FORMER CALLICOON RESIDENT Helen Manouse sits on the then-new 1954 Hydra-Glide. She was one of the first women to be associated with U.S. motorcycle riding, let alone Harleys.
Harley Davidson Hall of Fam hosting a bit of Callicoon history
By Jim Babchak, American Iron Magazine
CALLICOON If your travels this summer bring you to the Mid West, be sure to stop by the new Harley Davidson Motorcycle Museum located on the River Front in Downtown, Milwaukee, WI.
In addition to having a wonderful historical experience in this new state of the art museum and learning about one of the great American Icons, there resides in the museum a little piece of Callicoon history as well. It’s Jackie Manouse’s original 1954 Harley Davidson, the motorcycle he rode on the streets of Callicoon back in the mid 1950s. Preserved in amazingly original condition, it is one of the show pieces of the Harley Davidson Archives Collection.
For longtime residents of Callicoon, the Manouse name is a familiar one in the history of the area. Back in the 1920s, Thomas and Helen Manouse ran the Cobblestone Garage in Binghamton. They moved to Callicoon in 1928 and in 1939 they rented the old Esso Station on Main Street, renaming it the Manouse Service Station and ran it through the early 1950s.
“Under the railroad bridge next to Callicoon Creek” is how Ted Manouse described its location to me. There the family sold gas, repaired cars and sold used cars they bought and reconditioned through the years.
God was to bless Tom & Helen with six wonderful children; four girls and two boys. The boys, John (nicknamed Jack or Jackie) and Ted worked at the family garage and their father instilled in them the “hard work ethic.” Jackie was the older son who really embraced the mechanical side of the business and was able to fix and maintain a wide variety of machinery; everything from cars and trucks to tractors and motorcycles.
When the boys came of driving age in the early 1950s Tom bought an older 1947 Indian Chief for them to license and ride around on. Both sons became enamored with motorcycles and it seems this love was deep rooted because they learned that in the 1920s mother Helen rode around a Harley Davidson herself and was one of the earliest women on motorcycles!
Time passed and Jackie decided he needed to buy a new Harley Davidson. Longtime Harley Dealer Maroney’s in Newburgh was the closest shop so he purchased the 1954 Anniversary Model (50th Anniversary) in September. Resplendent in Glacier Blue, the FLF full dresser was the King of the Highway at that time. Called a Hydra-Glide because of its Hydraulic Front Forks, it represented the pinnacle of cool in 1954.
Ted remembers the ride home from the dealership that cold and blustery fall day. He and Jackie went to bring the new bike home and were excited at the prospect. “We took turns riding the bike back home as it was so cold we had to stop often and switch out, one of us drove the car while the other rode the bike and vice-versa.”
Once home in Callicoon the bike became a familiar sight on Main Street and around town. Jackie attached his initials and those of his fiancée Janet Rosenberger on the gas tanks to personalize the machine and express his commitment to her.
Ted joined the Armed Services in October of 1954 and shipped out to Korea, while Jackie remained home working delivering bottled gas and driving a school bus for the local school.
The following year, on Thanksgiving Day 1955, tragedy struck and Jackie was killed in a hunting accident. Janet gained possession of the motorcycle and held it until 1968. Ted wanted to buy it back but she was unwilling to sell it to him, so he had his friend Dick Herbert buy it and then gave him the money for it, thus returning it to the Manouse family.
Ted rode the bike for a few years and then moved to Connecticut, taking his wife Ruth and sons John, Chris, Todd and Robert with him. The bike followed in a van later that year. In 1973 someone tried to steal the bike from his garage so he wrapped it up and stored it in his sister Helen Robbins’ garage. In 1992 Helen’s son Alan removed the bike from its encasement, took it apart, cleaned everything, re-chromed pieces that had deteriorated and got the bike back in riding condition.
In 1995, Glenn Miller, a close family friend who grew up on the Manouse farm, was in Milwaukee and called Ted to mention there were no bikes like his in the museum collection. A series of calls over a two year period were exchanged with the Harley Davidson Archives Group and they expressed their interest in owning the machine. Ted felt he wanted the bike in a place like the museum to both honor his brother Jackie and to allow folks to see and appreciate this original machine.
Ted then donated the bike in Jackie’s name and it spent its first few years thereafter in the traveling Harley Davidson Museum, finally ending up in the permanent collection in the new museum in Milwaukee.
So if you’re anywhere near Milwaukee, stop in and see this magnificent old machine and know Callicoon and one of its most loved citizens of his day are well represented in the heartland.
Used by permission. Jim Babchak is an Editor for American Iron Magazine.