Boomer Bikes Had Kickstands

If you haven’t ridden a bicycle in a while, you may or may not have noticed that the styles have changed quite a bit compared to the bicycles that boomers rode as kids. For one thing, what the heck happened to the kickstand? Newer bikes rarely come with an attached kickstand anymore. Some children’s bikes still come equipped with one, and lower-end adult models sometimes have the device, but for the most part, the kickstand — standard equipment on a bicycle in the 1950s and ’60s — has disappeared.

Kickstands were that metal rod with a spring attached that was mounted below the pedal wheel sprocket. The spring enabled the metal rod to be kicked up or down for use. The purpose of the kickstand was to allow the bike to stand upright on its own. Kickstands usually had a bend near the bottom that set a more parallel surface to rest on the concrete or ground. That bend, plus the roundness of the rod, meant the kickstand was not always very stable. A brush against the handlebars or even a gust of wind may have toppled the bike over.

The thing was, many boomers had their bikes with them all day, every day. If they rode to a friend’s house, the kickstand could be employed when there was no rider. Boomers would pedal to baseball practice, parks, or, as was the case with Mister B, the occasional A&W Root Beer stand with his neighborhood friends, where the kickstands kept the bikes upright while they were at the outdoor counter, enjoying a cold root beer in a frosty mug.

So what happened to cause manufacturers to ditch the kickstand? Several factors seem to be in play, starting with the “cool” factor. The Schwinn bicycles of the 1960s set the standard for cool in boomer bicycles, picking up the mantle from Radio Flyers of the 1950s. As the 1960s rolled along, it just didn’t seem cool to have a kickstand any more. Yet there were probably other reasons that were more pertinent. For one thing, a whole “serious” class of riders was emerging. There was a split between leisure riders and racers and road riders. That contributed to the increased adoption of hand brakes over the more traditional coaster brakes boomer kids had learned to use, and multiple-speed shifts as well. Two-speed and three-speed bikes were available as far back as the turn of the century, but most boomers (in Mister B’s unscientific poll) had bicycles with only one speed, coaster brakes, and a kickstand. Pedal forward to propel the bike, flip the pedals back to brake. Hop off the bike and deploy the kickstand, which was always on the left side. The story goes that people usually mounted horses from the left, so when bicycles came around, people kept that tradition, and the kickstand followed suit.

As trail and mountain bikes became more popular in the 1970s, it became apparent that there was no reason for a kickstand. Riders were hopping on and pedaling away, not stopping at a store or an ice cream shop. Serious bicyclists didn’t want the added weight as well, and even though the spring was meant to keep the kickstand stowed when riding, the shock of rough terrain and the need for clearance below the pedals for potential objects on the trail could easily trip it into flipping open, thereby endangering the rider.

Finally, there began in the boomer years a rise in bicycle theft that required users to lock up their bicycles when not in use. Locks could be attached to street signs, fences or bike racks. In any case, a kickstand was not necessary.

Today’s bicycles have a myriad of styles, seating, speeds and tire options, so much so that they are barely recognizable as the same vehicle boomers rode as kids. Remember fenders on bikes? They were another casualty of the changing times.

Did you keep your boomer-era bicycle, or repurchase one as an adult, to relive that nostalgia for the freedom a bicycle offered? Does it have a kickstand?

Boomers Loved Candy Apples

It’s Halloween time once again and you know what that means: pumpkin spice everything has co-opted the season. This year, it seems like the pumpkin spice products emerged around Labor Day. It wasn’t always that way, of course. In boomer years, the fall-leading-into-Halloween time was marked by the annual appearance of caramel and candy apples. In fact, for some people, candy apples were the go-to choice for giving Halloween trick-or-treaters. However, Mister Boomer did not appreciate this offering that added weight to his pillow case of treats. He was not a fan of the hard-shelled sugar candy coating, but the color and sheen — that was another story.

Candy apples were first made by Newark, New Jersey candymaker William Kolb in 1908. He was looking for a way to showcase his red cinnamon candy, and experimented with dipping apples in it. Displayed in his shop window, the shiny red apples with a stick in each one drew in customers, eager to try his new concoction. They were a big hit! The idea spread quickly to local and regional fairs, but early in the twentieth century, they became a popular giveaway treat for Halloween.

After the War, the Baby Boom began. Optimism was high in the country, and national mood was expressed by a series of heavily saturated colors. One of those colors was a rendition of that shiny red, inspired by candy apples. By the 1950s, a candy red could color could be seen on women’s handbags, footwear, jewelry and accessories, as well as home appliances.

It wasn’t long before the West Coast custom car culture experimented with methods of reproducing the color and shine that was pulsing through the consumer market. Mel Pinoli, of Pinoli’s Body & Paint Shop in California, is credited with creating the first candy paint color for cars — but it wasn’t red, it was green!

A couple of years later, around 1956, car customizer Joe Bailon built on Pinoli’s process in an attempt to create the color he saw on a set of Ludwig drums. Bailon’s method applied a metallic coat of paint (silver or gold) to the car, followed by a translucent dye layer, which was then covered with a clear lacquer. Sanding and polishing brought out the blends of each layer with a shine that mimicked Kolb’s original red cinnamon candy apple. Mr. Bailon called the resulting color, candy apple red. Voila! he painted the first car a candy apple red!

Mister Boomer remembers being wowed by the visual depth and beauty of a candy apple red finish on custom cars he saw in car shows and occasionally, in neighborhood parking lots.

In 1963, Fender guitars offered a candy apple red option for their iconic Stratocaster model for the added price of $15. The company offered the color only until 1974.

What about caramel apples? Not to be confused with candy apples, caramel apples are what the name says: an apple with a stick in it dipped in melted caramel, often rolled in crushed walnuts. Unlike its candy apple cousin, caramel apples were a true boomer-era invention, arriving in 1948. Mister B recalls Kraft caramels having as recipe for caramel apples printed on the back of the bag.

Mister Boomer much preferred the caramel apple variety, but not for Halloween. No way. To him, that was as bad as receiving a popcorn ball, or a plain apple! Nonetheless, Mister B concedes that somebody somewhere used to enjoy getting caramel or candy apples for Halloween, back in a time when homemade treats were an acceptable part of trick-or-treating.

How about you, boomers? Candy or caramel apple fan? Loved or hated the color?