XMas 1943: ‘I just had to have a bike. I can remember pleading with my dad for one’

Background: Tim Russert’s Wisdom of Our Fathers has hundreds of stories men and women tell about their fathers. It’s a remarkable book–to learn more, see my co-authored column America’s Father Hunger (World Net Daily, 10/13/06).

This story is from Frank A. Zedik of Vestal, NY about his father Frank J. Zedik, a state trooper. It’s called “The Bicycle”:

“My first bicycle was a Christmas present when I was seven. This was in 1943, right in the middle of the war years, and there wasn’t a new bike to be found anywhere. All available metal, including scrap iron, was being used to support the war effort.

“At the time, I just had to have a bike. I can remember pleading with my dad for one (Santa having been exposed as a fraud during the previous year)–any kind, as long as it had two wheels. He was very patient with me and explained that it just wouldn’t be possible that year. Deep down I understood, but a little begging never hurt, so I persisted.

“Christmas Eve finally arrived and I looked everywhere; there wasn’t a bike in the house. But as I came downstairs the next morning, my eyes almost popped out of my head. There, right next to the Christmas tree, stood the biggest, most beautiful red and silver bicycle I had ever seen. I don’t think my feet even touched the bottom stairs as I dashed to inspect that miraculous sight.

“The bicycle had big widespread handlebars, a bright red frame, silver fenders, and a large leather saddle supported by two coiled springs. But the most impressive feature was that it had just two wheels. What a wonderful sight to behold!

“There was a light dusting of snow Christmas morning, and I had to wait another whole day before I could take that bike for a spin. Soon I was happily riding all around the neighborhood, oblivious to everything but the wind in my face.

“Several days later, I began to notice a couple of imperfections on my marvelous machine–an almost invisible dent on the fender, a little smudge on the paint–just enough to make me realize that the bike wasn’t new. I waited a few days, trying to get the courage to ask my dad where and how he got it. When I finally asked, he told me how he and a friend had scoured swap shops, junkyards, and other friends’ basements looking for bicycle parts. After a month of searching, they had three unworkable bikes from which they assembled my red and silver beauty. Dad was somewhat apologetic as he told the story, but there was no need to apologize for giving me the best Christmas present I ever had.”

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