Friday, December 13, 2019

George Tinkham’s WWII motorcycle on display at Lincoln museum

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By Tara McClellan McAndrew
Correspondent
Posted Jun 16, 2019 at 7:22 PM Updated Jun 16, 2019 at 7:22 PM

Why you should know him:

George Tinkham, a Springfield attorney and motorcycle collector, has a motorcycle manufactured for World War II in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum’s current exhibition marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Tinkham bought his 1942 Indian model 841 through eBay.

What was your motorcycle made for?

“Solely for desert warfare during WWII. It’s a very specialized type of war equipment. (The Allies) knew there’d be fighting in North Africa. They suspected they might fight in the outback in Australia, so they needed a motorcycle that could handle the abrasive environment of a desert. … That’s why (it was made with) the shaft drive, where you have your entire drivetrain sealed against the outside environment.”

To protect from overheating, “it had air-cooled V-Twin engines.” To decrease the effects of a bumpy ride, it had rear suspension instead of the common rigid frame. So the soldier could keep his hands on the handlebars, “they used a hand clutch — you just reach out with your fingers to pull in the clutch, and a foot shift — you shift the gears with your foot.”

Was your bike used in the war?

“I wish I could say this was a pivotal piece of machinery in Patton’s march across the Sahara, but I can’t. … (The bike’s) history was lost when the person two owners ago bought it, we think at an auction, but he did not keep great records. Whether any Indian 841s actually came close to seeing action is unclear.”

When did you learn about this type of motorcycle?

“When I was a farm kid back in the ’50s, I didn’t understand why motorcycles had the design they did. I thought, ‘Why don’t they put the cylinders out in the air where they belong, sideways, so they could get cooled? Why don’t they use a shaft drive?’ When I was older, I found out that Indian made such a motorcycle and owning one was one of my dreams.”

What condition was the Indian in when you bought it?

“It ran horribly, but it did run. I was excited to have it, but I realized I had a real project on my hands.” Tinkham’s been working on the bike ever since and can drive it now. “I tell people, ‘The bike’s a bit rough, but everything’s there, everything works. It starts first kick and I wish I could say the same thing about me.’”

What do you use the bike for?

“I use it for numerous displays, not static displays. I think a motorcycle is a dynamic piece of art, so it’s better appreciated in motion. We have local motorcycle events, like the ABATE Freedom Rally, the Vintage Iron Riders Park and Display at the Springfield Mile races … and having it at the ALPLM is a way for me to share it with the world.”

‘She was a pistol’: Winnipeg teen Sadie Grimm raced into motorcycle history in 1914 Social Sharing Grimm rode her motorcycle through harsh Manitoba terrain where men failed — then did it again Darren Bernhardt · CBC News · Posted: Jun 22, 2019 6:00 AM CT | Last Updated: June 22

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She faced long odds, from swampy and rutted terrain to skepticism in a male-dominated era, but Sadie Grimm had something that trumped it all: grit.

In 1914, she did something on a motorcycle that men attempted but failed — she became the first to complete an endurance race from Winnipeg to Winnipeg Beach, across roadless marshlands.

Then the 19-year-old did it again. On the same day.

“She was a pistol, is what her grandchildren called her,” said Ross Metcalfe, a Manitoban who is president of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America and co-founder of the Antique Motorcycle Club of Manitoba.

“I call her plucky. This was something that a very phenomenal woman did 105 years ago, and she showed no fear in being able to do it.”

Sadie Grimm standing with her Indian motorcycle in June 1914. (Manitoba Free Press)

It was the first documented award in Canadian motorcycling by a woman in a competition also open to men, said Metcalfe.

“Think about the year she did it — it’s 1914, the year Nellie McClung is staging the mock parliament and pushing the government for the women’s vote. So it’s a pivotal time for women and here’s Sadie doing something no man could do,” he said.

“By our record, she’s probably the first woman in North America to win a medal or a trophy or an accomplishment on a motorcycle — and was actually able to keep it.”

An undated postcard featuring Clara Wagner and her motorcycle. (A. Loeffler)

A few years earlier, American Clara Wagner won a race between Indianapolis and Chicago but was denied the trophy because of her gender, Metcalfe said.

Race to resort town

The Winnipeg-to-Winnipeg Beach contest, open to anyone, was announced by the Manitoba Motorcycle Club in the winter of 1913-14.

A gold medal was offered up to the first person to complete the 90-kilometre one-way trek from the city to the Empress Hotel on the shore of the popular beach town.

“Winnipeg Beach was Manitoba’s Riviera, it was  was Manitoba’s Fort Lauderdale,” said Metcalfe. “It had a huge CPR four-storey hotel with balconies and it was a destination.”

Upwards of 13 trains a day would take people to Winnipeg Beach when there were no roads. (Archives of Manitoba)

But there were no roads to it. Winnipeg Beach was founded as a resort town in 1900 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, which had the only way to get there.

“The CPR once said that was the most profitable 60 miles of track in all of Canada. Upwards of 13 trains a day would take travellers to the beach and its boardwalk and the fancy hotel,” said Metcalfe.

There were cottages, a dance pavilion, a large pier, water chutes (precursors to modern water slides), and weekend boat regattas that drew as many as 10,000, according to Heritage Manitoba.

The Empress was a grand hotel along the shoreline of Winnipeg Beach. It burned down in 1935. (Archives of Manitoba)

“So motorists by 1911-12, they kind of started pointing fingers about the railroad having a monopoly to a place that we want to get to,” Metcalfe said.

So the endurance race was born and motorcycles were a natural choice. Manitoba was a hotbed for motorcycle riding and racing at the time, said Metcalfe.

“There were very many famous racers — men racers — here in Manitoba that were … setting world records,” he said, noting Joe Baribeau, who set a world record at the Kirkfield Park track in 1911 as the fastest man, averaging 60 miles per hour (nearly 100 km/h) over a distance of 100 miles (just over 160 kilometres).

“The first person on Earth to do that and it was done here in Winnipeg. Because of these people being so famous and the Manitoba Motorcycle Club being so dominant,  the Canadian Motorcycle Association … moved the Canadian championships to Manitoba in 1914.”

An undated postcard showing Winnipeg Beach and the Empress Hotel. (hippostcard.com)

The Manitoba Motorcycle Club, founded in 1911, is the oldest motorcycle club in Canada and fourth-oldest in the world, Metcalfe said. 

‘She got back on that bike’

Despite that popularity, there are no records of Grimm competing in any races prior to the endurance test. She seemed to come out of nowhere.

But Metcalfe has his theories.

It just so happened that Grimm’s boyfriend, Jim Cruikshank, was an accomplished amateur motorcycle racer and had opened a repair shop for Indian motorcycles in 1913, across from the new Yale and Northern hotels on Main Street.

Winnipeg Beach offered wooden water chutes, precursors to modern water slides, among its many attractions. (Archives of Manitoba)

Metcalfe thinks Grimm was likely taught how to ride by Cruikshank, who then provided a new, 1914 seven-horsepower Big Twin Indian motorcycle.

“A lot of those early motorcycles were very primitive, so endurance races were a way of motorcycle companies proving their worth,” he said.

Some eager riders who tried their hands at the Winnipeg to Winnipeg Beach run while the ground was still frozen turned back. Others tried in early spring but were trapped by the wetlands.

The only place where there was some semblance of a road — really more of a rutted wagon trail — was through Teulon, Metcalfe said. But it stopped about 35 kilometres short of Winnipeg Beach.

Boat regattas drew thousands of people to the shores of Winnipeg Beach. (Archives of Manitoba)

Grimm set out on the morning of June 14, 1914.

“For 25 miles she had to break gravel eight inches deep while going 30 miles an hour. She took several graceful slides but picked herself up unhurt,” the Manitoba Free Press reported at the time.

The slides were most likely less than graceful, said Metcalfe, describing them as “two or three face plants.”

“So we want to talk about plucky, I mean, she wasn’t dismayed. She got back on that bike,” he said.

Grimm went up though Selkirk to Petersfield, where the road soon became bog and potholes. After tracing things like deer trails she rode up onto the railroad track.

The pier was a popular place for strolls back in the early days in Winnipeg Beach. (Archives of Manitoba)

It was extremely bumpy “but she pounded her way up the track,” Metcalfe said.

After four hours, a slightly dirty, scratched and exhausted Grimm walked into the Empress Hotel and claimed her prize.

There were a couple of people who scoffed at the victory because she used the railroad tracks, so after she rested for a few hours, Grimm decided to make a statement.

She climbed back on the bike and drove back to Winnipeg via the Teulon route that nobody else could traverse.

“So she actually did it twice in the same day,” Metcalfe said. “It was quite a feat.”

The Free Press, under a June 20 headline that said “Lady Wins Gold Medal,” called it “one of the most strenuous rides ever attempted by a Manitoba motorcyclist.”

The route Sadie Grimm rode from Winnipeg to Winnipeg Beach, a distance of roughly 90 kilometres. (Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame)

At least one other motorcyclist also made an attempt that same day but ran out of gas west of the beach and arrived several hours too late to claim the prize.

“What Sadie Grimm did was pretty spectacular, really, when you look at it from a female perspective in Canadian and North American history,” said Metcalfe.

Arrested for impersonating men

Even two years later, in 1916, sisters Augusta and Adeline Van Buren rode their motorcycles 9,000 kilometres in 60 days across the continental United States. They wanted to prove women could ride as well as men and would be able to serve as military dispatch riders.

Augusta, 24, and Adeline, 22, dressed in military-style leggings and leather riding breeches and were stopped several times during the journey by police who took offence to the fact they wore men’s clothes, according to Anne Ruderman and Jo Giovanni’s book Adeline and Augusta Van Buren: Pioneers in Women in Motorcycling.

“They were arrested a number of times for impersonating a man, if you can believe it,” said Metcalfe.

Despite their success, the Van Buren sisters’ applications to be military dispatch riders were rejected. Reports in a motorcycling magazine of the day praised the bike but not the sisters. It also described the rigorous journey as a vacation.

Augusta, left, and Adeline Van Buren rode their motorcycles 9,000 kilometres in 60 days across the continental United States in 1916. (Van Buren Family Collection)

Following her success, Grimm became a spokesperson for the participation of women in motorcycling. In the July 1914 edition of the Winnipeg Tribune, Grimm lauded the activity as beneficial to health and the independence of women.

“The motorcycle is a great teacher.… It teaches [one] to be more independent on herself, to know that with a twist of the wrist she can control the powerful little machine that will carry her swiftly and safely wherever she wants to go,” Grimm said.

“I don’t think anyone could recommend a better doctor than nature — plenty of fresh air and exercise are the greatest health givers.”

Grimm died in February 1970 at the age of 74. In 2017, she was inducted into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame.

‘Empowers women to ride’

That same year, the first Sadie Grimm historic motorcycle ride to Winnipeg Beach was held. Follow-up rides have been held every June since then, doubling as a fundraiser toward a planned commemoration for Grimm.

The Women Riders Council (WRC), a member of the Coalition of Manitoba Motorcycle Groups, wants to build a picnic shelter, named in Grimm’s honour, at the spot where the Empress Hotel once stood.

A 1913 Indian motorcycle owned by Ross Metcalfe and similar to the one ridden by Sadie Grimm was on temporary display at the Winnipeg Police Museum. (Ross Metcalfe)

The Manitoba government has agreed to the proposed steel-and-concrete design with a motorcycle motif being built on the property, now owned by the province.

“It will have a motorcycle theme for the sides of it and the circles in the top, holding the roof up, will look like motorcycle wheels. So it will be a real commemoration of Sadie’s ride,” said Mary Johnson, a member of the WRC and chair of the Sadie Grimm Celebration Committee.

Sadie Grimm as seen in a photo included in the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame induction for the class of 2017. (Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame)

She first heard about Grimm’s story in 2014 while at the Manitoba Motorcycle Club’s induction ceremony into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame. When Metcalfe was accepting the award, he mentioned Grimm.

“I remember thinking at the time ‘I need a piece of that [story],'” Johnson said.

She got Metcalfe to tell her everything he knew about Grimm and shortly after, she shared the story at a WRC meeting.

That’s when another member, Carolyn Peters, offered to do more research and eventually got in contact with grandchildren and a grandniece of Grimm’s in California.

They had some photos to offer up but for the most part, Grimm’s exploits were unknown to them. They always thought she was kind of cool because she was “just a little out there,” with her long fingernails painted in bright red polish that matched a similarly brilliant lipstick, said Peters.

But for the most part, Grimm was just known to them as Nana, she said. 

“It is just such an interesting story, that this woman who was very anonymous until now … had been this vivacious, independent, outspoken woman for women’s issues and women’s rights at such an early point in Manitoba history,” Peters said.

“It was really a terribly courageous thing that she did. I just think of her at this point as a really fantastic role model to young women back then in 1914 and still very relevant today.”

The dusting off of Grimm’s story immediately led to a renewed interest and ultimately, her induction into the hall of fame.

In the summer of 2015, the Antique Motorcycle Club of Manitoba (which amalgamated with the MMC in 2010) organized a Sadie Grimm run from Winnipeg to a roadhouse about halfway to Winnipeg beach.

Johnson was told the club would buy a meal for all women riders who participated. She rounded up a large group, which then finished the run to the beach in honour of Grimm.

The Sadie Grimm picnic shelter project is raising funds to create a public commemoration on the former site of the Empress Hotel in Winnipeg Beach. (Coalition of Manitoba Motorcycle Groups)

That sparked the idea for the picnic shelter, which is expected to cost $45,000.

So far, the fundraising rides and other donations have raised about $28,500.

Johnson and Peters hope the shelter will keep Grimm’s story in the public eye because of the inspiration it provides.

“When we talk to people about it they get really excited,” she said, noting one woman joins the ride every year, spurred by Grimm’s story, and “just went and bought an Indian Chief motorcycle this week.”

“It really empowers women to ride.”

Hap Alzina – Indians Man of the West

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Hap Alzina (left) poses with race winner Earl Armstrong (center) and Cannonball Baker after a 300-mile race in Tacoma, Washington, in 1915.

It was 1949 and Indian Motorcycle was struggling. It was so bad that the company could not fulfill the orders it had from, all-important police and other commercial entities. West Coast distributor Hap Alzina got the news and selflessly shipped huge stocks of parts he had in his West Coast warehouse, just so Indian could build bikes to fulfill its orders. Then, not long after that, Alzina learned that Indian was to the point of being so cash strapped, it wasn’t going to be able to meet payroll. Again, Alzina went into action to try to save the manufacturer, by placing a massive advance order, well over his normal allotment, just so Indian would have an instant cash infusion and be able to pay its employees.

Alzina’s ardent devotion to Indian motorcycles went back to the early years of America’s first major motorcycle company. When he was just 15 years old, he bought he first Indian and he loved it. So much so that when he was 17, he took a job as a mechanic for an Indian dealership in San Francisco and quickly worked his way up to service manager.

Born on September 14, 1894, Loris Alzina’s interest in motorcycling began early in life. As a boy he bought his first motorcycle, a Reading-Standard, for $50. In 1909, Alzina’s family moved from Santa Cruz, California, to San Francisco. There, he bought his first Indian from C.C. Hopkins, who was the Indian distributor for Northern California at the time. It was for Hopkins’ agency that Alzina began working for Indian.

Alzina spent 56 years devoting himself to motorcycling. Involved in motorcycling from its infancy, he is best known for being the western states distributor for Indian and, later, BSA. He oversaw the sales of those brands during the height of their popularity. Alzina — who earned the nickname “Hap” from his good-natured attitude — also sponsored many of the top AMA professional racers.

In the early 1910s, racing was becoming increasing popular and Alzina tried his hand in competition. He did some flat-track racing, but his primary interest was endurance runs. Alzina raced in many of the early desert city-to-city runs that were popular at the time. In 1919, Alzina edged well known racers Wells Bennett and Cannonball Baker to win the prestigious San Francisco Motorcycle Club Two-Day Endurance Run. That was a huge upset victory over two very popular racers. Of the 30 starters in the 680-mile endurance event, only seven riders managed to finish. Competitors had to battle against rain, hail, snow and even a landslide during the February contest. One rider slid off a muddy wooden bridge and was injured when he fell into the creek below. Alzina overcame those obstacles to earn a perfect score, riding an Indian sidecar outfit. Bennett, riding an Excelsior and Baker, on a factory-backed Indian, were on solo machines.

Alzina’s 1919 endurance victory was his biggest achievement as a competitor and it made him a popular name by way of win ads in motorcycle magazines across the country.

A few years before his big race win, Alzina opened his own dealership, selling Reading-Standard and Cleveland motorcycles. That enterprise was short-lived due to the onset on World War I. After closing his shop, Alzina again worked as sales manager for San Francisco’s Indian distributor. In 1922, Alzina saw a golden opportunity across the Bay in Oakland and bought out the dealership of E.S. Rose. Alzina turned the struggling franchise into a very successful business.

Alzina’s business expertise was recognized by Indian. In 1925, the company assigned him all of Northern California’s distribution. The next year, he was given the entire state, and by 1927 his territory expanded to include Nevada, Arizona and Washington. By 1948, Indian sales in Alzina’s territory represented over 20 percent of Indian’s total worldwide volume.

Hap Alzina serving as an AMA racing official.
Hap Alzina serving as an AMA racing official.

At the age of 54, moved on to another business venture and bought the western states distribution rights for BSA motorcycles from Alf “Rich” Child in 1949. The growth in motorcycling over the next 15 years was explosive. Under Alzina’s direction, BSA’s western distribution went from three dealerships to 265 dealers in 20 states. The move to BSA helped keep him in the motorcycle business even after his beloved Indian failed in the mid-1950s.

Alzina was an enthusiastic supporter of racing. Many racing stars such as Ed Kretz, Gene Thiessen, Al Gunter, Dick Mann, Kenny Eggers and Sammy Tanner credited Alzina for being a big part of their success. Several of those riders worked in Alzina’s shop and were allowed generous time away to travel to races.

At one point, Alzina also served as Vice President of the AMA.

Famous for his practical jokes, Alzina once walked a horse through a plush New York hotel lobby, pushing the horse into an elevator and taking him up to a room where a party was going on. He also enjoyed marking “Private & Confidential” on the address side of post cards so that everyone would be sure to read the card.

Hap Alzina (left) with Ed Kretz (sitting on the bike) and other Indian riders and mechanics after Kretz won the Southern California TT Championship in 1939.

Alzina retired in 1965. He and his wife, Lillian, enjoyed traveling together, visiting friends across the country during their retirement years. He was given an Award of Merit from the AMA on behalf of its 70,000 members upon his retirement.

He was by a journalist if he viewed motorcycling as more business or pleasure.

“Motorcycles are a business,” he said. “But now, as you’re asking questions and I look back over the years, I call it 40 years of fun.”

Alzina died on July 21, 1970 at the age of 75. He will always be remembered as a man of integrity, honesty, loyalty, foresight, common sense and hard work. He was also a one of Indian’s most passionate supporters. He was inducted into the first class of the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998.

Larry Lawrence | Archives Editor – Cycle World In addition to writing our Archives section on a weekly basis, Lawrence is another who is capable of covering any event we throw his way.

Indian Motorcycle was LPD’s first vehicle buy

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LACONIA — Laconia Motorcycle Week dates back to a gathering held in 1916, which is why the rally bills itself as the oldest in the world. The Laconia Police Department’s motorcycling tradition is nearly as long, it turns out.

In fact, the Harley-Davidson that was purchased in 1920 – for $632, from Laconia Tire Company – was the first vehicle purchased by the department. Prior to that, Robin Moyer said, patrols were done using private vehicles, or with cars rented or leased from local dealerships.

Moyer manages the information systems and accreditations for the Laconia Police Department. She also serves as the department’s historian. She can’t point to a record explaining why Chief Charles Harvell, who served the city until 1933, saw fit to use city money to buy a motorcycle. However, other departments around the country had started rolling motorcycle patrols, the first being Detroit in 1908, and Harvell likely saw the same advantages in 1920 that Matt Canfield, the current chief, sees today.

The Laconia Police Department has a long tradition of maintaining at least one, usually two, motorcycles in its fleet. It currently has a pair of Harleys, Canfield said, and there are two officers who have gone through special training to use them on patrol.

“They’re very maneuverable,” Canfield said, which is useful when an officer has to respond to a call in the middle of a crowded situation, such as Weirs Beach during Laconia Motorcycle Week, for example.

But the motorcycles are useful during the rest of the year, too, Canfield said.

“We do use them all spring, summer and fall,” he said. Officers doing traffic enforcement find that motorcycles have a “sleek profile,” Canfield said, and motorists don’t spot the officer as quickly as they would a larger police vehicle.

And, because the rider is more exposed on a motorcycle, Canfield said they allow officers an opportunity to connect with members of the public.

“You drive these down to a city park, kids love them,” he said. “The motorcycle, it’s a completely different vibe. It’s important that the kids realize that the police are their friends.”

Maneuverability

Motorcycles can weave through traffic and they can also navigate a variety of surfaces. In 1920s many of Laconia’s roads were dirt and were likely of varying condition.

“Maneuverability is still one of the selling points of a motorcycle,” Moyer said. One of the city’s early motorcycle officers was Charles “Mickey” Dunleavey, who started as a part-time officer in 1925 and eventually retired as chief in 1962. He was a veteran of World War I, as were many police officers in the ‘20s. They likely saw motorcycles during their service, as the machines were used to transport wounded soldiers, deliver messages and even as a platform for machine guns.

If motorcycles could be used to navigate a battlefield, they should be just fine on a potholed dirt road.

Another early devotee of motorcycles was Lawrence Carpenter, who was a part-time officer in Laconia who later became part of the State Police.

While the city’s first motorcycle was a Harley-Davidson, its next two, purchased in 1924 and 1927, were both built by the Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company, of Springfield, Massachusetts.

In Carpenter’s mind, the Indians were the superior machine, his son, also named Lawrence, wrote in a piece for the now-closed Police Motorcyle Museum.

Carpenter, his son wrote, purchased many Indian motorcycles for his own personal use, often picking them up directly from the factory.

“He was not happy when personally informed by John Griffin that the State would be purchasing Harley Davidsons, as they were preferred by the majority of the officers. Carpenter swore that he never lost a vehicle he was pursuing until forced to ride a Harley. He was known to have stated that a Harley would make a good anchor for a boat. Carpenter continued to purchase his own Indians and use them on his job whenever he could. He bought a new bike every year, sometimes more than one.”

The Indian name is now used on motorcycles manufactured by Polaris, and since Carpenter retired, there are several more options for modern police motorcycles, including from BMW and Kawasaki.

Canfield doesn’t ride, so he said he didn’t consider switching to another brand for his department.

“The Harley is what the officers prefer,” Canfield said.