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Opinion: May Day and Harleys

Not a fan of the expression “Back in the day…” So let’s start out with “Once upon a time…”

A young, college girl spent many of her mornings frying donuts at the SnoWhite Drive-in. She was not a morning person, so the 5 o’clock check-in time was only one of the reasons I hated my job. Imagine, if you will, placing a large rack of donuts into hot grease at that ungodly hour.

On other days, I worked the window serving burgers and the best chili dogs in town.

Either assignment left me smelling like donuts or fast food sandwiches.

During this time, I was a full-time student at Fresno City College.

Eventually, I found the job at Madera Radio Dispatch that I wrote about in this space last week. The very best part of this job had to be going to work clean and coming home clean.

In between these two jobs, I worked as a waitress at Berenda Ranch Restaurant. Another job to which I was ill-suited.

On the one hand, my personality generated good tips. On the other hand, I am too clumsy to juggle platters of hot food, a coffee pot and all the rest of the duties performed by a competent waitress. I knew this, as did my employer, the late Dino Mariscotti.

On my last pay-day, I went in to get my check. Dino picked up his paycheck file.

“So is it under T for Tami or H for Hill?” he asked.

“Maybe it’s under F for fired?” said I.

And so ended my career slinging hash at the best coffee shop on State Route 99, about a mile from my house.

During the time I was still frying donuts, I met, and moved in with, my future husband, Fred.

Going through the dating process was difficult. Most of the men I met were of an age they wanted to settle down, get married and have children — or so they said.

I sent several suitable suitors down the road because I was never having children. But, not to worry. I set many of these men up with my girlfriends also looking to start a family.

I fancied a man who married someone else and Fred had feelings for a girl who had left town.

So, carrying this emotional baggage, I picked Fred up at a WAR concert at the Madera Fairgrounds. I like to say, years later, we attended another WAR concert, and tried to drop him off, but there were no takers. I know; I’m not as funny as I think I am, but at the time, I thought this was hilarious.

During the early years of our courtship, one of our main modes of transportation was a Harley Davidson Shovelhead. How I loved riding on the back of that machine.

My future mother-in-law, Ann Nix, loaned me the money for a Honda 185 Twinstar. I have often said, I became officially old the day I used my bike as a down-payment for a Honda lawnmower.

We attended several annual events that drew bikers from near and far. One of these was the Cantaloupe Festival in Firebaugh. Fred’s mother always called it the Cantaloupe Races.

Another was a massive May Day festival in Los Banos.

While nothing compared to the legendary bike meet at Sturgis, imagine hundreds and hundreds of Harley Davisons gathered on the State Route 152, keeping the local Los Banos watering holes in business for another year.

Although it has been many years since I have occupied the rhymes with the witch seat, or leaned back on a sissy bar, I can still feel the 50-weight motor oil coursing through my veins anytime the weather turns warm and the sounds of Harley Davidsons fill the air.

Have a blessed May Day and remember the following Sunday is Mothers Day.

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Readers may contact Tami Jo Nix at or @tamijonix on Twitter.


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