By Pan ABATE OF WISCONSIN
1978—An uphill climb and new challenges
We looked to the spring of ’78 as the harbinger of good news. Our first Waupun bike show was a huge success. It would last six years in all, before one of the convicts Castro let leave Cuba would be incarcerated there and be found hanging in his cell. The authorities called it a suicide, but the Latino population said the guards killed him. That resulted in a small riot of sorts, which didn’t last long and nobody was seriously hurt. But George Smullen, the education director at Waupun, was one of several hostages taken. It was shortly after our 1982 show, and all outside activities were shut down. Our 1982 show turned out to be the last one we were able to do.
Our stalled helmet law repeal bill was taken up in January, as promised. The 1977 legislative session was divided into four floor periods, the last held January 31 to March 31, 1978. Our bill came up in this session and passed, only to be vetoed by acting governor Martin Schrieber. In June, the legislature was in special session to deal with several vetoes of bills in the 1977 legislative session, ours among them. To our joy, both the Senate and Assembly voted to override the veto by a two-thirds majority. The Senate voted 24-8 in favor of override, with one absent. The Assembly voted 74-22 with two absent, for repeal (the newspaper didn’t account for one member in the report. There are 99 members in the Assembly, and the vote total and absentees only amount to 98). That was a huge victory for ABATE, WBBA, and the bikers of Wisconsin. Almost immediately, Governor Schrieber ordered a two-year study on the effects of the repeal. We never heard the results of that study, so suffice to say, it never resulted in the numbers he was hoping for to call for a reenactment of the law.
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Meanwhile, the EPA got federal backing for new emission controls on motorcycles, including no altering of exhaust systems, no replacement parts unless tested to perform better than stock, no replacement of carburetors, and more. On the state level, SB622 called for no-fault insurance, and SB425 would require mandatory inspections of all vehicles, including motorcycles. Of course, ABATE went right to work to defeat these measures.
Our Motorcycle Off Road Program (MORP) was still in limbo, and registration fees remained at $7 (we agreed to raise registration up $2 to fund the MORP program).
Something that was confusing, but not surprising, was the fact that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the American Association of Automotive Medicine went on record, along with the National Safety Council, as not endorsing any motorcycle education programs. They still insisted helmet laws were the only way to reduce crashes and injuries.
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Although most state ABATE chapters had raised annual dues to $10, we were happy to report that we were keeping our dues at $5. We were also happy to announce that we were presenting a huge custom motorcycle show at the Cow Palace in Fond du Lac on May 13-14. It turned out to be a classic show, with customs, antiques, drag bikes and dealer displays. Smith Brothers and Fetrow, of Minnesota, even sent down three of their award winning scoots to be in this show. There were over 70 bikes in competition at this show, and 10 more as special feature bikes, including Smith Brothers and Fetrow’s “Silver Streak.” The Best Engineered trophy, custom made by ABATE member Fuzz, went to Carl Paglini. This trophy was over six feet tall, and made up of a huge clock, Harley parts, one Volkswagen part, and some Triumph parts. Not to be outdone, the rat trophy was actually a live rat. Pan went to a pet store in Milwaukee and rescued a nice plump rat who was scheduled to be some snake’s dinner. He fixed a nice little studded necklace and leash on the rat, and the winner proudly excepted his trophy, walking him across the stage to the delight of the crowd. Hey Twit, I wonder if any of the bike show winners are still in ABATE; Linda Muench, Frank Ramaker, Fuzz, Dave Kurowski, Glen Pattee, Larry Patz, Carl Paglini, Cliff Liebundort, and Pete McCleary. Long distance award went to Captain Nemo of the Free Riders MC, although Spacey Dave and a group from ABATE of Indiana also rode up to that show.
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On May 26, 1978, we received a copy of a letter from Ed Youngblood, AMA. His original letter went to Bill Orce, ABATE of Illinois, and Wanda Hummel, ABATE of Indiana. Ed met with the EPA in Washington, D.C. on May 9, regarding emission and noise rules coming down from that agency. With the continued success of states repealing mandatory helmet laws, it appeared that the EPA was working hard to legislate motorcycles off the roads, once and for all. It wasn’t the clean-cut AMA members who were making most of the noise about helmet laws, it was the oil-stained jeans and dirty T-shirt crowd. We were also the bikers who liked to individualize our bikes, chop off all the unnecessary stuff the factory thought was important, and enhance the performance of our machines with after-market accessories. The EPA wanted all motorcycles to run as quiet as they did coming out of the factory. The federal Noise Control Act promoted an environment “free from noise that jeopardizes the health and welfare” of the public. They proposed legislation that, if enacted, could possibly affect 5,000-8,000 jobs, increase cycle gas consumption, increase the cost of cycles by 10 percent, and necessitate water-cooled engines on bikes. This was all spelled out in “Proposed Motorcycle Noise Emission Regulation, Draft, Environmental & Inflationary Impact Statement,” EPA 550/9/77/202, Nov, 77, EPA Office of Noise Abatement.
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Youngblood advised that a huge letter writing campaign to the EPA was already having a good result, but we needed to continue, stressing inflation, tax burdens, loss of jobs and the fact that motorcycles were fuel efficient. The EPA had to consider each letter and put them into the record, until the official cut-off date for public comment. Then, they could just trash the letters, so we had to act before June 16 to get more letters into the record. Does this all sound familiar? Forty-one years later and we continue to deal with emission and noise problems, along with E-15 issues.
Regarding the ABATE National, after the skirmish at Lake Perry, Kansas (same day as our huge helmet rally in Madison, Sept. 4, 1977), the leaders in the ABATE movement met again in Daytona in the spring. There, it was decided that the country be divided into five regions, with a director for each region. Russel “Padre” Davis was elected National Director, and Fuzzy Davey would handle the national newsletter. The states would not be dividing membership dues with the national, and no individual members would belong to the national. The regions, and directors were:
1. Warren Bennett, ABATE of New York
2. Wanda Hummel, ABATE of Indiana
3. Lee Van Hoessen “Big Red,” ABATE of Georgia
4. Paul Hendley, ABATE of Texas
5. Robert Lipkin “Bob Bitchin’,” Biker News Magazine
Wisconsin was in region 2. Shortly after the formation of our new national, news came to us that Easyriders Magazine was still advertising for membership in the ABATE National, asking that dues be sent to a California address. This was not “our” national and we didn’t know who was behind it, but we immediately advised our members, through meetings and newsletters, not to send dues to California and to disregard those ads. Our national office was National ABATE, Box 38094, Washington, D.C. 20020.
1978 started out as a defining year for ABATE. We were on a roll, but nobody knew the roller-coaster ride it would become. We were soon involved in many issues concerning not only our rights as bikers, but issues dealing with First, Second, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Instead of rolling over and relaxing after the repeal of the helmet law, we found out very soon that the work had just begun.
Source: ABATE OF WISCONSIN
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