Earlier in the year, Chop Cult member, Beefdrippings put up a link in the forum to some pics that a buddy of his had scanned. Photos that his mom shot forty years ago when riding with a small club out of Imperial Beach, CA called the Chariots MC. Sharon, the photographer and companion to the VP back then was nice enough to let us post some of the pics and answered a few questions about the people and bikes in these great old photos.
The takeaway? These are good times we live in and nothing lasts forever. Despite a down economy, long-haul wars and myriad other problems we face today, if you are fortunate enough to have a bike and some buddies who are willing to strap a bedroll on and hit the road, things can be pretty darn good. So if you are a lucky one, sit back once in a while and be thankful because you never know how long it'll last. Enjoy the ride!
You can see more photos, in larger sizes on Sharon's son's flickr page here. Huge thanks to her, Carl and Beefdrippings for helping bring these images out of hibernation. It's funny, some of them look like any of our usual adventures - working on a bike in the Denny's parking lot, drinking beer in the shade, hanging with your buddies, only these dudes look a little classier!
Q: When were these images taken?
These photos were taken in 1972 with a small point and shoot Vivitar camera. I caught a lot of flack for taking them. Definitely not a cool thing to do - But when they came back from the drug store, everyone was sure anxious to see them. I had duplicates made for both Steve and I.
Q: What San Diego area were most members from or where did you guys hang out the most?
As nearly as I recall it seemed that most of the guys lived in or around National City, Chula Vista and IB. Some of them probably lived in San Diego proper but where anyone lived never came up as a topic of conversation.
Steve's (AKA, Tusky) house on Holly Street in IB was where everyone hung out after hours when the shop was closed. Drinking at a bar was too expensive. I was Tusky's girl friend at the time and we shared one of two bedrooms. Midget and John shared the other bedroom and there was usually at least one, usually more, camped out in the living room. I cooked for whoever was in residence at the time. The guys were always very appreciative of that and I enjoyed their gratitude. They were always very respectful towards me.
The garage was attached to the living room, and bikes and parts were brought directly into the living room to be worked on and the avocado green carpeting was usually covered in black grease spots. One of the other wives clued me into the fact that Scrubbing Bubbles Bathroom Foam spray worked great to clean up oily grease spots. Those were the days before the vast array of carpet cleaners were available, or at least that I was aware of... And the foam spray worked very well, although trying to keep that carpet clean was pretty much an exercise in futility.
We were all smokers back then and the pans from old Panheads were all over the house for use as ashtrays. Motorcycle parts often made up much of the "decor".
One of the best things about being the VP's "old lady" was whenever we went on a "putt", we were always up front, riding in tandem with the president. I never saw what the pack looked like from riding in the middle or the rear.
Q: Do you keep in contact with many of the old members any more?
Sadly, no. Wish I knew what happened to everyone. I did hear that one the guys (Chuck) joined another club after the Chariots disbanded.
Q: Did you guys ever ride in Baja?
I'm guessing that you are referring to Baja, Mexico? If so, the answer would have to be a resounding NO! A group of us drove down to TJ, one afternoon, parked the car and walked across the border. It was not much fun crossing into Mexico back then if one looked as rough as we did. They did not seem to be thrilled about "our kind" coming into their fair (LOL) city. Getting back over to our side was a big pain in the neck. I was worried that we would be searched and detained even though we had made a point of making sure that none of us had anything illegal in our possession before we left home. They could not understand how we had even been admitted into Mexico to begin with. So a ride into Baja would probably not have been a good idea.
Q: What eventually happened to the Club?
It disbanded - a few months after Steve and I parted ways, although our split had nothing to do with it. There were enough reasons, collectively, I believe to "break the camel's back". Shortly before I moved in with Steve, the club president (Sonny) was killed in a tragic motorcycle accident. Steve kept his position as VP and Charley became president. Charley was very well respected but I don't think the club ever fully recovered from Sonny's death.
Money, or the lack of it, was also an issue - a couple of the guys, Steve included and I believe, also John, were laid off from National Steel. House payments could no longer be made and Bozos was not making enough to make ends meet to support Charley, his wife and new baby. He needed to provide for them with a regular paying job.
Most of the Chariots were in their early twenties and pretty narcissistic about how bad they were. We realized (I include myself) that we were probably not all that bad after a group from a well known 1% club crashed a party we were having at Bozo's one night. These guys were well armed, a lot older, nasty and a truly sadistic bunch trying to bully and scare us with how bad they were. None of the Chariots were lightweights or cowards. Many were former Viet Nam Vets, among them a Navy Seal. I truly believe they would have gone to the wall for each other. But I don't think they had aspirations of being like the bigger clubs. They just wanted to be left alone in their own shop on their own side of town. It was too much to ask for. Some of the guys had families and responsibilities.
I cannot say positively that these are some, any or most of the reasons the Chariots dissolved. This is just surmising on my part, looking back, after the fact, many years later.
I have always felt blessed to have been able to spend apart of my life in that lifestyle. There was never a dull moment and hearing the sound of bikes coming down the street always made my pulse quicken - I was able able to recognize, sight unseen, who each club member was by the unique sound of his bike's engine. They all rode Harleys.
It is gratifying to know that after so many years, these photos have been given new life and have been enjoyed by a much larger audience than I could have ever imagined..