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American Motorcycle Culture: The One PercentersTim King Salem-News.com
One Percent of all Motorcyclists were deemed "outlaw" by the AMA after the "Hollister Riot" in 1947; the patch has a unique meaning.
(SALEM, Ore.) - A friend of mine who is the President of a local motorcycle club chapter, explained this week that a college criminology course in Salem, Oregon is teaching students false information about the history of bikers and motorcycle clubs.
That explanation is purely fictitious, and not even close to the actual meaning of what "One Percenter" means.
Did you ever see the movie The Wild One with Marlon Brando?
The tale was inspired and loosely based on a real-life incident that took place over the Fourth of July weekend in 1947 in Hollister, California. Now known as the "Hollister Riot", the event gained national attention as it was the focus of a Harper's Magazine article in January 1951 article titled, "The Cyclists' Raid" by Frank Rooney.
On that weekend, about four thousand motorcyclists and other visitors and enthusiasts, roared into the small town over a two day period, and overwhelmed the facilities, according to filmsite.org.
Later, the Hollywood movie depiction made the 4th of July event appear to be much more significant than it actually was, according to most reports. In reality, the town was not ransacked, the women were not accosted, and they did not cause a great deal of civil unrest.
The press apparently couldn't resist the opportunity to play Hollister for all it was worth. Wikipedia states that "Several newspaper articles were written that, according to some attendees, sensationalized the event and Life magazine ran an article and a staged photograph of an intoxicated subject on a motorcycle parked in a bar."
This movie actually may have inspired a movement, as other films depicting bikers soon started showing up in theaters, making the hearts of little old ladies grow faint in fear. Soon black leather jackets soared along with Harley Davidson sales.
And this led to the press asking the "respectable" motorcycle group, the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) to comment on the Hollister incident.
The AMA responded by saying that 99% of all motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens, and the last one percent were outlaws.
That, is when and where the term "1%" came into being. It was practically an invitation to would-be outlaw bikers to embrace the term, thanks to the AMA.
So if you ever hear someone tell you that the 1% patch means anything else, you straighten them out and tell them the story of Hollister and the AMA.
I met Tattoo Mike when he and other club members were doing a Christmas Toy Run in 2002. I commented on Mike's chopper being especially cool and he said, "You want to ride it?"
He looked a little surprised as I took his helmet, fired up the chopped Harley with 22" ape-hanger handlebars and a suicide clutch, and took off down the street. I had never ridden a bike with a suicide clutch in my life up to that point, but I had asked enough questions of my Harley friends over the years to pull it off.
He tells me the Gypsy Joker club members still laugh about it; apparently Mike had offered the chance to ride it to several news reporters over the years, and they always declined. He says he had no idea I would jump on it and take off.
I know people in this group who are really decent, and while bikers' club patches may be unwelcome in many places, and loud bikes tend to scare people, I see the better side of them, probably because my dad was always a serious motorcycle enthusiast.
To give you an example, one of my father's last projects was the restoration of a 1913 Harley Davidson. His big, bearded, leather-clad friends who would visit on big chrome choppers were the nicest people you could ever meet. My dad was old school "Mr. Establishment", but Harleys are a universal language that cross every boundary.
I hate to hear that professors in our local college system are so misinformed that they would actually try to rewrite a historical event and meaning of a symbol that any biker could explain, if that professor or the people who create their curriculum, took the time to ask.
This site has a more detailed history on Hollister and the one percenter story: roadratroberts1.bravepages.com/What_The_Hell_is_1%25.htm
Here are photos taken by members of the Salem Gypsy Joker MC Club, of me riding Mike's old school chopper during their annual Christmas Toy Run:
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