This is me with my shiny blue Fleetwing with the cool thin tires.
With Father's Day approaching, my thoughts drift back to things my Dad used to do for his family. He was a good provider for the six of us, but it's the smaller, extra things that I remember most.
Christmas of 1957 was special to me since I received my first two-wheeler bicycle. I'd never had a big bike and hadn't expected to have one, since I was sure my family couldn't afford it. To our joy and surprise, my sister and I each found a bicycle under the tree that year. Mine was a shiny new 26" Fleetwing in a beautiful shade of blue - and it had the cool thin tires! I was so proud of my new bike. Dad took my sister and me to Eastmoor High School parking lot, one block from our home, and taught us to ride our big bikes that Christmas Day. There was snow on the ground and it was cold, but we didn't care. We had our shiny new bikes.
My joy was shortlived though. Not long after I'd received my beautiful blue Fleetwing with the cool tires, it was stolen. I had placed it near the back porch when I went inside one summer night, not suspecting that my bicycle would be gone when I awoke the next day. We lived in a very decent neighborhood where all the neighbors knew and trusted each other, so how could such a thing happen?
I was heartbroken and knew my family could barely afford to have bought the bike in the first place, so there would be no way I could ever hope to have another one. Dad must have been watching ads in the newspaper, since one afternoon he suggested we go for a ride. Unknown to me at the time, our final destination was a home where a bicycle was for sale for $5.00. It wasn't shiny or new. It wasn't a Fleetwing. It was, however, blue - a dusty, rusty, old-looking faded blue, and it had big thick tires. It was surely not the bicycle of my dreams, but it was what my dad could afford. He asked if I liked it and I lied. I had never been in the habit of lying to my dad, but I saw the love in his eyes and I knew he was doing the best he could to replace my stolen bicycle, so I told him I liked it. He paid for it and put it in the trunk of the car and headed for home.
When we arrived home, Dad filled up the huge tires with air and gave the bike a good scrubbing. He then asked if I'd like him to paint it for me. Things were looking up! I said that was a great idea and envisioned a much better looking blue bike. My dad was often unpredictable and he decided to surprise me with the new paint job. I don't recall actually asking him to paint it blue, and I don't recall him asking what color I wanted it to be. Apparently, I thought he should know I wanted it to be a pretty blue. Dad had some old gold paint in the garage and to my shock and dismay, that's what he used for my "new" bike. I don't know if he sensed my disappointment, but I was upset even though he seemed proud of the job he'd done. The gold bike was not cool-looking at all. My dear dad had painted every inch of that old bike with gold metallic paint - including the seat, handlebars, and hand grips. I thought it looked hideous and couldn't imagine riding it where anyone would see it.
I didn't ride my gold bike for quite awhile but I surely wasn't going to hurt my dad's feelings by telling him that I was ashamed of it. At my mother's urging - I think she said something about all the sacrifices my dad had made for me (that'll get you every time) - I finally did get on the bike and ride it. I even rode around the neighborhood and learned to go "no-handed" as I'd done on my other one. It was harder to ride than my Fleetwing, but not as bad as I'd envisioned. One thing was for sure. No one had a gold bicycle like mine.
Even though I was never thrilled with that bike, I was truly grateful for my dad who went the extra mile for me. He couldn't buy another brand new bicycle, but he did the best he could to make sure I wasn't without one. I finally told him how much I appreciated what he'd done for me, and through all of that, I learned a very valuable life lesson. I only wish I'd learned it sooner.