Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Charlie Taylor forwarded this photo recently - I had seen it months ago and wondered how such an amazing lineup of machines came about. Here is his explanation:
"The 1947 B Rapide on the far left was my Vincent. Coburn Benson, New England Vincent guru, had advised me that I needed a "B".He was right. Mickey Mouse Antiques of Amherst MA sold it to me - cardboard boxes packed with rust and mouse nests. It became my daily rider for several years, and is the Vincent I wish I'd held onto.
The Norton '66 Atlas was Howie's, and he bought it in Panama after a stint in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua, and drove it all the way to Connecticut, developing what he called 'Norton arm' in the process. 'Norton arm' was akin to 'Vincent knee', which I sometimes had. The former was permanent, and the latter temporary. One night, when Howie was returning from doing the Eleven Step at the Nick, the quick detach wiring harness quickly detached when he hit a pot-hole, and he was plunged into total darkness. It was a dark and stormy night, but fortunately the ignition died too, and he didn't crash. There's a moral in this, but I don't know what it is. Howie sold it to Jocko, and he rode it for several years. Jocko actually paid me to work on this bike, and I did quite a lot to it. After Jocko's untimely demise (he is still greatly missed, as is Howie), I was involved in selling it to Peter Shallenberger (sp?), and I also sold Jocko's magnificently ratty Vincent to a lawyer in upstate New York. I rebuilt the Vincent, and it's in a museum somewhere. Peter didn't ride the Atlas much, making excuses like 'my lizard is inactive'. I lost track of it after that. Where are the Rats of Yesterday?
David the photographer [who took the photograph with a mahogany and brass glass plate camera] bought the '49 Norton International in '66 from Harold Perrault in Shelburne Falls Mass. He used it to commute to work at Mystic Seaport, and eventually Kenny Bean blew it up racing rednecks during a summer party at Dogfight. Rednecks didn't catch him, though. I traded David a Velocette scrambler for the Intersaur, rebuilt it, and rode it for many years, until I restored it and sold it to a collector in Maine. The yuppies were a'comin' in.
I worked on most of these bikes, except for the '60 BSA Goldstar, which was owned by Gold Star Kenny, who packed all his worldly goods on the back, and drove it from Georgia to take a job at the Guild Guitar factory in Westerly R.I. He kept it in razor tune, and it always (almost) started on the first kick which was a good thing, because he weighed about 120 lbs.
Ello's Triumph 3T was the hardest working bike of the lot. It was purchased either at Comerfords or Pride and Clarke in south London. Ello used it to commute to her town-planning job in R.I., and if remember correctly, it morphed into the 'bobber' 650 Thunderbird, which I brought back from London in '75, when we did a trade. The 350 then became Marian's bike when we lived in Tomales CA. She put a lot of miles on it, commuting to Dominican College in San Raphael, a 150-mile round trip. She also used it while working as a reporter for the Point Reyes Light, interviewing geezers about clever ways of doing in gophers etc. When we moved back to Stonington, it sat festering in the barn for several years. After charging the battery and draining the carb, it started right up. I remember the burning carcass of a mouse blowing out the left muffler, followed by its nest. Harsh. Marian rode it down the vineyard road and back, and said, no, I don't want to do this anymore, so we sold it to a lady dentist in Mystic.
The '66 Velocette Thruxton mostly lived in the Quonset hut over the bullshit pit, but was hauled out now and then and started for ceremonial occasions, like this one. I sold it to a couple of guys from up north. It started on the first kick and the sale was sealed.. God loves me.
In the background is the Mosquito Breeding Experiment, Old Blue the Dodge Dart station wagon, whose oil never needed to be changed because David kept ripping the pan out on the dirt road to Dogfight, and the Yellow Truck, a 24-volt Korean War military Dodge which was used for Dogfight dump runs.
But where are the Dogs? Maybe moving invisibly like Civil War soldiers in a Brady photograph.---"