Nicknames in Harley Davidson History: "Flying Freddie," "Willie the Wino" and "The Georgia Peaches."
Nicknames are as much a part of the history of Harley Davidson as "Willy G" himself. And Harley riders today are replete with them. At the HD Museum in Milwaukee, there is an exhibit display that states, "Here are ... patches and pins featuring nicknames and logos, linking each club to its unique hometown characteristics." My recent tour of the museum revealed the following nicknames.
For those of you who enjoy the old hill-climbing races during the 1920's, there was the indefatigable George "Flash" Flauders. Not a lot of guesswork in his nickname, and he likely earned that label for all the right reasons.
Then there were "The Georgia Peaches," a nickname that sounds more like a set of twins serving food at an Atlanta Hooters. In 1927, two women, Vivian Bales & Josephine Johnson, rode Harley motorcycles 300 miles from Albany, Georgia to St. Petersburg, Florida. Vivian was 18. And the newspapers all across the country nicknamed Vivian "The Enthusiast Girl." In 1926 she purchased a Model B single, her first Harley-Davidson motorcycle. As legend has it, Bales taught herself to ride. Later on, Bales decided to trade her Single for a 1929 45 Twin D model, which she frequently described as a "real honey." She was only 5 feet 2 inches and 95 pounds, and she unable to kick-start the bike on her own. The first 98 pound weakling? Hardly. No electric start back in the day.
And what about the truly legendary Leslie "Red" Parkhurst. According to the Parkhurst Family web page:
"At 6 feet four inches, Leslie "Red" Parkhurst was a lanky youth who won his first motorcycle race at the tender age of 13. His nickname derived from his thick mane of hair. He seemed unafraid of the possible consequences to motorcycle racing and was suited to the times, in the same way that Theodore Roosevelt was to the White House of that age."
Makes sense; no biggie. But it gets better.
"On April 20, 1915, at a track in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, "Red" Parkhurst rode a motorcycle 150 miles for two-and-a-half hours. For the last 50 miles of that race, he held the fuel tank of his Harley-Davidson in place with his knees, achieving 83 miles-per-hour. This was at a time when the fastest Indy racecars were lucky to hit 66 miles-per-hour." This dude put the "Red" in Red Bull. And "Red" was an essential member of the Harley team back then that established forever itself the nickname of the "The Wrecking Crew."
Harley rider nicknames are not limited to the U.S. There was the famous English racer, F.W. "Flying Freddie" Dixon, who also rode Harley's in the 1920's.
And last, but certainly not least, there was Willie "Wino" Forknetz – a founding member of The Boozefighters Motor Club, in California back in 1947. No imagination needed for his nickname.
Do you ride a Harley? If so, stop by and visit me at the nickname booth at the Wine & Harvest Fest in Cedarburg next Saturday or Sunday, the 17th and 18th, and tell me your nickname story. Mention this blog post, and pick up a free nickname t-shirt.
John Leaf was born in western Illinois, a mile east of the Mississippi. College in Chicago. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Leaf was goalie on the soccer team and captain of the golf team in college. He cut class to ride the "L" to see Cubs games, hung out for hours at the Art Institute and bent the brain doing graduate school in Theology.
He spent three mind-blowing summers in coastal British Columbia, as a resort photographer. He worked and lived in Minneapolis. He did hard time at a bank on LaSalle Street in Chicago and learned about PR, working at big firm a block off Michigan Avenue, while living in Evanston.
Now Leaf is just living the dream, under the radar, in Cedarburg. He's passionate about nicknames and launched his website three years ago.
He dabbles in yoga and cycling. Fishtailing as always, and taking a whack at life, like everyone else.