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SCOOTIN' AROUND ON A CUSHMAN

by Tumbleweed Smith

Martin and Jane Stafford have six restored Cushman motor scooters, which were popular in the 1930's, 40's and 50's. John got his first Cushman when he was eleven years old.

"It was a Cushman Super Eagle and had an eight horsepower engine," says Martin. "That was lots of machine for a boy who weighed around 80 pounds. It had a kick starter with so much compression I could hardly start it. When I finally did get it started I never killed the engine until I ran out of gas. I rode and rode it. I grew up riding Cushmans."

Cushman motor scooters stopped being made in 1964 Japanese imports were cheaper and out-performed the Cushmans. In the sixties a Cushman cost around six hundred dollars, about double the cost of an import. Jane started riding Cushmans several years ago. Early on, she had a wreck on one and broke some bones. "That was my initiation to Cushmans," she says with a chuckle. "I was only going about ten miles an hour."

Martin and Jane are modifying Cushmans. "They used to have a top speed of 45 miles an hour," says Jane. "Now they run up to 85, depending on the motor they have in them." Jane is a school teacher and Martin farms, but they always have time for Cushman activities. Both are directors of the South Plains Area Cushman Club.

"My scooter sat in the barn for years, neglected," says Martin. "One day a friend of mine from Lamesa called me and told me about the Texas Cushman Club and how people were restoring their old motor scooters and riding them again. I just got plumb excited. I got my scooter out of the barn and cleaned it up, overhauled the engine, polished it up and put new tires and seat cover on it. It's like it was when I rode it as a youngster. I started restoring scooters from then on. A good restored Cushman is worth $5,000."

Every second weekend in August, Loop has a scooter meet. This year will be the 14th meeting of the South Plains Area Cushman Club. Up to fifty scooters are expected from as far away as San Angelo, Abilene and New Mexico. Next year to mark the 15th anniversary of the club, members plan to ride their scooters from Loop to Andrews. Both the state and national Cushman Clubs will have a joint meeting in Wichita Falls next year.

Cushmans were designed for young people to ride around town. They weren't made for distance or speed, but mostly to enjoy. Kids used to ride them to school. They didn't need to have a drivers' license for a Cushman. The first Cushman scooter rolled out of the factory in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1936. The idea sprang from a youngster who came to the factory riding a scooter with a washing machine engine on it. The Cushman company manufactured small engines for farm machinery and boats, then added the scooter line, producing 10,000 scooters a year. They were used in World War Two.

"Sometimes you'd see stacks of old scrapped Cushmans in cycle shops," says Martin. "Now there's sort of a revival of the old things." The national Cushman club has 5,000 members.

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