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August 10, 1978


PIX #1 - Harrison & Morton Bicycle Club - (Left to right, top row): George Cunningham, (next two unknown), George Johnson, Charlie Brown, Dave Balmer, Harry Mickey, (Last three unknown). Second row: (first two unknown), Andy Mergenthaler, Clair Van Blarcum (next unknown), George Enos. Front row: Charles Backenstos, (next two unknown), Frank Hale, Will Connor.

PIX #2 - Bicycle club members parade in front of fairgrounds grandstand

PIX #3 - Andes Block, headquarters of the Fostorian Bicycle Club.

PIX #4 - Fostoria club member with his hi-wheeler

PIX #5 - Father Weber of St. Wendelin with his chainless bicycle.

PIX #6 - This photo suggests this group of Fostorians rode their bicycles to Tiffin.

I am not sure who invented the bicycle, but it seems to me I read one time that it was a Frenchman. However, that bit of data is not pertinent to today's story about the value of the bicycle and the pleasure it has given millions of young and old since its inception.

However, it is an interesting fact that Wilbur Wright and his brother Orville ran a bicycle shop in Dayton, OHio, before they made and flew their airplane. They made fine custom cycles for those who could afford them. And, Glen Olds who made the Oldsmobile was in the bike business first, as was Glenn Curtiss of aviation fame.

Bicycles, back 50 to 100 years ago, were a far cry from the 10-speeds of today. Then, they were quite simple and fairly easy to maintain. Some of the early ones even had solid tires (not inflatable) so punctures were not a problem...and early ones didn't even have chains to break because propulsion was by pedalling directly the large front wheel.


When I was a boy, I remember that bicycles were used by many adults for transportation and for carrying on their work. Of course all of us newspaper carrier boys had bicycles as they do today.

There was Whitney Abbott, who lived on Maple Street and worked at the Mennel Mill and used a bicycle to go to and from work. In fact, his son Lyndon, now living in Dayton, Ohio, still owns his father's bike.

There was C.A. Ward, the musician who pedaled his bicycle all over town, going to the homes of his pupils to teach them.

Like other Fostorians, I remember Father Weber of St. Wendelin, who used a bicycle to carry him about town on business and for calling on his parishoners. His trusty vehicle didn't use a chain used a gear driven drive shaft.

Then too, there was Weaver the photographer...Copley the bicycle dealer (more about him later). DiCesare the city lamp lighter...Otto Huth and Otto Hettle, both printers, who rode bikes to work...and scores of other Fostorians who valued the bike as a means of sure, safe, erconimical transportation.

Many high school students back in b\my era (1920-1923) who lived on the periphrey of Fostoria, or even several miles in the country, pedaled their way to get their education.


Looking at an old photo of the Andes building, I discovered that the Fostoria Bicycle Club had their headquarters there...their name was mounted between the second and third floor windows.

The Fostoria bicycle Club was made up of men only. Albums owned by Fostorians Ray Dell and Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Droll are full of pictures taken as they rode around the countryside...several are included with this story. Some of the pictures indicate that they may have traveled as far as Tiffin, since rolling terrain is evident. The photos indicate they rode for sheer pleasure and they discovered the beauty of the outdoors on their regular treks. I wish space permitted the use of more of the good "shots" contained in the album. They must have been a healthy bundch of cyclers for all the riding they did.

Members of the Fostoria bicycle Club in 1890, when they held a party for the ladies were: Geo. W. Cunningham, D.F. Berrenger, A.E. Mergenthaler, S.L. Ghaster, Harry Gilbert, C.A. Van Blarcum, Geo. Enos, L.J. Eshelman, H.B. Gassaway, C.H. Mergenthaler, W.H. Mergenthaler, P.W. Backenstos, L.A. Dozer, L.B. Terry, W.C. Brown, D.R. Balmer, H.E. Mickey, Dr. S.A. Kiser, Harry Hissong, H.H. Hogue, J.C. binder Jr., D.R. Noel, G.D. Wald, A.J. Stackhouse, J.W. Musser, S.A. Rollins, F.S. Hale, C.C. German, John Andes Jr., Olver Leach, M.A. Wheeler, W.C. Connor.

Presumably about the same period of time as the existaence of the Fostoria Bicycle Club...the 1880's...there also existed another group in town known as the Harrison and Morton Bicycle Club. They advertised themselves as "the only political organization on wheels in the U.S.". They campaigned for President Harrison and Vice President V.P. Morton in 1884.

The accompanying photo shows what an outstanding appearance they must have made in their snazzy outfits, with helmets on their high wheel bikes, as they pedaled about town. George W. Cunningham, upper left corner, must have been the leader of the group since he carried the bugle that probably gave the riders their signals. Cunningham later became a major in the U.S. Army and owned and operated a drug store in Fostoria. He was a borther of E.J. Cunningham, first president of the Commercial Bank and Savings Company.


When I was a boy there were bicycle races for the youth...not drag racing cars.

Frank Copley, the leading bicycle dealer then, was the principal figure in staging the races and soliciting the prizes from local business men for the awards.

The races were held on suitable streets or of them being the Findlay Road starting at the intersection of West Independence and going west toward Arcadia.

There was high excitement among the participating youth in the races. Some of the racers had racing bikes (not variable speed) with larger rear sprokets for higher speed, but many participated with their ordinary bikes, depending on their leg strength for speed. The races were another way to provide activity for youth of that day and should be considered for this era.


Why not bicycle clubs for both young and old today in Fostoria? There are in other area. Discussing bicycles and bicycling with Dave and Sue Loomis at Dave's Bicycle Shop. Sue daid there was a great need for a bicycle club in Fostoria and hoped someone would volunteer to help form one, but as of yet it hasn't happened.

The League of American Wheeelmen publishers a monthly magazine which is full of interesting reading for bicyclcists...tour events...bicycle trails... letters from cyclists, riding tips...legislation...calendar of events... interesting photos and much more.

The Bicycle Manufacturers Association of America Inc. is constantly at work on legislation to improve conditions for bicyclists. For instance, in metropolitan area where cyclists use trains and buses to get to work, they are trying to get legislation passed to provide covered parking area with hitching posts and lockers for those who wish to use bicycles instead or autos to get to the mass transit stations...thus conserving gasoline. There are also efforts to use some gasoline tax money to provide bikeways for safer use by bicyclists.

Bicycles are the only means of transportation which do not require fuel (except human energy) and which cause no pollution. Therefore it seems vitally necessary to do anything reasonable to promote expanded useage, as well as pass legislation which will enable bicycles to be operated conceniently and safely.


F.A. "Frank" Copley was mentioned earlier in this story. He had his shop at 132 E. Center St. for many years. My first "used" bike came from his place. Many Fostorians still remember Copley. In later years he moved to 105 Perry St. but by that time he was phasing out of bicycles and into electrical work. He sold out to Arlie K. Davis who later moved the shop to 230 N. Main St. where it still is, but now owned by the Loomis'.

Then there was Bill Leatherman who sold and repaired bicycles at his shop at 609 Columbus Ave.

L.O. Sprout's Bicycle and Fix-it Shop was in a basement location under the First National Bank on East Center Street, but later moved to 146 W. Center St.


Trying to remember the popular makes of bikes 25 to 50 years ago I found myself stymied. So, I called on Jim Carter who has been a buff of all trades in past years, including bicycles. Together we came up with the following list of brand names, but readers may recall still more. Columbia, Gendron, Union Jack, Schwinn, Pope, Crescent, Hawthorn, Higgins, Star (High Wheeler).

Today there's a list of bike manufacturers as long as your arm.


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