Monday, December 21, 2015

I bought a car today..well not a car a vehicle-a Willys Jeep to be exact.

  Hi there- It was fun meeting people and hanging out at L.Quan Healing Arts Centre last saturday.. thanks for coming out. Well sunday ,I went to my church, (the Alemaney Flea Market) as per usual. On saturday someone had asked me if I have ever owned a car ,I said I had a Lambretta for a few years over 30 years ago but never a four wheeled vehicle yet.
      25 years ago my pat answer as to if -when -what,  as far as vehicles was in my mind- i would answer that I planned on buying one of the first brinks armoured cars with a fuel cell when they retired them from their logic was that by the time I was ready for a "car" ( my friend chris corrects me EVERY time I am in his TRUCK that I am not riding in a car, but a vehicle) people would not be happy to see cars on the street and I would need the protection of an armoured vehicle. Well it does not look like that is gonna happen in my I bought a Willys Jeep:

When I was 15, I lived in Stockton on Tees , in county Cleveland in the north of England (just shy of geordieland). 

      I had 3 brothers as my Sensi's , imparting upon me their skills and knowledge in the arts of cycling and frame building. The middle brother Norman had a thing for jeeps.
         Norman was the only one of the 3 brothers who served his country in the second world war, Ken being too young and Jack then a pattern maker, having a "reseved trade" which exempted him. 
As the story goes Our Norman became field artillary ,and learned to drive a vehicle in a tank. After the war when he returned to the island he drove a jeep and it felt like a sports car. To see how much this shaped him and his brothers lives one only needed to take a walk through their old works on church road. 
         Most frame builders at that time did their own paint in house , this necessitated having a sand blaster, most shops would have a booth that in a tight spot might be able to fit a triplet or a tandem trike, as there was not much need for it to be any larger. The Taylor Brothers shop however had a sand blasting room that..,you guessed it.. could fit an entire JEEP. Norman in his life made over 8000 cycle frames and tandems and .....fully restored over 30 Jeeps , Willys being the maker he was dear to most. Norman never bought a new vehicle until "retired" in the 90's and he bought a westfalla .

Ken on the left and Norman behind the wheel of a Jeep. I dont know much about this photograph other than that, in fact it makes more questions in my head than answers. Did Jack take it ? Jack was a Leica man, the formats wrong, was it cropped? Which leads to another question how many right hand drive jeeps were there? Or is the negative flipped.. one thing is for sure both Ken and Norm look very happy. It looks like its at a higher elevation and the size of the crowd makes me think it must be at a mid fifties Tour of Britian ; after Ken had stopped racing..maybe Ken will see this and tell me....anyway its a JEEP.

    DO NOT THINK THAT NORMAN WAS NOT A CYCLIST. Throughout his life Norman was a member of the Teeside District Association HARD RIDERS. To be a member of The Hard Riders the cyclist must ride 100 miles in under 7 hours and 200 in under 14 hours. A few of the outings he was the only one in the group to finish -after the rest packed it in due to cold and snow. These were not races but rather social rides that involved at least a pint of beer per hundred miles. He had piles of certificates dating back decades he had recieved from the CTC for his riding exploits..he was hard.
      When I spent the summer of 1980 in Teeside I lived with Ken and his wife Honor across from the park where captin cook was born. The days were long in the northern summers, and after riding back from the works with Ken I would eat , and then go to the park where the local kids were learning the lastest dance routines from the Madness songs. I had a few skryos , a flying toy -which later became the aerobie,  that I threw around the park. The skyro was like a super frisbee :this I later learned was fitting becuase the Apprentice the Taylors had before me ,Jack Whitmer (later to run cook bros) had gained the nick name "frisebee Jack"
       In mornings I would take a training loop into the works and make rear carriers,until lunch when I would ride the works BSA para trooper bike to either the chippy or the sandwich shop and fetch some lunch.
I rekon I wasn't put up at Greta lane where Norman lived his entire life becuase his nights were spent at the Norton working mans club.
     Anyhow since then every time I see A jeep I think of our Norman, and it is a vehicle I have contemplated owning. I remember seeing the ads in old magazines of the post war period selling surplus jeeps along side Aero Ektar lenses for 29 dollars. Well I bought a jeep for 15 dollars on sunday to remember norman with. I took it out , and had to look under the hood , after I got stuck in the mud.

It was photogenic so I took a photo and drank a beer. When I visited the Taylors in 1994 before the Cycle messenger world championships in london I was old enough to drink and I stayed with Norman a few days on Greta Lane. Its when I first drank at the Norton WMC.

Sign in the W.C. of the Norton W.M.C

These working mans clubs are Members clubs that are all but dissappeared these days. You would enter the building and show your card to get in. Upstairs was fancy ,women were allowed and it must have cost more. Downstairs , where I went with Norman , was all men except for maybe a barmaid. There were 2 or 3 snooker tables with coin operetated lights with everyones pool cues locked up below the tables. One side of the room had 3 darts boards where occasionaly another WMC would be hosted for a tournement. The rest of the decor in the room was straight up high school cafeteria, folding chairs and florescent lights.
 I like beer, especially high quality inexpensive beer, and that is one attraction of the working mans clubs , the pint of beer there is sometimes less than you can get a can for at the off liscence, and 3 or 4 times cheaper than if you go in a proper pub or free house . The bigger thing would have to be community though. When I think about it ,at one point all 4 of the brothers lived on Greta Lane ; did they all drink there? One thing is sure Norman drank there the most because he never moved his whole live. One time I visited Norman and he was in assisted care , I went up to the club and they let me in becuase " you are OUR Normans americian" ; I was able to let people there know what had happened to him , he soon had some visitors and moved home for a stretch.
      Beer was part of Normans life, in fact  I believe that when he stopped drinking because the doctors told him "it didnt get along with the meds they were giving him", it led to a slow decline in health due to the missed nutrients from not having his nightly pints and instead having an orange soda .
.A decade before that, the last time our Norman came to california ,I rode the Delta Century with him. I knew Norman had not had beer in a while since he was visiting with mormons that didnt have beer or booze in their house. I took a bit of a flyer from the group we were with and stopped at a beer store and filled up my water bottle before the group we were riding with got there.
      I then rode up to Norman and offered him my bottle, he looked at me like I was crazy and said he had water. I said here norman its cold milk have some. He took a confused sip and got a great smile on his face and a burst of speed.
oh memories here dredged up  on the side of the bay with a broken jeep..
but ...I was able get the jeep moving without much work. I didnt get far however before I was stopped again. Again it was photogenic so I took advantage of my misfortune to make some more exposures.

The Taylors' used a Jeep for a team car ; they had axles with QR'S Brazed to the bumpers.
His whole life Norman made the parts for jeeps  that wore out, such as the anchors for the canvas  tops that got welded or rivited (i DONT KNOW) to the body to attach the canvas.
 Even in the 2000's when he was working out of the shed behind his house our Norman was making odd bits that his mates in the UK jeep preservation society needed in their restorations. I wonder what Norman would think of the Zine I am making the beer I am drinking and the bike I'm riding.. cheers Norman thanks for letting me be part of your life...

happy solstice everyone!!


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  2. Very nicely said. I too have had thoughts of buying a jeep for all the same reasons. Mike T



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