Laconia Motorcycle Week is quickly approaching [June 10-18, 2017] and once again discussion arises as to how old this event really is. The official commercial web site says that it is 99 years old. In my humble opinion, that’s fake news. On the other hand, the answer “just depends” on what you consider to be the starting point.
My father, Berwin “Webby” Webster was an active participant starting back in the late 1920s. He took multiple photographs to prove it. In 2015 I wrote a comprehensive year-by-year history of the event
Answer 1: If you presume that this motorcycle event started with the Gypsy Motorcycle Tours, then this year’s event (1916/1917) is the 100th anniversary of the first one. In February of 1919 the National Motorcycle Gypsy Tour called it the 3rd Annual. Do the math.
Answer 2. If you use 1916 as a starter but subtract the years (1942, 1943, 1944 and 1945) when the event was not held (but think about it, do you get older even if you don’t have a birthday party?), it is the 98th Anniversary.
Answer 3: If you start counting from the year the motorcycle was brought to Laconia (actually Gilford) in 1938 then it is the 80th Anniversary.
Oh I could go on and on but I prefer to stop and just let you enjoy this year’s event [SEE SCHEDULE]. I’ve provided you with the links to all my past stories on this topic.
My Dad’s Second Love Affair: With his Motorcycle
My Dad’s favorite bike was an Indian that he called “Old Reliable.” He did stunts and drove through a burning wall with it. He hit a german shepherd dog with it (that is when my mom stopped riding with him). He wore a leather helmet and jacket, dungarees and leather riding boots when he rode.
The worst story he would tell in front of his kids was when he went with some of his motorcycle buddies to an R-rated drive-in movie theater (I believe the R meant racey to him more than restricted). When it came to the steamy part, they all turned their headlights on, so the movie-goers saw just a white screen. He would laugh so hard just thinking about it. Those were the innocent days for all of us.
He also took some amazing photographs of the Gypsy Tour races in New Hampshire, including the rare ones held in Keene NH, the Laconia Week Races, and some assorted other TT and half-mile dirt races. By the mid 1950s we kids had come along, and Mom probably insisted that it was time for him to park his motorcycle. Even though I never rode with him, he raised me to love the roaring sound, and I still watch motorcycle races vicariously on television.
I smile and wave at our biker visitors if they pass by, and hope they feel welcome. After all, if you don’t count a couple of side trips to Maine, it pretty much started here in New Hampshire.
==IMPORTANT BIKE WEEK HISTORY READING (and PHOTOS)==
99 Years of History: Gypsy Tour Day to New Hampshire Motorcycle Week to Laconia Motorcyle Week (2015)
2014 Laconia (NH) Motorcycle Week with a Bit of History
New Hampshire: Motorcyclists Invade Laconia for 83d Year (2006)
(Sorry for the anniversary date on this one, I didn’t research the history back then).
Manchester New Hampshire Shoemaker, Mechanic, Harley Motorcycle Dealer, Motorcycle Club Found: Joseph Exilia Forest (1880-1929)
Francestown New Hampshire Motorcycle Inventor: Sylvester H. Roper (1823-1896)
—MOTORCYCLES IN WORLD WAR I—
My writing for the past has mostly focused on documenting our heroes of World war I. I should really write a story about the use of motorcycles during that war, for it propelled Harley Davidson to fame. But I don’t own any WWI-era photographs, so I’ve been stalling. Until I get motivated to write my own, here is one wartime motorcycle site I selected that has photos for your enjoyment.
Riding Vintage: War Machines, American Motorcycles in WWI