My first freeway to larger horizons was a bicycle

On my bicycle, rolling along
On my bicycle, singing my song
On my bicycle ride, hoping you’ll come along

—“Old Bike” song lyrics performed by Rob Cantor

Facebook pictures of the old Borden’s milk plant building just off the courthouse square in Mount Pleasant got me thinking last week about the bicycle journeys of my youth.

Borden’s milk processing plant, Mount Pleasant, Texas. Mike Holmes’ photo Facebook Mt. Pleasant, Texas — Memory Lane

I had one bicycle throughout my pedaling days: red with a frame tank and a basket on the handlebars. Lack of memory prohibits me from reporting the brand with certainty, but a safe wager is that it may have come from Perry’s 5-and-10-cent store where Dad was the manager.

A driver’s license is often heralded as the first taste of freedom for a kid, but my first freeway to broader horizons was my trusty red bicycle. Between riding off on my first adventure down Redbud Street on Christmas Day of 1959 and the first day of Lee Gray’s driver education classes at MPHS, a bicycle was my ticket to ride.

And ride I did. To school at South Ward elementary, Raney’s Grocery on South Jefferson, Artistic Barber Shop on Third Street where Chris Durant trimmed my flat top, and more.

“Bicycle hikes” in Coach Sam Parker’s Boy Scout troop were Saturday morning rides along miles of Titus County rural roads on the way to a bicycling merit  badge. All-day excursions were five-mile treks out the Pittsburg highway to Cypress Creek, cooking lunch over a campfire, loading up our gear and riding back to town.

That same stretch of highway also provided many miles of bicycling adventures for neighbor friend Eddie Dial and me in search of Coke bottles (that’s any glass soft drink bottle in Texas) tossed on the roadside. Those fund-raising missions ended back in town at Hutchison’s Grocery cashing in the day’s catch at 2-cents per bottle: a nice supplement to my 25¢ weekly allowance earned for taking out the trash and mowing the yard.

Frequent diversions out the Pittsburg highway were spins through the Pleasant Drive-In theater for high-speed thrills ramping the repeated rows of inclined parking drive-ins utilized to improve movie screen viewing. Also fun was gathering up small clips of film around the trash can outside the projection room and concession stand area presumably tossed after splicing film reels the night before. The recycled remnants of celluloid cinema provided hours of entertainment for a kid with a flashlight and magnifying glass attempting to successfully screen the images onto a bedroom wall. 

Then there was that Pittsburg thing where Eddie and I pedaled out on our trusty steeds one Saturday morning searching for bottles when the allure of the open road took us beyond the Cypress Creek bridge: the halfway point to Pittsburg. Stopping to reassess our ride, we determined that since we were closer to Pittsburg than to Mount Pleasant, it made perfect sense to continue south ending our journey on Cypress Street in Pittsburg at my grandparent’s house.

Granny’s surprised look to see us riding up fell somewhere short of Mom’s disbelief at hearing me on the other end of a long-distance phone call asking if she could make the ten-mile jaunt in the family’s ’58 Ford station wagon and provide transportation back to Mount Pleasant. “Oh,” I added in the silence that followed that plea, “Can you call Eddie’s mother and tell her he’s in Pittsburg and will be home as soon as you can come get us.”

So, about the connection between these memories and the old Borden’s Milk plant building? That was often my resting spot riding back to Redbud Street after a Saturday afternoon in downtown Mount Pleasant. If the morning bottle business was good, I could enjoy a movie with popcorn and also be headed home with a comic book or model car kit—and always with a Three Musketeers candy bar.

It was at that old quiet abandoned building that Saturday afternoons often found me sitting on the railroad siding dock enjoying a candy bar and reading a comic book. 

And not far away, my trusty red bicycle with the center tank and the basket could be found resting on its kickstand waiting for me to throw a leg over for the next great adventure.

—Leon Aldridge

(Photo credit: Bicycle ad—1966 Sears Winter Sale Catalog.)

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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune,  the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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