The Gardena, California Yellow Jackets Motorcycle Club, the Original Yellow Jackets, are believed to have been in existence much earlier than the start of World War II; even as early as 1930. However, the last surviving member, and a highly respected and published motorcycle historian, Bob McMillen, believed it to be 1938.
The Original Yellow Jackets, also known as just the "Originals", competed in competitive races sanctioned by the American Motorcycle Association (AMA). They were American men, many of which were combat veterans that wanted to push life to the edge. They wanted to live life to the fullest and slide across the finish line not refreshed, but wore out and out of gas!
Bob says the originals weren't about politics or business; it was about racing! The "Originals" maintained simple ideals focused around their family, work when they could fit it in, and then the club...while never losing sight of good times. They would meet at a small bar called the 'Crash Inn' in Southern California. The owner of the Crash Inn was an honorary member. He supplied the meeting place, and of course the beer (No wonder he was an honorary member!).At any given time, there could be many different clubs represented at the Crash Inn drinking together. Clubs that could be found included the Sharks, the 13 Rebels, the Top Hatters, the Boozefighters, the Hounds, the Hells Angels, and the Galloping Gooses, to name a few. They would belly up to the bar, laugh, drink, and have a good time. Of course that was a much different time.
Some of the Gardena chapter did go to the July 4th, 1947 Hollister, California celebration. Many stories of the exploits were brought back and retold. They were outlandish, but nothing like the sensationalistic news the media broadcast. The Yellow Jackets had several notorious members that flew under the Yellow Jackets name for 'racing purposes only'. They were Johnny Roccio, and "Wino" Willie Forkner of the Boozefighters.
...I get asked a lot, "When was the Yellow Jackets established?" First thing, which Yellow Jackets? There were several Yellow Jacket clubs, and none were related. As for me, I was a member of the Gardena Yellow Jackets. They were in existence 'prior to the start' of World War II. I've attempted to locate other members, but haven't had any luck.
...several notorious Booze Fighters raced while wearing Yellow Jackets colors such as Willy 'Wino' Forkner (out of Los Angeles). Wino started his own chapter of Yellow Jackets to race under. You see, they couldn't race in the American Motorcycle Association AMA sanctioned events.
...we had our meetings at a place called the 'Crash Inn'(no longer there), Southern California (At that time it was the country). The owner of the bar, an honorary member, donated the beer and of course the place to meet. It always ended up being a great time. At any given time there would be members from different clubs drinking in the bar. They would be drinking and cut'n up. I remember seeing well known clubs like the Hells Angels, Galloping Goose, Hounds, and Sharks at the same time...and they were drinking together! At times, they would even ride off together. Of course, it was a much different time back then. We also frequented a bar called the "Big A", located in L.A., it was another popular hang out, and made famous by another Historic motorcycle club.
...sometimes, after an event, race, or maybe when we just got together to hang out, we would get a bon fire going and start drinking. Of course the antics would begin. At some point somebody would usually see a rabbit. Of course, all it took was for someone to yell "Rabbit!" and let the games begin! The object was to chase the rabbit and to catch it by the ears. The trick was that it had to be done while riding your motorcycle...sometimes at night! If you were lucky enough to catch the rabbit looking into the beam of your motorcycle headlight (if you had a working headlight), it would freeze. This made it a lot easier. Of course this ordeal took a lot of skill to grab a rabbit standing still...even more so while riding a motorcycle and the rabbit running... I don't remember a single rabbit being injured. One rabbit did meet it's early demise, but is wasn't as result of the chase. It was due to the antics of Arnold Ballinger - "Yo Yo". Everyone was sitting in a circle around the bon fire on the beach. He had the rabbit and somehow split it, and bit the guts. He had guts and blood running out of his mouth and down his chin...my stomach couldn't take it... I just turned my head and puked!
...we were sit'n around on a Saturday, at the bike shop, guys even from differant clubs drinking beer together. Guys from differant clubs got along back then. I saw CB Clauson eyeing a scooter. He walked over and looked at it very calculatingly. CB picked up a piston from that scooter, walked over to another scooter, and looked at the cylinders. He then started to take measurements. We had no idea what he was up too! This was when he had the idea that if he interchanged the pistons he could make a 'STROKER' motor - which he did. Dean "Perk" Perkins, a member of the "Hounds Motorcycle club", purchased this scooter from CB, and still has it to this day! I really wanted to buy that bike, but never could afford it. Sadly, my friend Perk, passed away in March of 2010. The historic motorcycle was passed on to his son. GBNF!More to come!