Pedaling through History: The Lee Family at Texian Market Days
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
As you amble around the History Circle for Texian Market Days, be sure to clear a path for the Lee family! Sitting atop their historically-authentic high-wheel bicycles, Lucille and Larry Lee (and their children and grandchildren!) have been staples of the Texian Market Days experience since the very beginning.
“We found our first high-wheel bicycle advertised in the Houston Post for $100,” Larry said. “It had broken spokes, no seat, no pedal rubber, no tires, no brake handles, rusty rims and was painted white with red polka dots. Apparently, it was used as part of a clown act and ridden on a high wire.”
Underneath the red polka dots, the Lees discovered that they had purchased a 55″ Columbia Roadster, which was manufactured in 1889. It took them a year to restore the Racer, repairing all broken parts and adding historically-accurate black paint and white original-pattern pin stripes. From that point on, they have never stopped sharing history through their “riding toys.”
“In addition to the high-wheel bicycles, we also have adult tricycles, which were used in the mid-1880s for girls or ladies to ride. At that time, ladies’ skirts were quite long, and even to show an ankle was frowned upon,” he said. “These tricycles could only be enjoyed by the very wealthy, as they usually cost twice the price of regular bicycles. $125 in 1889 was quite a large sum of money!”
Due in part to their unusual tire sizes, vintage bicycles also come with their own set of riding rules, Larry said. To stay balanced and upright, it’s important to not go too fast, to walk down steep hills, avoid railroad tracks, sand, water and more. It’s also a bit of a challenge to learn how to ride a bicycle in full period costume, and the Lees have recently been working with Park volunteers to teach them the proper way to ride.
“It’s important to learn to ride the bicycles properly, that way the staff members can correctly show the visitors how they operate and what was available to families in the late 1800s,” he said.
No strangers to the festival scene, the Lees have taken their bicycles to many special events throughout the Houston area, including Dickens on the Strand, Texian Market Days, and numerous parades.
“We thought that everyone had seen these machines — but how wrong we were!” Larry said. “Every time we take the bicycles, tricycles and unusual riding toys out, the occasion is a whole new world.”
Texian Market Days will take place on Saturday, October 21, 2017 at the George Ranch Historical Park. For more information about the festival, call 281-343-0218 or visit TexianMarketDays.com.