Orie Steele, Sr.
Motorcycle Hillclimb Champion

MotorCycling (Including the Bicycling World)

July 3, 1929



By Hap Jamieson

Fond du Lac, Wis., July 1 - Steel to some folks means hard iron, but Orie Steele to the folks who witnessed the Dundee, Wisconsin Climb means hot iron, and there is nothing in a name, for Orie didn't Steele this climb, he simply took it. Yessir, the old boy from Patterson knows his hillclimbing, and it will be many a day before another rider will equal his ability.

And that was the best way we could think of for starting this story. Now lets talk about it more.

It was a wonderful day, and all of the bar flies were out, swarming in from every direction. No, not the old-time bar flies with one foot anchored on the brass rail, we mean the modern saddle spankers. Where do they come from ? Boy, you should have read the license plates - nine or ten states were represented, for it had been broadcast far and wide that Orie Steele, Joe Petrali, Art Earlenbaugh, Herb Reiber, Claude Smith, and others of such star intensity were to lock horns, and fight it out for the bacon and all the fixins. Who wouldn't ride 500 miles to witness such a struggle ?

Dundee hill has not improved any with age. Just the same pimple, only a little more rough and wrinkled - the face lifters have not been on the job. The Saturday shower softened the hill somewhat, and it took horse-power to elevate man and mount rapidly over the mound.

Over 1800 Tickets

The Fond du Lac Motorcycle Club had everything in apple-pie order, and the crowd was handled professionally. Yes, there was a nice crowd. the boys sold over 1800 tickets, so you can figure it out for yourself; after all the expenses were paid there was a nice little nest egg for the treasury. Every one of the Fond du Lac clubbers worked - there were no slackers. They manned the pop and hot dog stands, guarded the hill, and forgot about watching the show- they were too busy for that.

The novice event starting off the fireworks provided fun and thrills. Some of the boys made "up-side-down" and cut didoes of every description. But Miny Waln of Chicago evidently forgot that he was in the novice class, for he wheeled his Super over the top in twelve seconds. Boys, this hillclimbing business is getting fast and FASTER. it is seldom that we see a novice reach the top and experience the thrill of breaking the timer string.

There's a lot of crack, sputtering, popping and booming at the bottom of the hill - it sounds like July 4th set ahead about a week; and trained ears could tell that this sputtering and popping was "cannon crackers." Yessir, you never heard more lusty barking from healthier lungs, and you would think that these motors would be asleep, for the smell of "fuel" etherized the air.

Among the little groups here and there and along the lines up the hill, you could overhear such remarks: " There, that fellow with the red sweater and white sleeves, that's Orie Steele. Boy, you should have seen him riding out here last year. And that fellow over there with the X on his sweater, that's Joe Petrali. Yessir, he rides wicked stuff too. And that tall, goodlooking chap down there, always smiling, that's Art Earlenbaugh- not bad, we're going to watch Art yardstick up here today. And those two fellows talking together down there, the one with the red sweater and the one with the white star on his sweater, that's Claude Smith and Herb Reiber - I bet there comparing notes. All boys of action - the reason why we paid our four bits.

Sh-h-h-h, listen to the barker, that big fellow, Ervin Tursky, is going to air his lungs - " Line up for the 45 Open !" And now we're going to see what we came to see.

The professionals ride high-spirited ponies for they must be tuned right on the wave length, else their music is fuzzy. And that's the reason some of the boys don't take off as they should. Their fuel mixture and every thing is so high-pressure, that the motor has got to be revving just right, else she'll "bloop" or blot out before or just after crashing the starting line. But once on the wave length, how these babies do show up the meters. "Skedaddle", that's it- these irons just skedaddle up the slant. There's Orie Steele taking off in a roar, and leaving behind a cloud of mud, rocks, and castor oil. He's holding the right line; Boy ! look at him holding that line, why he doesn't waver either way six inches. Wonder if he'll make that big bump, wonder if he'll miss that dogwood tree, and all the other things we can wonder in eight and eighty - two hundreds of a second, for that's how long it took Orie to hit the top.

Here comes Joe Petrali. Boy ! this is going to be good. Oh man! did you ever here such roaring ? Look at him go, he's just leaping- aw too bad, he hit that big bump and went down. Boy ! what a ride as long as it lasted.

And here comes Herb Reiber - atta boy Herb, unwind her, show your horse-power, and up he goes, but he didn't hold the course and his time is a little slow. Herb got off to a bum start, and , unfortunately, cracked the starting line, and that took away a chance.

Yessir, we all know about this fellow Claude Smith, from Rockford, always has a smile on his face, and win or lose, he'' be back at the next climb for action. Oh boy ! he's cutting a wicked path up the grade - will he make it ? And we're breathless for a second or two, for it looks like Claude is going to unload. But he didn't , he's still back of the bars, and cuts the timer string for a good second position.

Now, here comes Earlenbaugh. Art has been doing some mighty fine riding this year. He goes at things so easy like and cool. Let's see how his iron is today. Well, what do you know about that - Art is first one to try the left side of the course, and it looks like he used good judgment, too. It's a little heavy going over there, but he followed right through to the top - a nice ride; now for the time; nope, not enough Orie is still top of the heap.

And then there were the remaining chances for the boys that were after Steele's scalp, and try they did. you never saw such hard set-teeth riding before. But it didn't change things a bit. Orie needed only the eggs to complete his bacon and eggs.

And the popping starts up again, and the smell of fuel and castor goosefleshes the boys. Hot stuff, they're coming, yessir, line up for the 61 Professional. But by this time the old pimple was pretty well sawed up, zigzagged and crisscrossed, for there had been a heap of touring and detouring over mount Dundee.

Now we see some different motors perform - some with over head valves and some with pocket valves, but the crack of the open exhaust sounds more horse-powerish. Yessir, there more oats in these ponies, and they start out, the same as before, sawing and gnawing toward the top. There is going to be some hard riding in this act. These boys are out to win.

Did you ever see anyone throw a shovel upon shovel of dirt in your face, and you couldn't do anything about it, even though it went down your neck and filled your pockets, and you still couldn't do anything about it ? Well, that's just what Herb Reiber did to our truly. Herb caught the old man up back of a couple of dogwoods, and decided to unload, and unload he did, with the rear wheel spinning and the dirt flying, and I was right in the middle of it. I think that's the "dirtiest" trick Herb ever played on me. And speaking of dirt Orie Steele did the same thing to a whole bunch of sightseers.

And that's the reason we didn't get and good action pictures - the boys filled camera full of rocks and mud.

And this 61 performance was all action some got up and some didn't. There was a lot of up-side-down going on, much to the amusement of the paying mob. These numbers are called thrills, and they thrill every one except the boy who unloads and sees his chance at the crown shattered.

Claude Smith, not satisfied with the hill decided to climb a dogwood tree, and he made a good attempt, for the old iron walked right up the tree machine length and then fell back on Claude. Lucky boy that he got out of that mess without injury. We've heard of flying fish, and fish that climb trees, but this is the first time we have ever seen an Iron Indian take to this woodland stunt. Did Claude ride again ? Yessiree, he's made out of the real stuff.

Man alive, look at Joe Petrali go, leaping like a jackrabbit, but that old hole near the top is the jinks - down he goes again; too bad Joe, that you couldn't have contacted the top string with one of these flights, for that looked and sounded like nobody's business.

Steele still sticking to the right line made a quick ride that was not a bit sensational. The folks had been watching flip-flops, zig- zag, etc., and they didn't realize that while Orie was minding his business up the hill that he was cheating the watch out of a few hundredths of a second. Yup he set the pace, gave the boys something to shoot at. Norman Syvertsen plucked second place- good boy, Norman.

And then came the amateurs, sort of a slow and disinteresting performance after watching who's who cut the cake. But these amateurs have a lot of fun do a lot of hard plugging, and we must remember that some day they'll graduate into the professional class, and when those brilliant stars have ceased to shine , the tips of our tongues will be coated with names of the boys who today are learning their alphabet - All 'Bout Climbing. Kid Fisher set up his flag at 185 feet and it stayed there.

And so ended the Fond du Lac Club, Dundee Hill Dinger, and every one could go home feeling that he got his money's worth, and that it's shows like this that make motorcycling whoopie.

45 Pro - first, Orie Steele, Indian, 7.08; second, Claude Smith, Indian, 9.34; third, Art Earlenbaugh, Harley-Davidson, 9.42; fourth Joe Petrali, Super Ex, 9.45

61 Pro - first, Orie Steele, Indian, 8.82; second, Norman Syvertsen, Harley-Davidson, 8.90; third, Squibby Henrichs, Harley-Davidson, 9.81; fourth, McClintock,Harley-Davidson, 10.18


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