Memories Don’t Last Forever

Steve Lita American Iron Magazine Editor

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor

RIDE TO WORK by Steve Lita, Editor

Immediately I recognized this shoebox was a gold mine of material…

As you delve deeper into this issue, you’ll find a pleasant surprise toward the back. I’ll leave you in suspense on that for a moment. Last year was an anniversary year for American Iron Magazine. It was the thirtieth anniversary of this publication hitting the newsstands. Thirty years is a long time, so it was kind of a big deal around here. And we wanted to celebrate the history of American Iron Magazine throughout the anniversary year by taking a look back. Thus, the inside last page of this mag, which was named Memories and was usually reserved for vintage pictures of motorcycles, became a chronological walk through time, showing how American Iron Mag has covered your favorite motorcycles and trends over the years.

Well, we wrapped up the anniversary feature with the last issue (#383), so it’s time to figure out what to do with the inside back page real estate starting in this issue. A few vocal readers made it known that they wanted the traditional Memories content back. People liked seeing the faded, blurry, black and white images of the way things used to be aboard American-made motorcycles in the old days. Granted, we like it too, so with that I let the cat out of the bag—Memories is back! I’m told some folks turn to the inside back page first. If so, you’ve already found the return of your favorite department and spoiled the surprise. But who starts reading a book from the back first? I mean, really!

There’s only one catch: The material we run in Memories cannot be produced in a photo session today. What you were seeing in Memories section over the years were actual scans of pictures people sent us, either digitally, or they sent in paper prints (remember those?) and we scanned them. Sometimes it was someone’s grandpa or great uncle aboard an old bike and this was a prized possession from a family photo album, but other times it was an unidentified picture that might have been found inside the wall of a house that was being remodeled. Whatever the source, the backstory was usually strange and interesting.

The challenge for us with the Memories feature is coming up with the pictures to run. We just don’t seem to come across usable shots every day. And sometimes ones that come in from readers are too damaged, faded, or blurry to use. Therein lies the problem.

I was once at an estate auction and was quite interested in one of the items coming up for bid. It was a shoebox full of vintage motorcycle pictures. Most were black and white; some had a golden patina to them. And most were curled at the corners. Some pictures had dates, names, and locations written on the back. Immediately I recognized this shoebox was a gold mine of material for the inside back page of American Iron Mag. This was the holy grail of Memories!

At first, I thought even if I did not have the full backstory of the person in the picture, maybe we could run them and ask readers if anyone can identify the person, bike or location in the pictures. It could be a needle in a haystack-type situation, but maybe someone might recognize their Uncle George on his old Indian. Then I thought, who in their right mind would be interested in this shoebox full of old shots? That is, other than me? So, I sat patiently in the audience, biding my time for this item to be offered by the auctioneer. Then finally, the shoebox made its way to the podium. The bidding started at a paltry 50 bucks, so I was all over that. But pretty quickly there was interest by several other people in the audience, and the bidding war began. Sixty, seventy, eighty, a hundred dollars. Okay, I’m still a player. One-fifty, two-hundred, two-fifty—three-hundred! That’s it; I’m out. I surrender. Too rich for my blood. Someone else made off with the prize. I was bummed out.

All that said, here’s my plea for copies of your old motorcycle pictures for use in the Memories section. Remember, the shots need to have American-made motorcycles, and don’t think we’re just looking for stuff from the 1920s, 30s, 40s, or 50s. I’d love to see some shots from the 60s or 70s too. It would be great to see some hippies on early chops! Contact me at [email protected] for details on how to send your vintage Memories