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Pete Page: Zen Master with Machines

Pete Page  2533Note: Pete Page passed away in 2010 shortly after this article was posted in the Summer 2010 edition. We post this piece on our new website in memory of Pete and the role he played in the lives of everyone in the community who knew him best as the guy who could fix anything at Livingston’s Appliance in downtown Globe.

Reprint from : July 2010 Globe Miami TimesWalk through the doors of Livingston’s Appliance in downtown Globe and you’ll find the walls lined with new washers and dryers in the front. In the back, you’ll discover a shop that can only be described as “managed chaos” where a tall, lanky guy with strong hands and a quiet demeanor is busy working his repair magic on a variety of sewing machines, vacuum cleaners, and washers. But, if you take a closer look you’ll see a framed and fading portrait of a motorcyclist on a GSX-R Suzuki taking a corner low to the pavement, a calendar showing famous road races in Europe, motorcycle ‘kitch’ and and enough dog eared photos of Suzukis, Hondas, Triumps, Harley’s and the like tacked up to the wall so as to dominate one whole section. 

Pete Page in his shop on Broad Street
Pete Page in his shop on Broad Street. Photo by: LCGross

Pete Page, who owns Livingstons is known by most around here as the “appliance guy., A few, it seems know him as ‘British Pete’, and fewer still – those who ride bikes themselves- know that before Pete focused all his attention on appliance repair as being a duly respectable, steady form of income, he actually spent quite a bit of time racing motorcycles in England and touring this country from the back of a BMW.

Originally from Southhampton, England, Pete says he got his first bike in 1961.  The country was still feeling the effects of WWII – even then – and more people rode bikes and motorcycles with little side cars as he was growing up than owned cars. When he was 16 he worked a paper route to make money for his first motorcycle. It was a 50 cc moped and although it’s top speed was only 30 mph, it provided his first taste of freedom which came with owning his own set of wheels. The racing would come later.

In a career which spans over 30 years, Pete has put more hours on a bike than most and covered two continents, 42 states and wore out just a few bikes.

He started racing side cars in 1975 when he was in his late twenties. These were stripped down motorcycles with sidecars resembling a “perch” more than an actual “side car.” Using farmers fields where the crops were being rotated and the fields left to rest – both farmers and racers picked up a bit of cash by turning these fields into race tracks. Entry fees were about $25 and winnings never exceeded $100. The bikes were raced by teams of riders. The “jockey’ balanced behind the driver and would fling his body to the left and right – much like sailing – to keeping the rear tire on the track as the bike would take turns the turns at high speed.

“I used to race with a friend of mine who would race solo, and then pop over and  “jockey” for me.” Pete said. “We were at this race one time and had just taken a practice run.

My friend hopped off the bike and threw down his helmut declaring, “I’m not racing with you anymore. You frighten me to death! “ 

Page racing in Britan before coming to the States.
Page racing in Britan before coming to the States.

So Pete got on the PA and announced that #26 needed a jockey. Three guys showed up and he picked a kid ten years his junior. Although Jim had only jockeyed a couple times before this he was a quick study and the team was a formidable competitor on the track.

They made it to the National Championships one year, and while it took being good to get there, it took being very good to place. Pete says in the first race, they were sitting on the starting line with the National Champ on their left and the local Champ on their right. When the starter went off, the riders blasted off the starting line, and within the first turn Pete said they were running fourth.

In a tough sport where taking calculated chances at high speeds define success, it is inevitable that wrecks will happen. But sometimes that wreck you walk away from makes you look at things differently – and say “enough.” For Pete, it was that day on the track when he and Jim were going hard at it, and another rider tried to pass them on the inside.

The rider clipped them and the force knocked Jim off the back.

“But I didn’t know he got knocked off,” Pete says, “so I headed into the turn and there is no one holding the back wheel down…and over I went.” He flipped so hard, his helmut came off and his nose ended up on the right side of his face. It took a surgical team to patch him up and he feels lucky to this day that it was only his nose which took the brunt of what could have been much worse.

That wreck marked the ending of one era and the beginning of another.

No more dirt tracks. The next bike he purchased was a Suzuki GSX-R.

”That was the bike to have, “ Pete says.  “You could squeeze 150 on that bike,” he says. Of course nowdays riders are doing 200.”

He says the day he was cornering his Suzuki going about 140 in a race, and laying it down so low to the ground that everything was scraping pavement…and a kid passed him on the outside and turned to give him alittle wave of the hand as he sped past, Pete had to admit it might be time to retire from racin’

Pete, turns to point at the Calendar behind his head which shows a vintage photograph of the famous Isle of Man race. “Back in those days,” he says, “it was nothing to still be racing at 40 or 45. Nowdays it’s sixteen year olds…and they’re winning!”

Pete on his new BMW bike for his first cross country trip.
Pete on his new BMW bike for his first cross country trip.

He goes on to explain the Isle of Man- consists of six 37 3/4 mile loops. In 1958, a Scotsman,Bob McIntyre became the first rider to ever lap the Mountain circuit at 100 mph. It would take nearly 50 years to bump that record up by 26 mph. Today’s record stands at 126 mph. Pete can only smile.

In 1992, just before his 50th birthday, Pete and his friend Allen decided to do a cross country tour of the US. For two British boys this was venturing into alien – but awesome landscape. In England you’d end up in the ocean if you rode more than 200 miles in any direction. The idea of riding thousands of miles of blacktop and never running out of road was a strange kind of wonderful.  Pete wrote to fourteen BMW dealerships and told them what they wanted to do. Only one wrote back, he said. A dealership in Orlando Florida, said they had one such BMW on the floor and would have to order the other one, and would they send an international money order. No problem, Pete said.

The two left for the states three months later, flying into Orlando where they found two brand new BMWs awaiting their arrival. They did 42 states in six months from Alaska to Mexico and everything in between. “It was great. People were friendly everywhere we went. They’d hear the accent, you know and want to talk.”.

They had barely arrived back in England with bikes in tow before they started planning a second trip. They had met another rider while on the first tour of the US, who talked about his journey from Fairbanks Alaska to Tierra del Fuego a small Argentinean province.  That sounded like just the ticket for their next big adventure and within a year, they were landing back in Orlando for their “South American Trip.”

Pete working on bikes in the back of the shop.
Pete working on bikes in the back of the shop.

When they came out to get on their bikes, a note stuck to the windshield read, “If you’re a biker, come see me. Jim said.

They met up with a short, broad, bushy bearded man who rode up on this little 500 Honda to Peg’s. It was Jim Whitstruck, who had moved to Globe several years earlier. He had been staff photographer to President Truman and while the exact details of how he went from that to living over a motorcycle shop in Globe, Arizona may be lost to history, much about Jim’s eclectic passion for motorcycles and his photographic memory sticks in Pete’s mind.

Jim took them to his shop just down the street from Pegs.  Inside there was an array of “very unusual bikes, “a museum of sorts,” says Pete. Jim lived upstairs and rented the back for a motorcycle shop. “He had alot of knowledge up here,” Pete says “but Jim wasn’t as good with his hands. He needed a guy who could make all those unusual bikes run. And that was Pete.

So, the Great South American Road Trip ended at Globe that fateful day when Jim offered Pete a job and his friend decided the Great Road Trip would not be so great going solo, and returned to England.

Pete worked for Jim nearly three years without a contract or salary – or really any wage. “If we sold a bike, we’d split it fifty/fifty Pete says. The business was called Moto Veloce- Fast Motorcycles, and they were known for just that. In 1995, Jim passed away unexpectedly and and Pete found himself running the shop himself. By then he was also doing all the repairs for the appliance business which the landlord operated in the front of the building. Pete says he just couldn’t do both, and decided the appliance business was more reliable than the bikes, and he closed out the business.

Today, he works on smaller, less complicated machines; washers, dryers…sewing machines.

Yet, that quote from “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” which says, “ The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you,” still holds sway here. Whether your’re talking about Bikes or Washing Machines, when they are out of kilter – Pete can fix them.

As Pirsig says,“ There isn’t any other test. If the machine produces tranquility, it’s right. If it disturbs you, it’s wrong until either the machine or your mind changes.” Pete is the Zen master of machines.

 

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About Linda Gross

Linda Gross
Writer, photographer. Passionate foodie, lover of good books and storytelling. Lives in Globe. Plays in the historic district. Travels when possible.

One comment

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    Love this man, and now I miss that I did not see him again. He was a master at BMW’s……

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