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"Sam's Bicycle Store Brings Back Memories of Inner Tubes and Such"


Sam's Bicycle Store used this blotter as an advertising tool during the days of pen and ink. Note the phone number Tremont 5151.

(Reprinted from the Bronx Times Reporter on March 7, 2002)

I recently came across this blotter advertising Sam's Bicycle Store, which was located at 1748 Washington Avenue. One of the first things I noticed was the vintage images thereon and then the four-digit telephone number. It indicates that bicycles were bought, sold, and repaired and the small print reads: Baby carriages repaired and retired. It's an interesting relic from days gone by.

It reminded me of my youth. The Ferry Point Landfill was still active when I was a youngster and was a great place to scavenge for bicycle parts. A new fork was priced at about $3.75 but a used one could be obtained for free at the landfill on almost any visit. I had a yard full of parts and generally kept two bicycles: one for cruising and one for racing. The difference was primarily in the sprockets and chains. The other big difference would be that the racing bike was stripped of fenders and other non-essentials.

I often made and repaired bicycles for friends during these days of simplicity. The age of multi-geared bicycles had not as yet dawned upon my remote Bronx neighborhood. Bikes were simple contraptions with the most popular wheel size being a 26. The largest size was a 28 but they were not readily available.
 
Since bicycles were simply made in those days, they were relatively easy to repair or even make with the miscellaneous parts picked up at the dump. The hardest task was replacing spokes as the tire, tube and protective lining had to be removed and after replacing the broken or bent spokes, you had to re-balance the wheel by rotating it until there was no noticeable wobbling. It took the keen eye of a youngster to make sure the rotation was perfect.
 
The tires all had inner tubes and seemed to get far more flats than today's bicycle tires and most cyclists kept a repair kit on hand. I lived near a gas station and often used their facilities. They had an air pump and a nice large tank of water to check for the leak location. You simply filled up the tube with air and rotated it under water until you noticed where the air bubbles were coming from. Once found, the rubber around the leak was dried and then roughed up with the raspy cover of the repair kit. When it was rough enough, glue was put on it with a cold patch. The patched part of the tube was then placed in a vise and compressed for a while to assure a good seal.
 
The gas station was very accommodating and never seemed
to mind my using their equipment. Occasionally I would opt for
a hot patch. The cost was fifteen cents and it was put on much the same way except that the patch was first heated which was supposed to assure a tighter seal. This same procedure was used to repair leaks in the tubes from car tires, which were much sought after in waterfront communities such as mine. Youngsters by the dozens would float along the shores of Eastchester Bay and the Long Island Sound supported by
these inner tubes and most had a colorful patch here and there. Occasionally some lucky youngster would obtain a tube from a truck tire, which could serve as a float for a number of children.

I don't recall there being any bicycle repair shops like Sam's in my neighborhood. Perhaps the old saying that necessity is the mother of invention is true. If you didn't have the money to buy a new bike, what choice was there?
 

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