Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]) 187?-1922, May 19, 1912, MAGAZINE, Image 21

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    Sunday Bee
The Omaha
Heroes of
ITH th eomlnc of "horteleu cwrlaf m,"
developed Into portable buncVm,
' racy ro.diten,' llmoutlnM of (rueful
Hnei and high-powered ' raolaf mt
chlnee In lees than a decade, the fol
. lowers of bicycle riding hart been rel
egated to the Umbo of aportamea, bnt
thirty years ago a bike rider waa one of the world'a
wonders and waa marreled at by aa large a follow
log as a circus gathers or the home team com
mands There were less than fifty bicycle riders la
Omaha In the early '80s and they were looked upon
as venturesome souls who eared. for neither life,
liberty nor the pursuit of happiness.
It waa Just thirty years ago last Sunday, oa
May 14, 1881, that Emmet 0. Solomon, It years
old, and his friend, John 0. Hitchcock, a lad of It
years, stirred up the residents of a peaceful, law
abiding city and 'created asensat!on talked of aot
only In Omaha, but In all eeatera Nebraska for
many days. The newspapers called It a wonderful
feat People said It meant aa awakening to the
possibilities of the bike and ceased not la . their
prophesies until the fall harreet demanded Un
divided attention. Even the city council of Omaha,
awoke to the possibilities and the! dangers, and
forthwith attempted to curtail the growth ol tn In
fant Industry. In this attempt the council waa
supported by the conservative and the cautions,
but youth rebelled and was aided and abetted la
rebellion by a progressive corporation.
Fanners Wonder,
This wonderful feat constated of a Sunday trip
from Omaha to Lincoln oa the old, high-wheeled
bicycle. The machines were the Columbia, manu
factured by the Pope company of. Boston, with
flfty-four-lnch wheel, and they were neither com
fortable aor safe. Early la the morning the two
adventurers rolled their bikes Into'tho street, gave
them a mighty shove and swinging Into the aeat '
ever the big front wheel headed eouthwsst They
arrived la Lincoln that day, rial ted. the state insti
tution the next day and on the third day returned
to Omaha. Farmers bsd heard rumors of the trip
and turned out everywhere along the rout to
watch the passing of the cyclists.
Lincoln banqueted them and otherwise made
quite a fuss about the wonderful feat. Cltlxens of
the capital city balled their coining with delight.
Hotels, business houses and soda fountains were
for a time emptied, : for the two young Omahans
had broken records for speed and distance. The
Lincoln Wheel club, consisting ' of halt aidosea
members, wss elated and gave the two tnvelere
an enthusiastic reception. Solomon and. Hitchcock
would have been feted fqr. a week, but on the
morning of the third day they ; agreed they had
, seen the sights, that to remain would be a waste of
time. Also, they were eager for the labor of the
return Journey.
' BidfTS of the Early Days '
' Solomon and Hitchcock were members .of . the
Omaha Wheel club. This club, had a membership
of about fifty, practically every. bicycle rider In the
city at the time. Among the devotees of the bike,
each of whom was the proud possessor of an "ice
wagon," were Gilbert M." Hitchcock, Emmet O.
Solomon, John O. HltcbeochyTnomas Mcfsgue, K.
C. Barton. Thomas Kimball,' Richard Kimball, Tom
E, Parmele, W. A. Paxton, Jr.: Hale Dickey, W. A.
PUley, C. J. Canan, Gus Epeaeter, Glea Ltvesey.
Tom lilckel. Thomas McCague : and' T. W. Ho
Cullougb, They were the pioneers, but . tea or
twelve years -later when the-"safety-bike .cam
.Into general use and hundreds were sold they lost
their identity as pioneers and became one of many
riders of the lees dsngerous machine. '
Many other residents of the city now recall with '
satisfaction that they used to rde "the high boy"
and live to tell the tale. He was a hero Indeed who
bestrode one of those old-time "boae-ehakers,' aa
the wheel came afterward to be called la derision,
bat the young fellows of thlrtx ' years ' ago . didn't
aslad It so very much.: They were adventurous,
ovea foolhardy, aad several bow look. back upon
escapades undertaken in a reekleea spirit ' they
would aot again try for any Induoesmeat, even If
they might roll off the accumulated . years. Tha
wheel of that day was for the boy whose only out
look upon life waa tha . Immediate - present, and
whose cheerful confidence is his owa ability sur
passed the wisdom of all the sages. -
Were Coearidered-Du Devfls.
Hitchcock, Solomoa. Canaa aad Frank Schtoider
i 7Jmjf OlfciU'l JarerdeYlla fJh tlactoj
(tiff - V w b V 8 I lJ V e . r r.v 1 aw I ' l V
y l i x VP S i rV$ HH' PJK V W f-V'M
?-,;r v:i i 1i M.-: m w
1222 lowers of bicycler have been rel- I IV -.-C 1 ?rY U' 0 ill il If I jf 1
the High
game la-the -early: days. -They traveled on every
good road la Nebraska, and Iowa and some of these
good roads were no better than our. worst today.
Some of them will stlU'groan at the physical agony
they endured' la these pleasant - little excursions, '
but In their ' boyhood days It was an excitement
that surpassed ' broncho bustlnV - Parties made
frequent trips to Waterloo. Blair, Elkhorn, Fre
mont and Glenwood and. nearby towns. , A favorite
ride waa to Florence and return before breakfaat.
This they would make two or three . times each
week, getting op. at 6:30 o'clock "for the majority
of them' would be at. work: at 7 o'clock.; .
Mr. , Solomoa Invited the Wheel club to hla
fruit farm, a short distance out of Omaha, and the
entire membership' spent a Sunday.-there. They
consumed! untold quantities of grapes,' Water
melons,, muskmelons and grape Juice. "I remem
ber Billy Townaend,' Gus Epeneter, Walter Morris
and others who were there, that day," said Solomon.
"Such Sunday ' excursions were . frequent and , we
alwaya enjoyed them." The assemblage broke up
when the shadows' began 'to lengthen toward tho
east. A' few who bsd partaken too much of the
fruit of the farm'' objected to an early start for
home, pointing out that the ride would be much
more pleasant In' the'tVlllght But their objections
were over-ruled " and the machines . were wheeled
Into the road and in a few minutes the slowest had
disappeared la a cloud of .dust toward his home. .
-t - 'ftltgrm iowa Bhakea."
. ' ' i- . .. ;...':'' . ' . .
On the day President Garfield waa burled Solo
mon, Hitchcock; McCague and' Schneider hiked over
to Glenwood.,' It waa aa evenf ul trip and they will
never forget tt.v They 'arrived la Glenwood about
soon and-wero given a quiet reception for Glen
wood was sated -with-such excitement ' Suddenly :
aa explosioa' shook , every house. It was not la
Glenwood, nor had 'any salute been fired for tho
Intrepid riders, but a car, load of powder had ex
ploded in the railroad yards In Council Bluffs. Next
morning the boys returned. .-Passing through Coun
cil Bluffs, they, dismounted and viewed the wreck-'
age, strewn for blocks around.
Wheel Recall Boneshaken Day
unorganized sport, and because It waa attended,
with great danger It had many followers. Solo
mon was one of the best amateurs In ths game. At
the state fair In 1881 he won a gold watch la a
race against Dick Kimball and others. That same
season he was awarded a silver medal In a contest
with Council Bluffs' riders. In 1887 he took his
last trip on the "high wheel." He pumped that old
Columbia from Denver to Colorado Springs,
through the Garden of the Gods to Msnltou and
visited the Grsnd canons and Pike's peak.
. Many and severe were the tumbles the riders
of the high wheels took. He was a fortunate blk
1st who could come la from an extended trip with
unbattered head, unbruised shins or unscarred
physiognomy. Not a street In Omaha was paved In
1888. Street cars were operated by "hoss-powah.'
The street railway company had planked the right-of-way
to keep the mules out of the mod. This
planked stretch of roadway was the favorite race
track of the bicycle riders, for to ride on It meant
fewer falls aad greater speed. However, the street
car company clearly did not respond to the enthusi
asm of the Wheel club men and until the mules be
came, accustomed to the unusual sight of a man
perched astride a high 'wheel, grimly enjoying hla
work, tho company did not cease to object to tho
use of the right-of-way by the bicyclists.
Dog Cpeeto Wheel.
. One day Solomon was riding east oa Farnant
near Twelfth street aad had developed a creditable
speed when a pompous little cur barred his way and
defied him to pass. Solomoa back-pedaled. Ha
yelled. But the mongrel, conscious of Its owm Importance,.-would
aot give an - Inch. There waa
aothla left for Solomoa except to fall aa easy aa he
could. . This he tried to do and gallantly plunged
for the softest part of the street. But In falling hla
. feet became tangled la tho wheel, so that he could
aot move. A horse car waa approaching from behind
and Solo moa jlecUres h$ had never teen, a BUlq
travel so fast The driver wss having difficulty In
bringing the ear to a stop, and Solomon waa help
less oa tho track.
"This time I didn't even yell," he said. "I Just
dosed my eyes and waited for the crunch." But
the crunch dtdnt come. The Missouri mule got
ovsr his flight at the boun" dog and the wrecked
rider and machine and consented to lapse Into the
position from which It usually required ' warm
language and a black-snake whip to make htm
more. Passengers on the car helped Solomon un
tangle himself. With the exception of slight
brulsea he was none the worse for the experience,
but he believed he had learned much concerning
boun' doga and mules and It waa a lesson he often
remembered and by which he frequently profited.
While dogs were dangerous, aa any-other ob
struction In the road would bare been, and doubly
dangerous when they persisted In frisking about la
confusion before the rider, there wsa one advan
tage la riding the high wheel. It was a large dog
and a good Jumper who could fasten his teeth In
the trousers or leg of the rider. Tho danger waa
In being thrown, in which event the cyclist: waa
often more or less disabled and left at the mercy
of the canine. Another danger that required a
clear head to avert was the somersaulting of tho
machine when the small rear wheel kicked up over
a hump la the road easily negotiated by the bis
wheel. Unless the rider was very wise in the ways
of tho high wheel bike this waa tho signal for a
Streets Set AsMo for CycUsta.
Aa anti-high wheel feeling brought about the)
- passage of aa ordinance by the council denying tho
ase of certain streets to the blkista. On of tho
first dead letter laws la tho dty was this ordinance,
which the Wheel club Ignored, after, first con
ferring with eminent authorities. The bicycle la
a nuisance." the council asserted. "Horses are an
djrjfchtonedaad woeand children, isr
ondsngered. Traffic Is Impeded and young men,
grow reckless and tear through the mala thorough
fares at breakneck speed. We foresee aa Increase
of recklessness If such swiftness la not atrlngsntlyl
dealt with. We can't force them to a moderate
peed. Further we understand that In emergencies
the&e machines become unmanageable, which la a)'
strong arguement that something ought to be done, :
Plainly It Is up to us to do It." -
And they did It, for the bicycle had scarcely,
made Ita appearance until the city council bad for'
blddea the enthusiastic to trundle along street.'
where it was Imperative that they should travel U
the bicycle1 was to be a commercial asset Also,
these were the only streets where they could rld
without dsnger of plunging into a mud-hole aadf'
thereby coming to an untimely end or at least sust
aining serious Injuries. Hence a loud protest waft1
raised. The council was sppesled to but remained'
obdurate. "Tou'll have to keep oft these streets''
was the ultimatum.
Bicycling In Omaha might have come to a close
then, but the Wheel club had a happy Idea. "We'll
see what the Pope Manufacturing company think
about it," said one member and others agreed that
the maker of machines ought to be consulted In
such an extremfty. 'The city council has kicked us
off the down town streets. If we-caa't ride oa
Farnam, Harney, Douglas and Dodge you will not.
sell msny more bikes here. .We're up against It
Advise us." This answer wss flashed to Boston,
and back came the answer: , - - . .- .
"Psy no attention to that law. - Smash It Dls
obey It Ignore It Ride on any street at any timet,
We will psy your fines.". Such enthusiaam was;
encouraging and the Wheel club fearlessly followed!
Instructions. They monnted their blkss and they
rode wherever they willed to ride. The council
looked on aghast at this disrespect of the law. There
were whisperings In the' council chamber and the)
people were stunned at the daring of the thing.
Wholesale arrests were planned. It was believed;
the council would make a horrible example of some
body. f. But no rider was molested. Not aa arrest
followed and from that day the law was a dead
letter and bicycling thrived. .
Safeties Soon Popular. "
Later the "safeties" were put oa tho market
They made aa instantaneous hit and hundreds were)
sold la Omaha and other cities of the state. Tha
old make lingered for twelve or fifteen years, for
there were those who hesitated to part with it, but
at last even the latest high wheel, nickel polished
but a little scarred, waa silently stowed away and
finally carted to the Junk heap. Improvements
were made that eventually forced tho ownera ot
the first safeties to discard them for newer models,
Then came tho automobile and. .tho motorcycle, .
-until twelve years ago used by few. Whca tho
automobile waa a demonstrated success there were)
several Omaha bicyclists who could afford one and
they Invested. But others were never able to break;
away from the bike, habit, although they could
purchase a pretty touring car,. and so they view
with regret the diminishing number of tarn and).
h tocreuslBX number of bon who ld Bicydes, t