White knuckles, girlfriends and oily wrecks!

Now in his seventies and still riding a Suzuki SV650, Leslie Wye looks back fondly at the magical motorcycling years of the 1960s.

During the now-far-away 1960s, motorbikes played a much more important role in our society. They were our only affordable means of transport and were a respectable addiction, playing a major role in getting teenagers interested in worthwhile jobs.

The motorcycle also created a bond between students/apprentices attending colleges or different workplaces.

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In the Potteries there were many large engineering firms, including English Electric, Michelin, Creda, British Railways and the mining industry, and many of the apprentices and trainees of these attended the College of Further Education at Stoke.

Leslie’s letter also made mention of a small two-stroke he used to own, and the frustration he often felt when the petroil mix dispenser dished out pure petrol! While researching old-fashioned petrol pumps in the Mortons Archive, we came up with this photo of such a device, and wondered if it’s like the one he remembers.

It isn’t called that now, because it became a polytechnic and then a university. The buildings are much the same, but the subjects taught have changed from maths, technical drawing, mechanics, electro-mechanics and workshop training, which included machine-operating skills.

The subjects taught today seem to have fancy titles, and to me do not seem relevant in the real world.

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Returning to the noble subject of motorcycling, a student friend of mine called Mick was given a Douglas Dragonfly by an uncle, and Mick spent many an evening improving the engine by tuning it and fitting “go-faster” parts. He ended up with an unbelievably fast bike which, due to its small
five-inch brakes, took a considerable time to stop.

Mick would give me a lift from the College of Further Education to Longton, two miles away through built-up Fenton. He prided himself that if he could leave the college at 4.50pm on a Friday, he’d be outside the Belstaff factory in Longton to hear the local church clock strike five, so that he could pick up his girlfriend who worked there.

Read more in the May 2018 issue of OBM – on sale now!

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