Wednesday, September 2, 2009

First Motor Scooter

This model is a 1958 version and that was my first motor scooter. The Cushman Corporation of Lincoln, Nebraska built the motor scooter and marketed it through their dealer network as the Pacemaker. This photograh is used with permission, courtesy of Howard33,
The model that I had was the Allstate Jetsweep, sold by Sears and Roebuck company. For a generation that gets information via television and the Internet, it may be difficult to grasp the idea of a large catalog that was mailed to your home each and every year and either took the place of a large store or complemented it with additional information. The stores from which we received catalogs were Sears and Roebuck (Sears), Montgomery Ward, and Speigel. There were others that were seasonal, or sold fruits, nuts, and gift baskets, but Sears and Montgomery Ward were the most interesting to a boy of twelve or so. The Sears' and Ward's catalogs had motor scooters in their pages. Sears always had one model of everything labeled as "Our Best," which meant it was the most expensive. I was desperately searching for the motor scooter I wanted combined with what I thought my mother would let me get. There was a Cushman dealer in Bartlesville and I wanted a Cushman Eagle but certain realities led to my getting the Jetsweep. My mother drove my friend Terry Rainwater and me (we always had to have a friend along) to Tulsa, to the newly opened Sears' store on 21st Street and Yale, and I picked out the Jetsweep. It was delivered on Wednesday of the following week and the wait from that Saturday until Wednesday was one of the longest in my life, not counting the four years to the end of my navy service.

When Wednesday arrived, a large group of boys had gathered to see the new motor scooter and we waited as it was unloaded from the Sears delivery truck. There was a seemingly endless processing of papers as my mother read and signed and exchanged conversation with the senior delivery man, and then we started it and I took my first ride on it. I did not yet have a driver's license. I had turned fourteen in February and this was in April so I soon had a license and I was off on my rides. There was no passenger seat; just the back half of the cushion so a passenger and I shared that. I had the flat board to rest my feet on; the passenger had to fend for himself. The brake lever and headlight dimmer switch were the only controls on the floor as the throttle was a twist grip on the right handlebar. It was quite easy to ride. The Pacemaker and Jetsweep models did not require gear shifting as there was a single speed only. There was a simple centrifigal clutch with a throw out bearing that allowed the scooter to idle; as you increased engine speed the bearing moved out and engaged the clutch and the scooter moved under its own power. The problem was that, with its 4.8 brake horse power (BHP) engine and single speed transmission, the scooter was underpowered, so that it could climb only the hill at 18th Street in hilly Pawhuska, Oklahoma; or I could drive down Main Street, across town and take Tinker past the cemetery and over the gentle rises of the numbered streets from 15th to 18th. It was embarrassing sometimes to start up a hill, like Ki-He-Kah, with a flurry of noise and smoke, and end up pushing the scooter to the top, with the engine running and struggling to help while friends went by hanging out of their parents' car shouting "Get a horse!" I wanted to sometimes. Still, I was filled with pride that I had a scooter of any kind and this model had unique beauty. I suspect few of them survive and maybe that is fair. The scooter had many problems and eventually my mother helped me replace this with a 1959 Cushman Eagle with the 8 horsepower engine and two speed transmission. Everything was going well with that until I was hit by a car and nearly killed; but that's another story.

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