Nice job on the bike, Trey. Looks good and will be cared for in the future.
I do relate to what you were saying. I've been fooling with these bikes for some time and one can't help but notice the difference in quality decade by decade... how heavy the fenders, rear racks and such are on the bikes from the 1930's and 1940's. Once the shift was made from balloon tire bikes to middle weights things started changing in the 1960's. Schwinn still made a good bike as a middleweight. No doubt there are others, I'm no expert.
A couple or three summers ago while Fasteddy was visiting at motorbicycle summer camp for boys who never grew up, we went to look at an old Schwinn in a nearby town. I had placed an ad in the local paper wanting fat tire bikes and the lady said she had one that still rode nice
It was sitting in a garage and the elderly lady showed it to us. It turned out that she had been raised near where I lived in a very rural community of mostly Finns who emigrated to north eastern Minnesota back in the late 1890's and early 1900's. She and her sister were second generation, speaking both Finn at home and English at school. They lived in a log home on one of the many fresh water lakes in the area. Dorothy's older sister got the bike brand new for either her birthday or Christmas (don't remember now) in 1942. It was a blue Schwinn girls bike with black tires and cream accents. The fenders had cream colored pin striping on them. A very cool brass head badge announced that it was a "New World" and was made in Chicago by Arnold Schwinn & company. The sweeping down tube also had "New World" in cream and blue script. It was still a handsome bicycle.
When Dorothy's big sister graduated from the local high school she passed her Schwinn down to little sister Dorothy who rode it for years and then kept it in a garage ever since then as an icon from her youth. When she and her sister used the bike the road to town twelve or so miles away was gravel. All the little roads and drives in the area were gravel, too. This was a forest country bicycle that saw a lot of miles for many years.
I realized that I was looking at something very special, a time machine and a family treasure of sorts. "You can take it for a ride if you want. We always kept it out of the weather, kept the tires pumped up and oiled things." It really was a remarkable machine.
We chatted about her old neighborhood of White Iron Lake outside of Ely, Mn. and realized that she grew up just down the road from where I had a homestead back in the 1970's and 1980's. She was gone by then of course, but we knew many of the same families and shared stories a bit. I used to write feature stories for the local newspaper and was familiar with the local pioneer families including many of the people who had been her neighbors when she was a little girl. In that short time we had shared some common ground and she knew that I appreciated her bicycle; that it was not just wheels and paint and metal. I could picture her as a teenager riding her bicycle, hair flying in the wind, cheeks rosy from pedaling. She gave me a hug and kissed my cheek, wiped at leaking eyes and thanked me for sharing her memories. I was the one to thank her.
She wanted ten dollars for the bike. I gave her twenty. When I got it home I rode it around and it was perfect... the old Bendix coaster brake was fine... pedaled nicely. It was strange to think that it was made during World War II, probably one of the last commercial ones until the war was over. 1942 and still rode like new. That says something about the girls who called it their own and about the people in Chicago who made it. One of the tires had been replaced, but I noticed that the tube was still a red one from who knows when, maybe 1942. Still held air,too.
I passed the bike along to Fasteddy as a gift when he returned to Vancouver at the end of bike camp. He has plans for leaving the paint alone other than touching it up in a few places, fixing where the front fender was bent a bit in a small crash and giving it a trike rear end with an electric motor. I think Dorothy and her sister would approve and would probably like to take it for a ride.
You wanted a bike story and now you got one.