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December 18, 2004

Memories of my first bike

While Christmas shopping at a Perry store the other day, I noticed a rack of shiny new bicycles for sale. They were so attractive that I could not help but imagine how thrilled any boy or girl would be to find one among this year's gifts from Santa. Made me think of the time I received one for my very own. It was the kind of thrill we rarely experience today because we are too jaded.

At the time, our family was operating a drug store on the north side of the square and business was bad. We lived in a second story apartment over the drug store and rented our five-bedroom house at 8th and Elm to others for $35 per month. Although we knew there was a Great Depression going on, we had almost everything we needed. To a kid, the world looked OK. Except, I did not have a bike. Everything but a bicycle, I thought.

I had two older sisters. Since they came before I did, they had a girls' bicycle to share. That's one without a bar at the top of the frame, so they could wear skirts. A boys' bike had that central bar, but I had to learn how to ride on a girls' model. It was OK, but privately humiliating.

Well, times were tough. So, on a Christmas eve when I found a shiny new blue bike with balloon tires on chrome wheels - and a bar atop the frame - it was `way beyond belief. A bike of my own! And, to top it off, a boys' bike. It must have cost at least $30, and in those times that was a sizable amount. I was deliriously happy.

After I made a ceremonial ride around the square on my newly found, beautiful bike, Mother sat me down and explained a few things. The bicycle was to be kept inside the drug store each night and it was to be used for delivering customers' orders - prescriptions (priced up to $3), short Cokes (nickel each), Wings cigarettes (10 cents a pack), and the latest issue of Literary Digest magazine (25 cents, wasn't it?). I understood exactly. The only way we could afford that bike was to write it off as a business expense. I was the delivery boy, and the basket on the Bluebird was to hold customers' orders. In my job, there were no idle hours. The store was open from 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., and any order received within that time frame was to be delivered (free, no tips) by me on the bicycle.

But that was OK with me. I looked forward to delivering things from the City Drug Store to homes all over town, day and night, long as I could ride my new bike. Remind me to tell you sometime how my folks hid my bike when I forgot to put it away. That will take another chapter.