Looking at a 1947 Indian Chieftain at the Fort Hays Disabled Veterans of America Vintage Bike Show and Swap Meet on Saturday brought back memories for Ed Conine, Dighton.
“I had a 1953 Indian Chieftain when I was in high school,” Conine said. “I went to the service and my dad sold it while I was gone. I left it sitting in the barn, and somebody heard about it and offered him, I don’t know, knowing him, probably $50.”
Conine and his wife, Janis, were among the early arrivals at Saturday’s show at the National Guard Armory, 200 S. Main.
“We used to ride motorcycles,” said Janis, saying they have since sold her Deluxe Harley-Davidson and his Ultra Classic Harley-Davidson, and now stick to a camper and boating. “My husband is kind of looking for a project now.”
Married 56 years, they’ve ridden to the Grand Canyon, the Black Hills, Yellowstone National Park, New Mexico and Colorado, to name a few.
Two of Ed’s Harley-Davidson purchases over the years included an ERS Sprint and XLCH Sportster they bought from Plainville motorcycle shop owner Jerry Bird.
Now, Ed says, he’d like an old Harley-Davidson bike.
“Probably the old flathead K-Models,” he said. “I’d just like to restore it back to original and show it.”
The Conines' $10 in admission to the DAV show is raising money for a new van to transport area veterans to their VA clinic and hospital doctor appointments in Hays and Wichita. The DAV’s 2006 Dodge Caravan is worn out and needs replaced.
Entries for bikes into the show, which had 25 sponsors, were $25, with bikes coming from Hays, elsewhere in Kansas, and even Colorado. The fundraiser also included a Jimmy Dee dance Friday night at the Hays VFW Post 9076, 2106 Vine St., with $10 admission fee.
“They’ve got a nice show,” said George Unruh, St. John, who travels around to area bike shows. “I like seeing bikes with the original stuff, and some of the guys here have restored them to original. These days it’s hard to find original parts without paying an arm and a leg.”
Unruh has ridden since the late 1970s, with his first bike a 1971 BSA that he bought from an oilfield guy that came through Great Bend.
“I bought a 1973 Harley-Davidson Super Glide in 1978. I sold it in 1984, and bought it back in 2006, from the same guy I sold it to,” Unruh laughs. “It was in pretty rough shape.” Still, he only had to make cosmetic repairs.
“The engine’s never been touched,” Unruh said, noting it originally was purchased from Swede’s Harley-Davidson in Hutchinson. “It’s back to original.”
With his Dodge pickup and trailer backed up to the open garage door of the Armory around 10 a.m., Bob Schmidtberger, Victoria, had help from the local Free Tomorrow motorcycle club members unloading his 1964 Harley-Davidson FLH.
“I wanted to participate and help the DAV,” Schmidtberger said.
His bike originally came from Ellsworth County and was restored about 15 years ago.
“I used to ride it, but the last six to eight years it’s been stored,” he said. “As you get older you get other priorities.”
Kathy and Mark Ostmeyer drove up from Colby.
“It’s a 1928 Harley-Davidson JD modified, by somebody,” said Mark Ostmeyer. “Barn find.”
They also brought with them their 2014 English Morgan M3 three-wheeler, not an antique, but the unique looks of which landed it in the Armory show anyway, getting lots of lookers, and also kids sitting in it to have their picture taken.
Mike Wolf, Grinnell, didn’t have a bike in the show, but was unloading incoming bikes from trailers on Saturday.
“I’m just helping,” Wolf said. A member of Free Tomorrow, he and other members turned out in force to help the DAV.
“Free Tomorrow is the oldest motorcycle club in the state of Kansas,” Wolf said. “It was started in 1972. Mark there is one of the charter members,” he said of Ostmeyer. Another founding member is Hays tattoo artist Art Gregory, an owner of Fantasy Graphics Tattoo Studios, 219 E. 8th St., Wolf said. Gregory had two bikes in Saturday’s show.
One was a 1940s Harley-Davidson Servi-Car three-wheeler, which Terry Wickham, Russell, and his six-year-old daughter Meadow, were admiring.
“We just have two motorcycles,” Meadow said. “Because my mom’s doesn’t work, but my dad’s does.”
“Her’s is like this one. It was actually her grandpa’s, David Bray, Natoma,” Terry said, pointing at the Servi-Car. “If you remember meter maids, and police bikes, that’s what these were for. There’s two or three in the area.”
Jeremy Baldwin, Hays, helped position bikes inside the Armory on Saturday.
“So far now we’ve got 24 motorcycles, six mini dirt bikes and one drag bike,” said Baldwin, reading from the pages of a small notebook he pulled from his vest.
Out in the beer garden on the grounds of the Armory, Free Tomorrow President Dennis Wolf said the club has a lot of members who are veterans, including its founders.
“My hat is off to vets,” said Wolf, whose brother, Delmar Wolf, died in 1998 serving in the U.S. Army, with stints in Iraq and Kuwait. Another brother, Darrin Wolf, also served about the same time and now lives in Hays.
Free Tomorrow’s club logo is a sign of freedom, Wolf said.
“These vets fight for our freedom every day,” he said, so club members were happy to pitch in Saturday.
“I’m transportation director for the school district in Ellis, so I know what it takes to get people from one place to another,” Wolf said. “We’re not so much a motorcycle club as we are a family.”
Before it was even 11 a.m., Bunnie Bowen and Sherrie Smith, both from Hays, had seen quite a few visitors at their Daughters of the American Revolution table. They were handing out commemorative pins and bumper stickers supplied by the U.S. Vietnam War Commemoration program, intended to thank Vietnam veterans.
Anyone who served in the Vietnam War, which lasted from Nov. 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975, can receive one of the pins, as well as a spouse or a family member, explained Smith. The local Courtney-Spalding DAR Chapter, founded in 1926, has 45 members from local counties as well as out of state.
“Whenever there’s an opportunity to thank a veteran, we take it,” said Smith. “We’ve probably given away six or seven pins so far today.”
Winners of Saturday’s show each take home a custom trophy made from motorcycle parts, with awards in seven classes, including a People’s Choice Award. Show sponsors include Doerfler’s Harley-Davidson, Auto World, Fantasy Graphics Tattoo Studios and Hays VFW Post 9076.
Explaining the trophies, Jeannie Martin took a break from the show’s kitchen duties Saturday, where she was dishing up nachos, hot dogs, pork sandwiches, chips and pop. Jeannie designed the trophies, and a family friend, Steve Brown, Salina, welded the pieces, including clutch plates, pistons, piston heads, sprockets, springs, bolts and a chain.
“I just scavenged the parts,” said Pat Martin, Jeannie’s husband. “They’re all motorcycle parts. I kind of scavenged Doerfler’s bin in the back. Art Gregory gave me some parts. And a friend at Panhead City in Rome, Georgia, boxed up some parts and shipped them to me.”
One of the organizers of the event, Martin said Gregory pitched the vintage idea.
“When we first discussed this, we thought it would be just a bike show, but then you get too many new bikes and that gets boring,” Martin said. “Art brought up vintage bikes.”
Martin was happy with the turnout Saturday.
“There’s already talk of next year,” he said, “although we might slide it back a month to Father’s Day. …It’s kind of a learning curve for us.”
By noon there were about 30 bikes, and more were expected to arrive later in the afternoon.
Barney DeClue, Dodge City, had a table of parts he’d brought as part of the swap meet from his shop, DeClue Cycleworks. Sitting in chairs on the grass with his son Jesse DeClue, Schoenchen, he said the turnout was pretty good for a first year.
“There’s a lot of traffic through here and a lot of bikes and a lot of nice people,” he said.