Benton County Pioneer Life

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Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area

Kennewick Boy Gets a Bike/Lum Cycles to Dedication

Tri-City Pioneer
Tri-City Herald, Sunday, June 4, 1961.

Fred Beach, the oldest son of Kennewick’s Charles Jayson Beach, was returning from Pasco. He had been doing the family shopping. Kennewick at this time was without a store of any kind. It was a mere six mile walk from the Beach home in Kennewick to Pasco and return. The pioneers were never in a hurry. Three miles per hour was considered good speed.

This was an exceptionally hot July afternoon, without a trace of a breeze. The thermometer was hovering around 116 degrees in the shade; there was little shade. Fred had reached the Kennewick portal of the old N.P.R.R wooden bridge on his return. He was trying to get in the shade of its timbers when, to his surprise, a man riding on a safety bicycle entered the portal of the bridge bumping over the railroad ties. When he saw Fred, he dismounted. He leaned his bicycle against the timbers of the bridge and approached Fred saying, “Young fellow, do you want to buy a safety bicycle real cheap? I am fed up with this one and don’t want to ride it another mile.”

A few months previously, Fred had received a bicycle catalogue through the mail and had studied it thoroughly. He was quite well posted on the new invention. He wanted the bicycle. He told the stranger if he would come home with him and show it to his parents, a sale might be made. The stranger accompanied Fred home.

Fred’s father examined the bicycle. It was in good mechanical condition. He told the stranger he would buy the bicycle for Fred if the stranger would teach the boy how to ride. He must also give a good bill of sale of ownership of the bicycle.

The stranger was anxious to get rid of the bicycle. He agreed to Beach’s terms and the price of fifteen dollars. After supper he put Fred through a course of riding lessons. Near the front yard of the souse there was slight slope. He would place Fred on the bicycle, explain to him how to balance himself by turning the front wheel and how to place his feet on the pedals. he would then turn him loose to coast down the slope. If he fell over he would place the boy back on the wheel to try it again.

In a short time Fred could coast the entire length of the slope. He was then taught how to mount and dismount the wheel. Twilight had arrived. Mrs. Beach called the instructor and his pupil in to tea, toast, and soft boiled eggs.

Hamburger steak was unknown in these early days. Fred was exhausted and went to bed after the refreshments. Mr. Beach and the stranger completed the deal for the bicycle. They had become acquainted by this time. The stranger had been a very enthusiastic cyclist. He had ridden his bicycle from Seattle over the trails through Snoqualmie Pass. He was on his way to meet his brother in Spokane where they intended to engage in the bicycle business.

The next morning he left for Spokane by N.P.R.R. passenger train. Fred soon became an expert rider. He could ride across the wooden railroad bridge on the watchman’s two plank wooden foot walk. Fred was a fine boy and taught the boys of the neighborhood how to ride his Columbia bicycle. It had steel rims and doubletube tires.

Pasco’s first bicycle was a ladies model Hawthorn purchased by Mrs. Wilkins for the family use of herself and two sons, Clement and Archie. The early day family bike was generally a ladies wheel. The boys could ride a ladies wheel. It would have been most shocking and improper for a girl to be seen astride a man’s bicycle in these early Victorian days when eyebrows raised with the raise of a skirt.

I remember riding a ladies bicycle to and from Walla Walla for the dedication exercises of the Whitman Monument. This was in the early 1890’s. A young Dr. Stephen B. L. Penrose from Yale gave the address. He was the newly elected president of Whitman College. At the close of his scholarly speech, everyone hastened back to Walla Walla which was entertaining the annual Washington State Convention of the Christian Endeavor.

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