It was a reminder of a time when the world was smaller but was beginning to look bigger, at least to young eyes.
A time when it felt like two wheels could take you anywhere. Even Movieland.
Recently I was at my parents’ house, and my Dad and my nephew Jack were working on something of an ongoing project: They were trying to get my old bicycle, the one I had when I was a kid about Jack’s age, back in working order.
Jack is a whiz on a bike and got a new one at his house for Christmas. But he also wanted to have a bike to ride when he’s over at my Dad’s house, and apparently had spotted my old one tucked away in the barn in the backyard. It had been probably 30 years since I’d ridden that particular bicycle, and it needed some refurbishment.
Most of it was basic stuff, like cleaning it up, inflating the tires and making sure the chain was in working order. But part of the job included modifying the seat, and they actually had to take a hacksaw to it. Don’t ask. Just know that they got it ready to ride once again.
I can’t recall when I had last seen that bike — it’s literally been decades — but glancing at it once again brought back a flood of memories. It’s a blue and yellow Columbia BMX bike, the kind that was absolutely ubiquitous in the 1980s. Part of that ubiquity came from the fact that they were sturdy, reliable bikes, but mostly it was triggered by the 1986 movie “Rad,” which caused every boy and more than a few girls of the era to want a genuine BMX bike.
I learned to ride a bike on that Columbia BMX, out on a flat, straightaway country road in front of my Grandma Mac’s house. What I didn’t learn in those early lessons at Grandma’s was how to effectively apply the brakes. Let’s just say there was later an incident involving an out-of-control ride down a steep hill and a direct collision with the trunk of a cedar tree. That one led to my first ice bath.
There are rites of passage in any life, and one is certainly when your parents start to let you venture out by yourself on a bicycle. When I was a kid there were many afternoons where I rode my bike over to my friend Dustin Jordan’s house, where we would shoot basketball in his driveway for hours. He had one of those hoops you could raise and lower — common now, but a novelty at the time — and I can assure you that was, and remains, the only way that I could dunk a basketball.
I later set out a bit further, at times even riding my bike up to Abbeville’s historic Court Square, where I’d get Sour FX or Warheads candy at Savitz Drug Store (which was on the square back then), which I’d put on my parents’ account at the store. Kids always knew they could put candy, soda, comic books and other junk on their parents’ accounts at Savitz, then sweat it out when the bill came in.
And I’d ride that bike from my house up to Movieland, a video rental store that was on Greenville Street in Abbeville. Nowadays kids have Disney+, Netflix and all of that at the touch of a button. Back then, of course, you went to the video store and rented movies on VHS tapes. I can still remember our family’s membership number at Movieland: 117. I’d ride my bike up there — it was about two miles from the house — and rent a couple movies, and hang the plastic bag on the handlebars on the way home. I rented “Short Circuit 2” an embarrassing number of times.
All of that was running through my mind recently as I watched my nephew hop on my old bike and race up the driveway, an old relic back on the road once again.