Despite the odds, my mother took me to Bambergers Department Store in Newark (later to become a part of Macys). Back then, department stores actually were fun places to visit and had sections devoted to toys, entertainment equipment and other items in addition to clothes, dishes and perfumes. Of interest to me—they sold bicycles.
The bus trip was one I made many times, as a child with my mother when she went shopping and as a college student when I took night classes in Newark as part of a work/study program where days were spent at Bell Telephone Laboratories. I think the ride lasted about 30 minutes, but on THE day it seemed to go on for hours.
There was a short walk from bus stop to store. During it a plane dropped fliers, softly bombarding the pedestrians below. For a kid who spent an inordinate amount of time trying to catch falling leaves, this was a challenge made in heaven. I snagged several of the sheets and proudly carried them with me as we proceeded on our mission. The fliers urged folks to buy war bonds and I believe there was some monetary incentive if you brought one of the sheets to a bank.
When we finally reached the store, we found the correct department and my eyes snapped to the bicycle there displayed. It was beautiful. Could it be mine?
A salesman approached. That was more common then than now. I remember him as a nice guy. But when my mother asked about purchasing a bike his face clouded. He said the demand was great and the availability small. He offered to take mother’s name and phone number and let her know when (or if) one became available.
I believe he was sorry to see the disappointment on my face and tried to divert me by asking about what I was holding. I enthusiastically described the plane and the dropped leaflets. Then I offered one to him, to his delight.
I don’t recall the return trip, but I would be surprised if mother didn’t attempt to lift the gloom by buying me an ice cream cone.
I’m not sure if it was the same day or the next, but mother received a call from the salesman saying a bike was available and would we like it delivered. Back then free delivery was routine on purchases. He wasn’t sure when it would arrive. Mother was positive we received the call because I had given the man one of the fliers.
I immediately devoted my life to active waiting. This took the form of sitting on the curb in front of our home, staring up the street first one way and then the other. No truck came that first day, a day composed of about 100 hours. I never left my post except when called in for meals or bed. It didn’t come the second day. Nor the third. I don’t know how many interminable days passed, but it didn’t come and it didn’t come. Until it did!
I suppose there was some assembly required, but soon I was riding. I can’t recall how I learned. I just remember having no problems and soon I was going up and down the street. No helmet. I had no idea of the risks.
It was a full-sized bike and was my main transportation vehicle until my senior year in high school when a four-wheeled device took over. I had two close friends in high school and one of our projects was to paint all three of our bikes the same yellow and black.
We rode everywhere together, up curving hills sharing the road with racing cars, to hamburger joints, to courts where we could shoot baskets, to nowhere as we killed time on a hot summer afternoon. We never even considered locking them as we trotted off to some activity.
I didn’t get other bicycles until well after I was married, but only the first resides in my memory.