My Reminiscences of events, old and new, and travels, far and near
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.