The Boozefighters

So what really happened in Hollister back in 1947?
The Boozefighters

It’s usually best to let the booze flow over you, why fight it?

One group of joyous fellas had decided, long, long ago, not to fight the booze, even though they’re called the ‘Boozefighters’.
Established in 1946 by a few mates returning from the horrors of WWII, the Boozefighter Motorcycle Club have two mottos; ‘A drinking club with a motorcycle problem’ and ‘The Original Wild Ones!’
The claim to be the ‘Original Wild Ones’ is a big one, but in this case is well justified.
You see the Boozefighters were at Hollister in 1947. So what you may well ask? Well Hollister is the Holy Ground of the Biker movement. No matter whether you’re a ‘one percenter’ or an accountant in disguise, the events of the 1947 July 4th weekend in Hollister California marked the beginning of the ‘American Biker’!
A gentleman by the name of ‘Wino’ Willie Forkner is acknowledged as being the founder of the Boozefighter Motorcycle Club (BFMC). ‘Wino’ Willie decided to start his own club after being kicked out of the ‘13 Rebels’ Motorcycle Club for, wait for it, excessive drinking. Fellow founding members were as Vern Autrey, Jack Lilly, Jim Cameron, J.D. Cameron, George Manker, Bobby Kelton, “Red Dog” Dahlgren, ‘Dink’ Burns, Gil Armas, Johnny Roccio, Johnny Davis, ‘Fat Boy’ Nelson, Lance Tidwell, and C.B. Clausen.
So, at the All American Bar in Los Angeles, in 1946 these guys were trying to think of a name for their new club when a guy by the name of Walt Porter suggested they call it the Boozefighters. He then said, “You might as well name it that because all you ever do is to come in here and fight that booze anyway!” Porter never joined the Boozefighters.
The Boozefighters, the Top Hatters and the POBOBs (Pissed Off Bastards Of Bloomington) were among the clubs that attended that July 4th weekend AMA sanctioned ‘Gypsy Tour’ in Hollister California. Gypsy Tours were held on a single weekend throughout the country. They featured a ride to a scenic location for a picnic and various motorcycle competition events. There were often races, including hillclimbs, Tourist Trophy (TT) and dirt-track events.
On the whole the boys enjoyed some fun, there is no denying that. A lot of WW II vets turned to bikes as transport and their strong military influence meant they stuck together, whether that was shooting the enemy from the trenches or knocking back a few shots, they stuck together. Apparently over 4000 attended this particular Gypsy Tour in Hollister, a lot more than expected. As I said the boys enjoyed some fun, drinking, shooting the breeze, drinking, looking for women, did I mention drinking and just having fun as you do. The regular ‘Gypsy Tour’ events were probably a bit staid for a bunch of guys who had seen the horrors of war up close.
For a bit of a lark two Boozefighters, Gil Armas and Jim Cameron rode their bikes into Johnny’s Bar, now a Hollister landmark. Other Boozefighters were street racing and fighting. It is not clear whether they were fighting and racing each other or members of other clubs. In all about 50 people were arrested and there were 60 reported injuries, for the whole event.
So with a few of these ‘clubs’ there for a sanctioned event it all somehow turned into the biggest shitfight in the universe if the mainstream American press were to be believed. What happened next made a mountain out of a molehill. A San Francisco Chronicle (a day newspaper in SF) Photographer, Barney Peterson, staged a photo of some dude on someone else’s bike. The Chronicle never ran it, but it did appear in the mainstream ‘Life’ magazine of July 21, 1947 in between stories of a Barber who went on a holiday and left a monkey suit in a barber’s chair as a lark and the National Marbles Championship event, I kid you not.

The heading was
‘Cyclist’s Holiday’
And the sub heading was
‘He and friends terrorize a town’
The caption read….

On the Fourth of July weekend 4,000 members of a motorcycle club roared into Hollister, California, for a three-day convention. They quickly tired of ordinary motorcycle thrills and turned to more exciting stunts. Racing their vehicles down the main street and through traffic lights, they rammed into restaurants and bars, breaking furniture and mirrors. Some rested by the curb. Others hardly paused. Police arrested many for drunkenness and indecent exposure but could not restore order. Finally, after two days, the cyclists left with a brazen explanation. “We like to show off. It’s just a lot of fun.” But Hollister’s police chief took a different view. Wailed he, “It’s just one hell of a mess.”

This stretching of the truth with linguistic gymnastics, yes there were 4000 people, but members of one club? And as for roaring, the roads into town were probably dirt, it was 1947 in rural California, and the bikes would have been loud due to no noise laws like today, so yes they were loud, but hardly roaring all at once. And after riding on dirt roads eating your mates dust of course you’re going to hit a pub.
The events in Hollister then got stretched even further when a writer by the name of Frank Rooney was inspired to write ‘Cyclist’s Raid’ which was published in Harper’s Magazine and is all about literature, politics, culture, finance, and the arts, not motorcycles. This 1951 story was about gangs that terrorize a town resulting in the death of the daughter of the publican. But it was a work of fiction, it never really happened. Then when the film the ‘Wild Ones’ starring Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin, whose character was based on ‘Wino’ Willie, came out in 1953. The official film credits state that it’s, ‘based on a story by Frank Rooney’. It doesn’t say, ‘based on a work of fiction by Frank Rooney.’
Well, this is why the Boozefighters claim to be the ‘Original Wild Ones’ and they probably were. So the next time you ride your bike through a bar, raise a glass to the Boozefighters, they started it all!!!