40 - He Was Riding A Penny Farthing

posted Jun 29, 2016, 1:20 PM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library   [ updated Jun 29, 2016, 1:26 PM ]
It’s funny how the mind will reorganize things that happened in the past to where it thinks they should have occurred. All this year I’ve been thinking that North Judson’s Centennial celebration took place in July or August and come to find out that it was actually in September.

Yep, all the events were spread out from Thursday, September 1st, to Monday, September 5th of 1966. Of course that was back in the “good ole days” when school didn’t start until sometime after Labor Day, which just happened to be September 5, 1966.

In looking over the schedule of events I can’t say that too many of them sound familiar to me. Lurking in the back of my mind is the vague recollection of the variety show and I do believe that I did attend the “funeral services” for Clara and Mugs that May. But the one thing that I definitely remember is the Centennial parade.

You see we were incredibly lucky because the parade lineup started in the general area of our house – the corner of Vine & George Streets. It wasn’t necessary for us to get a good spot downtown to watch the parade because the parade came to us. I can remember the excitement building as people gathered to take their place in the lineup: friends from school, the band gathering at Mr. Lawson's home next door, people who waited on us at the local stores, politicians – local and state, an assortment of animals. It was all memorable.

The one thing that sticks in my mind, I think it was Charlie Barker riding up and down the street on an 1855 bicycle, practicing so he wouldn’t fall off during the parade. Now why would he have to worry about falling off? Well as the saying goes learning to ride is “as easy as falling off a bike.” And any 12 or 13 year old in Starke County practically lived on their bike during the summer.

But this wasn’t your ordinary bike. This was one of those high wheel bicycles, (aka Penny Farthing) that you don’t see every day. I’m not sure where it came from, I have a vague recollection of someone telling me it was owned by someone who worked at McCormick’s mortuary or he borrowed it from a friend. That front wheel stood about 5 feet high and the back wheel was only about 18 inches. According to the research I’ve done it probably was made of steel and would have weighed somewhere between 24 and 50 pounds. No comparison to your modern day lightweight aluminum alloy bicycles.

Getting on and off the bicycle wasn’t very easy either. There were two little pegs above the back wheel that were used to help the rider get up on that seat so far from the ground. How he got down…?

Yep, there was plenty of excitement that year about North Judson’s Bicentennial, but one memory that sticks out in my mind is Charlie Barker riding a Penny Farthing back and forth on Vine Street.