Orie Steele, Sr.
Motorcycle Hillclimb Champion

MotorCycling (Including Bicycle World)

July, 1930



CHICAGO - Ninety per cent of the riders in this district missed what was by far the best hillclimb ever staged in the vicinity of Chicago ! Why ? Because of a freak of weather which could not have been more disheartening to the men who in recent weeks have given practically all their spare time toward putting on an event. The climb had been well advertised and preparations had been made to run it off swiftly, systematically and profitably. Best of all, we had a list of applications that read like the blue book of motorcycling.

But "the best laid plans of mice and men" can be badly upset by a misplaced shower. June 22 dawned fair and beautiful, but about ten o'clock the sky clouded over and it began to rain. There was no wind to drive the clouds away and we just sat and watched what we thought was the end of our hillclimb. At 12 o'clock the clayey ground was slick and greasy and we were beginning to make preparations to send what few customers we had to their homes. Orie Steele and many of the other men prepared to send their crates home, and by 1:30 everyone was absolutely sure that we were rained out. One of our men got up on the judge's stand and made the official announcement that the climb was off. Most of the riders left with their crates and what few customers were there went home.

The announcement had hardly been made when a fresh breeze sprung up, the rain stopped and the sun came out. A certain individual who seems to get the most pleasure out of life when he is making trouble saw in the situation an excellent opportunity to exercise his proclivities in this direction and raised an awful howl at the very idea of calling off a climb when obviously the sun was shining. The riders who were just coming in naturally saw the thing in the same light and the matter was settled when several of the riders who had left reappeared on the grounds. There was but one thing to do and we did it. We sent riders out with orders to ride like hell and pick up every rider, however far it might be necessary to chase them !

Orie Steele's machines were already close to Chicago. As it was, our riders missed only one man and that was one of the lesser lights.

As far as the audience was concerned, we had not been so fortunate. Word had spread among the Chicago gang, and i guess most of the others, that the climb was off, and at least 75 per cent of them turned back. Many other people, seeing the motorcycles heading to Chicago instead of toward Lemont, had the same idea, consequently we only got a fair percentage of what we might have had.

Once our luck had changed again everything was slick. Outside the gate hundreds of automobiles lined up and the jam gave those who would otherwise had gone on plenty of time to change their minds. We took in the dough so fast that we had no time to keep track of it. All we could do was run over and dump it with the custodian now and then. The truckloads of pop which had been returned for credit were ordered back; the hot dogs that had been given up as lost were put on the fire; and, last of all, the sound of motors came roaring from the pits. Swastika, the good luck sign, was back on the job.

From our viewpoint the hill was perfect. It was short, sharp, savage and fast. The riders had to grit their teeth or lose them. One-wheel stuff was the rule rather than the exception. Competition was keen and the prize money ample.

In order to give the professionals time to unpack their crates again we put the same amateur events on first. Most of the amateurs were rarin' to go, anyway, and no time was wasted. By 2:30 the climb was going strong and the rides being run off in one-two-three order. It was easy to keep clear, because the bikes either went over or flopped to the bottom without assistance. What few managed to stick to the hill were hauled out of the way in short order by a block and tackle system that worked.

Sylvester Polacek of Chicago, on a Harley-Davidson, won the amateur event with a ride of 4.35 seconds. Lester Leeper of Indianapolis was not far behind with a ride of 4.60 seconds. The third prize went to Kid Fischer of West Allis, Wis., but it took him 5.64 seconds to do it. The amateur event was a long, long affair because of the large number of entries.

The 45-inch pro was pretty much Harley-Davidson also, with Art Earlenbaugh and Herb Reiber copping first and third places respectively. Orie Steele took the second prize for Indian. Lorren T. Flynn entered the event with a bright and shiny Douglas. We all wanted to see him show the rest of them how it was done, but he was inclined to treat his machine a bit gently, and we don't blame him a bit. Mr. Flynn knows how to make the motors work, or he wouldn't be superintendent of the General Motors Service School at Pontiac.

The 61-inch pro went to Bill Davis from Oregon and Art Earlenbaugh of Milwaukee for first and second, both on Harley-Davidsons. Gene Rhyne from Hollywood took home the third prize with his 61-inch Super X and probably would have done much better if he had not been so ambitious. On one of his best rides he turned everything on, forgot the button and cleared the brow of the hill with a 3-foot leap that took him clear over the timer string. Too bad, Gene; next time we'll stick the string on top of a tent pole !

The Expert prizes were distributed in exactly the same order as the 61-inch, viz., Davis, Earlenbaugh, and Gene Rhyne.

The novices didn't get much chance to show what they could do as it was dark when they started. But Burke, of Rockford rode it in 8:23 second for first, Sam Demarco went 87 feet 6 inches and unloaded; Ackerson of Princeton, Ill., went 77 feet 10 inches and did likewise.

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