Sixtythree Years Ago

Harriet and Victor Gardener motorcycles                                              Harriet and Victor Gardener

Believe written in 1979

By Victor E. Gardener

Before beginning to tell of this adventure which took place sixty-three years ago I should give a short biography of three people principally involved.

The youngest, Everett Dahack, was born circa 1900.  I don’t know much about Everett.  I was well acquainted with his father Eli, and his much older brother Earnest.  I understand Everett was a spoiled son, sort of a brat.  In the year 1913 I know Everett lived with his father on a small farm about three miles north of Eagle Point, Oregon.  Eli also owned a garage in Medford, ten miles from Eagle Point.

In about 1930 a friend of Everett was in the moonshine making business.  This man had an operating still a few miles north of Eagle Point.  There were at that time many moonshine stills in our area, and occasionally the Feds or sheriff would raid these stills.

One morning a deputy perched himself, well camouflaged, on top of a tree near this still of Everett’s friend.  To be in such a position, to kill must have been his intention.  This morning Everett killed a deer and for some unknown reason carried it to the still.  When within a few steps of the still he paused, and at this moment the deputy shot Everett square between his eyes,  So ended poor Everett.  The deputy for this crime got off scott free.

The second member of this party to introduce is Elmer Robertson, who was born in Missouri in 1887.  With his parents and many brothers and sisters (eleven I believe: Elmer being the fourth in line) they migrated to Eagle Point in 1913 and settled on a farm near Eli Dahack.  I first became acquainted with Elmer in 1943.  At this time he had a farm of his own near his parents.  At short periods of time during the year he would do a little outside work.  During World War 11 I owned a small sawmill, which employed about ten men.  Elmer worked for me a few months in my sawmill.  He was very good help, would give absolutely all he had and was always pleasant.  I remember it was a pleasure to have him in work as well as company.  Mr. Robertson and his charming wife now live in Medford. His health is good except for arthritis in his legs.  This does not stop him.  If he can’t stand, OK, then there is something he will do on his hands and knees.  An American citizen for all of us to be proud to have.

The third and last member of this party is George Daley, grandson of early settlers to Rogue Valley, born in Eagle Point in 1896.  Young George got the two-wheeled fever early.  He was always very ambitious, worked at anything, and saved his money to buy motorcycles mostly.  He was a money maker, sharp in business.  In 1908 he bought a Thiem, 1907 model.  Next he bought a Thor, then a Pope.  All these were belt driven and had about four hp.  They did not amount to much.

In 1913 he with his cousin Lynn Daley boarded a train and went to Portland, Oregon.  George had saved about four hundred dollars.  There he purchased a brand new Excelsior.  It cost three hundred thirty dollars, and weighed about three hundred fifty pounds.  This was a real motorcycle, two cylinders, one speed, chain drive and had a good buddy saddle.

They rode it home to Medford where George then lived with his mother while he attended high school.  That summer he explored a radius of about one hundred miles to Crater Lake, to Klamath Falls over the old emigrant road, to Yreka in California over the old Dollarhide Toll Road.  He took his grandmother for a sixty mile ride; she rode sidesaddle style.

When World War 1 came along, George sold the Excelsior (it had eighty thousand miles on the speedometer) and volunteered in the Navy.  When the war was over George went to Fort Jones, California to visit his father, immediately landed a job in a garage, and soon married a very good and patient understanding woman.  In 1925 he got a job with the California State Highway Patrol and one year later was promoted to captain to be stationed permanently in Yreka.  At this time he also became an accomplished airplane pilot and later owned a flying service at Montague for a time.  In 1952 George retired from the Highway Patrol, but still proudly carries at all times his honorary membership card.  Captain Daley and his admirable wife now reside on a beautiful little eight acre farm near Eagle Point

Before 1932 California did not furnish its patrolmen any equipment.  Motorcycles were cheaper to buy and did not cost so much to operate. So it was motorcycles for Captain Daley and his crew when the weather permitted.  During this time Captain Daley wore out three Harleys and one Indian.

I have noticed that when we get along in years our thoughts seem to inadvertently reach back to the good old days, and so it is with Captain Daley.  About three years ago the motorcycle bug bit again. In one and one half years he bought and tried seven new bikes before hitting what he wanted, a 1976 R60/6 BMW.  He also has a trail bike and, weather permitting, he is often on the trails or on the road.  It is amazing how that old man can handle those bikes, ten to twelve hours and five hundred miles per day, with no problems.  He is very careful and always operates within the law.

I also ride trails a little and have two BMWs.  We are near the same age (Captain Daley is twelve years older), have the same riding habits and are very congenial so we often ride together.  Last August Captain Daley and I followed, where possible, a trip he and two other young fellows made sixty three years ago.  I will describe their adventure now.

Eli Dahack, Everett’s father, besides the farm, also owned a garage in Medford.  From time to time George would ride his motorcycle to Eli’s garage.  Young Everett saw George having so much fun that he decided he must have a bike too, so his father bought him a used Pope, the same as George had a few years before.  Through Everett, Elmer got acquainted with George, and noticed what a beautiful motorbike George had.  Elmer had a strong desire to see the ocean, and told George if he would take him to Crescent City, CA he would pay all expenses.  George was eager to go. Everett invited himself to go along with his Pope.

This was 1914 and plans were made to leave the latter part of August.  They could make it to Crescent City in one day, stay two nights and return on the same route.  Each was to take one blanket.  They were not going to cook, only eat cold canned food so all that was needed was a spoon and a can opener.  Elmer bought some canned stuff.  They carried no water.  The Excelsior had a large tool box which George had full of tools and some spare parts.  By this time he was a good mechanic.

They started from Medford at the crack of dawn.  Traveling through Central Point they skirted the south side of the old Fort Lane, then through Gold Hill, and from there the road was on the south banks of Rogue River.  On they went towards Crescent City, on what is now Highway 199 or near the same location.

At O’Brien near the state line the road was known as the Gasquet Toll Road.  Almost all of the roads in 1914 were not graveled or surfaced.  Motorized power was out except for a few months in the summertime.  The roads were all one lane, but about every five hundred feet there was a wide place where passing possible.  Captain Daley and I did not have any trouble on the Gasquet road.  It follows the same grade, narrowed but graveled and much improved from what it was in 1914.  To reach the summit of Oregon Mountain (which is also the state line) the road for about six miles has a steady grade of about ten percent. The bikers in 1914 found this grade badly eroded, with big boulders and deep ruts.  They were forced to dismount and help the bikes along. It was hot too.

To make matters worse, the belt broke on Everett’s Pope.  George had a grass rope and with this he made a makeshift belt.  They continued to push, rest, push, and struggle on.  The Pope was the worst problem.  Just at dark they made the summit, thirsty and tired.  The only flat place they could find to spread their blankets was in the middle of the road, and there they spent the night.  There was no traffic to interrupt their rest.

Next morning, from the high point where they were, they could see way, way west, and it was all down, down: they had it made.  (It is in fact mostly downgrade, some very steep until Gasquet.) They soon got started, but were to find the road in some places steeper and rougher than the day before.  At any rate they did not have to push.  A few miles past Gasquet Station the road entered huge redwood timber here they encountered another surprise.

The road crossed low flat stretches of up to one thousand feet where planks and poles about ten feet long were laid crosswise to prevent getting stuck in the mud.  It was virtually impossible to ride the bikes–too rough, bouncing over those planks and poles.  They had to idle the motors and trot alongside and hope to balance their bikes upright.  The Excelsior at three hundred fifty pounds could not have been easy.

The group arrived in Crescent City fairly early in the afternoon, where the first priority was a new belt for the Pope.  None could be found, so a garage man ordered one from Seattle and told them he would have it in four or five days.  They found a nice place to camp on the beach a little north of town.  There is an almost sheer drop off about thirty feet at this place to the beach, but there are several paths where one can descent.  There was plenty of driftwood for a fire to keep warm. Except during a bad storm the water never reaches the driftwood.

On the summit of this bank was a small cabin in which lived a lone elderly Indian, who was in the crab selling business. He had three or four crab pots a short distance from the shore that he tended in his rowboat and sold the boys twelve huge crabs for one dollar.

The boys did not have any equipment nor did they know how to prepare the crabs for eating.  The Indian agreed to do this for them.  He got a five gallon pail of water from the sea, and poured it into a large kettle suspended over a fire.  When the water was boiling he dumped in the crabs.  When the crabs were ready to eat he told the boys not to add any salt because the sea water was ‘just right’.  The boys had never seen a crab before.  Everett seized one with both hands, broke it apart, and proceeded to eat the soft part with a spoon.. He learned pronto this part of the crab did not taste very good. George noticed Everett did a lot of spitting.

Late in the afternoon of the second day there came from Corvallis about twelve teenage girls, along with two older women chaperones. They were collage students and came fully equipped for camping, with tents and so on.  They set up camp a short distance up the beach from the three bikers.  When Elmer saw who their new neighbors were he did not make any remarks, but had George take him to town.  There he bought a small flask of whiskey, one that would fit nicely in his hip pocket.  Elmer was dressed in fancy style, with chokebored breeches laced almost to his knees. Over these were laced high boots that also almost came to his knees.  He carried dangling on his hip an immense revolver in a leather holster fastened to a leather belt around his waist.  Why did he want the whiskey?  He was not a drinking man.  The reader will have to answer this one.

Evening came and the boys had a nice bonfire going.  The girls started playing with a beach ball.  As they played they also drifted near the boys’ camp.

Visiting followed and presently all were romping together, having a great time.  Soon they all started playing leapfrog.  Elmer stooped low, hands on knees, a girl ran, planted her hands on his shoulders and leaped over.  As she went over she did not allow sufficient clearance for Elmer’s big gun: her leg hit it, the gun in turn struck the whiskey bottle, which shattered.  The contents all funneled down into Elmer’s boot.

After a little time they all ceased playing and retired to the fire.  George noticed Elmer walking slowly toward the fire.  Every time he put his foot to the ground George saw the whiskey squirt from the lace holes at the top of his foot.

When Elmer was about ten feet from the fire he turned and walked backward a few steps.  George saw him pick broken pieces of glass from his pocket and when no one was watching, so he thought, he would toss them into the fire.  When the whiskey got warm it made an awful stench. That was the finale. The chaperones promptly herded their charges to their own camp.  Elmer with his whiskey had put an end to a glorious time.

Time now began to drag.  Losing the girls’ company so suddenly was a serious blow to their morale.  Worse yet they were in sight.  They wanted to get going but could not because they had no belt for the Pope.  They were not anxious to take that terrible road back home the way they came, so by inquiry around town were told that a new state highway just opened for traffic the year before, junction from the coast road (later 101) about twenty miles south of Eureka and went in an easterly direction one hundred sixty five miles to Redding.  They reasoned among themselves that this being a state highway it must be a pretty good road. So far they had traveled only on county roads.  Besides they would see more new country.

Five days went by and no belt.  They could wait no longer, so George went to a hardware store, bought a few pieces of leather and made repairs the best he could on the belt.

Next morning at daylight they headed south.  The road was not bad and they made good time.  They crossed the Klamath river on a ferry.  The road was beautiful, winding in and out among the big trees.  Then it happened again: the Pope started having belt trouble.  George and Elmer were good comrades and would not leave Everett behind, so often they had to stop and push the Pope over some of the steep hills.  Fortunately the hills were mostly short pitches.  Through Eureka they went and a little over twenty miles more there was the new state highway 36.  They took it and pressed on toward Redding, riding through beautiful huge timber.

About fifteen miles from the junction they came to the Van Duzen River.  The day was gone and they decided to spend the night on a nice sandy spot near the water.  The boys were very tired but contented, considering the trouble with the Pope.  (In 1020 automobile time from Crescent City to
Eureka in twelve hours considered good.)

They did not get going very early the next morning.  The river was lousy with salmon and they made so much noise splashing that Elmer complained he could not sleep.  They could have had a barbecued salmon for breakfast, but Elmer did not make any use of his big gun.

The river here turned north and makes a U-turn of about two miles across.  There are now bridges at both heels of the U, but in 1914 the road graded around the north bank of the river.  This bank slopes into the river quite sharply, approximately seventy degrees: it is one hundred fifty feet high and fifteen hundred feet long.  The bank is a white rather soft sedimentary formation that can be moved with a pick and shovel.

The grade begins fifteen feet above the river and when fifteen hundred feet distant it tips the ridge and at this point it is about one hundred fifty feet above the river.  The grade was only one lane wide.  Terminal points of the grade could be seen, so traffic had to wait for clearance.

By the time the boys got going the sun was shining hot on this bank.  The roadbed did not have boulders but was very rough, with deep ruts.  They were forced to walk and help the bikes along.  Halfway up the motors got hot and the boys got hot too, so they parked the bikes on the stands and sat down to rest.  Everetts, by coincidence, was pointed toward the river, at this point about seventy feet above the water. Rested, they began again.  Motors were started,  A sudden wave of frustration must have come over Everett.  He put his Pope in gear, opened the throttle wide and gave the bike a hard shove over the bank.  They watched it tumble over and over until it came to rest with a splash in the river.  Everett’s blanket was tied on the Pope’s rear fender and that went tool.  He turned and headed back down the road, saying as he went, “The hell with it!! I’ve had enough of this!!”

The other two were so glad to see him go.  He was not invited on the trip in the first place and had been a hindrance to their progress.  George and Elmer had enough problems of their own.

As Captain Daley and I toured along, at times I could see signs of the old road.  I wondered what would have happened if Everett had been determined to stay with them.  He and the Pope could never have made it.  Would the trio have reversed; gone back, or would George and Elmer have left Everett to fare for himself?

Everett’s luck now changed for the better, much better; he did not walk more than fifteen or twenty miles when by chance an automobile came along, gave him a ride, and even carried him clear to Medford.  In fact he got home before George and Elmer.

Strange things can happen; Everett was to see the Pope again.  A few years later some men fishing along the Van Duzen River saw the bike, dragged it out, and by detective work on the license and motor number found it was registered to Eli Dahack of Medford, Oregon.  One day the freight station called Eli, and told him that there was a large C.O.D box for him.  When Eli got back to his garage with the box, he mad haste to open it, and there was the Pope!!!

George and Elmer continued to go forward slowly but surely.  Both springs broke on the buddy saddle.  They found some haywire and wired it tight to the fender.  It was now terribly rough riding for Elmer.  Presently the road came to where it forded the river.  The water was about ten inches deep.  Elmer told George to go on for a mile or so; he would walk. In this distance, Elmer kept count.  The road forded the river seventeen times!!!

On Highway 36 motels are a long distance apart.  Captain Daley and I arrived at Dunsmore at 8 p.m. and were in the market for a place to rest for the night.  In 1905 a lodge was built there to accommodate stage travelers.  It gradually deteriorated until several years ago when it changed ownership.

I was told the new owners spent two hundred fifty thousand dollars restoring the lodge and yet did not destroy the old appearance.  They did a wonderful job and have everything a tourist could wish for.  It makes no difference how you are traveling. There is a small grocery store, a café, gasoline, swimming pool, camper trailer spaces, and airport nearby, a beautiful little park, and the people are very hospitable.  I felt at home; it reminded me of many places in Europe.

George and Elmer passed many places that had a post office and little store; some had gasoline too,.  One place called Peanut they still remembered, probably because of the unusual name.  I had to see Peanut too.  We had to do some inquiring to find it, or where it was—Peanut is no more.  Nine miles past Forest Glen, Highway 3 forks left toward Hayfork.  Peanut was four miles from the junction, on the first road left across a creek with a concrete bridge, just across the creek and on the left among some pine trees.

One half mile past Peanut, George and Elmer went to Wildwood.  This road did not look very good now and I read that about ten miles it forded the creek thirteen times, so Captain Daley and I backtracked the four and one half miles to Highway 36.  At Platina our present highway map shows 36 going to Red Bluff.  In 1914 this road was not there.  Highway 36 (now A16) went to Redding.  This road is the one George and Elmer took.  Almost the entire distance is rolling hills, steep, dry, and covered with brush.  Bike travelers should carry drinking water.

At Redding they turned north, and the road was much better so they had no trouble and made good time.  At Yreka George was on home ground.  He had been here on the Excelsior the year before.  From Hornbook to Ashland, Oregon, a new road was under construction.  It had just been graded.  Wonderful road, they thought.

Soon past Hornbook an almost continuous grade of six percent was maintained for seven miles until the pass on the summit of the Siskiyou Mountains. When George and Elmer were halfway up this grade it began to thunder, lightening, and rain.  It did not take long for the sticky adobe to gum itself between the fenders and wheels.  The faithful Excelsior came to a halt directly opposite a large pine tree.  They took shelter under this tree, (not a very safe place to be during an electrical storm), and remained there all night.

When dry the next day they motored on home to Medford without any more trouble.  George completed his assignment, Elmer was terrible shook up and sore all over, but he got to see the ocean.

The End.