Western Wheelers History
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Western Wheelers History by Email Dick Blaine
December 30, 2000
In the mid 90’s I became very active in the Western Wheelers and started collecting as many back issues of the Flat Tyre as I could and slowly working my way through them. I never did acquire issues much before 1974 which described the very early history. I started talking with some of the old-timers like Ellen Fletcher and Frank La Fetra and discovered several sources of information. I had planned to publish an article in the Flat Tyre back in 1995 but have managed to postpone it till now. So only days before the end of the millennium, I am finally getting around to doing so.
One of the best is an article that was published in the Menlo Park Recorder on May 30, 1973. This article describes the formation and philosophy of the club.
Next I contacted Skip La Fetra, who, I believe, is the longest continuous member of Western Wheelers (and still participating). We met on January 23, 1995 at Togo’s in Santa Clara to talk about the 1973 article and get Skip’s recognitions. Following is a summary of his comments (with some of my own).
Skip joined WW around 1970 when he was a sophomore at Woodside High School and has been a continuous member ever since. He went to Stanford in 1973 and is now  a Home PC System Manager at HP. He was on the board in 1971 or so to represent the younger generation. He did several centuries and the Davis Double in those days but does not have a lot of time left over now for bicycling.
The club was formed by students from Menlo-Atherton around 1968. Roy Peterson ran the club in the 1970–1973 time frame (one man show). His wife, Carol and son, Eric were very active. Carol Peterson became very active in the club before her son Eric did.
My understanding of their activity is…
- Roy Peterson becomes very active
- Roy and Carol are very active ⇐ this is when I (Skip) joined
- Roy, Carol, and Eric are very active
- Roy passes away
- Eric goes off to college, etc
- Carol remains very active
- Carol becomes inactive (withdraws or passes away? I can’t remember which)
- Club goes different direction?
Skip wrote some articles for the Flat Tire, as it was called then.
Some of the members at that time…
Herb Messler, Ted Johnson (dt?), Mike Harding, Ben Lefkowitz (1973), Mike and Steve Jacobowski (owners of Chain Reaction) (1960/9), Frank and Jan La Fetra (1972/3), Chris Wiscavage (dt?), Howard Messiner (197?). Skip has some pictures of early members.
Original club philosophy was social rides with some charitable and advocacy activities as secondary. Many individual members were deeply involved in advocacy then, as they are now.
One of the early “standing” rides in the 1970–1972 time frame was the Tuesday Night ride which met behind Sugden & Lynch (was Josylin’s) bike shop on Santa Cruz Ave in Menlo Park. After the bike shop closed the site was taken over by Menlo Sports. The group grew from 6–7 people up to 20. The ride languished and stopped and then started several times. The Tuesday Evening Ride often rode the Portola Loop. Other popular destinations were Mt. Eden loop, often with a short stop at Wildwood Park just off Highway 9, looping Sand Hill to Whiskey Hill over to Woodside Road, taking the Alameda north and climbing Jefferson (in Redwood City).
Howard Meissner (need to check on this) started the “Thursday” group back in the mid-1970’s. [He led the rides until 1991 when he became ill. Pete Blasberg coordinates this group today with different people leading the rides for a month at at time. —RAB note] — [No, apparently, Arlene and Dave Marshall started the Thursday group. —RAB note]
[Pete Blasberg and Carol Shaw started a Tuesday morning group in 1993 which meets at the Westmoor Shopping Center at Fremont and Mary. This group grew from 2 to 15-20 through 1995 and rides the Portola Loop every Tuesday. —RAB note]
The original WW century was called the San Andreas and was co-sponsored with the Valley Spokesmen(?). The first event was in 1971 and was a 100-mile ride starting at Mitchell Park or possibly Gunn High School with a route similar to the Sequoia. The route was different and became more difficult each year. The name was changed to Sequoia later. The original ride was a moderate, family-oriented ride and a goal was to raise money for charity.
Other notes of interest
The Valley Spokesmen and Skyline clubs were founded before 1970.
Palo Alto had bike lanes with raised curbs in the ’70s. At one time, bicyclists were forced to ride on the sidewalks.
Flat Tyre mailing parties go back to the ’70s.
The Palo Alto Parks and Rec department used to co-sponsor the Club century.
Last updated December 01, 2004.
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