“Hey mom, Dennis has a Triumph Tiger Cub. Can I have one ?”
“What is it?”
“A neat motorcycle. All the guys in my high school class have one !”
“How about a Cushman Eagle ?”
“Another motorcycle ?”
That short conversation took place in the late 1950’s. As my mom was awfully emphatic about it, that was that ! I’d ride on the back of my friend’s Tiger Cub but never really got much further than that with motorbikes.
Then 1971 I found myself living in Austin, Texas. One day I came home from looking for work and noticed a neighbor banging around on a motorcycle. We struck a friendship as I watched him try to get this bike to run – a BSA B44 Victor in apparently Victor trim, i.e. no fenders, lots of oil, knobby tires, no kick starter, license plate in the toolbox…you know! The guy turned out to be a very nice fellow, family man, nice dog…the whole thing. He just looked like he lived on his Victor, which he banged on, we’d push and he’d ride.
A short while later, I saw him beating on a different motorcycle.
Something to do with a clutch problem and a seized (?) kick-starter ratchet. I asked him about this motorcycle, and he said, “Well, I was riding around Austin, and I saw this one leaning against the side of a house. I knew it was a Gold Star, so I asked the guy who was living in the house about it. He said it wasn’t his, didn’t know who owned it and it had been leaning there since he moved in. When I asked him if he wanted it, he said again that it wasn’t his. So, I said, I’ll take it, and I put it in my van and brought it home. Pretty slick huh?” I asked my friend what a Gold Star was, and he gave me a short course while he proceeded to ruin the kick-starter ratchet. Pretty ratty looking bike to be so famous, but we pushed and lo and behold it came to life, thundering off and deafening on-lookers through its’ 18” un-baffled megaphone.
One day he asked me if I’d like to go riding. He said we’d have to put the bikes in the van and go out of town to an area that the county has set aside for motorcycles only. He couldn’t get a license for the Gold Star, but you don’t need to be legal to ride out there. It was about 50 acres just for motorcycles with trails, hills, bushes and open areas. So out we went, and we pushed (remember, no kick-starter ratchet) and for the first time I hopped solo onto a motorcycle and rode it. How lucky to have it be a 1955 CB34 Gold Star.
Later I asked him why he couldn’t get a license for it. He told me he had gone (in all his Victor glory no doubt) to the Austin city police and asked them how to get the title for a motorcycle that had been abandoned. They told him that he would have to provide $200 worth of notarized receipts from bike shops for parts put into it to prove that he was worthy of the state of Texas (who actually owned the abandoned motorcycle) titling it to him. Needless to say that didn’t go over too well, especially since he could put it in the van and head for the desert if he wanted to ride it. Also there was still the Victor leaning against a tree (no kickstand) if he wanted to ride legally. So he decided to forget getting the Gold Star title in his name and to just continue desert riding. Sounded OK to me.
One day as we came back from the desert ride he asked me if I liked the bike. I said, “Yeah it’s ok,” and he said he’d give it to me if I’d trade the Cerini front forks that were on it for the BSA forks on the Victor. He told me he was tired of the Gold Star and didn’t want to have to go to the desert to ride it, so I might as well have it. We traded front forks and I pushed the Gold Star over to my side of the apartment complex. A motorcycle owner at last! Now what? I was the “possession is 9/10’s of the law” owner of an old classic motorcycle with no title in Austin, Texas. Absolutely no
help if you looked like you crawled out of the oil pump of a motorcycle and went to the police to ask about titling. So…
Get a haircut, put on clean pants, a white short sleeved button-down collard shirt, Bass Weegen loafers and go to the courthouse office of Motor Vehicle Registration. I talked to a young Justice Of The Peace, told him my story of having been given a motorcycle with no title and asked him what to do. “Does it have a license plate?” he asked. “Yes, I said, “a 1968 Texas plate.” “OK” he said, “call the Motor Vehicle Division and find out the name and address of that last registered owner. Can you ride it?” “No” I said, “It has no rear axel.” The guy had cut it in two before we traded forks but assured me I could find one almost anywhere! “OK” the J.P. said. “State in your letter that the motorcycle is not ridable now and that you think the last owner, who abandoned it, should sign the title over to you or sell it to you for a nominal fee. “Thanks” I said.
Off went a certified letter to Houston, Texas which came back unopened and marked “Not Forewardable-Addressee Unknown”. So I go back to the Justice Of The Peace who says, without opening my returned letter to see what I’d Written, “OK now go over to my secretary, fill out an affidavit stating that you have tried without success, to reach the last registered owner of this motorcycle and that you think the great state of Texas should sign the title over to you as an interested party. Pay her $17.50 ($10 Texas state gift tax, $5 registration fee and $2.50 titling fee) and it’s yours!”
My mother bought me my first safety helmet.
This is the only motorcycle I’ve ever owned or am likely to own.
I’ve taken it from one end of the US to the other since 1971.
Ray St.Clair CB34GS797
Tucson, Arizona USA