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Chapter 5 -Motorcycle Days

Rufus Edgar Combs and the Motorcycle Club
Motorcycle Club

This is November the 12th. Yesterday was Armistice Day. It started me thinking backwards. Because I was there. I was a corporal in the Home Guard. I spent most of the day writing my…sending a tape to my grandniece, Debbie Ensminger[27], down in Louisiana. It started me thinking backwards and I’ve had this tape in the recorder for a coupla months, tryin’ to get up enough energy and strength and ambition and write you about my motorcycle days. So I guess I am about ready to start.’I want to start by saying that most every young men, or a big percentage of young men, who is exposed to a motorcycle gets, what we call, motorcycle fever. There is no cure except getting a motorcycle, and riding one for several years, and then it kinder wears off and fades out and then he gets well. Anyway, why I was exposed Motorcycle Fever, I think in the year 1913, or early 1914. My motorcycle years and railroad years kinder overlap a little bit. So I will back up a year or two to my Railroad Days and start with my Motorcycle Years or how I come to be in the motorcycle business and how it played a great part in my destiny.

In 1912, I was 25 years old. I had been railroading for six years. Then I had made me an acquaintance of a young fellow by the name of Everett Starkey[28]. He lives at Wellsford, Kansas now. In 1912, I had gained enough seniority so I could pick out a railroad job, and hold it permanently. In those days they had what they called a bidding on a job. You bid according to the years of seniority. The one that had the job could bid on a job when it was open. The agency at Wellsford, Kansas was open, and I bid it in, and went there in the fall 1912. I was a typical farm boy and this was a typical farm community, prosperous and thickly settled farming community.

The first Sunday I was on the job, I asked the dispatcher for time off. They’d usually gave us the afternoon off on Sundays as we had to work seven days a week, he did. I got my 22 rifle and started off for a walk. I walked east of town about a mile, and saw this nice little farmstead there. It looked nice and had a little rough land on the back of it. I went in and introduced myself to the people there, and asked permission to go walking and rabbit hunting on their place. And they very graciously granted it. I told them who I was and why I was there. They had a son, about 20 years of age at that time, and two small daughters, about 15, and about 10. Well, this young fella said he would kinder like to go with me for a little walk. I tol’ him I would be mighty glad to have him go along. We got well acquainted and we had many good hunts together. I finally got to know the family very well. I went to church and Sunday School on Sunday. They were great church people, and kinder the leaders in the church. They were Methodists. I went to church like I’d been brought up. I saw this family regular and this boy and I became good pals although he was five years younger than I was. Why we seemed to hit it off really good. He was looking at the girls a little bit, and picked one here and there for a date or two, invited me along, and I did occasionally. He had a nice horse and buggy and we had some real good times together. We got acquainted all over. There was a whole bunch of young people growing up at a marriage age. Must have been about fifteen girls and fifteen boys in the community and they had kinder had a club deal, wasn’t nothin’ formal. About once a week would get together at someone’s house, some of the neighbors around and had a real good time.

About in 1910, I had got the girl fever, and steadied with a girl for two or three years, and kinder thought she was my own. I hadn’t thought nothin’ about getting married. I was kinder stuck on her but I hadn’t thought anything about getting married because I had no means of supporting a wife or any place to live. We was jes’ good friends and everyone took it for granted that we’s a couple. One Sunday, I didn’t make dates with her, I just went to see her. She lived in sight of my house, about three miles south of Liberal[29]. I could see her house, and she could mine. Every Sunday afternoon I would drive over after dinner. We would go buggy riding and see some of the young folks around the country. Everything was jest up and up. One Sunday I went over and her Mother met me at the door, and told me she was sorry, but Edna had gone off with another bunch of young folks and she wasn’t there. That made me peeved. I went on back home and that was the last of that. As far as I was concerned if she wanted to go with somebody else, why, I’d jest be stubborn enough to let her go. I got several letters begging my pardon, and wanting me to come over, but I paid no attention becus’ just at this time I was getting’ ready to go to school to learn telegraphy and railroading.

So in a few weeks I took off to school, a business college in Wichita to learn telegraphy and it would last about six months or something like that, [Ed. note: The school had classes] in bookkeeping, signaling, timetables, train schedules and all that stuff. I finished that course there, got a job on Santa Fe, it didn’t last but a few weeks. An Agent told me to do something I couldn’t do, he wanted me to load a great big rock on the trucks that they had at the depot and be ready when the train come in. He went fishing. I went out an’ tried to move the rock but I couldn’t even move it with a crowbar, so I didn’t load it. Pretty soon, late in the afternoon the freight come in. They was a’cussin’ ‘cause I didn’t have it loaded. The Agent, he come inside about the same time the train did he was cussin’ me for not havin’ this rock loaded. I told him I couldn’t move it and he kept on a’cussin’ and called me a bad name farmer, so I was roomin’ right across the street from the depot. So went over and picked up my bag. I didn’t have anythin’ except what I could carry in a coupla suitcases. I went over and got ‘em, the local passenger train was due in, in a few minutes. So I jest got on the passenger train an’ went back to Newton, Kansas, that was the division headquarters for the railroad.

So, I went in to the superintendent’s clerk and tol’ him I quit, and why. He said, “Oh, that’s the way railroaders do. They cuss one another out, and blame each other for mistakes that they make. Just forget it and go on back to work.”

“Nope”, I said, “I’m done, Santa Fe is a scab railroad anyway.” I meant that they wasn’t unionized. I belonged to the old RAT, the Order of Railroad Telegraphy. I says, Then I says I am goin’ to get me a job on the Rock Island. I went back to Wichita and got a job right away at Lost Springs, Kansas, as an apprentice agent. I went to work there at $35 a month. Santa Fe paid $25 for apprentices and Rock Island paid $35. So I went to work there and purty soon graduated into where I could hold down a job as a full-fledged telegrapher.

Anyways, that makes a long story short to bring you up to the things that is goin’ to happen to me purty soon. Any way I got acquainted with this young farmer and he had this horse and buggy and we went riding and dating girls. I kinder lost interest in girls, I ‘d rather go huntin’, or fishin’’ or motorcycle ridin’, or somethin’ but not play with the girls. ‘Member, I was getting’ to be 25 years old. Anyhow, this Everett Starkey had somehow traded for him a second hand motorcycle, single cylinder Harley Davidson. It was one of theold fashioned ones. I think it was a 1910, ‘11, ‘12 model. It was one of the first ones made. You had to run it down and throw in the clutch, which was nothin’ but a belt tightener. It run by a belt, and when it began to pop, you would jump on and away you went. So I took off toward Haviland, the next town up the road. It was nothin’ but jes’ two ruts (Ed. note: ruts in a road), they didn’t have any graded or graveled roads in them days only in a very few places, jes’ a path. Anyway why, that is how I commenced to get the motorcycle fever, to have a few wild horses between your legs and just a twist of wrist, and you’d go faster or slower.

You’d feel that breeze in your face, and get to go places that was out of range of the horse and buggy all these years, so the beginning of the fever. So I began to want one for my own. I began to shop around at the different companies; there must have been dozens of companies in them days that made motorcycles, and they finally simmered down to two, purt’near down to one. Japan is makin’ most of them.

The ol’ Harley Davidson motorcycles are still in business in the United States. Anyhow, I shopped around and got the agency for, I forgit what make it was now. It was some ol’ breed that soon died out. Pretty soon it’d be time to renew, and I’d change, and I think I had four different agencies before I picked out one that I liked. I finally settled on the Harley Davidson. It turned out to be the leader of the industry. It is still the leader of the industry, I hear they cost about $2000.

Anyway, you get the fever and the only way to get it out, is ride it out. So I got me one and learned how to ride. That is something that is different. Some people think they can ride a motorcycle if they can ride a bicycle. They can if the road is perfectly level and have no ruts or sand or moisture, and going in a straight line, and things like that. They are a lot different than a bicycle because they have a lot of power. In those days I think they had about 15 horses between your legs. They were real good. I had gotten me a good motorcycle, so it made the fever worse. So we went everywhere and went places and did things and went distances we never thought about before. We rode pastures and rode ranches, the country south of Wellsford was great ranch country. And is yet. And real rough country with cricks and hollers, hills and bluffs, and trees. It is beautiful country. So Everett and me would take out a lot of Sundays and go way down in the ranch country. We’d come to a fence, we’d jes’ lay our motorcycle down and drag it under, and go on again. So we had many happy days together. All the time, time was passing on.

Girls get the motorcycle fever, too. A lot of them jes’ like the sport, riding down the road at a high rate of speed with wind a’blowin’ in your face. In them days we carried the girls on the gas tank in front of us. We put some pillows or cushions or whatever it took to make a seat in front of us, and put the girls on the gas tank. We had our arms around her and our chin on her shoulder, and we had to reach around her to get to the handlebars. She’d sit sidesaddle on it. Down the road we’d go.

Meantime the kids all around the country was growin’ up and we had quite a bunch of young folks together. I’d go with this girl and that girl. And most of the time we’d take them on the motorcycle. Finally got a sidecar for the motorcycle, and that was ideal thing to haul girls around in. It was just a basket put on the side of the motorcycle and an extra wheel. It rode real easy and didn’t have much of a load for the motor. So we could just go sailing down the road. We had a good time. We had parties about every week. We got so kinda organized so that when they’d have a party, and if the girls didn’t have a feller or someone to take them to the party, they would assign some feller to the job. And he’d go get the girl, whether they was goin’ together or not, he’d go pick her up and take her back home. Kinder, some that had sweethearts was kinder trying to get everyone else to be, like young folks do. So I was jes’ going occasionally with one girl, and then another girl. So they assigned me to take Everett’s sister[30].

I remember when I went to Wellsford, she was just 15 years old. Just a gangling, skinny school girl. I didn’t pay no attention to her no more’n than her little sister which was 10 years old. And not as much, because I did play with her little sister[31], rough house with her and so forth. The little sister was just one of the family, that is all I ever thought about. And they had a party, and they assigned me to go get Everett’s sister, Ruth. I did, I went and got dressed up and all ready for the party an’ the motorcycle an’ went down and told her parents, whom I was well acquainted with by that time. I’d eat with them and everythin’ I told them I would take Ruth to the party if it was alright, and they said, yes, it was alright. Everett kinder chaperoned, he had his girl. So I got Ruth and put her on motorcycle, an’ took her to the party. Lo, and behold without me ever noticing it, she changed shape, and size an’ looks, an everythin’. I had her sittin’ up there and she had the purtiest curly brown hair with a little bronze tinge in it, purtiest gray eyes with flecks of brown in them. She fitted that motorcycle jes’ to a T. Kinder went through me like a shock of electricity or somethin’, I don’t know how to describe it. It happens to guys once in awhile. All the time she was there but I hadn’t ever noticed any change in her. I’d seen her every day goin’ to school.

Goin’ back and forth. I was interested in other things, and other dates, and all at once, there she was. The next Sunday I was taking her to church and Sunday School, and then once in awhile I’d go down in the evening. Once in awhile we’d go out purty steady. Something had hold of me that I couldn’t turn lose. I began to talk sweet talk to her. There was 10 years difference in our ages. I was about 27 and she was about, see…, 17. Everything went along like that for about a year and a half. Something like that.

Meantime, I learned the motorcycle business, kinder. I had sold quite a number of them. I was repairing a few of em, along with my railroad job. So I had visited Milwaukee and visited a factory, picked me out a location for an agency and decided to go into the motorcycle business.

I had talked it over with Ruth and we had decided to get married about Christmas time, in 1915. So we tooled (Ed. expression for driving) to Dodge City and got into the motorcycle business. I had resigned and asked for leave. You have to resign formally when you have a permanent agency that way and wait for a relief before you can quit. They started lookin’ around for an agent, someone to take my place, and it took them longer than I had expected. In the meantime, I went to shucking corn for the Starkeys, that was Ruth’s folks. I got all their corn shucked out. I would jes’ shuck in the morning and evening and I worked in the agency in the meantime. They didn’t have no relief to take my place so far. Along about October or November, I don’t remember which, I was riding my motorcycle with a side car on it back and forth to work. I had to go about 6 or 7 miles where the people, lived, I was staying with, and I would taking my lunch. Keeping the team over there where we was shucking corn. Come a cold blizzard out of the north freezin’, freezin’ on everything it hit. I was comin’ home one evening, pretty good clip, real chilly, barely freezin’ ice, misting, and fog.

It was freezin’ on everything it hit. There was an old fellow coming north on the road, and I was going south.

There was a little sand hill there, and they just made a notch in it. About 10 feet wide, hardly enough room for two cars to pass. I was driving a sidecar which was about as wide as a car. This old fella was driving an Oldsmobile and couldn’t see because the frost had got on his windshield and he couldn’t see through it. He would just look around the edge a little bit to see where he was at and go on down the road. He wasn’t going very fast, about 35 mph. Anyhow he came up on the hill about the same time I did. I tried to dodge out of his road. The sidecar went up on the bank, and threw me back in front of him. We had a straight head-on collision. I tore all the radiator and front end of his car off with my motorcycle. It hit my left arm. I had a bad busted arm up right through my wrist joint, and he had tore up radiator and my motorcycle was bent considerably, but not damaged very much. That kinder put a kink into our plans to go to Dodge City and delayed us a coupla months. Anyhow, we figured around and finally got to leave. We started out to Dodge City February the 5th, 1916. All we had to start a motorcycle business on was an ol’ Harley Davidson motorcycle with sidecar on it, and $365 in money. We had purty good credit at the bank at Wellsford. All the other banks that I ever lived by or borrowed money from I established good credit. I had good credit and $365 and we landed in Dodge City.

It was right in February, early February, and cold. There was no paved road in them days, hardly any graded roads. A motorcycle wasn’t even thought about in the wintertime. Roads wasn’t fit for it until it dried out in spring. So there we was. We walked for days trying to find a business location for my shop. Couldn’t find it.

Finally we settled on 4 rooms, one story with a lean-to kitchen on it. It stood on the spot where the Globe newspaper office is now, right next to the old library. I rented that, and set up shop in the old building there. And there wasn’t nothin’ stirring. Nothin’ was comin’ in. Purty soon we had ate up all of our $365, along with buying a little furniture. I didn’t buy anythin’ on credit. I think we bought one lounge or somethin’ like that. The rest was second hand. We bought some bedding, of course. We bought some clothes. We ate and purty soon our $365 was all gone.

Ruth said you better go back to the railroading, we’re goin’ to starve to death. I said, no I don’t think so I’d better try it a little longer. I hate to go back as a failure. I went down to the grocery store and made arrangements to buy some groceries on time. He graciously handed me $35 line of credit as long as I pay it up every month. Then I couldn’t pay it up. So, a month was up, he shut off our groceries and I owed $35. That was quite a mess.

A day or two before this happened, why, I was sittin’ in the house one cold, rainy day, really rough outside, and a one-eyed guy from Ensign, Kansas, came in, introduced himself. He said he wanted to buy a new motorcycle. He wanted the best one I had. Electric lights and everything on it, all the accessories he could get. Well, I had my heart right up in my mouth. I didn’t even have one to show him. I showed him the catalog. I showed him an older model and everything. He picked out the very best one ‘at they had. I added up all the accessories and freight and everything. It come to somethin’ like $275. I had my heart poundin’ up in my chest. I didn’t have no money to take it out with. They all came COD just like cars do yet today. You have to pay for them in advance. Anyhow I took his order, and signed it. Everything was ready. We sat around and talked awhile. Purty soon he scratched his head and let out a yawn and said, “Well, guess I might as well pay for it right now as long as I got the money. I sold a team of mules the other day and I got the money, and I just as well pay for it now.” He counted all the money out to me, and then he went home. My heart was a-beatin’ so I could hear it myself. As soon as he was out the yard, I went and told Ruth. “I sold a motorcycle an’ I had the money. We have enough money now to pay the bill and buy some more groceries. So that tickled her and me both. I drove right down to the bank and deposited money to take motorcycle out and pay the freight and everythin’ and we had all the profit to live on for awhile.

By that time it was getting’ warm weather, getting’ up into April sometime, and motorcycles begin to move. Business begin to pick up. There was a fella come out from the East headed for California with a new motorcycle and electric lights and everythin’. He came up the old high way where the bypass is now, where the shopping center is now, there used to be a square turn. It was quite a canyon down in front of it before they graded it up. In those days there wasn’t such a thing as a curved turn. They made square turns on all the roads. There was a lot of signs there. The Santa Fe Trail Garage, and a big wooden signs on the left side of the road. This guy came up there at a pretty good clip on his motorcycle and shined out over this canyon. The road went left. It didn’t have no road numbers in them days, didn’t have no road signs. The road went left and there wasn’t nothin’ but a trail down this canyon and it all looked black to him. So this guy tried to make the turn and didn’t make it. So he went through about an 8 wire fence and clear through this board sign and came out on the other side. So he came walking down to my shop. He told me what had happened, that he tore his motorcycle all to pieces. He wanted me to go up see if I could salvage some of it. Whether it was worth anythin’ and’ if I could, salvage some of it. So, I said, “Yeah, I’d be glad to. “We got my motorcycle to go up there. First I asked him if he was hurt. He said, “Oh, I cut my little finger here a little bit. It bled for awhile but it quit now.” [Chuckle] I never did know how he got through that fence and that sign, but he shore did. He went right through it.

I got the motorcycle and unloosed the sidecar off of it, straightened it up, pulled it around a little bit. The handlebars had been bent quite a bit. I got them straightened up a little bit. I rode the motorcycle into my shop, and fixed it up a little bit, and it was as good as new. The side car was quite battered up but it still run good. Everything was happy, collected a little money off of him. Then jobs begun to come in faster than I could handle them, so I would have to hire some of my motorcycle pals to help me out. We had more business than we could tend to. We’d sell a motorcycle every week or two. Purty soon, one every week. Everythin’ was very lovely and prosperous. A guy come along and he wanted to rent half of old part (I’d converted this residence into a motorcycle shop, the front room of it, and it was built in an “L”shape). I wasn’t using the “L”, and this fella come along and wanted to rent the “L” for a battery shop. I rented that and it cut my expenses way down. I think he paid me $10 a month, I think paid $20 a month for the whole thing. That helped me out. He turned out to be a purty good helper, too. When he wasn’t busy, he’d help me out a little bit. And I was off to the races!

About that time, why, they’se talkin’ about an international motorcycle races in 1916, held in Dodge City in an oval two mile track. They’d been having them for several years. That didn’t create a lot of interest, but they went to promoting it. My friends across the street, the Collum brothers, they had the Hudson-Essex Agency, was promoting this race. It brought thousands of people to Dodge City. Motorcycles in those days were more popular than cars and more numerous than cars. Everythin’ was really booming around my shop. This created a lot of interest and made business real, real good. They held the race on July 4, 1916. Harley won every one of the places, broke the world’s speed record, it was 200 miles at 80 mph on a dirt oval track. Which was quite a little speed at them days and age. That included pit stops, tire changes and gas stops, and all the stops they made and still averaged 80 mph. I was purty firmly established in the motorcycle business by that time.

In the meantime, why, Harley Davidson had went in the manufacturing of bicycles. And they really made a good bicycle. Of course, I had the agency for them that just about doubled or did double my business. There was a lot of bicycle business in that day. They had additional volume in repairing and selling bicycles. Repairing bicycles was a lucrative job in them days, and tires and selling the tires and etc. , the things that goes with motorcycles and bicycles and so forth, why, I had a established a real good paying business. One that kept me extraordinary busy and for two or three helpers. We was makin’ money. These Collum brothers that I was telling you about, had the big car agency right across the street from me, why, I’d buy a lot of things from them, and they would buy a few things from me. Especially anythin’ electrical they had to do and that made a big hit with them. There wasn’t anybody in that country then that knew anything about electrical circuits. I had got a little education in the telegraph business about batteries and about circuits. All the garages and all the public was glad to turn any electrical troubles they had to me, so purty soon I had a substantial business magnetos, batteries, coils, points, regulators, and stuff like that. When I owned I wouldn’t take any repair on a whole car. If they would take off the starter and generator, or their amp meters or whatever was buggin’ them, why, I’d fix them in my shop. That required more labor so I had more business.

So in this business, trying to accumulate parts, stocks parts, tires, an’ accessories, I was flat broke. First National Bank had accredited me a little account with a few hundred dollars. I always made it a point to pay them when I had agreed to, and kept drawing a little bit on my credit at the bank, but still it wasn’t sufficient to carry on the volume of business that I had. The feller that had moved in with me with the battery business, he was kind of a miser and laid up quite a bit of money. He was an old bachelor. One day I had a chance to trade for a very beautiful horse in on a motorcycle. I was tellin’ him about it and that I couldn’t swing it. I couldn’t finance it between the sale of the motorcycle and to sell the horse, I had to have some money. He volunteered to furnish the money for half of the profit. I very gladly took him up and made the deal and traded for this dappled gray mare. Then to get rid of her, we traded her for a nice milk cow. And finally traded out and came up with a good long profit on all the deals. He proposed we’d go as partners, he would furnish the money, and I would furnish the know-how. He’d combine the battery business with my business, and I took him up on it. We was really busy and makin’ money every day. Maybe not like a house a’fire, but purty fast. Faster’n you can make it today in any business I know. Anyway, we were on a cash business basis, because I didn’t have no money to finance anything.

When we’d run up against something like that, he’d get a little extra fee, and he would do the financin’ and collectin’ and all that. That made our business that much bigger with the battery, line of bicycles, and the accessories. I began to stock equipment for electrical parts of automobiles in the way of magnetos, some of the cars run on magnetos in them days, an’ coils, brushes with the generators, starters. Before I knew it I was in the electrical end of the car business.

Some of my friends, the Collums, and garages around over the country, and finally I got the wholesale Hot Shot, Eveready batteries, direct from factory. It was the first thing I ever had for distribution. So I took them on. I was sellin’ them in that neck of the woods. I had them right there and I could deliver them, I was doing a good job. Pretty soon another factory come along an’ offered me wholesale prices. I began to get into the wholesale business. In the meantime, we had outgrown our location, by a mile, so Mr. Keppler, that was Charles Keppler, he was in the battery business, he said, “I’ll build new building.” So we went down across the tracks down from the Standard Oil station, across from the ol’ City Hall, he built me a two-story building just for my business. We expanded some more and purty soon we was wholesale business, not messin’ with electrical supplies. As things go along, we was growin’ fast and employin’ several men and office source, and doin’ good and along came World War I.

World War I knocked all the props out from us. Harley Davidson notified me that I could buy no more motorcycles. The government was taking all of them. Pretty soon I got notice from the government they was comin’ to take all the good second motorcycles that I had. I couldn’t buy anymore bicycles because they were cuttin’ down on their manufacturing and makin’ war materials. There I was, all set up in business, and no where to go, and nothin’ to sell. I scratched my head and figgered around, an’ I had a demonstrator motorcycle, they didn’t take my demonstrator, they left me one. I had bought me a box for it in place of a sidecar, and I started delivery service to make a livin’. I would deliver anythin’ I could haul in town for a dime. That went over with a bang. I had all I could do day and night, a lot of times until midnight and after. I was deliverin’ groceries, and all kind of packages, including the Catholic priest’s wine and stuff to him. The whole town took me on. I called it Sudden Service. I had all I could do to make a livin’ and made a little profit, I think.

They took all the able bodied men they could get a’ hold of for the war. They didn’t leave anybody at home to do all the extraordinary jobs. I even had a, made a joke out of that, I had a job of delivering girls. The Saint Anthony’s Academy was out in the country close to where … across from where the Junior College is now. It was strictly agirls’ college and they had a hundreds of girls out there and they’d live in town. Stubbs had a big grocery story, and they had several girls out there. I’d deliver groceries for them, and they would call me that they had a bunch of girls down there and wanted to go out to the college. They wanted me to go out to the college get a bunch of girls. I got quite a kick of puttin’ the girls on up on this box, and fanning their skirts with wind from speedin’ up the motorcycle. Had quite an enjoyable job there. This Sudden Service, they wouldn’t hardly let me quit when the war was over. I had to and did, when the war was over. My products boomed and we had a very successful business.

When the war was over -- Armistice Day ? that is what started me, and running my memory backwards. Your Grandpa Gus[32] was about 11 months old when this thing happened. Armistice happened, and I remember them takin’ new water tanks, old water tanks, whatever they could get hold of, and roll them down the street. Someone would walk beside them and bang them with a stick like a drum. All the whistles in town were blowing, thebells were ringin’, everybody shootin’ off guns that had some, all the racket you ever heard, happened along in the middle of the night. Jay woke up and “bah”, pretty soon he got to listenin’, hearin’ the bells ring, the whistles a’ blowin’ an’ he got to laughin’. He ‘d jabber and wiggle. I can remember how big he was and how he looked when that happened.

During these years the bank had been watching us, and seen they had seen our size growin’ and profits. They had more confidence in us, so they gave us a purty good line of credit, so we could stock more bicycles and more motorcycles and more electrical things an’ we was runnin’ purty smooth.

Along came 1921 and 1922, an’ there was a kickback there, from the war I guess, we had somewhat of a depression, a boom right after the war, hit a high peak and then all at once went backwards. I couldn’t see how we could make money with the prices of stuff that we’d buy would go down. The price of motorcycles were goin’ down. We was in a depression. I tol’ Mr. Keppler, I says, “There is a fella that wants to buy you out, I don’t know but what it’s a purty good idea the way things’re goin’.” He’s a purty good economist himself, an’ he said, “I believe I’d do it, if he wants to buy me out.” That was Charley Allen. He lived out in the country there about 9 miles of Halla, and he wanted in. I had been hiring him as my mechanic, and he turned out to be one of my very best mechanics I ever had. He could tear down a motorcycle in 15 minutes. Talked about them. So Charley, he bought Mr. Keppler out, and that made Mr. Keppler a better friend of mine.

We had a hard time there for two years. We worked day and night. Ev’rytime we’d get somethin’ in, it would go down. We struggled through and come out all right at the end. It lasted about two years, an’ everything picked up again, an’ of course we was ready an’ picked right up with them. While Mr. Keppler was still with me, why we took on the agency of the Maxwell car. It was a good little car, just priced a little higher than the Model-T. We sold quite a number of them but while we had them, Chrysler bought Maxwell out an’ that took the agency away from us. Of course, Maxwell’s was absorbed by Chrysler and that was the end of our car sales experience. Many times I have been thankful that it ended because I didn’t like the auto sales end of it.


Endnotes:


[27] Deborah Lynn Ensminger, daughter ofRobert A. Ensminger and granddaughter of Bernie and Laticia May (Combs) Ensminger.

[28] James Everett Starkey, brother of Olive Ruth (Starkey) Combs, born 7 January 1895.

[29] Liberal, Kansas.

[30] Olive Ruth Starkey.

[31] Eva Lena Starkey, born 2 September 1903.

[32] Jay Everett Combs, born 2 January 1918 in Dodge City, Kansas.

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