A friend recently attended a rally that featured vintage Cushman scooters. It’s hard to imagine the reaction the first buyers of those old machines would have had to the idea that he took pictures of them with his telephone. My first experience with a Cushman Vehicle was the ’60s era Truckster owned by a friend.
We lived in a small town in rural southeast Arkansas. I was 13 years old, and felt like the only kid in the county who didn’t own some sort of motorized transportation. This area was too spread out to realistically walk every where. At least half of the population of our town lived miles out in the country. The bayous, fishing holes, and hunting spots were also too far away to reach by foot. So most teens and preteens had use of a small motorcycle or scooter. But my pal Ricky had the absolute cadillac of Arkansas County adolescent transportation. A Cushman Truckster.
This thing had a cab with a bench seat. We could get three of our skinny little bodies in there without sitting on each other. And several more could pile into the back. Actually onto the back. All of the Trucksters I’ve seen at vintage shows had an actual truck bed behind the cab. Ricky’s had a hard top on it that we couldn’t remove. I’m not sure why. I never questioned it back in the day, having never seen anything different. So the less fortunate passengers selected to ride on the bed would cling to the rounded beast for dear life while Ricky showed us what that little 12-horse engine could do.
It had plastic doors that looked like shower curtains. Most of the time, these were rolled back and snapped in place. But if the weather threatened, Ricky could roll those things shut with snaps around the door frame to get away from the cold or rain. We’ve actually had four in the cab, and maybe could have gotten five if we’d been a little closer friends.
While my buds and I were roaming the county with Ricky, my future wife was hitching rides with one of her friends who had a Cushman scooter. This model had the long seat that ran all the way to the back. She says they could easily get three girls on it and thinks they may have had four on a couple of occasions. They lived in the little town of Tichnor, Ark., about nine miles to the east. I wasn’t around her enough in those days to witness any of her escapades, but I can just see three or four girls loading up on that thing and headed for the post office or restaurant for some ice cream.
We had fun with these things, but they weren’t really toys. They were serious transportation. If you played football or had any other extracurricular activity, you were going to need some way to get there and back home. The school bus didn’t run for those events. So parents either had to take you themselves, let you ride with somebody else or get you a way to get there on your own. I do remember a few crashes, but nothing serious. Nothing that didn’t heal. It would be years later, after we had our driver’s licenses and had passed the little scooters down to younger siblings, that I’d lose my first friends to vehicle accidents.
Those cell phone photos sure brought back memories. Those rugged little machines served my generation well.
－ Guy Wheatley