William Peden

Dad’s Olympic Adventure

Dad as a Young Man

Dad as a Young Man

articleMy father, Donald Lyman Mason, (more here) was something of an expert on bicycles. For some time, during his early college years at Oregon State, he worked in the local bike shop to help pay his way. While working there he assembled what he considered to be the ultimate racing bike from pieces and parts he scrounged here and there. He then took up bicycle racing and in 1932 he won the championship for the State of Oregon. I distinctly remember him extoling the virtues of that bike. It had a special light weight frame and an unusually short wheel base. There were no gears and  the pedals never stopped, or coasted. In fact, the bike could actually be pedaled in reverse. If you were used to riding a bike which braked by reversing the pedal action and you tried that with Dad’s bike, it could pitch you right over the handle bars. He recounted to me, with obvious relish, how he stayed right on the leader’s tail in the final championship race and then sprinted by him in the home stretch to win the race. He kept that bike all of his life and used it as his primary commute vehicle both before and after he owned a car. I used it myself when I was in junior high school. Below is the medal he was awarded for the State of Oregon Championship

Dads prowess with a bicycle did not go unnoticed on the Oregon State campus. See article on right that appeared in the college newspaper. It doesn’t mention him by name, but everybody knew who it was about.

(click on images for larger view):





The  1932 the Olympics were held in Los Angeles and the Coliseum was built for that occasion. Dad’s State Championship was not sufficient to get him into the Olympics, but he was an avid follower of bicycle events and dearly wanted to see them in Olympic form. So, he and a couple of friends bought an old car and decided to drive to L.A. Dad also had a bicycle racing hero named William “Torchy” Peden. The nickname “Torchy” resulted from a head of bright red hair. Peden had turned professional after the 1928 Olympics, but he would be at the 1932 games as coach of the Canadian Bicycle Racing Team, and Dad hoped to meet him.

Olumpic TicketUnfortunately, things did not go as planned. The car was unreliable and  repair expenses along the way left the travelers broke by the time they got to L.A. They sold the car for a song in order buy tickets to the various events. He did manage to get close to Torchy Peden but he was hugely disappointed because Peden had such a foul mouth that my straight-laced father was totally turned-off.

When the games were over, there they were, flat-busted and 1500 miles from home at the height of the Great Depression. Their only choice was to do what many others were doing in those days — ride the rails to get where they wanted to go. Somehow, they managed to jump on a freight train headed north up the Central Valley and they found themselves in an empty boxcar with a mixture of hobos and tramps. Someone started a fire inside the car, then two bums that had been drinking got into a fight. This was a little too much for a young, innocent college student to take. So he left the boxcar and worked his way forward to a gravel gondola. This turned out to be a fortuitous move because, whereas the empty boxcar had been quite a rough ride, the gravel car was loaded and, consequently, the springs were compressed making for a softer ride. In addition, the Sun had been heating the gravel all day and he could snuggle down into it and stay warm through most of the night.

Here my memory of the details of the story begins to taper off. I do recall him describing how, on one occassion, as the train was going slowly up a grade through some vinyards they perfected the practice of jumping off near the front of the train, dashing into the vinyards, grabbing a bunch of grapes and then catching the end of the train before it passed by.

I don’t remember anything about how the trip ended, but since I’m here writing what I do remember, it’s pretty obvious he made it home safe and sound.

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Saturday, April 17th, 2010 Dad's Olympic Adventure No Comments