Archives for posts with tag: bicycles

091-girl-with-doll-on-street

Some Christmas gifts are always in style, always exciting. Riding toys of any sort but especially bicycles or tricycles inspire joy in 1926 or 2016. Richmond In Sight’s collection of my great-grandfather’s photographs prove that. The Harris Stilson Collection includes a few Christmas pictures that could just as easily be now. This tricycle parade was the day after Christmas, 1927 on Carytown’s Grayland Avenue with a neighbor’s mother & grandmother admiring the procession.

05-trikes1927

That photograph of my father, Howard Lynch, his sister, Norma Kathleen, neighbor Minnie Arnold and an unknown child is as relevant as the picture that follows below. That’s my triplet grandchildren on a popular “trike” variation: no pedals so kids balance themselves and learn to ride a bicycle easier. At least that’s the theory. First, they need to learn to sit on the seat. There’s a reason parents are young…they need stamina!15731824_10154893722050909_7168745008375094271_o

Some folks are never too old for bikes. Harry Stilson tests his grandson’s new bike in this picture and I can almost hear my father pleading for his bike back.

07-hhsbike

Chia pets, pet rocks, and Cindy Lauper attire pass from favor but some toys are timeless. Dolls, trucks, and little structures endure as favorites. I bought my kids Fisher-Price garages, airports, and houses but these are really, really cool, too. Howard and his friend, Ralph Carr, proudly display their gifts and I wish at least one of those had survived for me to treasure decades later.

0136-christmas-toys

Harry looks delighted to be with his grandchildren as they show off their belongings. My aunt Margaret was born with only one full arm but she rode this tricycle and later bicycles and looks thrilled to be doing it.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

hhs-hdl-mal

Margaret loved dolls. I have a few of her dolls, still but sadly, her Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist doll and her Madame Alexander Dionne quintuplet dolls disappeared over the years.  I do, however, have the china tea set that Margaret is using here. Somehow it survived decades in her basement in an open box. The question is: will it survive the grandchildren?

margarets-tea-party

This child below is NOT happy. Don’t know who she is but she’s the sister of a little boy  in other pictures and I’m guessing they are along Harry’s West Clay Line streetcar route in Jackson Ward. I am always hopeful that someone will see one of Harry’s images and recognize a relative. It’s happened before and is always my Christmas wish.

girl-crying-toys

This last image was captured from a Stilson film and is too timely to leave out. The Byrd Theatre opened December 24, 1928 and we believe this may be the first movie matinee. The kids are all wearing Lindy hats, leather aviator caps imitating Charles Lindbergh because he had recently visited Richmond. Howard and Norma certainly wore theirs with pride. There seems to be a history of movie events at Christmas, huh? Perhaps none as significant as the opening of the historic Byrd Theatre but I know lots of families whose holiday traditions include movies, at home like us with The Muppets Christmas Carol and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (both the “real people” and the “tartoon” version, as my granddaughter calls it) or at the theater. Traditions are priceless and whatever form they take, they are to be cherished.   022-byrd-kids

As you pick up wrapping paper and try to figure out where to store the presents your children received, remember this: some of those toys will be forgotten tomorrow but a few  will be treasured for generations. I know…the triplets love toys from the past.

img_4394

Advertisements

I’m not a follower of bicycle racing but how could I possibly not go downtown to cheer on the riders from all over the world as they braved our cobblestoned hills? Yesterday I drove to my son’s house in Church Hill and we walked to Libby Hill to watch the practice. It was a glorious day and, while the crowds were smaller than I had expected, it was lots of fun.

We walked down the hill to near Poe’s Pub where I took a picture of a scene that would have been familiar to my great-grandfather, Harry Stilson. He took a picture of his sister, Vera, at nearly that same spot almost 100 years ago so of course I had to take video and photos of bicyclists pedaling up Williamsburg Road to compare with the scene in 1919.

Great-aunt Vera Stilson Smith at bottom of Libby Hill, June 1919

Great-aunt Vera Stilson Smith at bottom of Libby Hill, June 1919

Bike raceThen tonight I braved the detoured roads to watch the folks who rode the course “just like the pros.” Well, maybe not just like the pros but they’re my heroes, anyhow. Dark, wet, slick roads, including the steep,steep, steep hill by Bellvue School on 23rd which is scary to even drive, much less ride a bike on. I felt like yelling “be careful!” even yesterday when it wasn’t raining. Those cobblestones are treacherous!

My son’s friend, Will, was riding tonight and I wanted to meet my son Patrick at Libby Hill so we could look for him together but there was an accident on the downtown expressway which routed all traffic to the Cary Street side of the race course where we got derailed. I pulled into a private parking lot and jumped out, figuring that I could leave if someone needed to park but that didn’t happen. There wasn’t anyone else watching from there so I stood alone across the street from Main Street Station & the old railroad YMCA and yelled encouragement to every single biker who passed. One man walking by clapped for me, saying I deserved to be applauded for my efforts.

The last hour or so I was joined by a woman from Knoxville, Tennessee, whose husband was riding tonight. She ended up in the same parking lot when she ran out of road. They own a bike shop and obviously she knew a whole lot more about bicycles and racing than I did but we both yelled just as loudly. “Y’all be careful out there!” hollered by me was answered with “yes, ma’am” (by Southerners) and thumbs up or “thanks!” by others. Most faces wore smiles despite rain and exhaustion and it was clear that this was a fun thing to do.

I never saw Will and wouldn’t have recognized him in his helmet anyway. I did see an amazing assortment of men, women, older, younger, black, white, all having a great time. One rider yelled “I love you, Richmond!” and I responded that we loved them, too. And we did. Anyone with the determination, stamina, and grit to mount a bike and face the seven hills of Richmond in the rain and dark deserves our admiration, our cowbells, cheers, and yes, our love.

I’m going back this week end. If you’re in Richmond, come, too.

The 2015 Road World Championships are in Richmond this week. Very exciting…and also appropriate. Richmond’s love affair with two-wheeled travel goes back a long way. My great-grandfather, Harris Stilson, was a Richmond streetcar driver and amateur photographer back in the early 1900s and he understood the romance of the road. His collection of photographs is massive,around 5,000 images, and many of them include bicycles. In my books based on his photographs, I include oral histories shared by the “kids” who played on Richmond’s streets, rode its streetcars, and sometimes careened down Richmond’s hills on their bikes.
01 3bikesBob Griggs, known to a generation of Richmond’s kids as Sailor Bob, was raised in Church Hill. He shared memories in my book, Up & Down Church Hill, and recalled this memorable bicycle story. Bob Griggs: “I was all over within range, didn’t go very far except for one time. I took several of the boys with me, I don’t know what possessed me to do it. My grandmother lived down in Hanover where the Chickahominy Swamp is. So we got on our bicycles early in the morning and I said “Let’s go out, we can ride out Oakwood over to Creighton Road and down through the battlegrounds and down to the swamp.
I knew where I was going but they were getting weary. I said, “No, it’s just a little further, we can make it.” We left about 8:00 in the morning and about 1:30 in the afternoon we were just getting back on to Church Hill. By that time, my father was coming down the street in his car.” Bob’s other grandmother lived with his family and had been worried. She called his father at work and said “Robert’s gone off, I don’t know where he is. He should be back.” (His father) said “Where you been?” I told him and he didn’t get mad. He just said “Don’t do that again.”

"Vest child on Vine Street"

“Vest child on Vine Street”

Aleck Mollen  grew up living above the family store. Those shops were in Shockoe Bottom on Main Street and later 17th Street. I asked Aleck if he rode a bicycle. Here is his answer: “Always (rode) streetcars. 17th street was the cobblestone street and it would take a better bike rider than myself.” He wasn’t alone in his decision not to risk a tumble. Several of my oral history sources said they walked or rode the streetcar because they didn’t have bikes and couldn’t ride them on the steep hills and cobblestoned streets of Richmond anyhow.
During and after the Great Depression, times were tough. Most of my oral history sources were poor but so was everyone else. Bootsie Madison described transportation in his youth: “None of us had money for buses or anything like that.  It was quite an experience to be there on Church Hill, places to go, no money, only way to get there was thumb, ride a bike or walk. I’d get up at 4 o’clock in the morning to carry my newspapers, get some money.” Bootsie owned a bicycle and that gave him freedom to go farther afield than many of my friends who related stories of their childhoods. Most of them walked or rode the streetcar. Some even rode Harris Stilson’s streetcar.

Bikes, newspaper boys & parade, downtown RIchmond

Bikes, newspaper boys & parade, downtown RIchmond

When Harry Stilson wasn’t operating a streetcar, he was with his family on Grayland Avenue in Carytown. Harry spent a lot of time with his grandson, my father, Howard Lynch. Harry’s photographs of Howard on wheels began with toddler’s vehicles and advanced as Howard grew.

Harry's granddaughter, Norma, on tricycle

Harry’s granddaughter, Norma, on tricycle

One Christmas Day was documented with a procession of tricycles and three-wheelers on Grayland Avenue. Evelyn Sheppard, Howard & Norma Lynch rode along the sidewalk while Minnie Arnold watched and Mrs. Sheppard and her mother supervised the parade from the porch.

Grayland Avenue kids on Christmas Day

Grayland Avenue kids on Christmas Day

As he grew up, Howard longed for a “new” bike. In those days, the term “new” meant new to you.  In later years, my father wrote this on the back of a photograph of John Marshall cadets: “Ball park! Between Sheppard Street & the Boulevard, facing Idlewood Avenue. Howard Lynch with his 26” Fox Bicycle bought from Stuart Guthrow of 3033 Grayland Avenue.” Stuart was a neighbor of the Stilson and Lynch families who lived on Grayland Avenue and I assume Stuart got a new bike. For Howard, though, his “new” bike was a wonderful thing. Even in his old age, he became animated when describing his bike and the places he went on it.

Howard Lynch & new bike, John Marshall cadets at Idlewood Park

Howard Lynch & new bike, John Marshall cadets at Idlewood Park

Several pictures taken by my grandmother and others show Harry Stilson on a bike. Not his bike but Howard’s. I suspect when your grandfather asked to borrow your bike, you didn’t refuse.

Harry Stilson riding on Grayland Avenue

Harry Stilson riding on Grayland Avenue

Paul Nolde, of the Nolde’s Bakery family, wrote vignettes about growing up in Church Hill at the request of his son, Richard. I’ve been friends with Richard and his brother Wayne since elementary school and was thrilled when Richard shared his father’s glimpses into Richmond life in the early 1900s. Mr. Nolde never said if he rode bikes himself but his sons have always been avid riders so it might have been in the genes. I remember being impressed in high school and later when I heard of bike rides to Williamsburg and elsewhere. Perhaps that bicycling stamina originated in pumping up and down the hills of Church Hill. Paul Nolde did, however, describe an event that Harry Stilson recorded in his ‘moving pictures.’ You can watch a clip of that Stilson film on our Facebook page. That event was a bike marathon at Shields Lake in Byrd Park. Mr. Nolde: “There was some kind of a marathon with bicycles around Byrd Park Lake in the 1920s.”

Bicycle Marathon Byrd Park 1929, also in Stilson movies

Bicycle Marathon Byrd Park 1929, also in Stilson movies

Richmond’s history of bicycling is rich. The Lakeside Wheel Club is a notable example but not all bikers were in clubs.  Harris Stilson’s photographs often caught a biker on the sidelines. When troops returned from France at the end of World War I, Harry photographed them at Broad Street Station (now Science Museum) on the grounds. One image shows two men with bikes observing the soldiers.

Troops returning from France at end of WWI, Broad Street Station

Troops returning from France at end of WWI, Broad Street Station

Bicycles were ridden by messengers and delivery boys and letters in the Stilson collection mention deliveries of that sort. When Harry Stilson received the Western Union telegram informing him of his son’s death in World War I, it probably came by bicycle.

Boy on bike, probably Jackson Ward

Boy on bike, probably Jackson Ward

All facets of life in Richmond in the early 1900s were affected by two-wheel traffic. One of my oral history sources built a wagon to deliver groceries because he couldn’t afford a bike. “A bike would have been nice,” he declared. Bicycles were coveted possessions. Howard Lynch would have testified to that. He could describe his 26” Fox bicycle’s features nearly 70 years after he first rode it. Bob Griggs explored the world on his bike. Bootsie Madison rescued himself from truancy and poverty on his bike, with daring dashes down hills to school and paper routes. Paul Nolde remembered exciting marathons at Shields Lake over 60 years after the races were won. All these years later, we in Richmond reminisce. The glory of that freedom. The terror of those hills.  Lots of stories, lots of pictures. Bicycles. There’s magic in them.

Grayland Avenue kids

Grayland Avenue kids

Visit us again later this week for more bicycle images and stories.