From Skateboards to Motocross
As far as I know, I was the first kid in my town to make a homemade skateboard, months before you could buy them. I’d discovered the sport from my cousins, Tom and Jerry, who’d gone to California in 1963, where they discovered surfing. When they returned to Valparaiso, Indiana, they quickly invented dune surfing because waves on Lake Michigan were seldom big enough to ride but the lake was ringed by huge sand dunes. My cousins also started making skateboards and then buying the latest models once they came out commercially. This was years before the sticky wheels with grip revolutionized the sport.
Eventually, the local model-race-car center started carrying the initial round of skateboards. I avoided the typical small board and bought one that would be normal by today’s standards, but back then it was considered huge. It was called The Makaha. I wanted a big board so I could do tricks. My favorite was jumping over a broomstick about four feet off the ground in my basement, but I also liked to jump curbs and lay down flat on my back. Like all boards at the time, it had no kick tail.
In 1964 I started publishing my own newspaper while in junior high. It was called The Cap’n Crunch Courier. When Cap’n Crunch came out, it broke all records for sugar content in cereals, forever earning a place in my teenage heart. None of the original issues of that esteemed fanzine seem to have survived, unfortunately, although I did locate some of the drawings I did for the first issue (above), in which I published an entire page of cartoons devoted skateboarding. I had a couple of skateboarding buddies, one named Steve Tyler, whom I made fun of here, and the other named Stuart Tarr, who also become a journalist.
Here’s a photo of me (left) and Tyler in class at the time. You can see I was a class clown, always instigating one hilarious prank or another, like my snowball fight in Leal School against Patton’s gang. That’s Andy Miller waving his arm in the back. This had to be during winter because I’m wearing a heavy sweater my mom knitted for me. She always made the best sweaters and socks around winter time and got inspired with her knitting after we went to Europe for a year.
Within a few years, our skateboards would be replaced by cheap Japanese motorcycles. It started with a film called The Great Escape, which depicted Steve McQueen jumping a fence with a German clunker built like a Harley. My cousin Tom had earlier led us into dune surfing and skateboarding, so, of course, we followed Tom into this new passion for off-road motorcycle racing, although none of us but Tom had a driver’s license. My brother even stuck with the sport, although today he rides track and not off-road.