The Challenge of Bike Riding (by Crystal)

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When I was growing up in Chicago in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s I like to ride bikes.  We had a red tricycle that was great to ride until I got old enough to graduate to a two wheeler with training wheels.  I really didn’t want my dad to take off the training wheels because it helped me to balance.  But eventually I learned to ride without them and made my way around the block.  First I was just pushing with my feet touching the ground but then I got the hang of it.  I didn’t have my own two wheel bike.  My Dad made my brother a bike from a kit which he must have bought inexpensively.  My parents knew many ways to cut corners and save money.  My Dad would go to the Indiana sand dunes to get the sand for our sandbox.  Nobody noticed that some of the sand was missing every year.   We had no idea where the sand came from, but just enjoyed the sandbox under our large shady tree in the backyard. I think our sandbox was the most popular in the neighborhood or possibly it had something to do with my mother’s chocolate chip cookies.

I did ride my brother’s bike as often as I could get the chance.  My sister got a nice girl’s bike when she was about 8 years old.  It was pink and very nice.  I don’t know why I didn’t have a bike, but it didn’t seem to be that important.  Many of my friends had extra bikes that I could use when I rode with them.  My brother eventually got a schwinn silver bike which was really great.  He rode that bike all over the neighborhood.

I did get to ride an old red bike of my mom’s when I was older and taller.  It was a very old bike that unfortunately would skip.  What I mean is that I would be pushing the pedals but the chain wasn’t working so the bike was not moving forward.  This is a good way to fall down and get hurt.  Sometimes I would ride my brother’s first bike on the new cement which was laid at the end of our street.  This was much smoother than the broken sidewalk in front of our house.  This is where I would be pretending to practice for my future life in the circus.  My cousin and I planned to join the circus as soon as we were 18 years old.  She wanted to be on the trapeze, but I hadn’t decided yet so I had to practice all kinds of stunts to figure it out.  I fell many times riding with no hands, standing up on the pedals, riding sidesaddle,  etc. on that new cement.  I usually went home black and blue and sore and sometimes, bleeding.  My mom would ask me what happened, but I would just say I fell off accidentally.  She didn’t know about the trees I climbed up in the prairies either.

When we lived in Dolton, my brother, who was about 12, got a paper route.  I helped him roll the papers and load them into a basket on his bike.  I think he still had the little bike then but I don’t really remember.  My brother had a lot of health problems mainly with his left leg.  So there came a time when he couldn’t do his paper route.  My parents thought it was good for him to have this route even though it paid very little and was a lot of work.  They decided that I should do his paper route while my brother was getting better.  I don’t remember being asked exactly. It was more like, “Crystal , you are going to do Larry’s paper route until he is better.”  My brother taught me all the places to go and how to throw the newspapers on the porches.  Some houses you had to place them in a special place for the homeowner.  Then I also had to collect every month.  I didn’t mind it too much.  I got use to it and I was earning money.

The day came when he was well enough to do the route, but I was not willing to give it up.  So my parents contacted the paper to see if there was another route that he could do.  There was and he got that route.  Of course, we were still sharing a bike so we had to work that out as well. I got to know some of the people on my route pretty well and would visit with them when I collected for the paper.  Also, I went to the newspaper deliverers huge picnic which was held at the park near our house.  There were maybe 90 to 100 boys and three girls including me.  That was fun too, but all the activities like throwing a softball as far as you could, were for the boys.  The food was good and they had orange pop which I liked very much.

When I attended college I worked during the summers.  One summer I had to walk six blocks to my job at the local high school in the morning, go home for lunch and then ride my brother’s old Schwinn bike three miles to the community college.  I worked afternoons over there.  This was quite exhausting.  The route to the college included what was known as Sibley hill.  Sibley hill was near my house on Sibley Blvd.  It was not easy getting that large heavy Schwinn bike up that hill and then continue for three miles to the college.  It was not a good summer for me.  The jobs didn’t pay well and petered out before August.  Also, Ron was 150 miles away, at Bradley, having a Huckleberry Finn summer with his friend and roommate George.  They were swimming, berry picking, hiking and attending concerts and all kinds of events at Bradley University.  He had a good part time job that paid well and was taking a class.

Ron has never been a good phone caller.  He wants mainly just facts and only talks for about three minutes at a time.  He wrote me letters about all the fun he was having with George and his friends who lived in Peoria, mostly girls.  So I was struggling to say the least and ended up having major health problems, which required me to be in the hospital.  I could say that it was all the walking, riding and stress that made me sick, but it probably was going to happen anyway.

More recently we had several old bikes in our garage for a long time here in the small town of Warsaw, Ohio.  We hardly ever rode them because they had problems.  We did buy a bike rack so we could take them to bike paths and other paved riding areas.

Ron decided to give away our bikes.  Now he is looking for decent bikes for both of us.  They have to be better than the old broken down bikes of my childhood.  Maybe this time I will even have my own good bike which doesn’t skip.

Fall 2013 221

Ok I couldn’t find a picture of Crystal on a bike, but this is a nice local picture of Amish Country. The Amish ride bikes.


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