Some Saturday mornings are better than others. The population density is a bit thin in my area but spring brings a start to a robust garage sale season and with a diligent effort, I manage to find a few small treasures. In the past I’ve bagged vintage typewriters, drafting instruments, new old stock beer taps, assorted books on topics close to my heart and interesting old postcards and ephemera. one such Saturday morning was better than most. After sampling a few Garage sales billing themselves as “estate” sales although everybody looked lively and not in mourning.
The estate sale netted me an actual Tuco jigsaw puzzle with the usual quarter inch thick pieces. It’s the first one I have seen since moving to Port Angeles in 2002. I used to sell them on eBay all the time. If you can find the military/patriotic ones or the artistic pin-ups they are worth real money. There is one with a girl in tight ski pants and a well-packed sweater that was a 1950’s fantasy item. I think I got a hundred fifty bucks for that beauty. This one is not so noteworthy but it was nice to see it and for a dollar, I’m not complaining.
I finished the morning at the quaintly named Pumpkin Patch flea market. The venue is in the grass parking lot of a local seasonal tourist attraction that features a corn maze at Halloween. From the highway, You can see the large orange top of a pumpkin elevated two stories off the ground which serves as an observation tower. It doesn’t exactly scream “get your antiques and collectibles here” but I take them where I can get them nowadays.
On this morning The Pumpkin Patch was populated by 25 dealers which is about average. As I cruised the grounds I found a novel my wife would like and passed on some overpriced temptations. Approaching a particular dealers space my eyes wandered across a blue tarp spread on the ground beside his table. This guy always spreads out and takes up as much space as he can. I think it’s a power move to makes him look like Walmart amid the mom and pop shops. I saw mostly tools. There were Some axes and peaveys. Robust iron tools are a big item in these parts because everybody’s grandfather was a mighty slayer of the ubiquitous cedar and Douglas Fir. In one corner was a spread of books that looked like automotive shop manuals. On closer inspection, I could see that the assortment included some motorcycle material that looked to have signs of age. New stuff is not worth a glance but vintage cycle stuff always murmurs of money like the low rumble of a British twin.
I’m not much of a gear head when it comes to cars. I can hold my own in a conversation among serious mechanoids but two-wheeled vehicles are where I hang my wrench. I barely made it to high school graduation because of the poor grades I got as a result daydreaming about motorcycles. I’ve always liked street bikes and have owned several. So when I saw “BSA” and “Velocette” I knew I needed to look closer.
Included in the group where two owner’s manuals for Velocette motorcycles dated in the 1950’s. there was also a service manual and parts list book, owners manual for the 350 cc Ducati scrambler, “Driver’s Handbook And List Of Spare and Replacement Parts for The Famous James No. 98 Series 1.F. Lightweight Motorcycle,” and a 1952 edition of a maintenance manual for two-stroke motorcycles Published by Floyd Clymer. The dealer was asking three dollars apiece but as a group, we arrived at fifteen for the lot.
I’ve done well with this kind of material in the past and I will in the fullness of time offer these up on eBay. It’s a pleasure to have these and enjoy their contents until then. Guys like me are a sucker for the old photos and diagrams on tensioning chains or adjusting breaker points. In the age of fuel injection and computerized ignition systems books like these have all the charm of instructions to maintain your horse-drawn “surrey with the fringe on top.”
The James Cycle Company Ltd was established in 1897. They didn’t attach engines to their two-wheeled vehicles until 1902. The company continued in the business until 1966. I had acquired is a driver’s manual that runs down operations for the 98 cc model. The book bears no dates but a little research lets me know that it is from about 1949. Most of the book illustrates every part of the motorcycle with exploded drawings and lists of parts. A quaint feature of the diagram showing the handlebar controls is what is labeled as a “dipper switch.” Apparently, this is a Britishism for a headlight dimmer switch as explained in the text. You can add that to “lift” for elevator and “bonnet” for car hood to wow everyone at your next party.
The Velocette is a fine old British marque that competed with the likes of Vincent, Triumph, B.S.A. and Royal Enfield. My group of four Velocette items includes an owner’s handbook for the Valiant model, the MAC model, a service manual for Viper, Venom, Mss, Clubman, and Scrambler.
Ducati is a premier Italian brand that still exists. The 50cc engine was a junior version of the single cylinder four stroke engines that were their stock in trade when I was a teenager buzzing around on Yamahas. The Desmodromic valve system was a trademark technical feature. Singles, often called “thumpers” dominated the Ducati line-up from 1950 to 1974. I had a friend who had a 450 that demanded a firm positive starter kick with good follow through. Any half-assed effort would deliver a kickback that could be felt from the sole of your foot through the top of your head. Once running it had a great sound and plenty of torque.
This useful item is a Floyd Clymer publication, Two-Stroke Motorcycles. It covers the maintenance and repair of small two-stroke engines. There are two pages with photos of typical bikes of the era. The book has lots of detailed information and illustrations that show tools in action. It’s all meat and potatoes for those of us raised on the beefy mosquito buzz of engines too impatient to burn fuel than wait until the fourth stroke to do it. this book also predates oil injection when operators were obliged to mix the two-stroke oil into the gasoline before putting it into the tank. Besides the screaming wail of the exhaust, it was one more thing in common with chainsaws.
Books like these are decidedly non-fiction. But when they have the look and feel of a bygone and they give off a faint whiff of grease and dust they excite the imagination. You can read and absorb the detailed illustrations and find within the pages your own story. The road may call you and along the way there will be more trails to follow and treasures to be had.