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Dr. Sprocket’s notes from the old days

February 21, 2011

For those of you who, like me, want to learn more about the old days…  The esteemed Dr. Sprocket has been around the block and back, and he paid attention and he took notes.  Here are some photos and stories from previous generations on antique motorbiking in California.  Rich, Thank you for sharing your stories and the stories of the guys.

I hope y’all enjoy,





Pete asked me a while back if I ever felt like putting pen to paper sometime he would post my ramblings on his site.  Not being a formally trained writer, I have from time to time scribbled down my thoughts, misadventures and continuing education of all things two wheeled.  I’m close to midway through my sixties and have been in the saddle since I was 16.  I could go on about why I ride, why I favor older model and the people and places that foster both.  But if you’re reading this, you already know.


First up I thought I would take you along with me through some old photographs to meet some people and the event my chapter of the AMCA has been involved in from the early 1980s to the 90s.  We formed our Fort Sutter chapter in 1982.  And I have been an active member since 1983.  We have hosted a swap meet since we started and have held national road runs every three years since 1989, along with loads of local chapter event.  From the late 70s and for several years after we put on a show at the Country Club Center Mall.  It is located just across the street from where we still hold our meetings at Sam’s Hoff Brau.  We had our first swap meet on the mall’s parking lot in 1982 to raise funds to hold our first regional ACMA swap meet at the DMV parking lot on Broadway the following year.


Photo 1  1980.   1938 BMW of Ed Thaddus and original Ft. Sutter member and a late model Crocker of Jack Gormley.  Both were founding members of our chapter.



Photo 2 1980 Shorty Thompkin’s Indian 101 Scout bobjob.  Shorty was a great NorCal racer in the late 1930s – 50s.



Photo 3 Jack Gormley with 1939 Crocker owner unknown



Photo 4 1942 XA H-D owned by Dick Borchert with arms raised


For several years in the late 70s and into the early 80s the Antique Automobile Club of America’s NorCal MC chapter hosted a swapmeet at the Pleasanton Fairgrounds which finally moved to the Duck Pond in Walnut Creek before fading away.


Photo 5  Dick Galladay on his 37 knucklehead with two Sacramento boys in the background that I know well: Tom Gray and John Parent.  They helped me restore the knuckle that I bought when I got into town back in 1975.



I’ll back up a little in my narrative to add when I moved here in 1975 it was from Southern California.  I started going to the La Mirada meet hosted by the AMCA SoCal chapter beginning in 1974.  Earlier I took in the annual Classic Motorcycle Association meets started by Frank Conley in 1967.  In later years Frank moved the meet further north and today it is called the Hanford Vintage Motorcycle Meet.  The La Mirada became the El Camino College Vintage Motorcycle Meet run by private promoters.


Photo 6.  Early chapter President John Scheafer, an early member of the LA 45 Motorcycle Club in Socal which Paul Bigsby of Crocker and guitar fame was a member pouring vino for Jeff Sierck at a chapter Rancho Seco picnic.



Photo 7.  La Mirada meet 1984.  Ernie Skelton’s small tank early Crocker.  Ernie worked for Al Crocker along with Paul Bigsby, Al’s pattern maker.



Photo 8.  1985.  Some of our early Ft Sutter chapter members taken at Sam’s Hoff Brau.   Top left to bottom right.  Bud, Jerry Cordy (ex-owner of Bob’s Hot Dog stand on Broadway – was a chapter hangout.) Dave Brumby, Dick Borchert, Red Cadwell, Jean Cordy, Willie Seadler, Shorty Thompkins, Kay Cadwell, Russ Sierck, Jack Gormley, and Chuck Otis.



Photos 9 and 10.  La Mirada Meet 1985.  The one and only 1914 Traub.  Twin cylinder motorcycle.  It was then owned by Rotten Richard Morris but is now in the Dale Walksler collection.  It is rumored that a single was built also but has failed to surface yet!




Photo  11.  La  Mirada meet 1985.  1902 F-N  owner unknown.



Photo 12.  Second year of our chapter’s official swap meet in downtown Sacramento.  Early Ariel Square Four, owner unknown, with Marv Baker’s wife Joy (with visor) behind Marv’s Powerplus Indian.  Woody Carson with glasses to the right was an original member since it’s founding in 1954.



Photo 13.  Our yearly chapter dinner in 1986 at the Golden Tee.  Left to right:  Joe Sarkees one of the earliest Triumph dealers on the West Coast.  Also and original member of the Ft. Sutter motorcycle club in 1932.  His wife Francis, Dick Borchert, and jack Gormley.



Photo 14  1987 Ft Sutter chapter meet DMV parking lot.  A late 1929 Excelsior Super X that I restored a few years before the photo was taken.  It is now re-restored and belongs to Jeff Roth from Iowa.



Photo 15.  1986 Ft. Sutter chapter meeting at Sam’s Hoff Brau.  Left to Right:  Willie Seadler, Al, Dick Borchert, Shorty Thompkins, Armando Magri an excellent racer (placed 2nd really as 1st in the Oakland 1939 Mile.)  HD dealer in Sacramento from early 50’s to early 80s.  Early member of Capitol City M/C the HD club in town as the Ft Sutter club was the Indian Club.  Jack Gormley.



Photo 16.  1987 Tahoe Tour in preparation for the 1st AMCA National Road Run west of the Rockies in 1989.  Left to right:  Jerry Cordy, Jack Gormley, bent down unknown, Jim Moore, hidden face unknown, But Catlett ex early Sacramento motorcop, later worked for Bill Harrah’s museum and an early pre16 motorcycle ride organizer.  Shorty Thompkins bent over his early single cylinder Pope.



We’ll take a break from the photos and talk about the early meets and some of the early motorcycle personalities that attended them.  When I started going to La Mirada in 1974 I was just a young lad of 27 years of age and riding a 1947 HD EL chopper.  My friend from our early Air Force day “Rotten Richard” Morris was riding a 1947 Indian Chief that he bought a few years earlier mounted in a Scout frame with Norton forks up front.  He later restored it to all 1947 Chief specs and painted it black and yellow epoxy with rattle cans in my garage in Long Beach.  It sill have items that are covered with the overspray.  You can’s believe the early “as found machines“  that used to come out for display  at these early meets.  Some I’ve never seen in public since.  They seem to have just evaporated.  You could converse and rub elbows with the like of past racing greats such as Ed Kruetz, Floyd Emde, Paul Albrecht, Bobby Hill, Bill Truman, Bud Ekins, Dick Mann, Dick Klamforth, Kenny Edmonds, Roy Burke, Sam Arena, Joe Leonard, Kenny Eggers, Francis Clifford and Armondo Magri, just to name a few.


Dealers and shop owners such as Hap Jones, Tom Sifton, Al Lauser, Bob Ross, etc would be there with early restorers like Ernie Skelton, Del Dechene, Chuck Vernon, Mike Parti, Woody Carson, Dewey Bonkurd, John Eagles, John Cameron and Lance Tidwell.


John Cameron and Lance Tidwell were JDH two-cam experts with Chuck Vernon and Ernie Skelton cover the Crocker brand.  Dewey Bonkrud had worked for Judd Carriker’s Orange Indian dealership established in the teens, the building still stands today, and apprenticed John Eagles after he returned from WWII.


Photo 17.  Chuck Otis (L) and Dave Bramby (R) discussing Shorty Tompkins original paint JDH H-D “two cammer” (L) and Russ Sierck’s SportScout Indian at the Ft Sutter Chapter annual picnic in Coloma CA in 1988.



Photo 18.  “Thee Max Bubeck” of SoCal Indian fame holding up the liquid refreshment container on the left.  In the mix I spot Jack Gormley, Shorty Tompkins, Joe Sarkees, Woody Carson, Bud Carlett, Dave Barmby, Jerry Cordy, Steve Tompkins, and several significant others including Sarah crouching in the middle (1988 picnic)



Photo 19.  Gary Breylinger who founded the original Borrego Springs Ride in the SoCal desert with Max Bubeck standing.  Both checking our Gary’s BSA at the 1989 Ft Sutter National Road Run in Lake Tahoe.  1st one west of the Rockies.



Photo #20.  Same ride with Jeff Sierck checking our Jerry Cordy’s “hotrod” Indian Scout with Bud and Bernice Catlett topping off their 1930 Indian “Chout” with oil in the background.  That’s an early Chief motor in a 101 Scout frame.



Photo #21  Same ride with Grace McKean who has owned her 45” H-D since it was new, conversing with Johnny Eagle and his early Indian to the right.  Jean and Jerry Cordy are in the background observing.



Photo 22  The 1991 Fort Sutter Chapter “Little Brown Jug Run” based out of Marysville.  Grace McKean passing behind what I believe to be Dick Borchert’s Ariel Square 4 with Tom Lund’s 45” HD bobjob to the right.



Photo 23.  Check out this lineup.  Third from the right is Lane Plottner’s fabulous 1914 Cyclone road model followed next by Red Fred Johansen’s upside down 1937 Indian 4 with himself to the left of it.  I believe that to be Max Bubeck in the blue shorts and white skinny legs which are blinding so I can’t be sure.  Death Valley Run 1991.



Photo 24  Mid 1990s.  Galt Old Car Festival with Ft Sutter chapter machines in attendance.  Left to right are Benny Benavide’s 1936 Chief, Rich Ostrander’s 1928 Super X Excelsior, “Uncle Lenny” Miller’s original paint 1926 JD JD, Tom Lund’s 101 Scout, and Dave Patrick’s Model B HD which was his father’s.



Photo 25  1992 Ft Sutter Annual Picnic in Coloma CA.  Right to left are Carl Grone’s original paint 1959 FLD HD, Russ Sierk aboard his Indian Sport Scout, son Jeff next to him on his early Indian Four with Jerry Cordy next on his “hotrod” Indian Scout.  That’s Jack Gormley’s Hollywood Graham in the background to the left.


Photo 26  Borrego Springs Road Run1992.  That’s Chuck Vernon with the slouch hat behind his reddish orange 841 Indian.  Jerry Cordy sliding in from the far left.  Woody Carson with the red sweater with white Indian Script and Jeff Sierck can be made out getting ready to ride.



Photo 27.  Same ride with a better close up of Woody’s sweater.  That’s Johnny Eagles black jacket and cap standing behind his 101 Indian Scout with the gold helmet.



Most of the people I mentioned, except for a limited few in the rambling, are now deceased.  I enjoyed their living of their lives way before my time as told by them to me, and the times we spent together.  It was an education as well as a wonderful experience.  I am now them.


This is but a short look in the those past events, machines and people that I spent time with.  Life is after all and said and done nothing but a series of snapshots, mental or in print.


Down the road,

Rich Ostrander aka Dr. Sprocket



More articles from Dr. Sprocket here.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Somer permalink
    February 21, 2011 11:47 am


  2. February 21, 2011 9:44 pm

    Groovy history. Live 100 years and ride til the end. Thanks, Paul V

  3. February 21, 2011 10:57 pm

    I’m thankful that I know or have known most of those people. Ostrander is an awesome guy. I owe him a favor. He lent me his Dads BMW on a road run for a day – I blew out the ring bearing on my IND clutch. Write some more on your blog.
    Woody restored the 1902 FN in Holland while he was working there. Everyone thought he was crazy at the time for restoring such a small displacement machine. Earily 60s I think. Thank God he did. Woody loved his IND Prince also. He was a 101 guy also. Woody told me in Florida. “Paul don’t let any asshole in this club tell you what to do. Let common sense be your guide.” We were talking about manners and being polite and respectful of other guys stuff. In regards to a specific situation. Woody was a founding member of the AMCA.
    Gromley (Digger) had the most wicked dirty jokes you’ve ever heard. Man he was funny – a great guy to just hang out with. I’d love to ride his Crocker. Didn’t know his was a later one with Cantilevered seat. Look real close at the photo and you’ll see it. Very cool. A big thanks to Richard for putting down some words and scanning the photos. Much appreciated. Look forward to seeing you soon.

    Paul Edwards–

  4. Lyle Manheimer permalink
    February 22, 2011 5:41 pm

    Nice pictures and some great comments by Rich. I couldn’t have said it better ” I am them now”. Thanks for some great memories.

  5. July 22, 2012 3:34 pm

    Rich is a true gentleman and historian of epic proportion…thanks fior the pics and memories shared…

  6. Maggie permalink
    January 13, 2015 8:11 pm

    Hi I’m Dick Borchert’s grand daughter. I really enjoyed reading this and seeing the pictures of my Grandpa and his bikes, which were his passion. Thank you so very much. Dick passed away January 7, 2015 he would have been 99 in February.

  7. Gaylene Tompkins Cooper permalink
    September 23, 2016 2:16 pm

    Awesome photos – some I have never seen before – I am Gaylene (Tompkins) Cooper, the granddaughter of Ross “Whitie” Tompkins (brother of Frances “Shorty” Tompkins. As someone said above, many of these guys are now gone, but the stories they told live on! Looking forward to visiting the California Auto Museum’s exhibit this weekend where bikes that were build and restored by many of them will be on display. Peace!


  1. Dr. Sprocket makes another house call! Cutdowns & Bobjobs, part 1 « Occhio Lungo

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