Cushman Scooter

Check out this great little article I found about how useful a Cushman scooter was to somone in the Air Force. Enjoy!

She wasn’t much to look at. And she didn’t run all that well. But “Old Orange” was a god-send out there on the flight line and around the base. She was a vintage 1947 Cushman motor scooter which I bought used, very well used, for about $75.00.

At Fairchild Air Force Base, in eastern Washington‘s wheat country, things were pretty spread out. It was about a mile from our squadron operations buildings to where our B-52’s were parked on the hard stands and ramp. And from my on-base quarters to the squadron itself was about two miles. It was flat country and no hills to worry about, so my trusty ( well, mostly trusty) little scooter was good transportation.

Automobiles, private ones, were not allowed on the flight line. Bicycles and motor scooters were, so several of us zipped around on our various types and vintages of two-wheelers. My old Cushman was well used by the time I owned it. It had been to Guam in the belly of B-36’s several times, tied down on 2″x6″s laid across the bomb bay. Her housing, enclosing the one-cylinder putt-putt motor, was dented and scratched when I got her. Some hammering and banging pretty well straightened out the major dings, and a coat of bright orange paint improved her looks, or at least her visibility to planes and vehicles on the ramp and taxiways.

One day the military police stopped me for not having a functioning headlight. It was after 5:00 PM and getting dark. With just a warning ticket, I was prompted to do some repairs to make Old Orange street legal. A sergeant-friend from the supply section came to the rescue. Though our old B-36’s were now gone, several boxes of spare parts remained on the supply section shelves. A B-36 taxi light just might work. It was a huge 12″ diameter sealed beam light, complete with chromed housing and a clamp. I could attach it to the handle bars and wire it to the little magneto electrical system. The old Cushman did not have a battery or conventional generator. Well, that big light was just enough to make my trusty steed street legal, barely. At full throttle that bulb, designed to run on 28 volts, glowed a dim orange. It never got bright enough to really see by at night, but drivers couldn’t miss that orange ball mounted to the orange scooter.

Another minor problem with Old Orange was it’s thread-bear front tire. It was so worn that you could see the inner tube through the fibers where treat used to be. There was no telling how long it would be before I had a flat tire. But again my supply sergeant friend came to the rescue. He managed to scrounge, from where he wouldn’t tell, a pair of 32-ply helicopter tires of just the right wheel size. They were heavier than the old ones, but fit nicely on the axles and rims. And they were tubeless. The only problem with those extra heavy duty tires was they behaved like powerful gyroscopes at 25 miles per hour or more. In fact, it became difficult to turn the scooter at all without really slowing down.

Old Orange had its quirks, but it sure was handy on the base.

One Response

  1. Tonya Gross November 13, 2008

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