Tag Archives: Motorcycles

Happiness is Flying Model Airplanes-Part 3

24 May

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Note:  I didn’t fly model airplanes during the years after I got my first motorcycle, while in the U.S. Navy, or while I was going to college.  This ended up being roughly 11 years, between 1954 and 1965.

At age 14 my interest shifted from airplanes to motorcycles, cars, and girls, in that order.  With my parents’ consent, I was allowed to get my driver’s license when I was 14 years old.  Back then the state of New Mexico allowed a person to obtain a driver’s license at age 14 because of all the farm kids in the state who needed to help with ranch duties involving driving tractors, pickup trucks, and cars.  At first my parents were not happy with the idea of me riding a motorcycle, but I assured them I was a careful and responsible driver.  I started small with a used Harley-Davison 125cc Hummer.  The next year, I traded that motorcycle in on a new Harley Davidson 165cc ST Hummer.

Photo Credit: Bill Lites

As you can tell by the photo above, by this time I was a Marlon Brando follower (The Wild One) and dressed appropriately.  That was all the rage at that time.  My next and last motorcycle was my favorite: a 1955 Harley-Davidson KH Sportster (Flat-head 888 cc).  I rode that motorcycle for ten years.  I used it for transportation during my years in the U.S. Navy (when I was home) and during my collage years.  During those years my wife, DiVoran, was a frequent passenger on that motorcycle as we were living on a very tight budget.  I never did get a ‘Buddy Seat’ for that motorcycle: ‘Riding Double’ involved me sitting on the gas tank while DiVoran got the seat.   I don’t know how legal that was, as we were never stopped while riding double.

Photo Credit: Bill Lites

Around age 16, when my interest in girls began to grow, I realized I was going to need a car.  My first car was a 1940 Chevrolet Coupe that I paid $50 for.  It took a lot of time, work, and most of my money to fix up that old car into something I wasn’t embarrassed to take a girl out in.  During our senior year in high school this car was the first car that I took my (then) girlfriend, DiVoran, out on a date in.  I only kept that car until I finished high-school and started my tour of duty in the U.S. Navy.  The photos below are a fair representation of my 1940 Chevy.

               Left:  When I bought it        –>       Right: When it was restored

Photo Credit: https://yahoo.com/1940-chevrolet-coupe

During the latter part of my tour of duty in the U.S. Navy I ended up being stationed in San Diego, CA.  It was during this time that I got a chance to live out one of my teenage “Bucket List” items: to own a 1932 Ford five-window Coupe (Hot Rod).  As it turned out, the Master Chief of the engine shop I worked for was an antique car restorer and he knew this guy who had a ‘32 Ford for sale.  I bought it (basically a shell with an 85-hp flathead V-8 engine) and the fun began.  My ’32 had the top ‘chopped’ a total of 4” and the body was ‘channeled’ a total of 7” with one very basic plywood driver’s seat bolted to the frame.  The rest of the interior floor was nothing but a sheet of plywood covering the frame (no passenger seat).

Photo Credit: Bill Lites

Photo Credit: amazingclassiccars.com/1932-ford-5-window-coupe/

I didn’t have time to finish the interior, the engine, and a beautiful new paint job as things in my life were about to change.  The photo below is pretty much what I wanted my ’32 to look like when it was finished.  However, a few months after I started that project, I married DiVoran, ‘The Love of my Life’ and she didn’t like sitting on that plywood with nothing to hold on to.  Very soon after we were married, I traded the ’32 for a nice 1950 Mercury Sedan (much more comfortable).  We kept that Mercury until after I got out of the Navy, finished college, and we were ready to move to Florida.

—–To Be Continued—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 65 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

My First Motorcycle

2 Nov

A Slice of Life

 Bill Lites


When I was 12, I started delivering newspapers, on my bicycle, on an evening route near my home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was saving my money to buy a motorcycle. At the time my allowance of .50 cents a week hardly even covered the cost of my model airplane supplies. And, that paper route really didn’t bring in much of an income either.




So I started thinking of other ways to make money. That was the summer I started mowing lawns in our neighborhood with the family push-mower. That helped a lot in the money department, but was really hard work.




As my name got around, by work of mouth, that I was cutting lawns my business grew and I talked my parents into loaning me the money to buy a new power mower (Ref. Bill’s blogs “I Was A 12 Year Old Business Man“– Jan. 23 & 30, 2013). It took me a while to pay off that loan, but once that was done, the bank account began to grow rapidly.




By the time I was fourteen, I had learned to drive, had my driver’s license, and I was scouring the newspaper “For Sale” ads for used motorcycles. I finally found a fairly nice Harley-Davidson 125cc that I could afford. Boy, did that motorcycle take a lot of the work out of my paper route! I could pick up my papers, deliver all the papers on my route and get home in half the time, and I wasn’t pooped out either.




I gave up the paper route and most of my lawn business when a friend’s father helped me get a part-time job at the local Furr’s Super Market. By that time I had really lost most of what little interest I had in school (my main interest now was motorcycles), and was looking for something to occupy my time (and making money of course). The super market job was just what I was looking for. The work was hard, but the pay was great as I advanced from bag boy to checker, and my bank account kept growing.




As it turned out, once the initial thrill of my “New-Used” motorcycle worn off, I discovered the machine really was a little long in the tooth, and I was anxious to see how I could get more performance out of it. Since I had learned how to rebuild my internal-combustion lawnmower engine, I started tearing down that motorcycle engine.




I cleaned and polished the combustion chamber, re-surfaced the valves & seats, replaced the piston rings and spark plug, tightened the chain and polished all the aluminum cases. By the time I was finished, I had expended a lot of my hard-earned dollars for new parts and many hours of labor on that engine. And guess what? Of course it ran better, but it was still a behind the times 125cc size motorcycle and just didn’t give me the excitement I was looking for.



By this time I had turned into a teenage motorcycle “Jock” and couldn’t look the part (Marlon Brando & James Dean) on that un-interesting looking Harley 125cc motorcycle. So, my next teenage adventure was to purchase a “New” bright RED 1954 Harley Davidson 165cc “Golden Edition” motorcycle with raised handlebars. That motorcycle fit right in with my new image, which included a traditional black leather motorcycle jacket (lots of pockets and zippers), motorcycle boots and a “Ducktail” hairdo.




I enjoyed calling that 1954 Harley 165cc motorcycle my first, but the older ugly black 125cc machine was really my first motorcycle, and helped send me on my way to the big-time 1955 Harley Davidson (888 cc) flat-head KH Sportster that I really loved and drove for the next ten years.

—–The End—–

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