When we think about California motorcycle cops we cannot help but go back to Ponch and John from the famed television series CHiPs Patrol. Ever wonder how long California has been running guys around on motorcycles to protect the public and scare up cash? As it turns out, a long time and this video proves it! Made in the late 1940s in post WWII California, you are going to see some killer old motorcycles and some guys who have been trained to ride them for a living.
This is listed as a recruitment film so it is designed to entice people to enter the fun and exciting world of being a motorcycle cop. We have never ridden a motorcycle of the age shown here. It is awesome to see the foot clutch, hand shift, and general layout of the thing. We’re thinking that it must take some time to become as smooth with it as the instructor in the video is.
Obviously the late 1940s and into the 50s were an interesting time for motorcycle culture. Many returning GIs who had experience on bikes in the war came back looking for one and then they continued to seek the adrenaline they no longer got from the battlefield on the motorcycles. It was the beginning of the motorcycle as a huge part of “outlaw” culture in America.
These fellows were on the other end of that spectrum.
Here’s the caption from the PeriscopeFilm YouTube page that posted the video. It goes into some great and interesting depth –
The Los Angeles Police Department presents “Your Traffic Officer,” a late 1940s black-and-white training film that shows what it takes to be a motorcycle patrolman on the new freeways in post-World War II California. Six people lost their lives on a “modern highway” in the past year (probably the 110 Freeway) the narrator explains at the film commences. The efficient execution of traffic regulations is key to keeping the roads safe. A motorcycle officer zooms across the screen (mark 00:53) as the narrator explains how a well-trained officer can make the difficult job look easy, and are offered the position only after passing physical and educational requirements. Mark 01:45 takes the viewer to a training class as instructors are shown teaching “the safe way to ride.” The training film offers detailed information on each part of the motorcycle, from carburetor to siren. Trainees are shown how to run the engine and operator the speedometer (mark 04:50), as well as how to operate the front and rear wheel brakes. Each element is put together starting at mark 05:30 as the training officer starts his engine, and then shown how they operate together on the road (mark 06:37). New recruits are encouraged to also learn from veterans as part of their on-the-job training (mark 07:45) “and learn your job by doing,” we are told.
The motorcycle shown at 1:29 appears to be a Harley 74 cubic inch panhead. This was the sport bike of its time as it featured overhead valves instead of a flathead. It was 1200 cc or 74 cubic inches with a 3 speed transmission. It had no rear suspension in those years unlike the Indian Chiefs. They had six volt systems unlike todays 12 volts. Supposedly they were not preferred by police as the indian motorcycle could be set up having the accelerator on the left, freeing up the gun hand. Their top speed was around 89 mph but could be modified to go faster later on, but on the roads of the day that was much faster than any car of the times could maintain. They ran a chain in both the primary and final drive and had an oil piston under the seat for comfort.