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‘Indian Day’ demonstrates legacy of classic bikes

Date: 7/20/2011

July 20, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD — On a warm Sunday morning the roar of motorcycles echoed through the Quadrangle as both participants and attendees gathered for the second annual Indian Day sponsored by the Springfield Museums.

Despite the fact the Indian Motocycles — the first successful American bikes and always spelled without an “r” — haven’t been made since 1953, it was apparent the love for the vintage motorcycles is still very strong. So strong in fact, new Indian bikes were on display clearly hoping to re-establish the name among today’s riders.

A glance at some of the motorcycles ridden by those attending the event shows licenses plates as far as away as Texas.

Sara Orr, the museum’s director of public relations and marketing, explained the original Indian Day events were conducted at the now closed Indian Motocycle Museum maintained by the Manthos family from 1970 to 2005. The Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History now houses the Manthos collection and last year the museum revived the Indian Day tradition.

In one of the museum’s parking lots, collectors brought their prize Indians from the lightweight Scouts to the heavy Chief cruisers. Each one has the distinctive Indian design touches — some have the logo painted on the gas tank while others have the Indian head light on the fender.

Some owners brought their bikes in on trailers, while others rode them to the parking space where they were displayed.

Monson resident Butch Baer rides one of those bikes in display almost every day.

When asked to describe the mystique of a vintage Indian, Baer replied, “What’s the mystique of an old Rolls Royce?”

He said that many people who own an Indian today had a ride on one as a child and “fell in love.”

The vintage Indians were so well engineered that they will “last forever.”

Baer said, “Get a modern rider on one and they say, ‘What a joy.’”

He added they can’t go as fast [as modern motorcycles] but they have something special.”

Baer’s son Rick explained his father is keeping the Indian history and legacy alive through a series of hardbound books and a new biannual magazine named “Springfield Indian News.”

The magazine features photos and stories submitted by Indian owners.

Rick said his grandfather Fritzie operated the Indian dealership at the factory and that his father “grew up at the factory,” the distinctive arrowhead shaped building in the center of Mason Square. Butch Baer also raced Indians.

Rick’s brother Tom couldn’t make it to Indian Day, Rick explained because he was bringing the books and magazine to another motorcycle show.

The love for Indians is truly a multi-generational affair for the Baer’s as Rick’s son is also involved with the legendary bikes.

For more information on “Springfield Indian News,” go to

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