It was late April of nineteen fifty-four and the evening was clear and mild, with the temperature hovering around the seventy degree mark, a perfect night for riding.
The Jersey Ramblers had gathered on that Saturday night, at the local drive-in for our normal repast of hamburgers and cokes and our normal activity of harassing the roller-skating car hops who usually responded to our flirting remarks with sarcastic or witty replies and grins, or some, simply with dirty looks. We got plenty of those from the other customers too but those were generally ignored.
That night there were some fifteen or sixteen of us gathered. The bikes were a hodge-podge of makes and models; Harleys, Indians, a few Triumphs and BSAs and even a BMW. I was one of four of us riding with a pillion passenger, a casual girlfriend and club member by the name of Annie, a pretty girl with a wonderful sense of humor and a ready smile. My bike, at the time, was a brand new 1955 Triumph Tiger 100, which was just about broken in.
After an hour or so we all got tired of sitting around talking and admiring each other’s bikes and decided to ride down to Passaic and visit an ice cream parlor that offered a concoction called an Awful-Awful. This was a dish consisting of eight scoops of ice cream in a choice of flavors with bananas, strawberries and blueberries topped with three different syrups, nuts, whipped cream (real) and chocolate sprinkles. Normally, this thing was ordered by a couple who would share it but if an individual ordered it he or she would get it free if he or she could finish it along with a large Coke. The cost was high, a whole dollar, but well worth it to either impress the girlfriend or the rest of the gang if you could eat it all.
After eating our fill of ice cream we decided to take the back way home and enjoy the ride through the countryside. The route chosen was about fifty miles of good, easy riding two lane roads. Our road captain at the time was Little John, the antithesis of his nickname since he was about six feet four inches tall. I was elected to be tail end Charlie since I had the newest and most reliable bike and could race ahead and inform the group of anyone who broke down or went astray.
The night was perfect. The road had many small hills and when one was at the top of one of these the air was warm and pleasant. As we descended into the valleys the air got suddenly cooler and much more damp, making us glad of our leather jackets. The red taillights strung out ahead of me were like so many rubies strung on the necklace of the road, flowing up and over the hills and around the bends. The softness and warmth of Annie on the back of the dual seat made the evening complete.
Suddenly, there was a flash of many headlights in my mirror and with a roar and a brief glimpse of red satin jackets and spinning lights in front wheels the Red Dragons Social Motorcycle Club came motoring rapidly by us with grins and waves to disappear into the distance. They must have been doing at least seventy. John had set our speed at an easy fifty, only five miles an hour over the limit and we maintained that speed as the Red Dragons roared by.
A few minutes later there appeared, at a distance in my mirror, several red flashing lights, the cops, who were obviously chasing the Dragons. We were going too slowly to attract any such attention and it took no stroke of genius to realize that the cop had been chasing the Dragons for some time and if he caught us we would get the blame for their speeding infraction, a case of mistaken identity. I gassed the Tiger and passed the rest of my mates wildly tapping the top of my head to indicate “Fuzz” and pointing over my shoulder.
One by one or two by two the club riders peeled off into side roads to turn off their lights and hide until the threat had passed. By the time the cop had caught us there was only me on my Triumph and Lenny on his nice quiet BMW riding sedately down the road at the legal speed limit. We were pulled over and were questioned as to whom that bunch of wild riders were but all we knew was that a lot of motorcycles had passed us a while ago and we didn’t know who they were or where they were from. We were let go with a stern warning to ride safely and not to speed or make too much noise.
These then, were some of the aspects of riding in the nineteen fifties, fun, humor, companionship, adventure and yes, some tragedy. All these were a rich soup that made for memories that have lasted a lifetime, not so very different than today.
MY WRITING PROCESS BLOG TOUR
I want to thank Greta Burroughs for inviting me to join the My Writing Process Blog Tour. Greta is the author of the Patchwork Dog and Calico Cat children’s series, the Wee People MG/YA fantasy series, and a nonfiction book about her experiences with ITP entitled “Heartaches and Miracles.” You can find out more about Greta and her work at http://booksbygretaburroughs.weebly.com
My Writing Process
1. What am I working on?
I’m currently working on three new novels in the genre of historical fiction. One is ‘The Winds of Kunlun Shan,’ the third and last book in the ‘Riders of the Wind’ series. Another is ‘Blackbirds’ the story of operations Sonny and Ball and the pilots who flew these missions during WWII, and the third is ‘Warlock, a Bomber’s story’ which follows a B25 Mitchell bomber and her crew through the Pacific Theatre in WWII. I also have in the works a short book of poetry titled ‘Blossoms in the Snow.’ No release dates yet but ‘Kunlun Shan’ is nearly complete and should be out sometime in 2014.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
A lot of my writing is based on personal experience or the experience of people who have lived through the historical times I write about. As an example, ‘Riders of the Wind’ is based on the history of the air mail and the infant airlines in the 1920s and 30s and the lives of my uncle and aunt who actually lived in those times. I try to use real characters whenever possible and weave historical people in with the story. Whenever possible I try to personally fly, or at least, fly in the aircraft depicted in the books and visit the sites written about.
3. Why do I write what I do?
I have been involved in aviation for over 50 years as a flight instructor, airline pilot and FAA Pilot Examiner, so writing about airplanes and the people who fly them comes naturally to me. My high school English teacher once told me “Write about what you know.” I might add, “Write about what you love.”
4. How does my writing process work?
Not too well at the moment. I am writing about a desert chase scene in ‘Kunlun Shan’ and I seem to have lost focus, Actually, I think I need to do more research and get back in the habit of writing. Recently, I seem to have fallen down the black hole of Facebook and need to climb out and spend more time on my books and short stories.
Who’s up next?
These two amazing writers are joining us on April 14
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author living in Lexington, Kentucky. I have always had a penchant for things a little outside the norm. I saw my first “ghost” when I was five years old, and I’ve spent a lifetime trying to understand that vision. Was it real? And if it was, why? I became a paranormal investigator and love old houses that go bump in the night. I can often be found in old cemeteries just hanging out. I’ve studied metaphysics, including the areas of touch healing, dream analysis, meditation and hypnosis. The power of the mind has always fascinated me. When reading I love books that allow me to travel around the world without ever leaving home. As an author my greatest desire is to create characters that readers can love and hate, laugh and cry with, and stories that allow the reader to spend a few hours in sheer entertainment. The Jacody Ives series was my first attempt to combine my love of true mystery and the paranormal. The Catherine Mans series continues and expands that combination, delving into the darker side of the power of the mind.
Mary Ingmire has been an avid reader ever since she was a kid growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina. In junior high school she took a creative writing class and was hooked. However, life intervened and it wasn’t until a few years ago that she started writing fiction seriously. She reads mysteries and writes in that genre. Now she’s paying professional dues by collecting rejections for her short stories. Two NaNoWriMo novels are on the closet shelf and a current novel is taking shape. After being corporate gypsies, Mary and her husband retired to the Nashville, Tennessee area with their three cats and dog. You can find out more about Mary at www.maryingmire.com
some small way I can help them reach that goal But let’s step back and
take a real good look at “free books” and what their purpose is and what has sadly has been the result of this trend.
Overall book sales are drastically down. Why? Because we in the book business have spoiled our readers
into thinking they deserve to get ALL their books for free. And now an even more
sinister practice has come to light. When books are not for free, readers are reading them and then returning them for their full purchase price. I AM FURIOUS!
It takes an awful lot to get this witch's cauldron to boil over but it finally has and so I think it is time to set the record straight.
For far too long the misconception that writers are independently wealthy and can afford to sit for hours writing and editing a manuscript is nothing more than a hobby is BALDERDASH! There is not one of you that will work a
forty hour week and expect no pay for it, but yet, that is what is expected of authors.
be completed. And then because readers rightfully expect nothing less than an
excellent plot line, correct grammar, and no typos, the editing process can take
just as long and in some cases longer. Mind you there is not one good
writer out there that will rely on their own editing skills and so, we must hire
an editor. The key word is hire; we pay to have our works edited. Now let’s just
think about this for a moment…. Oh that’s right authors have bills too, Who’da thunk?
Oh and then there are all those pretty book covers that readers love to be enticed by. News flash: they are not free. We must hire a graphic artist to create them and we must pay for their services.
We also need electricity to light our homes and run our computers. We have rent or mortgage payments due at the beginning of every month. We eat and so we must pay the grocery store or starve. We have children and grandchildren that need clothes, shoes and school supplies. We are no different than any other group of
working people. We just work at home. Some of us have more than one job. We work
from nine to five and then, exhausted, come home and write. Don’t get me wrong, we all love what we do. But authors are not second class citizens; we deserve to receive an honest salary for our labors.
The next time you see a link for a book why not change your way of thinking? Instead of saying,
“Oh, that looks interesting. I’ll just wait for it to go free,” purchase the book, support authors and the arts by sharing the links. And please, leave a review.
I am stepping off my soapbox now. Time for another cup of coffee."
I learned to fly at a small grass field in the early 1950s. I did my first solo in an Aeronca Champ; a little two place fabric covered trainer that was slow at everything it did. It climbed slowly, cruised at a whole 80 mph and approached for landing at 45 mph but it did almost anything that was asked of it easily and safely, forgiving the ham fisted control inputs of the novice pilot. It had no radio, no GPS, no attitude indicator or directional gyro; just a compass to navigate by, holding a chart in your lap. This was truly flying and the student rapidly learned the fundamentals of stick and rudder, pilotage and dead reckoning.
On my first solo my instructor and I did several takeoffs and landings then he told me to stop at the end of the runway. I can still hear his words as he exited the plane, "Bob, you're scaring me too bad today, I'm gettin' out. Take it around by yourself s few times." He walked off toward the hangar and there was nothing else I could do, so I taxied to the end of the runway, cleared for any traffic, poured the coal, all sixty five horsepower, to her and lifted off in four hundred feet or so. I wasn't nervous a bit, not until I looked over my shoulder at the empty back seat, then my heart jumped up and stuck in my throat until I was on final approach. I then convinced myself that I really could do it alone and so I did, I made three landings, each one better than the last. When I got out of the Aeronca my instructor pounded me on the back, several other students poured a bucket of ice water over my head and someone cut off my shirt tail This abuse was standard practice at the time and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything, it was like holding the first published copy of my book in my hands.
Later on when I was doing my cross country training, flying over the towns, woods and farm fields in northern New Jersey I saw that nearly every town and many farms had a runway with wind sock and a few aircraft tied down in it. I would even fly the Aeronca up to spend the day with my high school girlfriend; landing and taking off between the rows of apple trees in a local orchard. This was truly the golden age of civil aviation. Everyone wanted to fly and many did, learning in tiny Piper Cubs or Aeroncas and graduating to faster, higher horsepower craft as in the pictured Beechcraft 17 Staggerwing that is now a classic. Many, like myself would go on to fly professionally as flight instructors, charter and airline pilots some would become the military pilots of today. Small airlines and charter companies flourished in spite of some notorious crashes and all of aviation blossomed.
Memories of those days now come unbidden, as clearly as if they had happened yesterday. The smell of the interior of a hangar early on a summer morning, a rich mixture of the scents of aviation gasoline, oil and aircraft dope, The sight of the early morning dew, whirled into a horizontal tornado by the prop on takeoff, bearing all the colors of the rainbow in it's spiral around the plane. The first time I saw a rainbow on a cloud surrounding my aircraft's shadow. The wonder of my first night flight with the lights of the cities like diamonds on the black velvet of the night below, and so many more sights and sounds.
Sadly, those days are long gone, killed by over regulation and the ever rising costs of fuel, maintenance, electronics, etc. And the increasing price of new small aircraft due to frivilous lawsuits and rising material costs. Also there is beginning to be a lack of small local airfields due to operating costs. Many small airports have closed in recent years and become housing developments or golf courses. Even those that remain suffer complaints of "airplane noise" from local residents even though the average light plane makes no more noise than an eighteen wheeler on the highway.
The Golden years are gone forever but there is hope, recently the FAA has designated a new category of aircraft as "Light Sport" airplanes. To meet this regulation a plane must weigh a certain amount and carry no more than two people, a perfect trainer and an economical aircraft to operate, well within the budget of a small flight school. The Golden Years may have passed but we may be able to salvage at least some of the thrill and mystique of simple light aircraft and "stick and rudder flying."
Author Robert F. DeBurgh learned to fly at the age of fifteen and has over twenty thousand hours of flight time. He has been a flight instructor, cargo pilot, mail pilot, bush pilot, mercenary fighter pilot and has served as captain for three airlines.