My First Bike

It was spring of 1966 and I was playing in the school yard (elementary school). I was in the 8th grade. No, we didn't have middle schools back then. An (older) acquaintance of mine had just purchased one of those "new" step-through 50cc Yamahas. He asked me if I wanted to go for a ride. I said "sure". The ride was shorter than it seemed and I was scared to death. As soon as we got back to the playground, my only thought was "I've got to have one of these things".

My mission had several obstacles. First of all, my Mom wouldn't let me have a motorcycle. Second, I had never worked a day in my life, so I had no idea how I was going to pay for it. Third, I was only 13 and didn't have a driver's license. First things first. Get a job. My Mom wouldn't be against that, right? I went to the district manager, Mr. Cates, who handled the newspaper routes in the area. I asked him for a route. He told me that there was nothing open at the time, but as soon as one opened up, he would let me know. I said "fine", but I told him that I wanted the longest route in his district. He asked me what I was going to deliver the papers on and I pointed to my lime green string ray bicycle parked outside. He nodded with skepticism. That was in April, 1966. I turned 14 the next month and, at the time in Texas, one could get a special license at 14 to operate a motorcycle as long as it didn't exceed 5 brake horsepower.

That August, I got the call I've been waiting for. A route had opened up. Mr. Cates told me that it was the longest in his district and wanted to confirm that I could handle it. I told him "That's the route for me!". The route started 2 miles from my house and was 14 miles long with over 250 deliveries. Being a fat little kid who had never worked a day in his life, this was quite a challenge. For three weeks I delivered papers on my bicycle after school, riding 18 miles and carrying all those papers. Every day I would come home and crash on the sofa.

Finally, the day came. I was lying on the sofa and my parents were smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee at the dining table as the did every day after work. I heard my Mom faintly tell my Dad: "Well, maybe he can have a motorcycle". YES! My Master Plan worked!

The next day, I took my Dad down to the Yamaha dealer in El Paso (Rathbun Motors on Paisano) and showed him the bike my friend had. Of course, there was this "spiffy" 60 cc bike that looked more like a motorcycle for just a little more money. Besides, it was black!

I sold him on it and bought my first motorcycle on September 7th, 1966 (yes, before I started high school). It was $315. A month later, I got my driver's license.

I rode this bike for about a year and a half, putting on over 11,000 miles throwing papers. My Dad wouldn't let me ride it to school as a Freshman. Sigh...

Click on image for larger version

My first bike!

O.K., I had to do some customizing.