This year's Hollister motorcycle rally was special on many fronts; the 60-year milestone, the 07/07/07 date, and the rally's return after it was 'officially' suspended in 2006. The tiny town of Hollister in the foothills of the central coast's bucolic Steinbeck Country has been an Independence-Day Mecca for motorcycle enthusiasts of all types since its inaugural, and infamous kickoff back in 1947.
After a one year hiatus, the sleepy farming community of Hollister realized that it could not escape its past heritage, or its future destiny. The townsfolk of this small hamlet have been grappling with the plus-and-minus aspects of the 100,000+ biker onslaught for decades.
This year, rather than fighting destiny (and loosing), city officials made the decision to embrace it, hiring event planner Horsepower Promotions to orchestrate the rally, and present a kinder, gentler image of the average HOG rider.
Hollister Rally Show Bikes - More Photos
2007 Hollister Rally - Upside/Downside
Upside - Along with thousands of participants who rode in from around the state, there were dozens of the west coast's premier bike builders, customizers, and fabricators, as well as hundreds of vendors selling every conceivable type of biker paraphernalia. Organized poker-runs were held by several motorcycle clubs, HOG chapters, and mc dealerships.
Downside - The major downside of this year's 'organized' event is that it was more flea-market than biker rally. With every major street in downtown Hollister barricaded off, all of the motorcycle parking was so dispersed that there was no central area to view all of the bikes, and no 'gauntlet' to parade down.
When the dust clears, local hotels, bars, and other businesses, as well as the sponsored charities could be the biggest beneficiaries of the event, as the biker of today has plenty of cash, and is prepared to use it. The big question for the future is: will the city continue to embrace the ralley, and will it continue to over-manage to crowd?
History of the 1947 'Battle for Hollister'
The town's mythical status as a July 4 refuge for the 'one-percenters,' outcasts, and outlaw biker misfits began on July 4th, 1947, when some 4,000 bikers, led by the 'Boozefighters Motorcycle Club' and the 'Pissed Off Bastards of Bloomington,' descended on the town for a three-day drunk-fest, during the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) sponsored 'Gypsy Tour' race held outside of town.
Photo (left) Barney Peterson / SF Chronicle, (right) public domain
At the request of the Hollister police department's seven deputies, the California State Highway Patrol imposed martial law. Over a three day period, approximately sixty people were injured in the malay.
Of the 1947 incident, Life Magazine described the event as a "cyclist's holiday," but the subtext of the article showed a darker side, telling of outlaw bikers "racing their vehicles down the main street and through traffic lights," as they "rode into restaurants and businesses, breaking furniture and mirrors." In the article, the only explanation for the rowdy behavior came from one of the participants, stating: "we like to show off."
San Francisco Chronicle reporter Barney Peterson photographed the iconic (but allegedly staged) shot of a drunken biker teetering on his Harley Knucklehead bobber, surrounded by broken beer bottles, which appeared on the cover of Life Magazine shortly thereafter. Allegedly, the photo was of a member of the newly-formed Boozefighters MC Club, founded by William 'Wino Willie' Forkner and Jack 'Crocker Jack' Lilly in 1946.
In response this indelible negative imagery, the AMA responded with the explanation that the mayhem was not committed by the 99% of "mainstream cyclists" who are law-abiding citizens, but by the last "one percent." Since that time, the term "one-percenter" has become synonymous with outlaw motorcycle gangs, or "OMGs" as they are known by the ATF and U.S. Department of Justice.
Both Forkner and Lilly were previously members of the 13 Rebels Motorcycle Club (13 RMC), which is still an AMA sanctioned club. Another famous member of the 13 Rebels was Elmo Looper, who purchased the remaining inventory of Al Crocker's Crocker Motorcycle Company.
Hollister and 'The Wild One'
The town's mythical status as a July 4 refuge for the 'one-percenters,' outcasts, and outlaw biker misfits was codified in the 1954 Marlon Brando, Lee Marvin movie 'The Wild One.'
Brando's The Wild One cemented the cookie-cutter stereotype of the 'outlaw biker' as an aimless hooligan. Towards the end of the movie, when Marlon Brando's character 'Johnny Strabler' was asked what he is rebelling against, he cryptically says "Whaddya got?"
Johnny's Bar & Grill - 'Birthplace of the American Biker'
If Hollister is the west-coast 'Mecca' for the American biker, then Johnny's Bar & Grill is the touchstone. Johnny's, at 526 San Benito Street, proudly declares itself as ""the birthplace of the American biker - where it all began." Johnny's Bar & Grill owner Charisse Tyson was the chairwoman of this year's Hollister Rally Committee.
One of the de-facto hosts of this year's event was the local 'Top Hatters Motorcycle Club,' based in Hollister. The Top Hatters club was formed in 1947, and is one of the oldest motorcycle club in the United States.
Hollister, Daytona Beach, & Sturgis Today
For several decades the impromptu Hollister rally has been intermittently plagued by some violence between rival biker gangs, but the event has remained one of the largest biker gatherings in the Country, next to the Sturgis Rally, in the Black Hills of South Dakota, or Daytona Beach's Florida Bike Week in March.
Hollister Rally Show Bikes - More Photos
Sturgis will be celebrating its 67th anniversary on August 6th-12th 2007. The Sturgis Rally, which originally featured hillclimbing and flattrack racing events, was started August 14, 1938, by the AMA chartered 'Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club,' which is still in existence today.
Although there is an element of the "outlaw biker" type in attendance at biker rallies today, the vast majority (dare I say 99%) are law-abiding middle-aged baby-boomers who love motorcycles, motorcycle paraphernalia, and the camaraderie of like-minded enthusiasts.
To prevent the possibility of any trouble at this year's 'officially sanctioned' Hollister HOG-fest, there was a massive police presence, with law enforcement personnel from several neighboring counties, and the Department of Justice (DOJ). Needles to say, everything went off without a hitch.
There is no question that anyone who dons a black leather jacket, and sets out on two wheels, especially of the Milwaukee variety, has a distant kinship with the forefathers of the American biker scene - good and bad - that traveled this region sixty years ago this July.
Hollister Motorcycle Rally Links & History
Horsepower Promotions - 60th Anniversary Hollister Motorcycle Rally
Johnny's Bar & Grill
Top Hatters Motorcycle Club
Boozefighters Motorcycle Club History
13 Rebels Motorcycle Club History
'Outlaw' Motorcycle Club History
A Brief History of "Outlaw" Motorcycle Clubs
The Wild One (1954)
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Links
Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club
All Motorcycle Rally Links
Bikernet.com - Event Guides and Coverage
HOG - Harley Owners Group
Back To: Vintage Motorcycle Photos