By John ‘Butch’ Dale
As we Baby Boomers continue down the path of what most people refer to as “old age,” I refuse to be placed in that category. Yes, I look the part, but I don’t feel “up in my years.” I am still as active as I was 40-50 years ago.
A few years ago, I was walking from the library to the post office and met a teenager on the sidewalk. As he approached me, he said, “How ya doin’, old-timer?” I looked around, as I thought he may have been speaking to someone else. No one was around. I was past him when I realized he was speaking to ME! I was somewhat stunned that anyone would refer to me as such. Oh, well. That teenager was just a little whippersnapper full of malarkey. Oh my God, I sound like Joe Biden!
Well, I do admit to one thing. I do think of my childhood days more often than I used to. And one of my favorite memories is my good ol’ Cushman motor scooter, a 1960 Super Eagle I purchased from John Peebles in 1962 when I was 13 years old.
Most of my cousins had Cushmans, but the majority of these were the “step-through” models that were one speed and had a gas tank in the back. My scooter was a two-speed with a foot clutch and a shift knob on the left side of the gas tank, which was located in front of the seat. It was shiny red with lots of chrome, and I LOVED IT! Although it had a small motor, it could still get up to 50-55 mph on a straight stretch of paved road.
I rode that scooter everywhere — to baseball practice, to my friends’ houses, to the gravel pit to fish, to various farmers’ fields to bale hay, to Darlington — hundreds of miles each summer. The scooter had a few minor problems, though. It was a “kick start,” not an electric start, so I did skin my right shin once in a while if my foot slipped off the starter pedal. If I went too fast, sometimes I would blow a head gasket, which Dad would have to replace. And one time coming up the lane, I hit a mud hole and the handlebars fell down, causing me to lose control, run over the dog, and crash into the rear bumper of our car (minor damage to the scooter fender, no damage to the dog or the car).
But these were minor inconveniences compared to the enjoyment of cruising through the countryside with the wind cooling me off during a hot summer day, occasionally having a bug or bee hitting me in the face — just a 13-year-old EASY RIDER farm boy.
My best friend, Steve Weliever, had a 1949 Cushman “step-through,” so we often rode together. One day he came over and stated he wanted to paint his scooter a different color than the pale green that adorned it. All we could find was some yellow house paint, which we slapped on rather hurriedly. He also decided to paint polka dots on the tires, which made for a unique appearance.
After it dried, he applied a sticker that said “Riders Wanted — Women Only,” and hung a pair of foam rubber dice from the handlebars. So COOOL! We then headed to town to find some “babes.” Two of Steve’s classmates became our victims, and they agreed to ride with us around Darlington on SR 47.
Unfortunately, Steve wrecked his scooter on loose gravel as he turned and the girl with me got a cramp in her leg from having to keep her leg up over the exhaust pipe the entire time. Both were crying as we dropped them back off at their house and they never rode with us again. Better luck next time …
When I received my driver’s license at age 16, my younger brother inherited the Cushman, and he drove it all around the countryside, too. Then, when he turned 16 and received his license, Dad sold the scooter. By that time, the little Honda motorcycles were more popular, and Dad only got $50 for the Cushman. Today, a restored Cushman can bring $5,000 or more! And the strange thing is, if I could find my Cushman, I would probably spend that!
Well, the “old-timer” may not ride any more Cushman scooters, but I do still have great memories of those days gone by.
And if I meet that teenager again on the sidewalk, I might just say, “How ya doiin’, little feller? By the way, I had a LOT more fun when I was your age!”
John “Butch” Dale retired as a teacher after 15 years and then became a deputy sheriff for 12 years. He was elected Montgomery County Sheriff in 1994 and served for three years until his father-in-law died and he took over the farm. He has also been the Darlington Library Director since 1990, where he has served for the past 33 years. Dale is a well-known artist and author of local history.