ABATE history – the movement

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history3a The History of the State Motorcyclist Rights Movement

by Michael Farabaugh

ABATE and MRO’s history is so important because as the world issues have taught us, oftentimes history is repeated. I have lived through every day of the MRO’s life span in America, and no matter what part of the country I’m in, there seems to be lots of questions relating back to the early and beginning years.

I thought it would be amusing to actually dig into my photography archives and try to find shots from 22 to 25 years ago.

The photos you see here are of two of the three founders of ABATE of Indiana, Wanda and Steve Hummel. Interestingly enough, the third person in this shot is the former Executive Director of ABATE of Indiana, Dave Dills. After these shots were taken, Wanda, Steve, Spacy and I spent another hour trying to get Spacy’s bike started in the sand on Daytona Beach. This has been a tradition with Spacy and the motorcycles he has owned for 25 years. Of course, once they start, that’s another story in itself.

Wanda, Steve and ABATE of Indiana were among the first ABATE state organizations to join Easyriders magazine as an official recognized ABATE Chapter in America. Spacy, Ed Miller, Balls, Ron Workman, and Yacky were a handful of the friends to actually give money to the ABATE concept. In Indiana shortly thereafter, Ron and Kat Kleber, Big Jake, Tom from Terre Haute, Griffith’s from Ft. Wayne, Humphrey from Indianapolis, Rene and Jim from Valpo, Fox, Garbageman, Patches, Sherm and Big Steve, Roy Boy, Mad, Debby Farabaugh, and Judy Gould. Many other MRO VIP’s cutting the path across the nation were the Oaks from Kansas, Ron Roloff from CA, Big Al from MA. The doers of those days were Rogue from CT, Smitty & Padre from PA., Warren from New York, Fuzzy Davy from VA, Jim, Fizz, and Vince from Michigan, Tony from WI and Bob Bitchin from FTW magazine. I’m sure there are folks my data bank just no longer has access to… in other words, short term memory is gone. We are talking 20-25 years ago!

It is important to set the tone that speaks of those legendary times. These are days when America and especially my generation, was dealing with Nixon and the Viet Nam War. The mood and attitude toward our government are simply not user friendly. Our mindset of that era was much more paranoid and radical. Daily, confrontations were in the news. The Chicago 7, Kent State, our birthday dates were chosen by the feds as the deciding factor as to whether or not those of us in the baby boomer age were drafted and went to war. 1 mention that because I’m writing this on my birthday. How many of you can recall the first ever nationally televised government pick for the draft on our birthdays. It was rather frightening as we would all huddle around the tube and watch some jerk pick dates and post them to determine the lottery of the draft. Government was all over daily decisions in our lives. Today we watch lottery numbers each day for much different reasons.

There are many parallels to this early 70’s era of governmental attitudes, helmet laws and why we in motorcycling got off our collective asses. The American Motorcycle Association, which I was personally very involved in and still am, had just opened up a division for the development of government relations. A new magazine called Road Rider began in 1969 dedicated to the spirit of seeing America on two wheels and writing editorials concerning helmet laws and government intervention in our lives. The editor and long time friend, Roger Hull, is now working for us from H-D heaven. Across town up in the hills of Southern California there was another magazine Easyriders, also very concerned with government intervening in our lives. Also, bikers who had served and given years of their lives to protection of America were coming home from Viet Nam and going to Viet Nam.

1973 was probably one of the most important years as Bikers across America including AMA and clubs began a better focus toward coming together and working on motorcycle issues together. The AMA, Easyriders, and others began to better monitor government bullshit. A major wake-up call of those times was when the national conference for the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety met in San Diego, California. A headline from that conference read, “A potential national ban of all motorcycles” or as they referred to our lifestyle as “murdercycles”.

Included in this writing are some bits of information I have saved from the beginning of ABATE that were published in Easyriders. This information was in Issues #3 and #4. Easyriders magazine said it as well some 25 years ago as we do today. Basically the message was, hey out there, let’s get off our asses and believe in each other. Stop fighting amongst ourselves and go to war against the government and their ignorant issues, Joann Claybrook and the NHTSA.

So in October 1971, Easyriders helped begin the “Chopper Manufacturers Association”, which was in fact, the beginning of ABATE.

I am not sure Easyriders has ever been properly recognized for the enormous part they played in those beginning years. It would require an entire book to write about those times in ABATE. The tremendous undertaking and the beginning of a major national movement brought with it 9 million opinions from individuals of all sizes, stature, affiliations, creeds, prejudices, occupations and educational backgrounds. Easyriders magazine stood tall many times when less than competent individuals tried to poke holes in those of us who believed and still believe. It is because of the attitude of Lou Kimzey, Joe Teresi, Keith Ball, Rip, Kim, David Kelly, Ed Youngblood, Roger Hull, Bob Bitchin and many others that ABATE and MRO’s across America have evolved to be professional watch dogs for motorcycling today.

As I write this and recall those days of the first national meetings in Lake Perry, Kansas and New Symrna KOA, it’s impossible not to choke up a bit. I know ABATE today still has the warm camaraderie and togetherness. However, those early days of making new paths with 3 foot machetes each day involved so much dedication, so much sacrifice, so many personal dollars and so much laughter and love that my sentimental genes explore those years as triumphant in teaching Deborah and I much about life’s values, ourselves and brotherhood.

And especially, no matter what, never give up the fight. What an interesting thought it would be to have a national 25 year MRO reunion. What the hell, I might organize that.

The expansion of our abilities and talents to understand each other, become educated and make compromises has evolved over 25 years because of thousands of people unselfishly giving their time to motorcycling for our freedom. Facts are facts. Every person who holds an MRO or AMA card, please consider the very significant sweat by so many the past 25 years so as to provide you with the privilege of membership.

To all who have ever held an office in a club or MRO or ABATE or Safety Instructor, or AMA…

“The credit belongs to the man or woman who is actually in the arena, who strives valiantly; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotions, and spreads himself in a worthy cause; who at best, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he fails at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
— Theodore Roosevelt

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