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My 1974 Christmas-Birthday Gift

My 1974 Christmas-Birthday Gift

Nothing radiates Christmas like a brand-new Schwinn bicycle with shiny chrome-plated fenders, a sparkled-covered banana seat, and a giant red bow. The iconic Schwinn bicycle holiday advertisements of the 1950s,60s, and 70s held captive, the imagination of children around the globe. It was in this decade of bicycle greatness that I came of age as a two-wheeled rider. Like most boys of that era, I pined for the latest model with the latest accessories and coolest paint job. Like everyone else in my neighborhood, I accepted my father's garage-sale purchase with reluctant enthusiasm. It's tough to feign excitement for a bike that has absorbed decades of rust, and outdoor abuse. 

Muscle bikes were the rage for us boys of the 60s-70s and the brand with the biggest name and best bikes was Schwinn. The Schwinn Bicycle Company controlled nearly 80% of the US bicycle and its presence was felt in most department store outlets. It was definitely felt in most holiday department -store catalogs like JC-Penny and Sears. 

Muscle Bikes - 1974The morning of our 1974 family Christmas is forever seared into my memory. It was the morning that I received the biggest surprise and the biggest gift of my career as a Christmas gift-receiving young man. I've often reflected back on why this holiday was so memorable. Was it really the bike? Or was it the combination of a year of news, of family events, and of coming of age?

1974 is remembered as the end of an era. Evenings were family gatherings around one of the 3 broadcast news networks. It was the end of the Vietnam War, of Watergate, and a wild but unsustainable decade of audacious assassinations, protests and riots. There were good things too - landing on the moon for example, but for us younger children, this wasn't the best of times to be venturing out beyond the watchful eyes of concerned parents. We may not have understood this at the time, but we felt the consequences, fear, and concern among our teachers and parents. Practical and expensive things like bicycles weren't remotely within the specter of hope for a holiday wish list - at least not in my family. Which is why this gift helped capture a good part of that year in memory.  

I didn’t care that it wasn’t a Schwinn Stingray! I didn’t care that it wasn’t one of several dozen or so muscle bikes that competitors to Schwinn were producing and which every kid on my block owned.  I didn’t even care that my friends wouldn’t be bugging to ride wheelies up and down the street, or even to see how far they could jump the bike off a 3 ft. wide piece of plywood. After all, it’s nearly impossible to jump a 10-speed beyond a few inches of a bunny hop.  

Yes, it was orange! Yes, it was JC Penny! No, it wasn’t a Stingray! But I didn’t care. It was mine and it was orange, and it had 10 speeds, and as far I was concerned, that was everything.

I didn't even care that the bike was a little big for me, or that I had to stretch a bit to touch the ground when perched on the saddle. All that really mattered to me was that I would be riding further and faster than any of my siblings, and that I could join my friends on their rides to new discoveries. It meant that I could ride to the end of the block without needing to report back in 5 minutes!

You see, it was about independence. It was about owning something that could go fast. It was about something that was shiny, sparkled, and looked like it could go flying down the hill at Mach 7. What self-respecting 8-year-old wouldn’t want their independence to go pedaling madly into the horizon? It provided the means to see the world atop rolling wheels, and to hear that world whooshing by his ears.

The bike is a statement. It’s a personality. It’s a reflection of one’s character. It inspires a sense of pride, and a sense of ownership just as it kindles a desire to see the world and adventure to parts unknown. The bike is a both a means and an end.

Here at The Voltaire Cycles, we take pride in bicycles of all styles. We survey and accrue a collection of unique and worthwhile children's bikes worth owning. We find the bikes that children might really want to ride, and we find them in sizes that work for children. We have road bikes, balance bikes, training-wheel bikes, fat-tire road warriors, dirt bikes, girls and boy's beach cruisers, hyrids, and mountain bikes.

If you want to restore a bike from your past, come see some of vintage restoration bikes – Sears Spaceliners, Murrays, and yes, a certified authentic Schwinn 1974 Apple Krate with all original parts and original accessories. We can restore any bike to it's original glory including complete repainting and detailing. 


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