Capital City Motorcycle Club celebrates 100th anniversary

Members of the Capital City Motorcycle Club gather in front of their historic clubhouse. The club’s first meeting in this Land Park area structure was held on May 22, 1940. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Members of the Capital City Motorcycle Club gather in front of their historic clubhouse. The club’s first meeting in this Land Park area structure was held on May 22, 1940. Photo by Lance Armstrong

A special gathering occurred at the home of the Capital City Motorcycle Club last Saturday, June 22, as many of its members and their close friends and family members, as well as members of motorcycle clubs from other cities, celebrated the 100th anniversary of the local club’s founding.
In being a publication that celebrates local history, and acting upon an invitation it received from this Land Park area club about eight months ago to attend the private event, The Land Park News stopped by the clubhouse to observe the day’s festivities.
Upon the arrival of this publication, it was quickly noted that the event underwent significant planning in connection with the city, as a portion of 13th Street had been closed to through traffic between Broadway and X Street.
A crowd of more than 100 people had assembled in and around the organization’s old clubhouse, which is located at 2414 13th St. on the west side of the street, opposite the parking lot of the Asian Food Center and Iron Steaks, which catered food for the event.
And of course, the glare of chrome from the many motorbikes parked along the street and in the aforementioned parking lot was a dominant scene.

Caption: Members of the Capital City Motorcycle Club are shown in this 1938 photograph. Photo courtesy of CCMC

Caption: Members of the Capital City Motorcycle Club are shown in this 1938 photograph. Photo courtesy of CCMC

During the event, attendees sat and mingled with one another while dining on barbecued ribs, chicken and side dishes and listening to classic songs performed by the band, The Baja Boyz.
Considering the history celebrating theme of the gathering, it was certainly no challenge to locate people who were interested in sharing their own personal memories regarding the club.
Celebrating his own anniversary with CCMC, C.J. Smith recalled joining the club 30 years ago.
“I joined (CCMC) in 1983,” said Smith, who rides a Yamaha Road Star. “I used to drive for Greyhound and there was another guy (Mick Meyers) who drove for Greyhound and he told me about the club and he brought me in. I was drawn in by motorcycle riding and the camaraderie of the members.”
Another CCMC member Barbara Sutton said that a short time after she purchased her first bike in November 2006, Troy Rowsey, owner of a local motorcycle shop, recommended that she consider joining CCMC.
“I called the treasurer (of the club) and I came (to a meeting) by myself, and the rest is history,” said Sutton, whose current bike is a 2012 Harley-Davidson Dyna Switchback.
In commenting about the club’s centennial, Ralph Venturino, the club’s unofficial historian, said, “Certainly for the club members, what I heard is that they feel that it is special to be a part of something that has some history, both related to Sacramento and also related to the sport of motorcycling, in general. Most of the folks here have been riding for quite some time and it’s really a good group of people. We’re proud of our history and heritage.”

Merrill Wolhart and his wife, Lee, hold a banner featuring the club’s colors. Merrill joined the club in 1951, and also attended the club’s 50th anniversary. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Merrill Wolhart and his wife, Lee, hold a banner featuring the club’s colors. Merrill joined the club in 1951, and also attended the club’s 50th anniversary. Photo by Lance Armstrong

George Keenelarsen, the club’s president, and many other members of the club speak about how this history and heritage began through a bicycle club known as the Capital City Wheelmen.
The June 25, 1886 establishment of the wheelmen club was recognized three days later in the Sacramento Record-Union, as follows: “An organization to be known as the Capital City Wheelmen has been effected in this city, with the following officers: H. Bennett, president; William Lamport, captain; John Brenner, first lieutenant; L.H. Cook, second lieutenant; C.H. Oatman, secretary and treasurer; L. Ball Hughes, bugler.”
T. Ten-Bosch served as the first president of the Capital City Wheelmen, who originally met in a building at 5th and J streets.
The Capital City Wheelmen’s application for its name change to the Capital City Motorcycle Club was signed in open court by Superior Court Judge Charles N. Post on June 23, 1913.
One of CCMC’s first large events was held at the State Fairgrounds on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 5, 1913, as motorcyclists tested their speed in various races.
Among the scheduled participators of the event, which also included a novelty sidecar race, was the club’s top rider Captain Chester A. Scott, and professional riders, including Dudley Perkins and Freddie Walker.
Due to a strong north wind that blew dust along the track, the professional race was cancelled, as the professional racers refused to compete for a $50 purse.
The greatest crowd pleaser of the meet was Ernie Fabian, a 14-year-old rider who won two events.
Another popular event of the club during its early years was its endurance runs.
Among those participating in the club’s endurance run on Nov. 9, 1913 were club members, Scott, William Hateley, Romauld Mello, “Dutch” Fabian, George McCormack, Charles C. White, D. Wickham, Leo McCarthy, William A. Langley and Harry Ten-Bosch.
The route began in Sacramento and continued to Jackson, then to Auburn before ending in Sacramento.
The top finishers in the event were Will Trapper, McCormack, and Langley, who owned a store at 1025 10th St. that sold bicycles and motorcycles.

A member of the local club displays the club’s colors, which were designed by Bob Edgar (1943-1998) in 1997. Photo by Lance Armstrong

A member of the local club displays the club’s colors, which were designed by Bob Edgar (1943-1998) in 1997. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Participants of the race experienced many adventures from difficult terrain and accidents to broken machinery and displays of sportsmanship.
Scott was expected to perform well in the race, but the frame of his Harley-Davidson bike broke in Placerville.
In another instance, Langley pulled Fabian out of a ditch.
Certainly among the most adventurous parts of the event occurred when certain animals were encountered along the route.
Hanley ran over a pig and killed it, McCarthy ran into a dog, Mello killed a sheep and Trapper killed a rooster.
On Jan. 6, 1914, the club elected Frank M. Woodson, president; Fred A. Pearl, vice president (and eventual multiple term CCMC president and CCW president in 1908 and 1912), Marcellus F. Trebilcox, secretary; George McCormack, treasurer; Frank J. Murray, historian; and Ben Bolt, Harry Ten-Bosch, Charles White and Clemont Brokaw, directors.
During the same meeting, the club discussed its endurance run to Fresno.
Under the latter named officials, the club worked with the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce to establish the “Safety First” campaign to better traffic conditions through such things as improved road signage and better numbering on the business streets.
Another one of the club’s endurance races occurred in July 1922, when Finnegan Speer of San Francisco won a race from Sacramento to Reno. Finishing in second place was George L. Faulders, who resided at 2609 ½ D St.
The early popularity of the club is evident through a decision in the fall of 1926 to limit the number of its members to 60.
The officers of the club at that time were Edward F. Hannon, president; Ed Frichette, Jr., vice president; Ernest O. Fulgham, treasurer; Al Wallenberburg, secretary; and H. P. Van Dyke, road captain.
The club disbanded in about 1925, and was reactivated in 1937 with Trebilcox as president.
In the same year, local female riders, who were not yet allowed to join the club, founded the Sacramento Cyclettes.
Although the majority of the names of the earliest members of the club are not “household names” at the club, one name of a club member of the past that is well known by present members of the club is Armando Magri.

The San Francisco Motorcycle Club presented this 100th anniversary plaque to the Capital City Motorcycle Club at the event. The San Francisco club was founded in 1904, a year after the Yonkers Motorcycle Club, the nation’s oldest existing motorcycle club. Photo by Lance Armstrong

The San Francisco Motorcycle Club presented this 100th anniversary plaque to the Capital City Motorcycle Club at the event. The San Francisco club was founded in 1904, a year after the Yonkers Motorcycle Club, the nation’s oldest existing motorcycle club. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Fortunately, Ken Magri was present at the anniversary event to share details about his father, Armando.
“My father joined the club in the mid-1930s,” Ken said. “He used to come down from Chico for the Friday night speedway races at Hughes Stadium. He fell in love with Sacramento and moved here in 1936. Shortly after that time, he joined the CCMC and went to work at Frank J. Murray’s Harley-Davidson dealership (at 815 12th St.). ‘If it involves motorcycles, I’m all for it,’ my father used to say.”
Frank was already well established with his motorcycle business when Armando moved to the capital city.
The shop was opened in 1920 as a Harley-Davison agency that carried a wide variety of motorcycle and bicycle parts, and also serviced bicycles and motorcycles.
The shop was originally located at 508 J St., and was relocated to 815 12th St. in 1933.
Armando became the shop’s new owner in 1950 and operated the business on 12th Street until 1973, when it was relocated to 1000 Arden Way.
Although Frank and Armando are deceased, lifetime CCMC member Merrill Wolhart, who joined the club in 1951, explained that he maintains a direct connection to these old Harley-Davidson shops.
“I worked for Magri for 33 years,” Wolhart said. “I started as a mechanic and then I went into parts and sales, and when they built the new store, I went back in to shop for them.”
Frank’s connection to the current 13th Street clubhouse is quite significant.
In 1940, CCMC had the clubhouse constructed with the assistance of $4,000 that the club borrowed from Frank’s sister-in-law, Irene Kaminsky.
To reimburse Kaminsky, the club held various events, including endurance runs, road runs, field meets and motorcycle polo.
But the club’s largest fundraisers were short distance motorcycle races, one of which was a half-mile race in Dixon in 1946 that allowed the club to pay $500 of its clubhouse debt.
Just prior to that era, the club participated in Delta King and Queen runs, which involved members traveling aboard these river steamers with their bikes to and from San Francisco and spending a day in the City by the Bay.
In the late 1940s, the Land Park area furthered its connection to motorcycles with the opening of the motorcycle businesses, Zollner-Durkee Servicycle Co. at 2324 Broadway and Joseph Sarkees’ motorcycle dealership at 2515 Broadway. Sarkee had previously worked as a wartime mechanic at McClellan Field.
Unlike outlaw bikers depicted in various films, the club’s members were considered relatively low key in their demeanor. Their favorite Land Park area hangout was Hoyt’s Doughnut Shop, which was located at 1800 Broadway.
With Frank and Armando’s longtime connection to the club, the club existed for many years as mainly a Harley-Davidson club.
Today, club members are not loyal to any particular brand of motorcycle, and they take pride in the club’s inclusion of female members.
And with about 60 members and a strong commitment to continuing to add to its history and heritage, the Capital City Motorcycle Club appears firmly dedicated to riding toward its next 100 years.