How many women motorcyclists can you remember seeing? Not many, I'll wager. My own eyes were opened about five years ago after learning that one of my nieces motorcycled to and from classes each day while attending college in southern California. Every other motorcyclist I see nowadays seems to be female.
Actually, the historical record shows the existence of women motorcyclists for the better part of a century. And they've been riding their motorcycles here in San Joaquin County. Last week, I learned about a women's motorcycle club named the Lodi Comets, thanks to a scrapbook of theirs that a local motorcycle enthusiast has shared with me.
The book is filled with newspaper clippings and photographs, and it includes a copy of the organization's charter. According to that document, the Lodi Comets came into existence in January 1939 as an auxiliary of the all-male Lodi Motorcycle Club. The affiliate had two goals: "to promote better character and better sportsmanship." It apparently also had a third, unstated goal of promoting fun while members pursued their two major goals.
Most of the clippings are undated, so it's hard to tell precisely how tightly the Comets crowded their social agendas. However, they seem to have loaded it with dinners, dances, business meetings, game nights, "motorcycle polo," and excursions to locations within and outside California. They often socialized with men in the Lodi Motorcycle Club. In 1948, the Comets entered a float in the Grape Festival Parade, in which they placed third.
The Comets kept a clubhouse near Micke Grove Regional Park and won numerous safety awards. One of their most noted members was Edith Ehrhardt, the wife of a local police officer. In 1953, American Motorcycling honored her as that year's "most popular and typical girl motorcycle rider." Edith went on to become a poster child for Duckworth Cycle Chain, a maker of motorcycle chains, and her image appeared in publications throughout the United States.
The scrapbook ends suddenly, apparently in the 1950s. It's hard to tell from it precisely how long the Comets survived as an organization. However, the enthusiast who shared the scrapbook with me says that some of its early members are still alive.
A copy of the scrapbook can be found at the Museum, courtesy of its owner. The book stands as a delightful reminder that students of local history should brace themselves for unexpected discoveries whenever they venture into the past.
The San Joaquin County Historical Society welcomes gifts of photographs, recollections, and artifacts related to motorcycling and other sports in San Joaquin County's history.