Sally's Bicycle Shop on Wilson Ave just east of Clarendon was one of my hangouts.
Sally's—I could never figure out why it had that name—it was run by a guy. I would rent a bike from them for .50 cents a day. They had a 20" bike which would fit my size, and I could peddle it with ease. If I rode a 26" I had problems stopping. I would have to find a curb, pull up alongside it, then placing one foot on the curb I could dismount. I would start up much in the same manner.
Sally rented Schwinns, nothing but Schwinns. I remember that a Schwinn sold for $16. 00. Now this was for a plain frame, no belly tank or lights, but it had knee action. Knee action being a heavy duty spring on the front fork. The ads that ran in the comic books said that the knee action could take care of all kinds bumps and jumps. I rode a knee action Schwinn at a curb thinking it would bounce over it with ease, boy was I wrong. At that point I started not to believe ads.
Any time I came up with fifty cents I headed to Sally's. It was a four block walk to Sally's but worth it. Looking back it seems sort of ridiculous to walk 4 blocks, rent a bike, and then after riding all day walk home, but then at that age who cares?
The lake front became our home. Riding to the downtown area along the lake was fun. Riding to the zoo was just as great. I used to love riding to the casting club in the Lincoln Park Lagoon; they had a little pier that you casted from, and out in the water were colored hoops at different distances. You would cast out and try to land your plug in the hoop.
We would ride all the way out to Western Ave. On the west side of the street was an open field that ran between Riverview and Lane Tech High School. That field had high mounds of dirt, "mountains" to us inner city kids. "Bicycle Paradise" is what every kid on the north side called; it was sort of like a bicycle obstacle course.
Now that was 11 blocks south and 16 blocks west, but we never thought distance, we just thought time.
We would ride way out to Labagh Woods with all our gear and camp out the whole weekend; that was only about 5 blocks north and 40 blocks west, at Foster and Cicero.
I would ride out to Gompers Park at Foster and Pulaski with my fly rod and fish for blue gills or I would ride to Belmont Harbor to snag carp.
The bicycle gave us the keys to the city.
Days gone, but not forgotten