Posts Tagged ‘Motorette’

New Life for 1946 Motorette

A few months ago, I wrote a post about my dad’s 1946 Motorette motor scooter. I’ll admit, we had talked about trying to sell it, and I did have that on my mind. I had promised my mom I would look into it, yet in a couple of years, I hadn’t done much. It’s the kind of odd item for which you need to find just the right buyer, and we weren’t hooked into the right community to do that. So, I thought I’d write a blog post and see what happened, never expecting much, but hoping I might generate some interest and maybe a lead. Little did I know how fruitful that post would be.

A few days after I posted it on this blog, Larry Fisher wrote a comment, and I replied, telling him we’d be interested in selling. A few emails later, we reached an agreement. Larry collects and restores autoettes, the class of vehicle the Motorette is in. He’d even tried to purchase one a few years back. And it turned out that Larry’s wife and my mother share the same name, and they had even been in Osage, my home town, a few years back on a trip down Highway 9. They remembered stopping at Stan’s Drive-In. It seemed too good to be true.

I will say that we weren’t looking for a lot of money from this sale. We asked him to name a price, and we offered to help some with shipping. Our main goal was to find the Motorette a good home, where it might be restored to running condition (we had no idea how much work this would be — as it turns out not that much, since it’s been running already this summer, but still much more than I could imagine doing myself). The Motorette had been stored in my parents’ garden shed for over twenty years, and was in decent shape, though it needs some care to really restore it. Field mice had nested under the seat and eaten through some of the wiring. Larry flushed and lubricated the engine, transmission, and bearings and rewired the electrical system to bring the scooter back to life.

Though we were glad to get a little money out of the deal, and glad to know that the Motorette was still valuable, the best part of the deal has been getting to know Larry and finding out more about the scooter.┬áMy mom found a newspaper clipping that talked about how my dad bought the Motorette and had it delivered by my (soon-to be) uncle Frank Mulvihille. Frank was a pilot, and his airline flew the Motorette from Chicago to Des Moines for free. It made the news, since my Dad was a WWII veteran who suffered from polio, and that kind of public interest story was popular in the months after the war. Larry even did some research and found some newspaper archives with other references to my dad’s military service. We found multiple license plates and old registration papers. This allowed my mom to renew the registration and then transfer the title to Larry, making the whole process much simpler. I now have a license plate and photos from 1976 when I rode the Motorette in the Bicentennial Fourth of July Parade in Osage, one of the last times we got it running.

The only hassle was with shipping the Motorette across the country to its new home. There were many delays and we were nearly afraid it wouldn’t happen, but finally in late May, the shipping company came through, and the Motorette was on its way to its new home. Since then, we’ve maintained contact with Larry, who has sent some video of the first time the Motorette was running, the engine, and a visit with my brother Kermit and his wife Kim when he was in Boston for a gathering and showed the Motorette for the first time. It sounds like Larry has plans to continue restoring it to get it closer to its original state (with the modifications my Dad made for using hand controls). We’re glad that Larry is so interested in the history of the vehicle and so willing to share what he learns. Maybe one day we’ll all get a chance to meet him and thank him in person. We’re glad Dad’s Motorette has a new life in a new home, and we’re thrilled to have made friends with Larry and Leone, all through a simple blog post.

Catching Up

This is just a quick post to apologize to any regular readers this site may have had… The past few weeks have been very busy, and I haven’t found time to post. What have I been up to? On March 29-31 I took a couple of W students to Lipscomb University in Nashville for the Southern Literary Festival — great time, and a great festival open to all schools in the South who become members of the association. Saw a great play, written by Tina Howe and performed by Lipscomb students and local professional actors, heard readings, and went to talks about writing. I also got to enjoy some of the student 10-minute play readings performed on Saturday morning. The weather was great, too!Hot Cross Buns

The following weekend was Easter, of course, so we did the traditional hot cross buns and eggs, sandwiched between grading essays and exams. In real life, I’m an English professor, which means if I travel for a weekend, I get way behind in my classes. Worth it, but you pay…

In the midst of all of that, I’ve been working all year on our web team to redesign the MUW website. We are working with a consulting firm and have had lots of communication back and forth about what we want for a design. I’m also on the search committee for webmaster, and I’ve learned more about Joomla! than I care to know.

And I’ve been working on my class on Belgian and European poetry, drama, and art for the study abroad trip I’ll be leading to Brussels this summer. We covered Symbolism, Dada, and Surrealism last week as an introduction. There are one or two details of that trip yet to be worked out.

The other major activity has been to help my mother sell the Motorette — but that story will have to be a separate post soon. It’s been a fun and interesting ride.

Two more weeks of classes and one week of exams, then things ought to settle down for a little while. In the meantime, I’ll try to work in a post or two! Maybe a recipe or two or some thoughts on poetry.

1946 Motorette

When I was a kid, we had a magic green scooter that stayed in this corner of our yard outside my parents’ bedroom window. It was a place of much imagination. My brother, sister, and I would climb on it with some of the neighbor kids, pretend to flash the lights, pretend to steer, pretend it was an airplane, a space ship, a hovercraft, or any other sort of enchanted conveyance we could dream up. We took many trips without ever moving an inch. Or it was a convenient place to sit and watch the other kids play tetherball. Or it was a convenient base for tag.

Every summer, my dad would work on the engine. When I got older, I got to help him gap the spark plug, clean the connections, clean the carburetor, lubricate the cylinders, change the oil, then crank the engine until it would cough into action. The engine had a small glass bulb gas reservoir that fascinated me. Though the scooter sat outside all winter (in the fall my dad winterized it), he always got it running. Then we’d go for trips around the yard, and sometimes down the alley to the little city park down the block. Everyone got a ride, though our dog, Hector, probably didn’t ever sit still long enough to qualify as a passenger. I remember one photograph of my grandma and grandpa riding the scooter, though I don’t recall whether they actually took it for a spin or only sat in it to pose for the picture. Now and then us kids even got to drive, and I remember once or twice someone, maybe even my dad, taking a left turn a little too sharply, causing the scooter to tip up on its side. It never flipped over, but would come to rest on the bottom of the frame, and could easily be pushed back on all three wheels.

One summer, we gave it a fresh paint job and a new cover for the seat. I decorated the scooter with bunting, attached a few little flags, got a big bag of candy to throw, and drove it in the Fourth of July parade. Since my dad had kept the motorcycle license current, I was able to drive it on the street, even though I wasn’t old enough to drive a car. I was only allowed to go under 20 miles an hour and take it to, from, and along the parade route. I had a blast, driving my dad’s antique motor scooter. And that’s probably when I learned that it was a 1946 Motorette.

My dad bought it after getting out of the Navy after WWII and after he had rehabilitated from polio that he contracted on a trip to Chicago. He went to Des Moines to attend Drake University and go to law school, and he needed a cheap vehicle that could make it around campus and up and down the hills. The Motorette fit the bill exactly, or almost. He had a hand control added that would allow him to use the brake and the gas, and he modified the back end to add a Model A transmission. The Motorette’s Mercury Clutch was perfect, since it didn’t require a pedal. With the new transmission, he had more gears and could go in reverse. He also could shift gears using the gear shift lever that stuck out the back behind the driver’s seat — not real handy if you had to change gears a lot, but perfectly acceptable for his needs. Later, he when he had moved to Osage and owned a home, he modified it slightly again so he could pull a lawn mower behind it, though by the time I was old enough to remember, us kids were the more reliable lawn mowers in the family, and the scooter was in semi-retirement, only brought out for the occasional rides around the yard.

Sometime after my famous ride in the parade, we stopped starting the scooter in the summers. Eventually, it got stored in our garden shed, where it has remained for the past 20 years or more, protected from the elements and up on blocks. If I were more of a mechanic, like my dad, I would dream of getting the engine running again and taking it for a spin.