Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s photos came from a collection clearly belonging to a single person or family, parts of which were being sold on IG recently. The photos centered largely around the woman on the front of the motorcycle in the photo on the left. There were numerous photos of her, all with the same great smile and general enthusiasm for what she was doing. I chose this as an especially good example and the other just because all these women driving motorcycles of a certain period are appealing to me.
These photos have no notations on the back and there is no evidence that they were in an album so I guess it could have as easily been a shoebox of photos. There were lovely photos of her at various ages – with dogs and horses, sporting trousers, climbing trees, mugging with friends, at various ages over probably several decades; a life well-lived. They were being sold by my Midwest maven, @missmollystlantiques.
I was sorry to see this group of photos broken up, but by the same token couldn’t really quite justify the whole lot of them in my collection either. So I chose these two as sort of stand alone and noteworthy to add to the Pictorama library and bring to you.
I don’t know much about motorcycles so I can’t comment on the makes or models. Hers as above seems to have sort of saddle bags for transporting stuff hanging off the back wheels. Her older passenger, perched on the back, looks decidedly less comfortable, her hair tied in a scarf, practical shoes and ankle socks. Taking mom out for a ride? Our driver is wearing a spiffy height of style forties jacket, trousers and some sort of mannish oxfords.
The second photo, I believe, is one of the same motorcycle with a different driver. She has taken the sartorial styling to an even higher level and her trim fitted jacket is over a shirt with a collar like a men’s button down. Her hair is a differently exacting style of the time, practical in length but a bit iron clad too.
I have written a bit before about how changing transportation impacted the changing face of the American woman through the early decades of the 20th century – first by bicycle and then with the early days of the automobile (as written about in my post in the series novels The Automobile Girls which can be found here) and the role that mobility played in their growing independence. These motorcycles or motor bikes seem to have a wartime efficiency about them and one can imagine them being pressed into the sort of wartime service a young woman might have taken on in her own town or city.
I have written before (here) and recently shared again, a photo of my young father at a time probably a bit later, with a rickety motorcycle he would take on an adventure across the country. It would give out in California and require that he hitchhike back.
(I purchased another early motorcycle photo from the same source. That photo is below and the post can be found here.)
Meanwhile, there exists somewhere a wonderful snippet of early film of my maternal grandmother and grandfather on their wedding trip to his parents in the midwest (Missouri) on a motorcycle of this period, perhaps a bit earlier. Unfortunately I do not believe there is a still photo image. I saw it many years ago now but my grandmother, a young woman from an Italian immigrant family whose family had settled on the East coast shore town where I was eventually born, looked game for the motorcycle ride but maybe had misgivings about the trip to meet her in-laws. (I have written about her part of the family based on some photos here and here before.)
Her new husband, Frank Wheeling (who was eventually to be my Poppy), had the mind of a gifted engineer which was frequently employed with the tinkering with and building of engines. Not surprising that a young Frank had a motorcycle and I bet it ran like a charm. Boat engines and their building and repair his strong suit which supplemented his income later in life. That the catch from fishing and hunting helped feed the family during the deepest part of the Depression and after.
He’d met my grandmother, Anne, while traveling on a dog racing circuit – no idea what he was doing for them. They settled on the East coast in the shore town where her family was and where I would eventually be born. Poppy could build anything, fix anything and eventually went to work for Bendix where he worked until his untimely death by heart attack in his fifties.
I regret I haven’t spent much time on a motorcycle – it seems a bit late now as I don’t even drive a car. However, I do understand the appeal and I will say the motor bikes that are suddenly popular do have a certain appeal for me.