Well, the weekend finally came. After months of preparation and anticipation, Wheels Through Time’s newest exhibit, "MotorCops: A 100 Year Love Affair Between Police and Motorcycles" opened last weekend to the delight of hundreds of visitors from over 30 states and 9 countries.
In mid-2006, we opened our feature exhibit "The Girls" in the main gallery of the museum. The exhibit highlighted the impact of Women in Motorcycling from the earliest days of American motorcycling to the mid-20th century, and gained acclaim throughout the motorcycle industry. But after a 2 year run, we decided it was time for a bit a of a change — one last feature exhibit before the museum closes its operations in North Carolina and begins its relocation process.
Back in June, my son Matt had just gotten back from a trip to Illinois to visit his brother, and on his way back ran into a Illinois Highway Patrol motorcycle officer at a gas station. They got to talking about Illinois motorcycle officers, and how the State Highway Patrol had just reintroduced motorcycles as patrol vehicles this year after a 59 year absence. Matt came back bustling with ideas for a new exhibit at Wheels Through Time. He even had a name for the exhibit — "MotorCops".
So after several months of planning, countless hours looking through old scrapbooks and photo albums, and hundreds of phone calls spreading the word, the museum held its Grand Opening for the exhibit this past weekend…and quite a weekend it turned out to be.
We spent most of the early days of last week setting up the exhibit, which would house hundreds of photographs, stories, memorabilia, and motorcycles from our countries two- and three-wheeled motor patrolling past. Pictures had been gathered from early motorcycle publications, scrapbooks, and friends. My friend, Steven Wright, author of two of the world’s greatest motorcycle publications, "The American Motorcycle" and "American Racer", was kind enough to donate several photos that would serve as great historical centerpieces for the exhibit. Matt also found several great shots of early MotorCops in a family scrapbook from Hap Jameson, who worked for Harley-Davidson in their service school and military training programs in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. Photos, patches, uniforms and other memorabilia were also donated by museum visitors that wanted their family artifact on display for the world to see.
Here at the museum, we had several machines perfect for the exhibit. Motorcycles representing the earliest days of Motorcycle patrol were gathered, including such machines as a 1909 Pierce and a 1910 Harley, which were chosen by officers for their ruggedness, reliability and overall presence. Mid-century machines such as a police model 1936 Harley-Davidson VLD, a 1954 H-D police servicar, and a 1957 Harley-Davidson Panhead police bike fit right in, and with a little gas and oil, all fired right up after a few years of hibernation. Matt also thought it would be a good idea to include a couple of non-patrol machines that were used by officers during their "off-time". Rhode Island Patrolman, Babe Tancrede’s1939 Daytona winning Harley-Davidson WLDR and a recreation of West Covina, CA motor officer, Fred Ham’s 24-hour endurance record-breaking 1937 Knucklehead provided a glimpse into the personal lives of motorcycle officers and the passion that drove them to fall in love with motorcycles.
The exhibit came together wonderfully, and the opening weekend, even better. We sent out invitations to officers, museum visitors, and long-time friends from around the country and had a great response. Overall, about 250 motorcycle officers made the trip to Maggie Valley to see a glimpse of their fellow officers patrolling past. Throughout the weekend, the museum entertained over 1800 visitors, most of which had caught wind of "MotorCops" through invitations, the website, and past visits.
The exhibit, which will run for sixty days, is getting better each day. Just yesterday, we several great pictures of the Georgia state highway motorcycle patrol setting up a roadblock in the early fifties. Fantastic stuff.
So if you get a chance, come on up to the museum to see the newest exhibit at Wheels Through Time: "MotorCops: A 100 Year Love Affair Between Police and the Motorcycle".
Hope to see you soon!