A few days ago my father and I were looking over some old items when we came across the moped he bought us when we were kids. As I remember it, mopeds were a new fad at the time, there was only one other one in town, and did we ever get his money’s worth out of it.
We thought we were the kings of the town. But it was somewhat bittersweet for me because I had just received my driver’s license and, like most 16-year-old boys, I was a bit more interested in cruising around in my 1957 Volkswagen and looking for girls and other mischief than riding the moped. But that doesn’t mean I was not interested in the moped. Quite the opposite, and I had more than my share of fun zipping around town on it.
It would run about 30 mph, maybe a little faster on a downhill slope, and as you can imagine, it didn’t take us long to figure that much out.
There was one time I specifically remember when I was buzzing around the road that ran through the middle of the old Hillsboro High School campus. I was rounding a curve, pretty much at full throttle, when something big flew up my nose. I was almost instantly blinded, not to mention the anxiety of wondering what the heck was in my nose, but was going too fast while negotiating the curve to come to an immediate stop.
I swerved and weaved and wobbled until I was able to regain control of the thing, then jumped off as quick as I could. I figured I was about to get stung or something, but seeing no other option, I reached in a nostril with a couple tweaser-like fingers, felt something that made my skin crawl, then quickly pulled out some type of long, hard, black bug that was every bit of an inch long.
If you think that’s a little more graphic that it needs to be, let me assure you that my description does not do justice to how I felt in those few seconds. One second I was zooming along without a care in the world, and in the next I was in a state of panic, trying my best not to crash, and frantically wondering what the heck was in my nose.
Thank goodness it wasn’t a bee.
Most of the times on the moped were a blast. Fun, relaxing, and a quicker way to scat around town than in a car. I took that thing more places than I probably should have – fishing spots well out of town, to pickup basketball games, and even on a date – and I can only imagine what it was like for my 12-year-old sister.
There were no real rules for mopeds at the time, other than the ones you had to observe while riding a bicycle, and my sister became the moped queen. How many miles she put on that thing we will never know, but it was a bunch.
But there was one scary incident.
One summer when I was working a full-time job, my brother closest to me in age crashed the moped. Someone was chasing him, I believe, and he drove the moped out from in between two buildings next our home and into an alley without taking time to look. A pickup truck hit him.
Things were rather frantic for a bit and I do not remember much of the details. It was a Friday and the accident must have happened not long before I arrived home from work. Beyond that all I remember is that my brother was on his way to a Cincinnati hospital and I needed to head that way pretty quick.
Before I pointed my car toward Cincinnati, though, I stopped to cash my paycheck. I would like to say I needed gas money, but I really don’t remember. What I do remember is that when my brother found I stopped at the bank before heading to the hospital, he didn’t like it much.
I later learned that crash left him blind for a few hours and that he had a head injury and broken leg.
Everything turned out fine, but whenever the crash conversation comes up, he’s quick to remind me that I made that stop at the bank.
The moped ran really good for a few years and served lots of purposes. But I think it was me – no, I’m pretty certain – who started it on its downhill decline. One day during my early college years I decided to drive it about six miles out of town to see a girl. Then I mistakenly decided it would be fun to give her a ride back to our home on it, which included a climb up the hill beside the Hillsboro Elks. We made it all the way up the hill and home, but I’m not sure the thing ever ran quite right again.
Oh, it still ran, but it never had quite the same pep.
Not long thereafter, other interests came along and the moped was left behind. I suppose my youngest brother rode it some, but it did not run well and besides, he had a three-wheeler to play on.
When my sons were young, dad got the moped out and had it running again. Despite the fact that it did not run like it once did, and had a seat that you could turn circles on, it ran fairly well. Dad even let my sons borrow it for a bit. He told me that their agreement was that they keep it inside when they weren’t riding it. But he said he came to my house one day to find it laying outside in the rain. That was the end of my sons’ moped days.
It’s interesting when I think back on those days gone by. We were far from rich. But mom and dad worked hard, and we really never wanted for anything. We were loved, brought up right, and what more can a kid ask for?
As we were looking over the 39-year-old moped the other night, and contemplating its fate, dad said my sister wants to restore it. She’s said that many times over the years to no avail. But since she was its queen, it would be fitting if it ended up with her.
She would probably be wise, though, to keep it away from me and my sons.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.