New Hampshire’s Love Affair With Motorcycles

The love affair with motorcycles in New Hampshire is not a recent event. The motorcycle was, after all, invented in New Hampshire.

My father, Berwin “Webby” Webster was riding as a teenage (starting in the early and mid 1930’s).  He called his favorite, an Indian motorcycle, “Old Reliable.”

In the mid-1930’s he was very much into photography, and he probably could have made an occupation of it, if he wanted to.  He took photographs of various parts of the state of New Hampshire from airplanes, from rowboats (during floods) and numerous motorcycle events (close enough to be covered in dirt when the bikes rounded the turn nearby). He had someone photograph HIM driving through a burning wood wall, on his motorcycle.

In 1935 and 1936 he took a scrapbook full of photographs of events held  mostly in Keene, New Hampshire (hill climbs and TT) and Auburn, Massachusetts.

One of these photographs, I believe, captures a very young Ben Campanale, now a member of the Motorcycle Hall of Fame, who was known to compete in the events my dad captured on film.  I found some additional photographs and descriptions of events that Ben participated in.  Ben died in 2003.

I remember my dad talking about George Forrest, who apparently owned a motorcycle shop in Manchester, New Hampshire. He took a photograph which I’ve included here.

He also described how he and his buddies used to play pranks.  In one tale, they went as a group, to one of the early drive-in movies in Massachusetts, and when it got to the ‘racey’ part of the movie (which considering the times, could not have been much more than ‘smooching’), they turned their bike headlights on.  For those of you who haven’t been to one of the old-fashioned drive-ins, that action would effectively “white-out” the movie screen.  After some good-natured honking of car horns, they would turn off their headlights and finish watching the movie.

By the time I was old enough to have memories, my dad had sold his bike and stopped riding.  He had four children already, worked nights, and my mother felt it was a luxury, and a danger to keep riding.  As I got older and heard his stories, I could picture my father in his leather coat and cap riding down the highway–a much milder type of “Easy Rider” who was riding for the simple joy of it.

New Hampshire (at the New Hampshire International Speedway) continues to host premier motorcycle races, both held in June 2006. The Vintage Grand Prix Motorcycle Race (June 12th) and the Loudon Classic Motorcycle Race on June 18th (this year is this 83rd Annual).  The Classic is the nation’s oldest (continuous) motorcycle race meet.  Several other exciting motorcycle events happen in New Hampshire.

Strangely I’ve been unable to find much on the Internet about early motorcycle history specifically in New Hampshire… if you know of a web site about it, please let me know.  In the meantime, from time to time I’ll post more of my dad’s photographs–it may be what little is left of that history… at least on the Internet…



Some interesting web sites to visit…

History of Motorcycles

Indian Motorcycle Museum

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2 Responses to New Hampshire’s Love Affair With Motorcycles

  1. Pingback: Neat little slice - Honda Shadow Forums : Shadow Motorcycle Forum

  2. Peter Sebastian says:

    I loved your article Aunt Jan, I learned a lot about my Grandfather that I didn’t know. He truly was an extraordinary man

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