger fan was 1968.  It was the magical year of Denny McLain winning thirty-one games. The Tigers were the American League champs. The World Series was my total focus. I was glad that the teachers at Ford Middle School brought their televisions to class. We received an education about what it was like to have a team in the World Series.  Mickey Lolich was my hero because of his amazing feat of winning three games in the World Series. Can you imagine a pitcher today starting a World Series game on two days rest!  Lolich did it and won the game against Bob Gibson!

All Tiger Fans remember this!  From PBS. Org

All Tiger Fans remember this! From PBS. Org

After 1969, my interest started to wane a bit in the Detroit Tigers.  Yes, I was glad when they made the playoffs in 1972, but I was a teenager and the magic of the Detroit Tigers had worn off.  I no longer collected baseball cards. I no longer played baseball. I no longer listened to Ernie Harwell. Our trips to Tiger Stadium became very infrequent.  I wonder if Dad missed my enthusiasm for the Tigers. If so, he never told me.

When I became a parent, Dad kept my children in Detroit Tiger gear.  He wanted my children to be Tiger fans as he was all of his life. I am glad to say that all of my children are Detroit Tiger fans.  Yes, I still keep up with them and I am excited with the possibilities of winning another World Series, but the magic of the Detroit Tigers of my childhood is no longer there. However, I am thankful that my Dad made the Detroit Tigers a very special part of my growing up years in Highland Park!

P.S. Please visit my other blog; http://www.markjemilbooth.com.  I share spiritual thoughts such as “Does Jesus Care” and “Candid Thoughts about Crowds”.