18 December 2017

How A Stolen Bike Became The Gift That Gave Back

By now you know that I have a soft spot for people who, in whatever ways, bring bikes to kids who couldn't otherwise afford them.

Most of the stories I've posted so far are about individuals or organizations who restore old bikes that might otherwise have ended up in a landfill.   Some started out as one-person operations and mushroomed into local non-profit organizations.

Well, today I'm going to tell you about a kid who gave his bike to another kid, and whose family helped out that other kid's family at the holidays.  And there's a particularly interesting "twist" to this story.

Fifty years ago, on Christmas Eve 1967, 18-year-old William Lynn Weaver was walking around in his neighborhood, the Mechanicsville area of Knoxville, Tennessee.  He saw another boy gliding down the street on a bike.  "Boy, that looks like my brother's bike," he thought.

When he got home, he asked his younger brother Wayne whether he knew where his bicycle was.  "It's down on the steps," he replied.  Except that it wasn't.

William Lynn Weaver with his brother in 1963.

Well, Mr. Weaver tracked down the kid who took his brother's bike--to an unlit shack in an alley--and planned to confront the kid.  But his father, who accompanied him, told him,"Just shut up and let me talk."

He knocked on the door.  An elderly man answered.  Inside, the shack was cold and dark, with only a single candle for light.  It turned out that the thief was indeed the old man's grandson.

He and William took the bike and walked home.

The father told the mother, who was cutting a turkey, about the incident.  She said nothing, but packed up some of the food.  Then "my father went to the coal yard and got a bag of coal," William recalls.  Then his father looked at his brother and said, "You've got another bike, don't you?"  The brother nodded, and the three of them returned to the shack with the food, coal and bike.  

The father handed over $20--not an inconsiderable sum in those days--and said, "Merry Christmas."  The man broke down in tears.

William Lynn Weaver today.

As William explains, his family wasn't as badly-off as the boy and man who lived in the shack, but they didn't have much, either.  "My father was a chauffeur, and my mother was a domestic," he explained.  "That Christmas, I don't remember what gift I got, but I do know that [giving to the boy and his grandfather] made me feel better than any Christmas I've ever had."

Ah, the power of a bike...

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