The title of this article in my opinion pretty well covers all aspects of the "Silver Pigeon" motorscooter and its rather short life in America. To some people the scooters are real, to others only figments of the imagination. They are also somewhat of a mystery since very little is known about them or the company that sold them some thirty odd years ago.
My quest for knowledge on the Rockford Scooter Company began back in 1983 when I acquired my first Pigeon. I was then searching for parts and information to restore the scooter. Very little could be found of either. Over the next five years I struggled along acquiring bits of information, a few parts and also some old rusty junk scooters which I hoped to salvage a few parts from them.
The first listing of the company came as a result of data gathered by the Rockford Library at my request. Mr. John L. Molyneus of the Local History and Genealogy department provided me with a complete history of the company, for which I am grateful.
The first listing of the company was in 1958 and indicated that their offices were located in the Talcott Building, and the "Factory" at 1911 Harrison Avenue in Rockford , Illinois. In 1959 the name of the company was changed to "R.S." Inc. and remained that was until 1967 when the name again was changed to its current name, "Rockford Motors, Inc." and the new location of the business is now at the Greater Rockford Airport. They are no longer in the scooter business and have not been for many years. They are however in the Air-Charter business under the name of "Emery Air Charter, Inc."
During the early years of the company, there were only two officers who controlled the activities of the organization. Mr. C. Lewis Emery was President and Treasurer and Mr. A. Lowell Spurgeon was Vice President and Secretary. It was not until 1964 that more officers were added to the company. Also at that time the line of two-wheeled vehicles was expanded. The company now beside various model of the Silver Pigeon were also distributors for Bridgestone and Surfrider motorcycles. For reasons unknown, possibly a declining market, the entire line of Pigeons were discontinued in 1966, however they continued to sell the Bridgestone and added the Zundopp motorcycle, dropping the Surfrider sometime in 1967. This lineup of two wheeled cycles continued until 1974 when all activities in the motorcycle field were discontinued.
Back in the mid 60's when Mr. Emery made his decision to discontinue the Pigeon he found that he had nearly 3,000 scooters on his hands and a market that was no longer interested in small scooters. In the face of this declining market he did however manage to dispose of all of them. The last scooter in his warehouse was loaded on a truck, taken to Chicago, and delivered to the office of the president of bank which had financed the Pigeon venture. That's how glad they were to be out of the Pigeon business....THEY GAVE THE LAST ONE AWAY.
During the time the company was in the scooter and cycle business they also had several other activities one of which bears mentioning. One of their activities was the importing of the Happy Sewing Machine from Japan which was sold by Montgomery Ward under their own "Signature" label. Wards seemed to be having problems with the maintenance and servicing of the machine so Mr. Emery added video-tape production to his activities. About seventy tapes on numerous aspects of the sewing machine were made in his studies at 1911 Harrison Avenue for use by Wards personel.
When Mr. Emery gave his last Pigeon away he found that he had a huge supply of spare parts and accessories on hand to dispose of. The reason for this huge supply of parts for a foreign made scooter can be found in the style of distributorships that were set up. All distributors were encouraged to keep only a small amount of critical parts on hand and to make use of WATS (wide-area-telephone-service) line to the company. All distributors, which at their peak totaled about 500, were told that any part they needed for any scooter could be ordered and in their hands within twenty four hours after ordering. This was quite a claim for a small company which never numbered more than thirty-five employees some twenty-five or more years ago. The problem of disposing of the parts supply was solved by selling the entire parts inventory to a company in neighboring Janesville, Wisconsin. They were sold at one-fourth of their cost to the Certified Parts Corp. and moved over one weekend to their new home. Certified got everything, even the racks, parts bins, storage shelves, etc., that held the parts back in Rockford. My visit to Certified last summer revealed that they had NO parts or information on the scooter whatsoever. Mr. Klitzke, the parts manager, told me they were gone when he started work for them some five years ago, and NO ONE knew where they went. Our search of the many, many shelves did turn up one drive belt and one parts book. Since I needed neither of them, I left them there and probably by now they have found the wastebasket or junkpile which may have been the fate of all the other parts and information that they had at one time.
The building at 1911 Harrison Avenue was remodeled some years ago. A three-story wooden structure which housed much of the storage and assembly of the scooter was torn down just before it fell down. Then the other portions of the building were changed to the needs of the current owner. At the moment "Target Gear and Tool Company" occupy the building. I made a tour of the building with Mr. Bryan Redington, Vice President of Target and found a few indications, small rusted signs, lettering on walls, etc., that related back to the old Silver Pigeon days.
In concluding this article I would like to give credit to my various sources of information. The first source was the Rockford Library, then Mr. John Emery, son of the company president. Mr. Emery was most helpful with information when I visited him in his offices at the Airport, but as he pointed out he was only a boy of fourteen or fifteen when his dad was in the scooter business and all of his information was from memory, nothing from written records. Mr. Roger Hoffman also provided me with much of my information. Mr. Hoffman was factory manager at the time Pigeons were sold. He also was solely responsible for the design and production of the Silver Pigeon-Golfster, but that's another story. Again Mr. Hoffman's information came only from memories and recollections. Both gentlemen were most gracious in taking the time from their routines and work activities to share with me their recollections of happenings some thirty odd years ago.
So once again I say to all the Pigeon owners out there, if you've got a scooter and want to restore it, write me....Who knows, maybe the parts weren't scrapped and even today they may be resting on some shelf in some warehouse waiting to be found.
Marvin K. Wuehle..............Member of the Vintage Motorbike Club