One of the regular weekly arrangements with the biking mates in the 1960s was at the Crow Lane Youth Club. As described in the ramble ‘Love, devotion, embarrassment (and Saturdays)’ it was probably the only regular social gathering of the week. It was cheap, and we had activities and conversation that took us away from our mundane home lives where many, including me, were finding difficulties in their relationships within the family environment.
Erudite conversations (sometimes) and weekend planning sessions
We played cards, table tennis, badminton, chess, watched some of our favourite TV programmes that were showing during the evening we were there. We spoke of many things, such as the benefits of the offside rule in kickerball or comparing the latest releases from the Beatles or the Rolling Stones – it seemed that we fell equally into one or the other Stones or Beatles camps.
We considered how much weight we could remove from a bike to increase its speed without affecting its stability. And contemplated at length the driving forces behind evolution – could it have been heredity, variation or differential fitness? – or even whether it was Darwin or Lamarck who had their finger on this particular pulse. On a good night we could consider the paradox of quantum superposition in quantum mechanics in the thought experiment on whether Schrödinger’s cat could be simultaneously alive and dead.
But mainly we talked bollocks.
Huddersfield lies more or less between our two coasts, which are approximately 72 miles to the east and 69 to the west, so someone might suggest a run out to the coast to paddle our toes in the sea the following weekend. Blackpool on the west and Scarborough on the east were our favourite runs.
Sometimes an outing to spectate at one of the local motorcycle road race circuits would be proposed. There were only two in Yorkshire that were big enough to justify being described as road race circuits: Crofts at Dalton-on-Tees, North Yorkshire and Oliver’s Mount in Scarborough. Although Scarborough is 90 miles from Huddersfield, I would say it was the most popular of the bike runs.
A characterful biking group
At its height the biking group was about 30 strong and as such had many characters of differing degrees of mental stability.
Dave H had the ability to sell anything to anybody but the quirk in his makeup was that he would much prefer to earn a dishonest penny than an honest pound. Ken W was forever looking for unattended cars with their ignition keys left in. I never witnessed him actually stealing a car but that was mainly because we dragged him away kicking and screaming before he got into too much trouble. Colin C was more of a hippy than a rocker, a make-love-not-war type, but it must have worked for he always had a good-looking young woman with him. He had a reputation of growing his own smokes which was also just like a hippy.
Colin S knew a short-cut to wherever we were going that would turn out to be longer than our normal route. Dave D at some stage in the journey would feel compelled to linger at the back then fly past everybody at breakneck speed. Dave was actually a very good rider and went on to be a motorcycle courier riding tens of thousands of miles a year, and he later owned a very fast bike probably capable of more than 180mph and survived it all.
This is one of our moments of fun outside Crow Lane Youth Club, I am the one on Dave D’s bike and I swear that I did not deliberately drive over Simon’s neck, Your Honour. He threw himself under my wheels when I wasn’t looking, and I have several upstanding members of society as witnesses.
Simon F was the baby of the group. He joined the fire service and got a barra load of stick when he showed up at the club following fire service college with a short back and sides haircut. He went on to have a long career in the fire service, much of it at Slaithwaite satellite station, where they achieved the unenviable distinction of attending a fire in Slawit after the local amateur fire service had got there.
John G was always tinkering with his Velocette and as a consequence rarely joined us on our little jaunts, but his bike was immaculate.
Even the bikes were characters
Many of the bikes had their own characteristics. Both Paul J’s Velocette and BSA would break down every time we travelling east but never west. All of the British bikes had oil leaks. My Triumph went one step further and dropped the oil tank off altogether, which I wouldn’t have noticed if we hadn’t stopped to help someone else.
There were squeaks, whistles, bangs and rattles that became as distinctive as the rider’s riding style and clothing, but none more so than John’s immaculate Velocette. John fitted a racing exhaust on his bike that frightened old ladies and domestic animals for miles around. John is one of the increasing number of biking mates who are unfortunately no longer with us, a tally now approaching double figures.
John Hodgson: biker and story-teller
On a lighter note, there is one mate who has been whingeing, chuntering and complaining for some time that he has not been mentioned in any of my previous rambles nor in either of my books. So here we go.
As he has complained so much, I feel justified in giving his full name. John (Hodge) Hodgson still rides regularly. The photograph below was taken in his prime in 1965 on yet another Velocette, on which he appears to be flying past at the speed of lightning – he is actually stood still, but don’t tell anybody. All his bikes did actually travel at the lightning speed and he is able to squeeze something like 200 miles to the gallon out of them. He has travelled the whole coast road of Britain and been back for tea on several occasions.
John has many stories to tell about his biking exploits and travels and I’m sure some/all are true. I have encouraged him to write a book or at least a ramble that I can pretend is mine but, unfortunately, I don’t think anyone would believe it.
John (Hodge) Hodgson is a story-teller extraordinaire, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.