Laconia Story of the Day – 1938 Harley EL 61
Friday, June 17, 2011
American Pickers, eat your heart out. This 1938 Harley EL 61 was found in a barn and its restoration has a great story behind it.
would be jealous. Just heard a great story about a true garage find at the 2011 Laconia Motorcycle Rally
custom bike show. It starts off with a beautifully restored 1938 Harley EL 61. Its owner had a great photo montage and copies of The Enthusiast Magazine for Motorcycles dating back to 1938 on display along with the bike. In it were pictures of the old Harley sitting in a barn, covered in cobwebs. Even though spiders had done their best to conceal this classic, you could tell that the bike was complete and had a lot of potential.
The gentleman who bought it, Tim Yarnell, discovered the EL the day before it was going to be sold to another fella. Turns out Yarnell’s dad knew the guy who owned it, so he gave his son the heads up that the bike was for sale. Yarnell contacted the owner, Millie VanSickle, and tried to explain to her how they used to live in the same neighborhood back in the day and that he was interested in buying the bike. She couldn’t quite recall who he was, so he had his father call and talk to her. Their conversation sparked her memory.
“You’re little Timmy,” she said. Turns out, Yarnell’s great uncle, Bob Abbott, actually introduced her to her husband Jim.
“It was love at first sight,” Millie said. Needless to say, this was just the catalyst needed to persuade her to sell the bike to Tim.
Yarnell had a great collection of Jim and Millie VanSickle’s family photos from various adventures the two had embarked on riding their Harley
, like a shot of them the day after their wedding and another picture of their toddler son sitting on the bike. Yarnell shared with us the story of how the original owner, Jim, rode it down to Daytona Beach Bike Week from Maryland the year after WWII ended and how the day he left, there was a foot of snow on the ground, but Jim was determined to go, come hell or high water. The Harley was obviously a prized family possession. When she decided to sell it to Yarnell, it was under two conditions. First, he had to promise her he’d restore the bike as best he could to its original condition and secondly, he promised her he wouldn’t sell it.
After the restoration was complete, they invited Millie over and secretly videoed her reaction when she saw Yarnell pull up on the bike. The event brought her to tears as she told him “You looked just like Jimmy pulling in to pick me up.” As she inspected the bike and touched the tank once again, a flood of memories overtook her and everyone present became overcome by emotion. Millie’s husband Jim, unfortunately, had been struck with dementia and wasn’t able to associate his faded memories with the motorcycle.
Millie passed away in 2006, but she died with the solace of knowing that something near and dear to her heart had been restored to its former glory. And as long as Tim and his wife Deb Yarnell are alive, the spirit of the VanSickles will live and ride forever on that old 1938 Harley EL 61.
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