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Saturday, August 5, 2017

A Minibike, Two Angry Milwaukee Cops and a Police Station

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I was about 12 years old when my father bought a house and moved our family out to 103rd and Lancaster Ave in the northwest part of Milwaukee in 1964. I became close friends with Tom P****n who lived a couple houses down from us. A couple of years or so later, before we were old enough to get our driver’s licenses, we somehow obtained a mini-bike frame that was in pretty rough shape. There was no engine, throttle or brakes, just basically a frame, a couple axles and wheels, I don’t think there was even a seat on it, we used a board to sit on.


We began working on it, obtaining an old lawn mower engine from somewhere and putting it together. We were able to get it to run, at first having no brakes and no throttle control on the handlebars. We didn’t have money to buy a decent throttle, so we rigged up a clothes hanger wire to the carburetor that stuck out the side, we would steer it with one hand while operating the throttle with the other. I think I wore out at least one pair of shoes trying to stop that thing while riding it! Tom’s dad worked at a steel fabricating shop and took mercy on us by fabricating a set of brakes with a foot pedal. We took turns riding the thing around the neighborhood.

Originally we told our parents we would find places to ride it that were off the street, but it didn’t take long for me to completely mess that up. One day I was riding it a couple blocks away from the house, on the street, when a Milwaukee Police ambulance/patrol wagon with two cops in it came up behind me.

In those days, police officers manned the ambulances and when there were no medical emergencies to attend to, they would be out patrolling the neighborhoods, same as the regular squad cars. They had a fleet of 1960's International Travelalls as in the photo above serving as ambulances.

One of the cops walked up, asked me where I lived, and told me I couldn’t be riding that thing on the street. He said to take it home and not be out there again with it. Well, did you think I would have listened and taken him seriously? Fat chance.......


A couple days later, I was quite farther away from the house, riding it down by the Red Owl grocery store on 110th and Hampton Ave. There was an alley behind the store and I was riding along, heading back out to the street. Would you believe the same two cops in the same wagon turned in the alley? After telling me to stop, they both got out and this time they were very angry. “What were you told about riding on the street?”, hollered one of them. My protest about not being on the street, but in an alley was ignored, as they opened the back doors and ordered me to get off the bike. “You’re going to take a ride with us”, I was told.

Well, after being hauled down in the ambulance with the minibike in back to the 4th district police station at 70th and Silver Spring and I was locked in a room while they went and called the house. Pretty soon, my dad showed up, and he was NOT in a good mood. Thankfully, we had a pretty big 1957 Chrysler New Yorker that we could fit the bike in the trunk to get it home. I don’t remember how long I was grounded, but on the way home my dad ordered that the mini-bike not be ridden again and we were to “sell or get rid of it”. I'm sure my dad talked to Tom's dad and our fun riding was ended, courtesy of me. I can’t remember who we may of sold it to or what we did with it, but that turned out to be my last ride on the bike. Just another one of many life lessons learned!



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