Just to set the record straight, my use of the phrase “Wonder Years” (in Parts One and Two) is not sourced from any past television series, but rather, from the original source: an advertising campaign from the ‘60’s (it may go back further than that, but that’s when it was introduced into my consciousness) featuring a brand of sandwich bread. That’s the impact that television had back in earlier times. To be able to lay down a form of written history that includes such occurrences is one of the main reasons I’m logging all of these “Memoirs”. A forum is thereby provided that can be both informative to younger generations, and allow the generations that “were there” to recall and discuss these events.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but my old stomping grounds—and the surrounding Greater Los Angeles Area—were really a Motoring Mecca, in so many ways. Due to the favorable economic climate, and the general interest in things mechanical and motorized, many people had the time, inclination and funding to get involved in some form of recreational motor sport. Motorcycling was gaining traction, and really started to come of age during this period.
We had a neighbor across the street that was into—what were even then—Old Harleys, especially “choppers”. They complimented his fleet of pre E-Type Jaguar XK’s rather nicely, I thought. None of his cars or bikes were showpieces—some even had a post-apocalyptic kind of vibe—but most were functional, and his presence definitely added character to the neighborhood. When there wasn’t an English twin-cam six exhaust purr and rap or the flatulent bellow of a straight-piped Shovelhead emanating from his tree-sheltered driveway or garage, he’d have some hard-rocking tunes blasting from his large stereo system through open living room windows.
Most of the neighbors were pretty cool with the motorized stuff, although some had some trouble with the music. I dug it all!
One of the greatest expressions of “Neighborhood Tolerance”, however, related to a couple of neighbors and their grade school sons, just a few houses down the street from us.
They were both pretty serious about dirt biking—one of them actively racing on weekends at LA area tracks (R.I.P. Bay Mare, Indian Dunes, Saddleback Park, Osteen’s, et al).
They got this idea to convert the back lot of one of their houses into a small “Motocross” track—accessing it by using the driveway on the side of the house, and making U-turns in the street, so as to run a continuous circuit. They would do this mock racing for hours on weekend afternoons (and mid-week, during the summer break), using minimally silenced two-stroke motocross bikes!
I can remember them engaging in this pursuit over what must have been a few riding seasons, with no real complaint from the neighbors! I think the general consensus was that they weren’t really hurting anybody, they were otherwise staying out of trouble, and maybe something good would come of it. By today’s standards, such a collective neighborhood rationale—and mind you, this was NOT a rural neighborhood by any means; it was a fairly tightly populated subdivision—would be very unlikely, to say the least.
But happen, it did; and a great deal of “good” did “come out of it”. One of the two lads, by the name of Dan LaPorte, went on to become only the second U.S. Citizen to take an FIM World Motocross Title (missing being the first by a mere weeks), in 1982. The previous year, he was a key member in the U.S.’s first-ever winning Trophee des Nations team. The year before that, he won the AMA 500cc Motocross Title.
That’s the kind of stuff that can be accomplished when a “sense of community” exists (not to mention prodigious talent). It, no doubt inspired what subsequently became an onslaught of similar Motocross talent out of the U. S. —and it sure inspired me to pursue excellence in my field.
More stories have been and are coming to mind, as I continue to impress the “Wayback Machine” into service. Perhaps I’ll relate more in the future, as time and space allow.
Phil ran a successful independent repair shop on the West Coast for close to 20 years, working over a decade before that at both dealer and independent repair shops. He is presently semi-retired from the business of auto repair, but still keeps his hand in things as a consultant and in his personal garage.