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SHAW
Submitted by Gene Hanselman
Member #135067, Chapter OH-D3

I feel as though my life would not have been complete without knowing "Wilmer Shaw". He was a motorcycle dealer from way back in the Harley days and a very unique individual. I met him when I needed some work done on my BSA in 1967. This article starts then and goes through the time he entered a nursing home some 30 years later. We did some riding together and he taught me a lot about motorcycles.

He lived near the end of S.R. 245 near Marysville, OH. In the 50's he became a dealer for BSA Motorcycles and worked on all other bikes. He was an excellent mechanic and could design and tool many parts that were needed to fix any motorcycle. He and his wife, Alma, had two children, Gary and Susan. "Shaw" always had a cigar in his mouth and seldom took it out to talk. He may of had a speech impediment or it was just a slur from his stogie. He was thin, wore work shirts, pants and cap and his favorite song was "Harbor Lights". He divorced in the early 70's and perhaps that is when his obsession with hoarding began. He dated attractive ladies and enjoyed riding two up. He took trips out west, east, south and seldom missed a Flat Track Race in Ohio and neighboring states. "Shaw" always had a story to share with anyone that would listen and he never knew a stranger. The trouble was he never finished a story cause he would change topics 3, 4 or 5 times in the process of his delivery. He became a Yamaha dealer in the mid 60's and sold many small 250-500 cc bikes around town. "Shaw Cycle Sales" suffered from his procrastination, obsessions and lack of devotion to the business. He lost the motorcycle franchise, then drove a truck delivering newspapers.

Shaw became a collector, he never threw anything away, anything he found along the roadside he kept because he may need it someday and anything that was broke he intended to fix, someday. Someday never came and he was overrun with stuff. He had 2 or 3 old boats sitting around he intended to fix up and use if ever he went fishing. There were 4 or 5 old cars and trucks that needed starters, alternators, transmissions, tires or batteries and a convertible Sunbeam Alpine that needed a new top, all sitting in his yard. Shaw's barn was another story, as you walked through the double sliding doors the first thing noticed was his office and showcase on the right hand side. Everything from old motorcycle magazines to parts, shop manuals and invoices filled the area in total disarray. As you looked around the room next was his work area, a 12 X 12 foot space with his tools, work bench and a large hydraulic motorcycle lift. In the middle of the barn was a huge pot belly stove. Along the back wall was his welders, torches, lathes, presses and other machining tools. Then around to the left side of the barn was an array of old cycles. First was a 1939 Harley EL, 61 ci. with a side car. The side car was not attached but it was in primo condition. The bike had the heads off to do a valve job, but after 25 or more years it was covered with dust, dirt and rust. Next was a like new Ural side car, it was complete with a stainless nose cone and a new tire which had been installed 10 years earlier. Then Shaw's 1975 Honda GL 1000. It was froze up from sitting idle for 13 years. After that was a 1959 BSA Gold Star 500 cc single cylinder, rusting at every piece. The next item was his old 1960 BMW R/60S. It was froze up but the paint and aluminum were in great shape, but the chrome was trashed. Last, but not least, was a 1954 Vincent Rapide. It wasn't froze up but needed a rebuild on the shifting lever where it entered the top of the aluminum cases.

Those were not the only motorcycles that Shaw had. Sitting out back along side the barn was a 1942 Harley UH Flathead 74 ci. It was rusting away while sitting under the eaves of the barn with every passing rain storm and inclement weather condition destroying it's very being. Along the back of Shaw's house was a small shed that was once a van bed on a 2 ton truck, it enclosed his prize possession, a 1987 Harley Davidson FLT with a sidecar. Shaw rode it from 1989 until he went into a nursing home.

Entering his house was one of the most memorable experiences anyone could imagine. The wood siding had no paint and the boards were cracked and rotting. Coming up the broken back steps led you into the kitchen. There I witnessed him eat 24 ears of corn over the sink, he could eat like a horse. His kitchen counter resembled the showcase in the barn, cluttered. The living room was filled with newspapers, magazines, mail and stuff, tons of stuff. There were narrow paths throughout the house to maneuver around and go from room to room. The wallpaper was coming down in each room and there were no blinds on any of the windows. The carpet was never vacuumed and the toilet had no running water due to broken water pipes. There was a hole in the roof in the front room with buckets catching the drips. The whole house should have been condemned. The County continued to send Shaw complaints about the mess around the house but he never got excited or cleaned anything up.

Regardless of how he lived I liked him and visited him in the nursing homes until he died in 2004 at 88. It was tough watching him decay in the homes. I bought the BMW, 39 Harley and Gold Wing from his kids, Executors of his Estate. Had he sold all those old bikes and tools, when live, he could have fixed everything up and lived well.

His house was sold to a lady that totally refurbished it, including the barn. She has added on and made the old house into a show place with flowers and landscaping. She added a porch that goes around the the house and a big garage which matches the house. "Shaw Cycle Sales" is just a memory.

Read More Featured Stories From March 2013 Wingin' It.