It was the spring of 1950 and a young boy of 12 and his father walked into Joe’s Bicycle Shop on the north side where they lived and where the young man’s father owned a bakery.
This was the old Polish neighbourhood, populated with immigrants from Europe who came to Canada to make a new life after the great war… they opened businesses and built homes and called this new city home.
From the selection of bicycles at Joe’s young Gene spied a Raleigh in what was called ” Flamboyant Electric Blue”… it was an English racer fitted out with a 3 speed hub and drop bars and it took no time at all before Gene was out terrorizing the neighbourhood on his beautiful new bicycle.
It was a busy time and a boom time here and houses and new neighbourhoods were sprouting up so there was much to see an explore and on one fine afternoon Gene’s father took a picture of him on his new bike with a Brownie camera.
Gene rode the bike until 1965 and then stored it away and for more than 4 decade his beloved bike waited and gathered dust. Over those decades that beautiful neighbourhood declined greatly as people moved to the suburbs.
The neighbourhood he once called home became one that you did not walk through at night anymore… shops closed and were replaced with liquor stores and pawn shops if they were not boarded up.
I am holding a snapshot of the man I met this morning when he was a young boy, albeit a very tall one, and took possession of his old Raleigh which has been stored since before I was born.
He said he only changed the grips in the 61 years he owned it and said he was pleased it was going somewhere that it would be appreciated.
I told him that I was looking to open a new shop just a few blocks where Joe’s used to be and am sure that the young boy in the snapshot must have ridden around the neighbourhood I now call my home and perhaps, may have known people who lived in my house as it was built in 1950. My house sits across from the school he attended and am sure this old bike got parked in racks that are now empty for the most part… these new kids don’t ride bicycles much.
It is a neighbourhood that has seen a rebirth over the past decade and new businesses are opening and families are returning to the inner city and an old Raleigh will be riding around the same streets it first saw over 60 years ago.
And when I am not riding it plan to hang it up in my shop as it is quite symbolic of what was and what could be.
The original advert for the Raleigh Sports…
When I brought it back the shop…
It is always an adventure when one works on such old bicycles and I wa most pleased to find that nothing was seized, the stem and seat post came out without a fight, and that the Sturmey Archer hub purred like a kitten after I gave it a sip of oil.
Then I took it for a little test ride…
And that little snapshot…
Please click any of the images to see them full size… 🙂