The 13th of March 1962 was a huge day for me, it was my 10th birthday, I got a new bicycle and Great Uncle George was abducted by aliens.
It was especially exciting as this would be my first bike without training wheels, most of my mates had ditched their training wheels when they were about five, but I had always been a bit clumsy. I know people find it hard to believe, what with me now having the athletic ability of a young Romanian gymnast. But in those days i was forever tripping over things, even if there was nothing there I would sometimes just think something was there and trip over it. For many years I’d been the only kid at school with small training wheels on his soccer boots, everyone made fun of me, until thankfully Billy Plunket started school, luckily he had a bad stutter and it took the pressure off me.
Anyway you can imagine how I felt getting my new bike, I suddenly felt so confidant that I had decided that I would apply for a paper round to earn some money, mom and dad thought it was great, especially my dad , he said now I would be able to give him some pocket money.
Early on the morning of my birthday I walked into the lounge and there was my bike all bright and shiny, I was really pleased cause when my dad had picked it up, it had been all in pieces in a box, but he had promised to put it together for me, and surprisingly, true to his word he’d done it. I sat on it and pedalled it around the lounge for a moment, I hadn’t actually been presented with it yet but I knew my parents would not wake up for another few hours and decided that I should take it out for a little spin and be back before they got up. Helmets were not worn in those days but it was a bit chilly so I had on my balaclava on and a big scarf wrapped around my neck. At first I pedalled slowly to get the hang of it but then I came to the top of Badgers Hill, the steepest hill around, has there wasn’t much traffic around yet ,I started peddling hard, soon picking up a tremendous speed, the wind was blowing against my face, it was great, then out of the corner of my eyes I noticed something flapping against the handlebars, I glanced down and saw that it was a note attached to the bell. By this time it felt as if I was racing at 100 miles an hour downhill but carefully as I could I turned the note so that I could read it.
Dear Steve, nearly finished bike
Just got to tighten up the nuts on the front wheel,
will do it in the morning,
Just at that moment, as I was thinking that this wasn’t the best news I could get, as I hurtled downhill at 100miles an hour, I hit a bump on the road surface and the bike shot into the air, as I came down I was somewhat surprised to notice that my front wheel was not in its normal position on the front of the bike but was in fact a metre to the right of the bike, rolling along quite happily and racing me down the hill. For a few seconds my bike continued rolling along as if everything was normal then it suddenly realized that there was no wheel holding up the front of the bike and came crashing down, sparks were shooting out in all directions, amazingly I somehow hung on as we continued down the hill, my head was nearly touching the ground, in fact every now and again it would bounce down and hit the ground, luckily my balaclava softened the blows, I glanced to my right and was pleased to see that my front wheel was still keeping up, then all of a sudden I veered to my left and everything went black.
Later when I awoke in hospital, they told me that a passing farmer had happened to notice me lying in a ditch as he drove past, my bike was beyond help but amazingly my front wheel was found not far from my home, it was a bit spooky cause it must have turned left at the bottom of the hill, gone through the town centre and right at the roundabout.
Of course I could have been in trouble with mom and dad for taking the bike in the first place but once they knew I was OK they were more concerned with Great Uncle George, he had been missing for 24 hours and had reappeared with the news that he’d been abducted by aliens who had flown 500 million miles to find a higher intelligence. Even I was a little surprised by this because they could have abducted a garden gate and it would have had a higher intelligence than Great Uncle George and on further questioning he admitted making the entire story up to cover the fact that he had got drunk and fallen asleep in a field for 24 hours.
Anyway you can see why I will always remember 13th March 1962, of course it was felt that I wasn’t quite ready to discard my training wheels yet and they went back on until I turned 28.