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Boys Of The Road

June 2024
1min read

There is something of a 1930s movie about this —a long, hard journey in the heart of the Depression, two plucky youths, and the kindness of strangers. Carolyn Mott Ford describes her father’s odyssey: “Seventeen-year-old Ellison Mott decided to travel from Staten Island to the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, billed as a Century of Progress. He traveled the eight hundred miles by bicycle, on a single-speed bike that had to be pushed up hills.” After exploring a dirigible hangar in Akron, Ellison returned to his bike to find that workers there had welded on light aircraft tubing to support the baggage carrier, having noticed its poor condition and a sign he had on the bike announcing his intention to ride it to the fair. He never found anyone to thank for it.

“Ellison’s twin brother, Bill, came out by bus and met him at the Chicago YMCA,” Ms. Ford continues. “Bill, who was severely crippled, sat on a cushion on the baggage carrier for the daily trips to the fair. Bikes weren’t allowed on the grounds, so for the first few days Ellison carried his brother around the fair. The Radio Flyer exhibit gave them an idea; they bought a coaster wagon with their limited funds, and Ellison pulled it, allowing Bill to ride around the grounds. Radio Flyer paid them something in acknowledgment of the good publicity this brought their red wagon, which was basically a toy but very strong.”

In this photo the twins pose on the bike in front of the Radio Flyer display, with a carton of Baby Ruth candy bars, another of their sponsors, in the second wagon. The brothers decided to cash in Bill’s return bus ticket and travel home through Canada, on a rigorous camping trip covering eleven hundred miles.

When they finally got back, a reporter for the Staten Island Advance met the local heroes and filed the following exchange: “Glad to be home, boys?” “You bet we are!” “Would you do it again?” “Sure.” “Tired out?” “Not a bit; we’re ready to go right out and do it all over again.”

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