In the past, I’ve mentioned a friend of mine, Wade. I’ve only known him for a few years but Wade is the type of person that you instantly take a liking to. His genuineness and zest for life have people meeting for the first time saying “I like him. I don’t really know why, but I do.” Now, for at least myself, I know.
Over the time, I’ve known Wade, we always end up talking about cycling. During that time, he never mentioned his personal cycling heratige. That was until he wrote me in response to my book review of Major Taylor. The rest of this post is in Wade’s own words. Reprinted with permission.
This caught my eye especially because of the era that the book discusses. I was always interested in the bicycle-craze in America at the turn of the 20th century. This craze no doubt spilled down through the years & across our shores to ignite a similar craze on the island of Jamaica which sprouted my father into his short championship career in professional cycling there. There was also influence there from the UK since Jamaica was under British rule at the time. My dad quickly rose to the top and was island champion in road & flat track for three years around 1939.
I always wished I could have seen him compete in person. Unfortunately that was long before blogs & Youtube. So as a frequent visitor to the library I immediately put in a request to order the book for their collection. I also put a request in to the library in the next town over. Aside from my personal interest, perhaps one day a young person will discover this book on the shelf & peak an interest & desire to take up competitive cycling. Both libraries thanked me. 10 days later the books came in & I’m first to borrow it!
I loved those trips way back when. Brings a smile to my face right now!
My dad figured out competitive cycling on his own just using common sense. He owned 2 matching bikes. Things in Jamaica were 5- 10 years behind the times so dad had his “custom” racing clothes tailored by a local seamstress and had a welder (who he had sworn to secrecy) fill his training road bike with lead in the tubes to add weight. He would train everyday with that heavy machine. Out on the road he would follow behind his “coach” ( a family friend who owned a Triumph motorcycle) usually on back country roads to avoid detection from the competition. The day before a race he rested. Race day he would ride his lighter race bike to glory. He said he always “felt so fit” on race day that nobody could catch him. Nobody ever did. This was his secret to winning. He was champ for 3 years. After he married & moved to the USA.
Many years later when I was a kid we would take vacations to Jamaica together. My dad & I would occasionally take a drive through the countryside. Inevitably he would spot some old timers passing the time hanging out on the roadside in some small village or town. Dad would pull up, park & start a friendly conversation. He would then ask if they knew who he was or if they recognize him. There was always silence, followed by a blank stare then finally big smiles, laughter, & usually a : ” Hey Mon! You com’back home to J.A.? Ya mon! Me win plenty money on your papa mon!!!” Everyone was betting good money on the races just like horse racing. The old timers were always so excited once they found out who he was & that I was his young son. They always rushed to tell me stories about my dad & their winnings.