Back in the Dreamtime when I was about 13 or 14 years of age, one of the older blokes in our surf club bought a motor scooter. I remember it was yellow and looked terrific. It was pretty tiny and tinny come to that when compared to another member’s Vincent.
The Vincent was jet black and that made it look even more enormous when parked next to the little yellow peril.
I think that we all took turns in going for a ride on the scooter. I’d never ridden a motor scooter, a push bike, sure, and didn’t I get a rush from that scooter. I’ll never forget tearing around the back streets of Cronulla. I thought I was absolutely the ant’s pants.
Of course I didn’t have a licence, no eye protection, no shirt, no shoes, just a pair of speedos ( swimmers or trunks for non Aussies).
Luckily for me and the owner of the scooter, there was not a trace of any police around and I got back to the beach with the broadest smile possible on my teenage dial.
I was hooked! Two wheels was the only way to go and I don’t mean on a push bike either.
Then, a few weeks later we were off to a surf carnival at Manly. You can imagine my delight when the Vincent owner offered to take me on the pillion from Cronulla to Manly and home again after the carnival. Of course I accepted his offer.
The first problem was how to hide the ride from my parents. My dad had once owned a Rudge in his younger days. His younger days nearly ended when he hit a stationary train near a little country NSW town named Mumbledool where he taught at the one teacher school.
That incident convinced Dad that motorcycles were the mother of all evil and he had forbidden me to never, ever, get on one, even when it was stationary. Mum held the same opinion.
Fortunately they were so used to me going to carnivals in the club’s truck that the question of transport to carnivals never arose and so there was no need for me to mention that Manly this time would be different.
The second problem was clothing. In the club’s truck all I need was to wear my speedos and a club shirt, carry a towel, a wind cheater and have my trusty thongs (rubber sandals) on my feet. The few quid (Pounds- Dollars didn’t come into use until the 14th February, 1966)I had was tucked inside my shirt pocket.
In order not to arouse suspicion I left home on foot dressed as I always did for a surf carnival.
At the clubhouse, my Vincent rider didn’t give me a second look. At least he was wearing a leather jacket and long pants complete with sand shoes and sun glasses.
After a few short instructions about hanging on to him, leaning when he leaned, keeping my thonged feet on the pillion pegs and hanging on to my towel. off we set.
What an experience. The speed was amazing, we weaved in an out of the few cars on the road, were across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in no time and down and up the approach and departure roads at the Spit Bridge.
In no time at all we were at the Manly Surf Club.
I was so glad to get off that bloody Vincent I nearly danced a jig.
From the moment we left Cronulla I’d been at war with my thongs. They are flimsy little buggers at the best of times and the combination of the rushing wind trying to drag the thongs and my feet off the a narrow pegs made me keep my toes curled up, my calf muscles tensed and thoughts of falling off foremost in my mind.
Fortunately it was mid summer so I wasn’t frozen stiff but my eyes felt full of grit.
Of course my pilot asked how I’d enjoyed the ride. I had to get home after the carnival so I told him it was fantastic and I was looking forward to the return journey. I remember he looked a bit incredulous so I reinforced my comment by telling him that I couldn’t wait to save up enough money to get a bike of my own when I was old enough. That seemed to satisfy him.
It was the same story on the way back to Cronulla and when I got home my parents were so delighted that I’d won the Cadet Surf race they didn’t notice my red eyes and sunburned face, arms and legs and the white criss cross of the thongs straps across my sunburned feet.
Since that dramatic day, I’ve never been a pillion passenger on a motor cycle and I’m going to keep it that way.
I eventually did graduate to motor cycles, Triumphs, BMW’s, Suzukis and finally Harley Davidsons.
I’ll keep those stories for another day.
Hoo roo for now