Edward Gleason: Tales of Hilarity as a Military Motorcyclist in the 1960’s


a Tennessee state trooper beside his police car in the 1960s

When it comes to late-night stories around the campfire, the best narrators are typically the ones with the most experience. 

And after spending time in the U.S. Airforce in the 1960s, a man by the name of Edward Gleason has a fun tale to tell of his time in Tennessee as a young military technician.

According to a report from BuffaloNews, Gleason was originally stationed in Biloxi, Mississippi at the Keesler Air Force Base for his training. 

Airmen undergoing training at Keesler AirBase

Upon completion of his course, Gleason was assigned to a radar squadron in Niagara Falls.  “I packed my uniforms and what other meager gear I had and set out northbound for home wearing Levis, two or three sweatshirts, boots and a ragged leather jacket”, states Gleason. 

At the time, he decided to purchase a 1965 Triumph 650 cc Bonneville – both as a statement of his independence, and as a way to commute distances for the job.

a Bonnie brochure picture of a 1960 Triumph Bonneville

The decision was made to travel via motorcycles with a fellow airman, and by late February he and his mate were off for the squadron – a chilly journey on two wheels, and one that slapped the pair with a couple of particularly freezing nights along the I-75. 

Gleason and his mate found that multiple short rests with stops for hot drinks and indoor warmth were useful, even necessary in the cold snap.

After two nights of motels and slow daytime progress, the exhausted pair entered a little town in Tennessee – with absolutely nowhere to stay the night. 

“When we entered a little town in Tennessee after dark, there was nothing open, not a soul in sight. It looked like we were going to have to camp out in the 30-degree weather…”

It was at this point that the town constable pulled up to the two motorcyclists, surprising them with his lights. 

One look at the ragged riding clothes and wind-burned, unshaven pair of faces, and the constable commanded the two to follow him to the station.  

“[The constable] gruffly demanded our driver’s licenses and ordered us to follow him. We did, to the police station, where he told us to empty our pockets on his desk before taking us through a steel door to a row of cells. He gave us towels and soap and ordered us to take showers while he stood by, a shotgun in hand. The warm water was wonderful.”

Gleason and company were given a cell, with two bunks. The food was purportedly a gorgeous layout for a prison plate, having been the work of a woman in the town who was commissioned to create meals for the station. Gleason narrates how she fed them for that night’s dinner and the next day’s breakfast with top-notch victuals that were decidedly better than military foodfare.

With the rise of the sun came the release and return of the airmens’ belongings, and the firm, parting warning that, “there were to be no motorcycle bums in his town.”

a scene from Marlon Brando's "The Wild Ones"

With full bellies and a warm night of sleep, Gleason and his friend finally understood. They had been mistaken as rowdy bikers, something straight out of Marlon Brando’s “The Wild One”, and assumed to be up to no good in a small, sleepy town after dark. 

Gleason recounts, “we told him we couldn’t hang around; we had to be on duty in a few days.”

“Duty? What duty?” the constable asked, confused. 

 “We’re in the Air Force and on our way to new assignments.”

“Why didn’t you tell me you were military?”, the constable griped. “I wouldn’t have hassled you!!”

Jovial with renewed energy, Gleason and his friend were simply thankful for the rest. “We said, ‘Thanks for the room and board!’, and  saluted him in the best military fashion, and hit the road.”

a scene from Marlon Brando's "The Wild Ones"

Today, Gleason is 80 years old and still rides motorcycles around his hometown of Niagara Falls – though his beloved Bonneville has since been retired.

For more on American Motorcycle history, visit the archives of WebBikeWorld.

 

 

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