Motorcycle clubs celebrates 80 years

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The Year was 1938. The Youngstown Indian Motorcycle Shop formed an organization of riders to socialize and share their love of motorcycle riding.

Over the next 80 years, the club saw ups and downs, years of great successes and years of not even existing. At one time, it sponsored full seasons of motocross and hill climbing, even owning its own hill, before losing that land to urban sprawl.

On Saturday, the Pirate Motorcycle Club celebrated its 80th anniversary by sponsoring a reunion, celebration, and banquet at the Croatian Club in Bessemer.


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Club President Larry Smith wipes down his 1964 Harley-Davidson on display at Saturday’s event.


Antique motorcycles were on display as well as thousands of photographs that lined the walls. Pictures dating back to even before the official first dates of the club were among the museum, such as displays created by Larry Smith, president of the club. Books of old documents, mementos, antique newspapers and collectables lined the tables.

The highlights of the displays, drawing the most attention from visitors, were the classic motorcycles. Smith displayed his orange-highlighted, 1964 Harley Davidson.

“This was my road vehicle for 50 years,” Smith said. “I raced it in a wide variety of races, drove it all over the place for my newspaper, and even raced it in a 78-mile endurance race several years ago.”


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Wyatt Hughes Miller, 11, already an avid dirt bike rider, snaps a picture on his phone, of one of the classic bikes on display.


Smith published several local motorcycle newspapers and spent several years on the mayor’s safety commission from 1966-1968. He organized the first-ever in the country Motorcycle Safety Rodeo on the streets of Youngstown with more than 80 bikes participating. Most recently, Smith published his book “Rabbit’s Tales” chronicling his life and adventures in motorcycling and sharing his lifetime of photos, including a photo essay on local Professional Motorcycle Drag Racer Gene Hinkle.

Other cycles on display included a 1973 Harley belonging to Norma Beck of New Bedford. The bike had belonged to her husband, who has since passed away. The bike sat in the garage in boxes for at least 15 years, before being restored by John Petro of New Wilmington. His classic bike was also on display.


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Ken Bonnema’s Methane-powered pro hill-climber bike. This was one of two hill climbers the two-time national champion Bonnema had on display.


Perhaps most interesting among the displayed motorcycles were two hill-climbing motorcycles, belonging to two-time national hill climbing champion Ken Bonnema. Bonnema, of Liberty Ohio, won the national championships in 1998 and 2000.

Over 100 hundred people of all ages and genders filled the room to enjoy the banquet and share stories, memories, history, and even a few tall tales about their time riding bikes.

One of the youngest was 11-year-old Wyatt Hughes Miller. He was there with his grandmother, who is a regular rider. According to Wyatt, his two uncles, his aunt and his mom all ride as well. While Wyatt is too young to ride on the streets, he regularly rides his dirt bikes and quad. Wyatt got his first dirt bike for his seventh birthday and has been riding ever since.


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A photo of the original Indian Cycle Company in Youngstown, Ohio. Early members of the club flank the building preparing for a ride in the early days of the club.


“It’s fast. It’s fun! And I love riding,” he said.

With riders like Wyatt and several other under 16 motorcycle drivers at the event, the next 80 years of the Pirates Motorcycle Club is already secured.

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About Craig Ballantyne 17038 Articles
I love anything to do with Harley Davidson and have two beautiful children and a beautiful partner. In my spare time i like building websites and love anything to do with the internet.

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