02 February 2018
Joan Christie recalls the excitement of going to Dundee to buy her first bike in the 1950s. ...
At primary school I always hankered after a bike but had to make do with turns on my friend Maureen’s bike. Then one Saturday morning in 1954, when I was ten years old, Dad asked if I’d like to go on the train with him to Dundee as he had to buy some parts for his bike. As he worked on the railway, him and mum, my brother and myself all had three free passes each year for the train.
We strolled up to the city centre and after a bit, came to a cycle agent and went in. I came out of my usual dream world when I heard Dad ask the assistant if he had any cycles ‘to fit this young lady’. Was this to be a dream come true?
After a debate, the man said he’d take us in his car to their store in another part of the city where they had ‘suitable models’.
At this other place they did indeed have some super bikes – shiny, metallic and expensive. Dad and the man had another debate, shook hands and we left the shop. Was I to be disappointed after all? But no, Dad had been given directions another place nearby.
On entering we saw a kindly looking bespectacled man in overalls who asked if he could help. After listening to Dad’s request, his eyes twinkled and he said he had the very thing and went through to a back shop. He came back wheeling the bike which I instantly loved and knew was for me. It was a black Phillips bike with ‘light roadster’ in coloured letters down the frame and I named her Betsy, at which they two men laughed, delighted as I was. The bike was second hand but done up like new and was the princely sum of £6, which suited Dad’s pocket. To add to my joy, he also purchased a saddle bag to fit on the back and a shiny new bell.
I came whizzing down the Hilltown (not so much traffic then) with Dad running behind holding onto the back of the saddle and boy did it feel good! We came home to Montrose in the guard’s van of the train with the bike, which I wouldn’t be parted from. I couldn’t wait to get home and show Mum but, of course, she’d known all along what the real purpose of our journey was.
I still have a bicycle in my shed but it’s old, has a puncture and is rusty, a bit like me really. I’ll never forget Betsy as my first bike and the surprise I had when Dad took me to Dundee over fifty years ago to purchase her.
Enjoy more nostalgia here.
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