Images from the earliest days of scootering tend to be of cheerful couples, with a lady sat beaming over the shoulder of her partner, but not all women were happy to be assigned the role of pillion.
Young Scunthorpe lass Margaret Hurst (nee Moody) wasn’t there at the genesis of the scene, but in 1961 she followed in her elder sister’s footsteps and bought herself a Lambretta Li150. While her sister, June, had owned a Series 1, Margaret bought the more up-to-date Second Series and used it as her day-to-day transport to and from her job at the local steel works.
The Young Ones
On one of these journeys, she was flagged over by a dashing young man riding an LD150 who invited her along to Scunthorpe Lambretta Club (SLC), which met regularly at a club just on the outskirts of town. Intrigued, she accepted, this being the start of an adventure-filled few years with the club.
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As is still the case with scooterists today, SLC members weren’t happy to stay within the town’s boundaries. They’d regularly head off to Lincoln for roller skating and make trips up and down the East Coast to towns that are still regular scooterist haunts today, such as Cleethorpes, Whitby and Scarborough. There were trips further afield too: an annual trip to Belle Vue in Manchester being one of them. There were also journeys to Chesterfield where the club sampled the delights of the local Wimpy Bar and a regular ride to Hunstanton, which invariably seemed to involve someone breaking down on the way home!
The club’s members were attendees at many rallies, including one at Barnsley where Margaret was encouraged to take part in a trials type treasure hunt on her Series 2. At the start, she was dismayed to see that the course looked more suited to specialist motorbikes but set off anyway. Giving it her best over the awkward course, she was happy to have completed it without serious damage to either the scooter or herself, but was surprised to be awarded a plaque for winning the women’s section, which came with a pair of gloves!
At a local event at Baysgarth Park, Margaret was involved with the club’s display team. The highlight of their exhibition was leaping a Lambretta through a ring of fire! Somehow I can’t see that happening today without insurance companies getting a panic on…
There were holiday trips taken on scooters too, and bear in mind that it was a different riding world from the one we know now. Less traffic but no motorways or fast ‘A’ roads, while a wide variety of road surfaces from tarmac to dirt tracks made highways completely different from those we have today. These journeys were true adventures for a young woman.
A holiday on the Isle of Wight was booked for her, her boyfriend (Steve, the fine chap with the LD) and two other young couples in a pair of caravans, all riding down on Lambrettas. “Two caravans,” Margaret laughs, telling the tale, “one for the boys, and one for the girls… But it didn’t always stay like that!” she says, winking!
After a long journey with the usual collection of adventures, they embarked from Plymouth docks, which was not like it is today with roll-on, roll-off boats. In the early Sixties, it was a much more industrial process. The pillions boarded as foot passengers while the riders placed their machines in a metal stillage with a chain at each corner. They then sat with the scooter as it was hoisted over the dockside and placed in the boat through a hole in the deck where they had to stay, keeping the scooter upright, until it docked again a good hour later.
(No more complaints about the way scooters are strapped down on ferries in future from me).
On the return leg of the journey, they sheared the rear hub and had to wait while a travelling companion hared off to the local town to find a replacement, the RAC not being a part of riding life back then! Other long distance journeys were undertaken on their Lambrettas, including a trip to Margate, where she and Steve were photographed holding parrots in their finest early Sixties riding gear.
It wasn’t all plain sailing though when using the scooter as daily transport. Inevitably Margaret had her share of accidents and incidents, the most memorable being a wipeout on ice when the scooter shot from under her, leaving her and the scooter spinning off in opposite directions.
Her first reaction when a passer-by reached her? “How’s my scooter?” –of course!
But all good things come to an end. Margaret sold the scooter in 1964, just as the Mod boom was spreading North, and married Steve.
Selling their Lambrettas marked the end of an era but it didn’t put an end to their riding adventures. Steve later owned a motorbike, and Margaret a moped. One evening Margaret was out riding with her daughter as pillion when the police pulled her over. Expecting to find a couple of young yobbo types on the machine, the officer was most surprised, and somewhat apologetic, to find it was a mother and daughter!
Around the turn of the millennium, Margaret and her husband were wooed by a couple of automatic scooters and spent a few years running around on those before Steve sadly passed in 2018 after 54 years of adventure and happy memories together.
While it may not have been a life of continual riding, it certainly goes to show that once it’s in your blood, scootering is hard to shake at any age. During my writing of this piece, I rode my GTS up to see her when I returned the photos seen hereabouts. Margaret came out, and we had a further pleasant chat about the changes to scooters, how it was still recognisably a Vespa regardless, and how comfortable it looked. Perhaps I should have asked if Margaret still had her helmet in the garage, and if she fancied one more trip around the block..
I suspect she may have been tempted.
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