Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Orlando's Star Lite Riders - Episode #27

By: David L. Morrill
@ Mototique

Updated: September 12, 12014

Aladra Adam's Star Lite Riders Shirt
Charlie and Aladra Adams Collection

I've said before, that many of my stories begin with a single photograph. That's the case with this story. I was scrolling through Facebook one morning, and came across a post by Dennis Adams, in an Orlando, Florida look back group. It was a photo of the old Puckett Harley-Davidson dealership on South Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando. The photo showed some kind of awards ceremony. I contacted Dennis to get permission to use the photo in my story on Orlando racer Dexter Campbell.

Not only did Dennis Adams give me permission to use his photo, he also shared the story of his parents, Charlie and Aladra Adams, who were members of the Star Lite Motorcycle Club in the 40s, and 50s. Dennis also arranged for me to contact his father, who along with Jesse O'Brien, provided the details for this story. Without their held, it would have not  been possible.

The story if the Star Lite Riders Motorcycle Club, begins with groups civilian motorcycle riders formed into Motorcycle Troops in the early 1940s. It was anticipated that if the United States became involved in the second World War, these troops would be an invaluable asset in patrolling Florida's long coastline. The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) supported, and encouraged, the formation of the Motorcycle Troops, as a way to bring a positive image of motorcycling.

In Orlando, Florida Sidney Crenshaw formed the Orlando Troop. With the entry of the United States into the World War at the end of 1941, many of the male troop members were drafted into the service. Many used their riding skills as dispatch riders for the various armed services. Some of the female troop members continued the troop activities, until they were drawn into jobs producing war materials, and the civilian motorcycle troops folded.

Sidney Crenshaw - Orlando, Florida
Guy Ann Sheffield Collection

After World War II, Sidney Crenshaw, who was now a member of the Orlando Police Department Motorcycle Unit, was involved in the formation of the Orlando Motorcycle Club, along with Orlando Harley-Davidson dealer Lewis Puckett. The club was run out of Puckett's shop on South Orange Avenue in Orlando. Charlie Adams became one of the original members of the Orlando Motorcycle Club.

Charlie & Aladra Adams Collection
Charlie Adams began racing in AMA sanctioned flat track, and TT motorcycle races on a Harley-Davidson WR carrying his competition A.M.A. # 211C. The WR was prepared in Lewis Puckett's shop. He competed in races at St Petersburg, Sarasota, Ft Meyers, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, and Daytona Beach, Florida. While Charlie did not win any races, he often finished second, or third.

1948 Harley-Davidson WR Flat Track Racer 

By early 1948, the membership of the Orlando Motorcycle Club had dropped significantly. A new club was formed named the Star Lite Riders, and several of the Orlando Motorcycle Club Members, including Charlie and Aladra Adams joined the new club.

Charlie & Aladra Adams Collection
The new club received and AMA sanction, and was run out of Lewis Puckett's Harley-Davidson shop, which had moved to 2801 South orange Blossom Trail in Orlando.

Puckett Motors - Orlando, Florida
Eric Smith Collection
The AMA sanctioned these riding clubs, which often adopted club uniforms, which the wore during rides, and club social events. These were not 1% motorcycle gangs, which drew negative publicity to the sport, with their antisocial behavior. They were groups of average riders, often referred to as the 99% of motorcycle enthusiasts , who didn't cause problems. These riding clubs participated in reliability runs, field games, social events, Promoted safe riding, and sponsored A.M.A. competition events.

Star Light Riders Motorcycle Field Games
Star Lite Riders Field Games
Charlie & Aladra Adams Collection
Star Lite Riders relax after their weekly Reliability Run
The Star Lite Riders sponsored the local flat track and TT motorcycle races. These races where first held at the Casselberry, Florida harness track, and later at Orlando's Ben White Raceway. Charlie Adams competed in,  and often won, these local races.

Charlie Adams shows off a trophy to Aladra Adams and a friend.
Charlie & Aladra Adams Collection

In the early 50s, Charlie Adams was elected as president of the Star Lite Riders. This was a little unusual, as the club was run out of a Harley-Davidson shop, and Charlie had switched to riding a 1953 Indian, along with a 250cc Zundap he rode in enduro racing. Club members were not required to ride Harley-Davidsons, and Charlie like the new hydraulic forks, and non pogo post seat. This was the final model of the Indian Motorcycle, as they closed the factory doors in 1953.

Charlie, Randy, and Sandra Adams - 1953 Indian Motorcycle
Charlie & Aladra Adams

The July 1955 edition of American Motorcycling Magazine featured an article on 17 year old club member Clyde Denzer.

American Motorcycling Magazine - July 1955
Dave Dobner Collection
In June 1956, the Star Lite Riders were awarded an A.M.A. National Safety Award banner, for the year 1955. The award was presented to club members by Orlando Chief of Police, Vernon Rodgers.

Orlando Sentinel - June 1956
Charlie & Aladra Adams Collection

And now for the story of the photograph that inspired this story:

Puckett Harley-Davidson Orlando, Florida ca. 1955
Charlie & Aladra Adams Collection

This photo shows and awards ceremony at Puckett Harley-Davidson for the Thanksgiving Turkey Run Enduro Race, which was sponsored by the Star Lite Riders.  These cross country races, were meant to test the endurance of man and machine, by riding a difficult closed course laid out through the woods outside Daytona Beach, Florida.

Jesse O'Brien stated he is the person receiving his first place trophy from Lewis Puckett's son Buddy. Lewis Puckett is crouched in the center of the photo, and Charlie, and Aladra Adams are in the back left of the photo.

Unidentified Enduro Rider - Possibly Dexter Campbell
Charlie & Aladra Adams Collection

But, there's more to this story! It seems the prize for the race was a live turkey,. Jesse received the turkey for his win, and took it to his brother Dick's house for the family Thanksgiving dinner. Dick's wife took the turkey outside to prepare it for cooking. The turkey took one look at the knife, and escaped the scene. The turkey was last seen running down Orange Blossom Trail, and Dick had to drive down to Winn Dixie to get another turkey.

The annual Daytona Beach Motorcycle Races were known as the Handlebar Derby.  The premier event was the 200 mile road race. It was run down a section of Ormond Beach, at low tide, and then back up Highway A1A.

1958 Daytona Motorcycle Race Program Cover
Charlie & Aladra Adams Collection

The week long event featured both amateur, and professional Road Racing, Flat Track, Scrambles, Hill Climb, Drag Racing, Time Trials, and Endurance Run competitions. There was also an International Motorcycle Show at the Daytona Beach Armory.

1957 Daytona 200 Motorcycle Race
Charlie & Aladra Adams Collection

By 1958, the Star Lite Riders were sponsoring Formula A motorcycle scrambles races. Dick O'Brien, the shop Racing Manger, had developed hop up parts for the Harley-Davidson 165, which had become popular with lightweight class scrambles racers. Puckett had two riders, Jesse O'Brien, and Dexter Campbell racing the shops 165s, and they dominated races throughout Florida. Tommy Seagraves raced for Puckett in the Heavy Weight Scrambles Class.

Lewis Puckett Motors Hop Up Instructions
The October 1958 edition of the A.M.A.s American Motorcyclist Magazine reported a crowd of 3000 watched the August Formula A Scrambles race held in Orlando, by the Star Lite Riders. Dexter Campbell won the Lightweight Class, and Tommy Seagraves, won the Heavy Weight Class.

In November 1958, Charlie Adams competed in the Turkey Run Enduro, finishing second in the Class B Lightweight on his 250cc Zundap.

1958 Turkey Run Enduro Results
Charlie & Aladra Adams
Club members also competed in unsanctioned Outlaw motorcycle races run by Bill France during the Nascar races held on the same Ormond Beach Course used for the motorcycle races. These races were held on the beach side of the course, to entertain the crowd between the Nascar races.

About this time, the Star Lite Riders became involved in another interesting piece of Florida racing history. Puckett Harley-Davidson, and the Star Lite Riders, sponsored motorcycle drag races on an old auxiliary airfield south of Orlando. Lewis Puckett was asked by an up and coming Ocala, Florida auto drag racer Don Garlits.  He was making a name for himself drag racing a modified T Bucket Ford, and asked Lewis Puckett to build a Harley-Davidson to race against his T Bucket Ford.

Don Garlits 1927 Ford T Bucket Racer
Don Garlits Collection

The crew at Puckett's race shop built a 74 ci. twin carburetor Harley-Davidson Panhead, which was named Big Bertha.

Big Bertha
Custom Bike & Choppers Magazine - March 1982
The bike was ridden in several match races with Garlits, by Charlie Winslow, and later Dexter Campbell. The Puckett riders, and Garlits, each won several of the match races.

It appears the membership of the Star Lite Riders faded in the early 60s. Many of the members now had families, and careers, which left less time for riding. The final blow, may have come, when Lewis Puckett lost the Harley-Davidson franchise for Orlando, and the Star Lite riders lost their clubhouse.

The A.M.A. sanctioned riding clubs across the country began to suffer the same fate. As these clubs faded into memories, the more notorious motorcycle gangs were left to take their place, casting a negative light on the sport through the 60s and 70s.


Charlie and Aladra Adams eventually divorced. Charlie Adams later remarried, and left Orlando in 1967. He had a long career in the music business, is retired, and living in Tennessee. Aladra Adams passed away in Orlando in 2011.

Charlie & Aladra Adams Collection

Dexter Campbell continued his racing career, but was killed in a racing accident at the A.M.A. National Dirt Track Race at Atlanta's Lakewood Speedway on May 15, 1966.

#16 Dexter Campbell
Robbie Knight Collection 
Clyde Denzer was hired by Harley-Davidson Racing Team Manager, Dick O'Brien in 1959. For the next 24 years, Denzer served as the the number two man in the Racing Department . When O'Brien retired, Clyde Denzer took over as the Harley-Davidson Racing Team Manager.

Clyde Denzer (left) and Ralph White - Daytona 1963 
Dick O'Brien left Puckett Harley-Davidson in 1957 to become the Harley-Davidson Factory Racing Team Manager. Under O'Brien's management, the Harley Racing Team became one of the most successful racing teams in the country, vitally dominating American dirt track racing. He Retired in 1983, and was inducted into the American Motorcyclist Association's Hall of Fame in 2001.

Dick O'Brien
A.M.A. Hall of Fame

Jesse O'Brien  retired from racing in 1957. In the early 80s he returned, and one of the driving forces behind the A.M.A. Battle of the Twins road racing class.

Jesse O'Brien (right)
Patrolman Sidney "Big Sid" Crenshaw had a distinguished career with the Orlando Police department Motorcycle Unit. He was struck by a car, and seriously injured, while working a traffic accident on West Colonial Drive in Orlando on July 7, 1965. Patrolman Creshaw died of his injuries on November 22, 1966.

Patrolman Sidney "Big Sid" Crenshaw
Guy Ann Sheffield Collection

"Big Daddy" Don Garlits went on to become a multi time National, and World Championship drag racer. He won a total of 144 National events in his series of "Swamp Rat" Top Fuel racers. He currently operates the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida.

"Big Daddy" Don Garlits - Ocala, Florida
Tommy Seagraves continued his racing career, but was killed in a racing accident at the A.M.A. National Road Race in Watkin's Glen, New York on August 14, 1960.

Tommy Seagraves - Orlando, Florida
Eddie Boomhower Collection


American Motorcyclist Association

Charlie Adams

Charlie & Aladra Adams Collection

Custom Bike & Choppers Magazine - March 1982

Dave Dobner Collection

Dennis Adams

Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing

Eddie Boomhower Collection

Guy Ann Sheffield Collection

Jesse O'Brien

Officer Down Memorial Page - Patrolman Sidney Crenshaw

Robbie Knight Collection

Tampa Bay History 21/01 - Civilians Protecting Civilians - 2007

1 comment:

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