Of Bikes and Men
Nov 16, 2018 06:09PM
Shunk resident David E. Fisher, AKA Ed or Fast Eddie, can be forgiven if he can’t recall the entirety of his experiences as a World War II Army combat veteran. But, at ninety-three, he’s got a fairly extensive collection of memories from those years.
Ed, born in 1925 Lancaster County, was one of thirteen children in the Fisher family. He served in the Army from 1943 to 1947, where he trained as a mechanic but ended up as a Jeep driver for his company commander. Ed counts himself lucky to have been ordered in that direction, as, otherwise, he would likely have been with other members of his company who were killed in a training accident.
He saw action in the Battle of the Bulge, which was the last German offensive campaign on the Western Front, got frostbitten feet, and recalls that, after crossing the Rhine in an amphibious vehicle, he picked up a wounded German soldier and subsequently delivered him to a medical facility. The soldier—whether by accident or design—happened to leave his briefcase and his service pistol behind. Ed still has the pistol. To hold it serves as tangible evidence of a horrific time, even as the living memory of those days slips away.
He can also tell you about being in General Dwight Eisenhower’s honor guard in Berlin during the last months of 1945. Ike, he says, “was a very nice man.” Berlin, at the time, was “in shambles.”
At any rate, the war ended, and Ed found himself on the Queen Mary, an ocean liner designed to carry 3,000 but which, for this voyage, was packed to the gills with 17,000 homeward bound soldiers—men and women both, although Ed notes a bit wryly that “we never saw the women.” A parade planned in New York City was postponed for a week, he says, until the Queen Mary arrived. From New York, Ed went to Fort Indiantown Gap for his discharge. There were two lines there to process the outgoing soldiers, he says—one, the shorter line, for those who had no issues, no complaints, and a longer line for those who may have had a medical problem or other reason they may have needed to file the dreaded extra paper work. Despite having had, in his words, “frozen feet,” Ed picked the short line. Let me outa here, right?
How did Ed Fisher celebrate his homecoming? He ordered a new Indian Chief. If you’re not a bike enthusiast, you may not know that Indian was America’s first motorcycle company. It was also the first motorcycle Ed bought, back in 1941, before the Army and the war. A friend of his also had an Indian racing bike, and Ed remembers, with a bit of a twinkle in his eye, that he “rode it long enough to blow it up.”
Because of the war, this new Indian was on backorder, so it was seven months before it arrived. When it showed up, the first place he went with it was to Langhorne, Pennsylvania, to a 100-mile race. It was good to be home.
It wasn’t long after that an Indian dealer in Ephrata asked him to ride; Ed ended up working for him and then for a couple of other Indian dealers. He went to school to learn how to x the bikes, and continued as a factory rider, but the company was having problems. As his racing career with Indian was stalled, Ed opted to open his own garage.
Enter Triumph. The company was interested in making inroads in the American market, and company officials approached Ed about racing. By 1952 he was a Triumph dealer—he ran his dealership until 1998—as well as a nationally renowned road racer. In motorcycle racing lore, his most famous win was the 1953 Laconia (New Hampshire) 100-mile National Championship. at determination, the closest in the history of the event, wasn’t made until months afterward, as the top four riders finished within just seconds of each other.
So how did he end up in Shunk?
“I bought some property,” Ed explains. Actually, what he did, around 1970, was build, with a partner, the Buttermilk Falls Campground, which, though he is not associated with it anymore, isn’t far from where he lives now with his extensive collection of motorcycles and his wife, Suzi. He sold the facility in 2000. He and Suzi, married for sixteen years, each have a son and a daughter from previous marriages. Ed’s son, Gary, has been known to race a motorcycle or two. They are, in fact, the only father-son duo to win at Laconia.
Suzi says her dad was a motorcycle dealer, as well.
“I took my first ride when I was six weeks old,” she says, but admits that these days she rides only as a passenger. The couple spend winters in Florida, and haul one of Ed’s road bikes down with them. There he rides weekly with a group of friends; last year he put 2,000 miles on it during their four months in the sunny south. There is no garage down there, Ed laments, so they have to stay busy doing other things—bocce ball is one pastime.
Ed quit racing professionally in 1957, although he never stopped riding or competing—he continued participating in hillclimbs, drag racing, and vintage events. In the years since, he has been honored with a variety of awards from his peers, including placement on the famed White Plate Flat Tracker monument at the motorcycle mecca known as Sturgis.
And just last month, Ed led, on one of his Triumphs, a 150-plus bike ride through the scenic hills and valleys of Sullivan and Bradford counties. The ride ended at the Rialto Theatre in Canton for the screening of a documentary, Fast Eddie. The film’s creators, husband and wife team Kyle Pahlow and Brenna Eckerson, discovered Ed by chance and decided his story needed a wider audience. Three days after the ride and the screening, Kyle, the proud new owner of Ed’s Triumph, was strapping it onto a trailer. Before he headed out, he passed a shiny Eisenhower dollar to Ed, who turned it over in his fingers a few times before relaying the following story.
When he left for his wartime service, a businessman in Gap, where Ed grew up, gave him a silver dollar, with the admonition to bring it, and himself, home safely. Ed kept it with him for the duration of his time in the Army but, in the rush and excitement of being discharged (remember those two lines at Indiantown Gap), the dollar was left behind.
Here was a replacement.