Friday, April 5, 2013

Recollection - A red bicycle

A couple of days ago I walked in our neighborhood to take pictures of some of the pretty trees in bloom and flowers for my blogging friends up north or in other countries where winter is lingering - be patient spring is coming! (Click on the collage twice to embiggen.)
We had two days of heavy rain last week.  Several large pine trees fell including one in our back yard.  We heard a bizarre noise, then the house shook.  Later when we went to investigate (with my camera in hand) we saw the tree, covered with ivy, which had fallen between our yard and the yard of our next door neighbor.  Luckily it did not hit anything but, if it had fallen the other way, it would have hit our roof.  You can see the fallen tree on the bottom picture, in the back close to our little barn.  The picture on the right shows the lake in the background.
We never did get any snow this year and now the weather is warming quickly.  We saw a group of cyclists going up Kennesaw Mountain last week and this reminded me of my first bicycle.  It must have been when I was about 5 or 6 years old.  I really wished to own a bicycle then - a red one.  Being 1946, soon after the war, it must have been difficult to locate such a bike but for Christmas that year I was given a beautiful shiny red bike.  I never did take its picture, but I found one on the web (author unknown) that must have been similar to mine when new.
Of course I could not learn how to ride in the streets of Paris!  My parents took the bike to the country where my cousins lived.  Once there though who would teach me how to ride?  My mother had never ridden a bike and my father, who had been badly injured in the war, only had one good leg left.  My father found a 12 years old boy in my cousins' village who was willing to teach me how to ride.  I still remember the poor boy running behind me, picking me up when I fell down, or trying to hold me up while I was riding as he was running as fast as he could.  I finally made it and could ride on my own.  I remember how proud I was when I showed my parents how well I could ride that bike.
 I frankly don't know what ever happened to that bike when I outgrew it.  My father must have given it to some child in the village.  I had forgotten all about it but in 2002, when my mother passed away, she wished to be buried in that village cemetery, near my father.  It was a cold December day, just before Christmas.  As we were walking out of the cemetery and older man came and hugged me.  Who was he?  A friend of my mom?  He looked at me and said "Don't you remember me?" I did not know him but said "I am not sure..."  he replied "I was the boy who taught you how to ride your bike!"  My cousin told me he still does not own a car, but he rides everywhere with his bike.  In 2009 when we had gone at La Toussaint, in November, to place flowers on my parents' graves I saw him again and asked him if I could take his picture.  He is the man below talking to my cousin, in front of the cemetery.
When I turned 11 years old my parents bought me a beautiful white Peugeot bike, style "mixte" which means it can be ridden by either a boy or a girl.  I would ride it all over town in the Paris suburb where we lived, in St. Leu la Foret, about 16 miles (26 kms) from Paris.  Below is a white bike similar to mine that I found on the web (author unknown.)
 This bicycle was my best friend until I was 16 years old. I would go and meet my friends with it and we would ride all around our area.  In summer, my mother would place my bicycle on the train so I could have it with me in Normandy during our holiday.  I even took it to Provence for a summer when I was thirteen and loved riding, alone, to all the little villages near Vaison-la-Romaine, where I was staying with friends of my grand-parents.  I don't have any pictures of that bike from that time though.  I did not find a Peugeot bike on the web but an old Peugeot bike advertisement.
Then when I was 16 or 17 years old my father bought me a second-hand VeloSolex.  The priest from my cousins' village was upgrading to a small Mobylette and sold his VeloSolex to my father.  That was so much fun and easy too as it was powered by a small motor on the front wheel and did not use much gasoline, so I did not have to pedal much.  My cousin had one as well and we rode often together when I visited her.  I wrote a post on December 9, 2009, about our ride to a castle nearby - it is called "Return to Vaux-le-Vicomte" click here to read it. I found some pictures of me on my VeloSolex from two different summers - see below.
Those pictures above are not clear at all.  I found someone who looks a lot better than me on her VeloSolex - Brigitte Bardot!
 The VeloSolex was created in France in 1946.  Almost eight millions of them had been sold in over 70 countries before they stopped production in 1988.  Then for almost twenty years it was produced as a licensed design in Hungary and China.  In 2005 production was returned to France and VeloSolex model S4800 can even be purchased now in America.  A new eco-friendly model named the "e-Solex" equipped with a 500-watt motor has been made that can get up to 25 miles per hour.  Below in top picture is VelosSolex model S4800, then on the left is the new e-Solex electric model.  The bottom picture is the old VeloSolex model 660 like the one I owned.  The other picture is not the priest who sold his bike to my father, but he must have looked like that on his VeloSolex.
I miss my retro VeloSolex.  As shown in photos of me above I would wear casual clothes or even heels while on my solex, but I did not have a "cloche" - a hat like the lady in the vintage postcard below.


Z said...

What a lovely post, I did enjoy reading that.

Pierre BOYER said...

My sister had a "Solex"....
It was a great bike to ride !
Best regards,


The Broad said...

I wallowed in your Spring photographs -- with great longing, I might add! It's like an explosion of colour and light. Your reflections on bicycles are charming and personally, I like the photos of you much more that the famous 'BB'! What wonderful memories you have...

DJan said...

Oh, VB, I am enchanted by this story about your love affair with bicycles. And to find the young man, now not so young, who taught you how to ride is lovely. My first bike was a Raleigh, and English Racer, and I was the only one who had one. My father brought it back from England when I was about ten or so. You did look very pretty on your bike, I think better than Bardot! :-)

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

I loved all your pictures. Spring came the other day to us here in PA. Many of our trees will be in bloom next week, if not before.

How I loved to ride my brother's bicycle (when he would let me) and your post brought back memories. My children bought me a bike fifteen years ago and I took many weekend trips with it. It now collects dust in my basement.

Linda said...

What gorgeous photos! Those beautiful trees... Wow! Loved reading about about the bicycles. Fantastic and lovely post.

David said...

Vagabonde, As usual, your blog and photos are terrific! Spring is also in bloom up here in east Tennessee. My first bicycle was a used big old heavy blue Schwinn girl's bike...but at 8 or so, I didn't complain! I totaled a brand new 10-speed when I ran into the back of a parked car... I was watching a pretty young girl walking down the street and I wasn't paying any attention to the road! FYI...You would have turned heads as well on your bicycle. Enjoy the warmer weather and the joys of spring! Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Jeanie said...

I love this story and the synchronicity of how you encountered the bike teacher so many years later -- and that he remembered. The photos and graphics are (as always) terrific. I will show this to Rick.

And I have to say I am a little jealous of your spring blooms. They are truly behind schedule here!

CrazyCris said...

What a wonderful post Vagabonde! The flower photos are lovely, but the bicycle story is simply fantastic!

Et tu m'as fait pensé au roman "La biciclette bleue"! Tu m'as donné envie de le relire... mais malheureusement elle ne fait pas partie de ma bibliothèque! :p

sweffling said...

I spent many happy holidays in France: some with an Exchange student and her family. As teenagers we used to run around with a group of lads and we used to listen for the sounds of their Velo engines to know they were coming over!! What memories this post brings back. Thanks:)

Carola Bartz said...

What a beautiful post that brought many memories back to me.
My brother got a little bike when I was not quite four years old. We lived in the country at that time. My brother wasn't too interested in the bike, but I was the one who got onto it and learned how to bike very quickly. I actually rode my brother's big bike when I was seven - first a bit wobbly, and I remember falling into a puddle at my first try, but that didn't put me off. After I had graduated from school, my bike was my only vehicle, I didn't have money for a car. I loved my bike - one summer it took me from Rouen to Etretat and back through beautiful Normandy.
I can't remember whether we had Peugeot bikes in Germany - but cars! When I had my first real job after university I bought a fire red Peugeot 205 - I loved that car! I bought another 205 (also red) when I had to replace that one and kept it until we moved to the States. My favorite car ever!

Patricia said...

Lovely photos and very envious of your Spring. We keep expecting our weather to brighten up and get warmer in the UK but it doesn't seem to happen.

Friko said...

Do you have a bicycle now?
This is a lovely trip down memory lane, does it make you feel homesick for your country or the time when you were young?

I always rode bicycles in Germany (I never had a Moped, as they were called there), my parents had bicycles and when we went to Germany on holiday we went everywhere by bike. Happy days!

Cloudia said...

actually you look delightful with now professional help in that second picture on your bike; just a healthy, lovely woman!

ALOHA from Honolulu, Mon Ami
Comfort Spiral
~ > < } } ( ° > <3

GaynorB said...

A charming post, so beautifully illustrated. I really enjoyed reading it.

Pondside said...

I love to see how a post evolves - like a conversation. This one took us from the blossoms to the bicycles and I enjoyed it very much.

Elephant's Child said...

Such a lovely trip down memory lane. My first bike was second (more like fifth) hand and I loved it. I rode it everywhere - to school, to meet friends, to the lake... I love that the young man who first taught you to ride remembered you, and love even more that you now have his photo.
Your posts are always such a delight - thank you.

claude said...

Wow !
Ici, c'est nature morte, Mon cerisier n'est même pas en bourgeons ou si peu. Le kukoobird n'a pas encore chanter et c'est mauvais signe.
C'est drôle, Vagabonde, j'ai eu le même vélo que toi avec seulement les pneus plus gros et une selle plus large et ensuite un Solex.
Le vélo à 12 ans pour aller au collège à Savigny sur Orge, le solex pour aller au Lycée ici.
J'ai regardé le dernier épisode sur les kilts, C'est très beau.
Bises et bon week-end !

Thérèse said...

How fun to read your post today and what a nice way to remember the "solex time."
Hope you won't be too sad about your lost tree.

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

I always associate bicycles with the French, especially in the country. Great post and I love the old photos.

I couldn't wait to learn to ride a bike without training wheels. When no one was interesting in teaching me or perhaps because I was impatient, I taught myself in the backyard. That bike gave me confidence in life that if I wanted something bad enough, I could always teach myself how to do it :)

Kittie Howard said...

Beautiful post! I devoured every word. My first bike was also red. Oh, the memories! When Macedonia was part of Yugoslavia, a Frenchman told a woman (whom he knew) that she looked like Briget Bardot. She slapped him! When she later learned who BB was, she said she wanted to find the man and thank him for the compliment, but he had returned to France.

Talk about a small world! When we lived in Egypt, we lived in Heliopolis, within walking distance of what was then the vice-president's 'palace.' I have fond memories of walking into town for an ice cream at a place called Brody's, I think.

Anyway, our landlady, for some odd reason, thought hub was the one who loved stuffed grape leaves and would bring us heaping plates of the goodies. (Fresh leaves!!!) Hub would have a few--I'd dive in! Whenever the landlady's family had fresh perch from Aswan, they'd invite us up. YUM! But I didn't know at first that a cleaned plate meant I was still hungry, so they kept piling on the food! When we got that straightened out, everyone had a good laugh. These days, with Egypt in the news as it is, it's lost to viewers that Egyptians have a beautiful sense of humor.

Anonymous said...

•✰ •✰ •✰ •✰ •✰ •✰
Bisous à toi et merci Chère Vagabonde pour ces merveilleuse photos de la nature fleurie ! Que c'est beau !!!
J'aime beaucoup tes photos avec le Vélosolex !!!! ça me rappelle beaucoup de souvenirs d'enfance.
La maman de Patrice en a un dans sa cave ! Et il pourrait encore rouler (les pneus sont "à plat"! C'est fou !

Merci pour cette très jolie publication Vagabonde !!!!
Passe un bon week-end !!!
•✰ •✰ •✰ •✰ •✰ •✰

Miss_Yves said...

Que de souvenirs!(A la fois personnels et de tute une époque)
Des tonalités variées:
un dessin amusant et une rencontre touchante, à l'occasion de La Toussaint...

Merci de nous faire patienter pour l'arrivée du printemps , avec ces belles photos de floraison!

Jose Maria Souza Costa said...

Invitation - In
I'm Brazilian.
Spent reading here, and visit his blog.
I also have one, only much simpler.
I'm inviting you to visit me, and if possible follow together for them and with them. I always liked to write, expose and share my ideas with people, regardless of class Social, Religious Creed, the Sexual Orientation, or, of Ethnicity.
To me, what will interest is our exchange of ideas, and, thoughts.
I'm there in my space Simpleton, waiting for you.
And I'm already following your blog.
Strength, Peace, Friendship and Happiness
For you, a hug from Brazil.

Sarah said...

Thanks for stopping to visit my blog. I love all your sharing of your travels. I checked out your posts on Tennessee. I was in East Tennessee, near Maryville/Alcoa for 5 months in 2010, I think. One day it snowed and my neighbour, Miss Ersie, called me so excited! If she could only see the snow we get on the Canadian prairies!

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Those trees are just BEAUTIFUL! Spring seems to have taken hold there, finally...!
I've never heard of that Bike but it looks beautiful and so do you....! It sounds like you had a lot of fun on that bike and that it got you wherever you wanted to go...!
A lovely post, my dear.

Mandy Southgate said...

I disagree! I think you look far better and more of a natural on your Velosolex! And what a pretty bike the Peugeot was. In our last years in South Africa, we didn't keep bikes long at all before they were stolen. I must try get into cycling again.

Thank you so much for the touch of spring! Winter is definitely still lingering here in London.

And finally, I think I'll adopt the word "embiggen".

Marguerite-marie said...

je souris en lisant ton message avec la saga de tes deux roues . Mon histoire pour moi s'arrête au vélo"mixte" car mon père étant dans la gendarmerie était souvent appelé sur les lieux d'accidents. Il avait décrété qu'il voyait trop de jeunes accidentés à vélomoteur et encore plus en scooter et que jamais nous n'en aurions. ce qui fait que quand je me suis retrouvée, seule, étudiante à 17 ans je repérais les étudiants qui avaient un scooter et réussissais souvent à monter à l'arrière avec un plaisir non dissimulé.... toujours, à notre époque, en tout bien tout honneur!
je suis d'accord avec la lectrice qui te dit que tu es mieux que BB, c'est vrai que wouah! tu es chouette!
merci de ce moment de nostalgie .

Ginnie said...

First of all, Vagabonde, I'm so glad you and/or your house were not hurt by the falling tree!!!!

Secondly, I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post about your bikes. How fun is that!

Perpetua said...

Gosh, I needed those beautiful glimpses of the glories of spring, Vagabonde! Thanks so much for thinking of us up in the north still stuck in winter.

I really enjoyed your memories of your love-affair with bicycles and I too much prefer the photos of you to that of BB. How lovely that you were able to meet up again with that boy who taught you to ride your bike. I never learned to ride a bike which is one of the great regrets of my life.

Fennie said...

What a lovely and interesting post, Vagabonde. I remember the Solex so well, though I never have ridden one.
I can remember my first bicycle too - all those miles. I agree with Mandy - you look very good on your Solex.

Anonymous said...

The last time I rode a bike was the day I banged into a parked car. Never again. Lol.

Marja said...

Love all the spring colours and your bikes and you do look good on your bike! I love the one on the last picture. It looks like the bikes still currently made and popular in Holland

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Lovely post and a wonderful retrospective. I love the goldfinch pic!!

The Solitary Walker said...

Altogether delightful, Vagabonde. Brigitte Bardot looks pretty cool on her bicycle — but so do you too!

Amanda said...

You look beautiful on the velo-solex, prettier that BB. You have wonderful memories of your life in Fance and am so glad you are sharing them with us.

Karin B (Looking for Ballast) said...

I ♥ this post so much!

Thank you for sharing the lovely stories of your beloved bicycles. I was particularly touched by the story of the boy who taught you to ride, and your seeing him again in the village. That warmed my heart.

Thank you, too, for your lovely comment on my own post. I wanted you to know I at last left you a reply there.

I also figured out a way to put you into my WordPress Reader, since Google Reader is soon going away! I hope I can follow your posts more frequently once more because of doing this.

Be well, Vagabonde, and love to you from Denver.

Dee said...

Dear Vagabonde, I so enjoyed this posting! It brought back wonderful memories of my first bicycle. I was born in 1936 and I think I got the bicycle when I was 10, after the war ended. Even then production couldn't keep up with demand. That is, mom and dad gave me a receipt for a bike for Christmas 1946, but I really didn't get the bike until late the next spring when the store where they bought it, Firestone, could finally fill the order. So many good memories of learning how to ride it and riding it to school from out in the country where I lived to St. Mary's Grade School three miles away in the town of Independence. Thanks for the memories. Peace.

Down by the sea said...

I enjoyed your recollections of your bicycle riding. How wonderful to meet up again with the boy who had taught you to ride. It must have been wonderful have the freedom to visit many different places on your bike.
Sarah x

Kay said...

This was so much fun to see and read. It brought back memories of my red bike. I used to ride everywhere with it. Gosh! That was a long time ago. You were gorgeous, Vagabonde!

Snowbrush said...

I still bike, almost everyday. I never go far, but I do enjoy it.

Thanks for sharing your memories.

Vicki Lane said...

I was late in learning to ride a bicycle but once I did, I spent every free moment on my blue Schwinn. I loved your post -- you memories and mine.

And i really enjoyed the quilt show! Having just finished a big quilt for my son and daughter in law, I'm in the mood to start another.

Jenny Woolf said...

Not the most convenient bike, that VeloSolex, but there is something so magnificently stylish about it! Have you ever seen "Belleville Rendezvous"? a wonderful animated film about cycling - admittedly sport cycling but never mind. Has some brilliant music in it too.

Nadezda said...

it's touching story about your bikes and your love to them.
It reminded me my old red bike, with red net on the second wheel in order the dress couldn't get into the wheel.
I enjoyed your post.
Lovely collage!

Vagabonde said...

I read all your comments with pleasure. I am pleased you like my red bicycle memory and that it brought you some memories too. We have been away on a trip so I have not been using my computer and am behind, again. I’ll visit your blogs very soon. Thanks again for all your nice comments.

Rosaria Williams said...

What a beautiful memory!

Arti said...

This is such a lovely post! I've enjoyed reading your recollections. I'm particularly interested in your bike trips to Provence and Vaison-la-Romaine. Why, I was there just three years ago. We were revisiting Vaison where my son participated in a "Music Studies Abroad" program when he was 15 yr. old. He led us back to the dormitory and the 12th C. stone chapel where he played a piano recital. It was just so memorable... I'd love to go back to Provence again. But right now, I can't leave the country for travels abroad since I've to take care of my elderly parents (93 and 95).

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