Friday, October 30, 2009

Following in the footsteps of Bessie Stringfield

I've had motorcycles on the back burner for years. In the seventies I lived a year in New York. One of my friends road a motorcycle, I can't remember what kind of bike, but it felt exciting in a romantic kind of way.
I rode on the back of his bike with my arms tight around his waist as if we were one carving the road with this powerful machine. It was exhilarating feeling  the open road with no expectation but to be in the moment!
I've been looking at bikes on Craigs list for the last several months, just seeing what is out there. I've talked to people, gone to bike shops and tried on helmets and jackets. many have told  tell me of  the dangers of the road and to stick with a car, "it's safer". I read a post on one of my favorite blogs called, "The Selvedge Yard", where I read an article about this amazing woman named Bessie Stringfield, story to follow. I said all this to share with you all that I took and passed my motorcycle license test today!!! Woo Hoo!!! I'm closer to two wheels!! I want the choice of leaving my "mommy car" at home and reduce my carbon footprint even further!! Bessie is an inspiration! I'll keep you posted when I get my bike!!
The life and times of African-American motorcycling pioneer Bessie B. Stringfield seem like the stuff of which legends are made. Bessie has been written about in books, magazines and newspapers. She has been mentioned in television documentaries, and someday there may be a film dramatization based on her life story. In 1990, when the AMA opened the first Motorcycle Heritage Museum, Bessie was featured in its inaugural exhibit on Women in Motorcycling. A decade later, the AMA instituted the Bessie Stringfield Award to honor women who are leaders in motorcycling. And in 2002, she was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame.Bessie – BB as she was known among friends – would probably be amused and yet proud of all the attention. Referring to her adventures and her 60-plus years of riding, she once quipped: "I was somethin'! What I did was fun and I loved it."
In the 1930s and 1940s, Bessie took eight long-distance, solo rides across the United States. Speaking to a reporter, she dismissed the notion that "nice girls didn’t go around riding motorcycles in those days." Further, she was apparently fearless at riding through the Deep South when racial prejudice was a tangible threat. Was Bessie consciously championing the rights of women and African-Americans? Bessie would most likely have said she was simply living her life in her own way.
In interviews with author Ann Ferrar, Bessie revealed how she drew courage from two things: Her Catholic faith in Jesus Christ, whom she called "The Man Upstairs," and the values she learned from her adoptive mother.
Early on, Bessie had to steel herself against life’s disappointments. Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1911, as a child she was brought to Boston but was orphaned by age 5.
"An Irish lady raised me," she recalled. "I’m not allowed to use her name. She gave me whatever I wanted. When I was in high school I wanted a motorcycle. And even though good girls didn’t ride motorcycles, I got one."
She was 16 when she climbed aboard her first bike, a 1928 Indian Scout. With no prior knowledge of how to operate the controls, Bessie proved to be a natural. She insisted that the Man Upstairs gave her the skills.
"My [Irish] mother said if I wanted anything I had to ask Our Lord Jesus Christ, and so I did," she said. "He taught me and He’s with me at all times, even now. When I get on the motorcycle I put the Man Upstairs on the front. I’m very happy on two wheels."
She was especially happy on Milwaukee iron. Her one Indian notwithstanding, Bessie said of the 27 Harleys she owned in her lifetime, "To me, a Harley is the only motorcycle ever made."
At 19, she began tossing a penny over a map and riding to wherever it landed. Bessie covered the 48 lower states. Using her natural skills and can-do attitude, she did hill climbing and trick riding in carnival stunt shows. But it was her faith that got her through many nights.
"If you had black skin you couldn’t get a place to stay," she said. "I knew the Lord would take care of me and He did. If I found black folks, I’d stay with them. If not, I’d sleep at filling stations on my motorcycle." She laid her jacket on the handlebars as a pillow and rested her feet on the rear fender.
In between her travels, Bessie wed and divorced six times, declaring, "If you kissed, you got married." After she and her first husband were deeply saddened by the loss of three babies, Bessie had no more children. Upon divorcing her third husband, Arthur Stringfield, she said, "He asked me to keep his name because I’d made it famous!"
During World War II, Bessie worked for the army as a civilian motorcycle dispatch rider. The only woman in her unit, she completed rigorous training maneuvers. She learned how to weave a makeshift bridge from rope and tree limbs to cross swamps, though she never had to do so in the line of duty. With a military crest on the front of her own blue Harley, a "61," she carried documents between domestic bases.
Bessie encountered racial prejudice on the road. One time she was followed by a man in a pickup truck who ran her off the road, knocking her off her bike. She downplayed her courage in coping with such incidents. "I had my ups and downs," she shrugged.
In the 1950s, Bessie bought a house in a Miami, Florida suburb. She became a licensed practical nurse and founded the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club. Disguised as a man, Bessie won a flat track race but was denied the prize money when she took off her helmet. Her other antics – such as riding while standing in the saddle of her Harley – attracted the local press. Reporters called her the "Negro Motorcycle Queen" and later the "Motorcycle Queen of Miami." In the absence of children, Bessie found joy in her pet dogs, some of whom paraded with her on her motorcycle.
Late in life, Bessie suffered from symptoms caused by an enlarged heart. "Years ago the doctor wanted to stop me from riding," she recalled. "I told him if I don’t ride, I won’t live long. And so I never did quit."
Before she died in 1993 at the age of 82, Bessie said, "They tell me my heart is three times the size it’s supposed to be." An apt metaphor for this unconventional woman whose heart and spirited determination have touched so many lives.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What they're saying about Old School Brand!

I needed a non allergenic laundry soap and yours seems to fit the bill!- Michael Barnard

I love the detergent! It gave a really clean wash and left a wonderful smell. -J. Gayle

Hi Renee- I love 'Old School', I like how it cleans, how little I use, which is a water savings and the best part, NO PLASTIC!!!! Plus I can send back the package to you for a refill. Best Regards-Janet

I LOVE the detergent. I usually hate scented anything, but the scent of that stuff is very understated (like myself) and pleasant. David really liked it too. I will have to get some more.-C. Bradshaw

I Love your soap! do you have a bigger size? -E. Green

Thank you all for your continued support, it's really a lot of fun bringing community together over clean laundry! I have a following in my neighborhood that knock on my door for refills. It's like a scene out of a movie. A neighbor knocks on the door, I crack the door open peering out, she whispers,"you got any more of that soap?, I'm runnin a little low, front me a bag until Friday". They're hooked! She walks away smelling the bag of soap! LOL!! So cool!
Listen, you all need to indulge yourselves if you can by hanging your laundy out on a line. Hang it on a tree even.The fresh smell of clean laundry on the line is indeed divine!! We have NO dryer at our house and the electric bill has been cut in half!! Really! You would be amazed at how much power a dryer consumes!
My teenage kids are now timing their wash to be lined dry! Now that is a major accomplishment!
Wishing you all a great week...keep in touch!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Old School Brand Laundry Soap is ready for her close-up!!!

We have been very busy at Old School Brand. On the 20th of September our soap was included in the goodie bags at the Emmy's and at the end of the month our soap was featured in the gift bags at Andre Agassi's 14th Annual Grand Slam Children's Charity Event in Las Vegas! Sending out a big thank you to Dina Rezvanipour of Distinctive Assets for making this all possible! Old School has a celebrity following and everyone needs clean clothes, even if it's your house keeper that does the laundry!

This weekend we are participating in Mar Vista's Green Event, spreading the word about Old School Brand Laundry Soap.
We are changing old habits one load at a time!
We've been getting feed back on our laundry soap from as far as Amsterdam and Japan! 
Thank you all for the amazing support! We are growing and appreciate all the feed back and the constant flow of regular orders! There are neighbors that knock on my door for their fix of Old School Brand for the month!! You know who you are, and I love you!!! Alright, I've got to get back to my chores.. stay in touch and I'll keep you blogged on what's going on at Old School Brand!