It started with 15 bicycle enthusiasts in 1893. Credit for being the founding father goes to Alex Glockner, a patriarch of Portsmouth’s Glockner family. In 1913, what was the Portsmouth Cycling Club became the Portsmouth Motorcycle Club. But it’s the 1893 date that seems to matter most.
With that date in mind, the American Motorcycle Association recognizes the Portsmouth Motorcycle Club as the oldest motorcycle club in the country.
Located since the 1940s in a converted home at the end of Front Street on Alexandria Point, the club will mark its 125th anniversary June 30 with a free party open to the public. The party will include barbecue and refreshments, along with vintage motorcycle and bicycle shows. Club vice president Joe McNeer says there will be a charge for food and drink, along with nominal fees to enter the bike shows. Plaques go to the winners, to be chosen by visitors. McNeer says the public is encouraged to enter bikes, motorized or otherwise, into the shows.
The club has plenty of history, certainly, and McNeer, 56, has plenty of history with the club. His grandfather was a member, and he joined some 25 years ago. “It’s been a big part of my life,” McNeer says. Son Tyler, 32, is, for now, a probationary member, but expects to become the club’s only third-generation legacy member soon. (Legacy or not, each would-be new member must pass a six-month probationary period, after which members will vote “yea” or “nay” on permanent membership.)
“I grew up down here for the most part,” Tyler McNeer says after returning from the club’s spring run, which included about 100 bikes. “Everyone here knows everyone. I grew up with these guys,” Tyler McNeer adds. The elder McNeer says wet weather over the weekend probably cut down on the number of participants for the spring run. Nevertheless, the club headquarters was packed with people and surrounded by bikes after the roughly 60-mile cruise. Everyone talked with for this story, of course, mentioned how much they enjoy riding and working on bikes. But each also mentioned the camaraderie of the group, and perhaps most importantly, the organization’s plentiful community involvement.
“We all get along; we have a great group of people,” says 14-year member Dan Thompson, adding what has kept him a member all this time is the club’s civic activities. “We love helping the community and people that need help.”
Thompson and others talked about toy runs at Christmas time, activities to support veterans and numerous other similar undertakings. The community help was the first thing mentioned about the club by member Keith Rose, who, with Thompson, was manning a table selling hats and patches, some commemorating the club’s quasiquicentennial (125 years), during the recent spring run.
“We give a lot to kids,” Rose says.
“You know these guys, some of them, might look a little rough,” Thompson continued. “It’s an image, but they are all good guys.”
Charles Seymore, 72, is acknowledged as the longest tenured member of the club, having joined in 1962 at the ripe old age of 16. (The club has since changed the minimum age for membership to 21.) Seymore says the club has given him memories and experiences he never would have otherwise. He mentions riding by waterfalls or cruising down twisting, turning country roads. The motorcycle club is generally for men only, but Seymore’s wife Sharon is one of four honorary female members. Charles Seymore says he still rides and intends to keep riding as much and as long as his health allows. The Seymores also mentioned the club’s community-minded activities as a huge positive.
Joe McNeer says there are hundreds of stories that can be told about the club’s 125 years. The inside of the club headquarters is a bit of a museum, with vintage photos, patches and riding gear from days gone by. There is even a bit of a story behind the club’s move to its current location. A former member sold the building to the group for a few dollars rather than see his wife gain it in a divorce, McNeer reveals. He adds that, unfortunately, a lot of club memorabilia was lost to a fire in 2001. The club reached out to the community asking anyone to step forward with club-related materials they might be willing to donate.
Portsmouth responded nicely, perhaps especially the Glockner family, McNeer continues. Not completely incidentally, the McNeers have a connection to the Glockners even beyond the Portsmouth Motorcycle Club.
In 1913, club founder Alex Glockner started a Harley-Davidson dealership in Portsmouth. That dealership later was sold to Harry McNeer, Joe McNeer’s grandfather. That business sort of morphed into the McNeer Motor Company, which, sitting off 10th Street, to this day caters to motorcycles of all types, with mechanical and customizing work. Tyler McNeer is not only following his father into the Portsmouth Motorcycle Club, but also is a mechanic working in the family business.
Reach Tom Corrigan at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931