Doug Frederick of the American Police Motorcycle Museum in Meredith is building a bike as a tribute to the Springfield Police Department. He has restored many of the vintage motorcycles on display there, using as many original parts as he can. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)
Business reopens in time for Motorcycle Week
By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH — Saying they are thrilled to be involved with Motorcycle Week, Doug Frederick and his wife, Leslyee, owners of the American Police Motorcycle Museum, announced that they have reopened for a limited season and will be offering half-price admission to anyone arriving on a motorcycle during this year’s rally.
“We’ve met the nicest people since we opened the museum here seven years ago,” Doug Frederick said, adding that the Bike Week visitors have been instrumental in keeping the museum open.
The museum will unveil a Laconia Motorcycle Week sculpture on Saturday morning, and will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day during the rally.
Frederick, a former officer with the Hartford (Connecticut) Police Department, said he has always been fascinated with motorcycles, and he bought his first one when he was 12, using money he had saved by turning in bottles for the deposits. Worried that his father would not approve, he hid it in the barn until the hay that covered it was gone.
“My father asked me what this was, and I said, ‘What does it look like?’ That was the wrong answer,” he recalled.
Although he no longer has that motorcycle, he has collected several others and, by the time he opened the museum, he had a collection of 36 bikes. He supplements his own collection with motorcycles on loan from other owners and was thrilled this year to be able to display a 1955 Royal Enfield Indian patrol bike — the same model as his first motorcycle.
For Bike Week, the museum has a large display of vintage racing motorcycles, outfits worn by the early racers — including the iron shoe — and trophies and other Gypsy Tour memorabilia. A video offers highlights of some of the early racing.
The display includes bikes designed for the hillclimb and the the Wall of Death, as well as rarities such as a 1915 Pope motorcycle.
Frederick explained that, prior to the Great Depression, there were more than 400 domestic motorcycle manufacturers, but by the end of World War II, only two remained: Indian and Harley-Davidson. He is building a display to focus on that rivalry.
In addition to the Motorcycle Week displays, this year’s central focus is a collection of original World War II-era motorcycles, including one stamped “Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.” Fredericks explained that shipyard security forces patrolled on motorcycles to thwart any Axis spies.
He also has one of 25 Harleys built in 1942 for the training of riders and mechanics.
The museum has a WWII-era Jeep in perfect condition, and this year added a video describing the history of the playing of “Taps” at military ceremonies. The WWII collection is dedicated to Leslyee’s father, Carmen Fiore, an Italian immigrant who served under Gen. George Patten.
Several of the motorcycles at the museum have been rebuilt by Fredericks, including a 1926 motorcycle believed to be the first one used by the Laconia Police Department. Fredericks acquired it in 2012 at an estate sale in Sanbornton. He said a former Laconia police chief had purchased the original bike before moving to Sanbornton and, while he is not sure the one he found in a barn there was the same one, it was equipped as a police motorcycle.
Frederick restored it, using as many original parts as possible. He still has to finish the wiring and final assembly, but was able to put it on display this year.
A large number of the motorcycles on display are in working order, and Frederick said, “I’ve got to try everything once.” Some, he added, are not comfortable at all, but others are joys to ride.
The museum has motorcycles from Mexico and Canada, as well as several from around the United States, and has salutes to all of the New England states.
A big part of the focus on police motorcycles is on tributes to officers who have fallen in the line of duty. In his own Hartford department, two of Frederick’s colleagues were killed, and he also has displays commemorating the deaths of others, including the young MIT security officer, Sean Collier, whose plans to join the Somerville Police Department were cut short when one of those responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings shot him.
Some of the motorcycles on display have celebrity status, such as the Memphis Police Department bike that led the procession for Elvis Presley’s funeral; one of two remaining motorcycles that had served as the queen’s escort in Britain (the other is in a museum in England); a motorcycle used on the television show “The West Wing” which was signed by all of the cast members; and one from the film “Mississippi Burning.”
The other major focus of the museum is on youths and safety, and it invites them to become Special Junior Motor Officers, giving them a badge and ID card in exchange for pledging not to bully, to read at least a half-hour each night, and to always obey their parents. There also is a component designed to teach them to say no to drugs.
This year, the museum will be raising awareness of opioid addiction and will offer free, private tours for the affected families. It is promoting the second annual Massachusetts Rally2Recovery motorcycle rally from Ware to Worcester, with the proceeds going to Learn to Cope, an addiction recovery program.
The American Police Motorcycle Museum operates purely on admission fees and donations, with no corporate sponsors. It has added a flea market this year to help raise funds to assist in its eventual relocation to other quarters.
The museum building has been placed on the market and Frederick will be operating on a limited schedule this summer, following an early closing last year, due to complaints about the crematorium next door. Frederick said he cannot comment on current litigation with the Mayhew Funeral Home, which is working its way through the courts, based on his claims of noxious fumes and ashes from the crematorium. He did note that there will be no outside displays or activities this year.
The American Police Motorcycle Museum in Meredith has a special tribute to Laconia’s Motorcycle Week, with vintage bikes, uniforms, trophies, and other memorabilia. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)
Among the displays at the American Police Motorcycle Museum in Meredith is a Memphis Police Department motorcycle that led the procession for Elvis Presley’s funeral. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun
A group of original military motorcycles from World War II make up the featured display at the American Police Motorcycle Museum in Meredith. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)